More than 100 NFL general managers, coaches, scouts and other front office personnel rolled onto the LSU campus for Pro Day on Wednesday to check out what should be a record crop of draft picks this spring from the Tigers’ football program.
They already know a lot, of course, about four former Tigers projected to go in the first two rounds of the April 25-27 draft: defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, inside linebacker Kevin Minter, and free safety Eric Reid.
Wednesday was more about players who were trying to improve their draft stock in the familiar surroundings of the LSU indoor facility rather than the NFL Combine — like defensive end Lavar Edwards, running back Michael Ford and cornerback Tharold Simon.
And wide receiver Russell Shepard, who wasn’t among the 13 former LSU players invited to the combine workouts last month.
While Mingo, Montgomery, Minter and Reid passed on parts of the four-hour event, others embraced the opportunity to make their last big push to impress before teams start stacking their draft boards.
As usual, the 40-yard dash was one of the featured events; and Minter, Reid, Edwards and Ford were among those who improved their 40 times from the combine.
Mingo, who could be a top-10 pick, was among those who didn’t run because he clocked in at 4.58 seconds at the combine — the second-fastest time among defensive ends.
“We have great speed here, and our guys know how to run,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “They’re trained that way.”
“I had something to prove out here today,” said Minter, who ran a time of 4.67 seconds after recording a 4.81 at Indianapolis. “I’m not a 4.8 guy, and I proved that today. I could still do a little better, but it’s still way better than a 4.8.”
Minter attributed his improvement to drills he’s been doing with Tony Villani, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based speed coach with XPE Sports.
“The 40 is pretty much all technique. … You can’t just get up and run that,” said Minter, who’s projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick. “You have to know what you’re doing. I had to get back to the fundamentals and work on my steps. It wasn’t much —just training and technique.”
Reid dropped his time from a 4.53 at Indianapolis to 4.50 Wednesday, and Ford ran a swift 4.44 after a 4.50 at the combine.
Likewise, Edwards slightly lowered his time from a 4.80 at the combine to a 4.78, although the first unofficial number he saw was 4.70.
“I wanted to come out and run good today, so I was real happy about that,” he said.
While running faster was one of his goals Wednesday, Edwards, who played in the shadow of Mingo and Montgomery, wanted to show some other aspects of his game during the position workouts conducted by NFL coaches.
“I just wanted to show the scouts and the different teams the things I can do,” he said. “I don’t look at it as trying to redeem myself because I was playing behind those two guys. I just needed to work hard and show the scouts what I can do.
“I think I can improve on everything going into the draft ... just my game in its entirety. When I get my chance, I have to make the best of it, and I thought I did that today.”
Shepard believes he did that as well — in more ways than one, actually.
He had a vertical leap of 381/2 inches before producing an official time of 4.51 seconds in the 40 after unofficial times of 4.44 and 4.47.
After working with the wide receivers during position drills, Shepard was more than willing to line up with the defensive backs — including Reid and cornerbacks Simon and Tyrann Mathieu — after about five teams asked him to give it a try.
“I felt like I did pretty good, I did some receiving drills and defensive back drills and then caught punts and kickoffs,” said Shepard, who never played defensive back in high school. “I wanted to show them that I can do a little bit of everything.
“That was my first time backpedaling. I’ve watched Tyrann and (former LSU All-American) Patrick (Peterson) do it, so I know how it’s done. For my first time, I felt I was decent. I just need repetitions and just keep getting better at it.”
“I think there’s a number of things Russell can be,” Miles said. “He’s a talented guy and he’s got great speed.”