Penn State Football

Penn State football: Nittany Lions show skills for NFL scouts at team’s pro day

CDT photo

A group of 12 players walked into the Lasch Football Building weight room just before noon Thursday, ready to start Penn State’s annual Pro Day.

The former Nittany Lions had their weight and height measured and called out for the NFL scouts in attendance. They then moved to the bench press, where eight players performed, before making the short walk to Holuba Hall to continue the testing.

It served as an opportunity for the players to improve their stock ahead of the NFL Draft, set to be held April 30-May 2.

Since the season ended, they’ve signed with agents and worked out around the country to prepare for the next level.

Linebacker Mike Hull had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee after his standout 2014 season.

“I’m doing all right,” said Hull, who was the Big Ten’s Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year. “As good as expected, a few tweaks here and there with muscles, but the knee overall between the combine and now has gotten a lot better so it’s just trying to get those muscles to catch up at this point.”

Hull said he’s received questions from teams about the injury as he’s gone through the predraft process. He said he’s looking to get healthy and meet with some teams in the next few weeks, and he’s just looking forward to any opportunity he gets to play in the NFL.

“I’d like to say that I’m going to be a starter from day one,” Hull said. “But you know, I got to work my way up from special teams at first and prove that I’m reliable and dependable and hopefully carve out a role in the organization that chooses to draft me.”

He’s not concerned with draft projections and described himself as a player with great instincts who will compete every play.

“I really think I answered a lot of questions just with my tape this season, showed whatever I can do when I’m actually healthy,” said Hull, who recorded a team-high 140 tackles.

Defensive back Adrian Amos said he wanted to run the 40-yard dash again after finishing in 4.56 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

“I know I didn’t run my fastest time at the Combine that I was capable of running, that I had been running,” Amos said.

Amos said he ran the 40 “anywhere from a 4.38 to a 4.42” on Thursday.

He said he could play cornerback or safety in the NFL.

“Half the teams want me to still play corner and half the teams want me to play safety,” Amos said. “From the times I ran today, a lot more teams like me at corner.”

While Hull and Amos were at the Combine, defensive end Deion Barnes didn’t have the same opportunity.

He started his pro day with 31 reps on the bench press, the most of any player Thursday.

“When I was training, I was hitting 30s so I wasn’t surprised,” Barnes said. “When you’re just working on running and lifting the whole time, dedicating your time to that and just not school and everything — when I’m focused I feel like the sky’s the limit.”

Barnes was second on the team with six sacks and started every game in 2014.

Barnes graduated in December and decided to forgo his final year of eligibility. He said he felt he was physically and mentally ready for the next step.

He said he’s heard he could go in the fifth round in the draft.

“But you never know so I’m just hoping I get the opportunity,” Barnes said. “When I get into camp, I just show I can play football. That’s basically all I’m worrying about.”

Defensive ends Brad Bars and C.J. Olaniyan, defensive tackle Tyrone Smith and kicker Sam Ficken also participated Thursday. Running back Bill Belton, guard Miles Dieffenbach, tackle Donovan Smith and tight ends Matt Lehman and Jesse James performed as well.

James turned in a strong performance at the combine, ranking first among tight ends in the broad jump (10 feet, 1 inch) and second in the bench press (26 reps) and vertical jump (37 1/2 inches).

James also had the sixth-best 40 time for a tight end at the Combine at 4.83.

He said he improved Thursday.

“I ran a 4.65, somewhere in that range,” James said.

James decided to leave after his junior season despite the NFL Draft Advisory Board telling him he should return to school.

“I’m really happy with my decision, couldn’t be happier,” James said. “No matter what decision I was going to make, I was going to make sure I didn’t look back, didn’t regret anything, just put my best effort to what I did. Leaving, that was a big decision and I was focused 100 percent on what’s next, the Combine, then getting ready for pro day and now I’ll be getting ready for mini camps.”