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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pro Day Notes: Solid Day For Stafford

After Matthew Stafford passed on passing at the NFL combine last month, the hype grew steadily as myriad scouts and fans waited to see his arm on display at today's Georgia Pro Day. As it turned out, it was a pretty typical performance for the former Bulldogs quarterback.

Stafford missed a few throws, was a touch too long on some and left his receivers waiting an extra half-second on others, but in between he managed to impress observers enough that the reviews still came out glowing.

"That arm is different," Georgia strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger said. "I was talking to a guy who is a vice president of one of the team, and he said, 'Wow, we don't even have that in our league.'"

Another scout told Mark Richt he saw Stafford make throws he had never seen another quarterback at make at that level, and while officials from all 32 NFL teams took in the show, it will be up to the Detroit Lions to decide if Stafford will be at the top of this year's draft class.

The Lions had several team officials there to watch Stafford throw, including general manager Martin Mayhew, who played at Florida State under Van Halanger in his college days.

Mayhew was among the many who were impressed with Stafford's performance, and he'll get another up-close-and-personal view later this month. Stafford will hold his only private workout for an NFL team in front of Lions officials in Athens on March 31.

For now, however, Stafford said he wasn't too concerned about draft day. Of course, that didn't mean the rest of the Georgia staff didn't have their hopes set high.

"We've had guys like Knowshon (Moreno) that are great players and are going to get drafted in the top 10, but I've never been around a No. 1 pick, and I've been around a lot of great players," he said. "It's pretty special."

Special isn't exactly how Stafford described his day. He would have like to have put on a pristine performance that put any criticism of his sometimes erratic arm to bed, but he was nevertheless pleased with what he did accomplish.

"I felt like I was throwing it pretty good," he said. "I didn't complete every ball, which you'd like to do, but that's tough to do when you're throwing 50."

At one point, Stafford overthrew a deep route to Kenneth Harris and swatted his leg in disgust. It was about the only sign of emotion the quarterback showed throughout the process, and even that was short-lived.

"I hit that 1,000 times when I was here," Stafford said. "It's no big deal though. They've seen it 100 times on film."


While Stafford's Pro Day performance did little to change the conventional wisdom of scouts, his fellow underclassman Asher Allen may have worked his way back into the first day of next month's draft.

After Allen ran a disappointing 4.47-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper said the cornerback had little chance to be taken in the first two rounds of the draft. So Allen set out to improve the number, working with Georgia trainers to dissect his run and shave some time off the final mark.

That's exactly what he did Thursday, turning in an impressive 4.33 on his second run and turning a few heads of scouts in the process.

"First thing on my mind was my 40," Allen said. "I wanted to run a 4.35 or under, and I did that. A lot of teams just questioned the speed – something that people who know me have no question about – but I think I did a good job with that."


Pro Day brought out more than 40 scouts and NFL officials and dozens of former players, but the production was all brought about through some immense effort by Dave Van Halanger and his strength and conditioning staff.

After it was all over Thursday afternoon, however, Van Halanger said it wasn't the work he put in to setting up the event that had him exhausted. It was watching his former players work so hard to achieve their dreams.

"It's a full day, and it is a great day," Van Halanger said. "When I leave here, I'm mentally exhausted. I'm pulling for those kids when they're on the bench, and then you see their mother and father, and they're so jacked to have their kid there. You know how important it is, and you want them to do great. So every time they do something, you're holding your breath, and when it's all over you can say, whoa, that was a good day."


Mark Richt spent plenty of time Thursday shaking hands and chatting up the NFL scouts on hand for the Pro Day festivities, but he said he didn't make any grand sales pitches to try to convince teams to take his players high in the draft. All he did, he said, was tell the truth.

"The one thing about these guys is, you look around and what can you say bad about them?" Richt said. "They're all high character guys, they're great team guys, they've played well, and all I've got to do is tell the truth and it's a good advertisement for them."


There were plenty of big names on hand for Pro Day from former Bulldogs Tim Jennings and Verron Haynes to Atlanta Falcons' coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, but the one celeb who stole the show was former NFL star Deion Sanders.

Sanders was in Athens to watch longtime friend Ramarcus Brown work out, but he also spent some time hobnobbing with Richt and Van Halanger, who both coached at Florida State when Sanders was a star player there in the mid-1980s.

The visit from Sanders brought back a lot of good memories for Van Halanger, who counts the former Falcons cornerback as one of the most impressive players he has coached.

"He was brash, he was high spirited, but he was the best," Van Halanger said. "There wasn't anybody better."

On Sanders' pro day, Van Halanger said he ran a fairly impressive 40 time in track shoes, but wasn't satisfied with how much he had impressed the scouts. He ended up borrowing a pair of sneakers from another player and turned in a 4.21. It was the same kind of competitiveness Van Halanger said he saw in the Georgia players performing for scouts Thursday.

"It was good to see Deion," Van Halanger said. "You never forget the fun you had with those guys. A lot of winning, and a lot of tradition, just like we have here."


Knowshon Moreno didn't manage to improve on his combine 40 times, turning in official times of 4.58 and 4.64... Ramarcus Brown pulled up lame after his first 40 run after tweaking his hamstring... Defensive end Jeremy Lomax followed Brown's lead and suffered a minor hamstring injury during his workout, too... Demiko Goodman turned in a 4.35 in his 40 and jumped 10 feet, 9 inches in the broad jump, impressing scouts... Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe ran his 40 with a broken toe, according to, but still turned in a time of 4.6... Georgia plans to release complete times and measurements Friday morning... I hope to have some video from the day up soon, although it's taking a bit longer than I'd hoped to upload.

NOTE: If you haven't already, check out our minute-by-minute coverage of Pro Day at our Twitter site HERE.

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