Headed For The NFL Combine

On America’s highways and byways; Destination: Indianapolis

The NFL world is about to congregate in downtown Indy for the next six days as the NFL Combine is set to begin at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Every GM, player personnel guru, head coach, coordinators and many other coaches and scouts will haunt the dome and the downtown hotels as they pursue information about the young men who have been invited to show their wares. We will have more on that coming Thursday.

For now, here are some Combine tidbits to enjoy and help prepare you for the next few days when the talk turns not to the 2010 season and labor negotiations, but to the potential for the biggest influx of talent the NFL has seen in one draft in many years.

THE INVITATION LIST TOPS 300 FOR COMBINE

A total of 330 players have been invited to participate in the NFL Combine. With somewhere around 250-260 draft slots, that means a lot of these guys are not going to get a chance to be drafted at the end of April.

And here’s the interesting twist that could come with those 70 or so players that are not drafted – they can’t sign with any team as a college free agent if there is a lockout of the players by the league. The NFL Draft will go on whether there’s a labor agreement or not between owners and the players’ union. But signing contracts will not happen for draft choices, veteran free agents or undrafted free agents.

The players are broken up into 11 groups based on positions. It all started on Wednesday with offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists beginning their four-day run through the NFL Combine gauntlet.

THERE WERE 30 BIG 12 INVITEES TO INDY

Of the Big 12′s dozen teams from the 2010 season, 11 had players invited to the Combine. The only conference program that was shutout on invitations? Kansas.

Nebraska had the most with nine, while Oklahoma State added five. Here’s the list of Big 12 schools, their invitees and the biggest name in the bunch from that program.

College

Invitees

Top player to receive invitation
Nebraska

9

CB Prince Amukamara
Oklahoma State

5

RB Kendall Hunter
Oklahoma

4

RB DeMarco Murray
Texas

4

DE Sam Acho
Colorado

3

OT Nate Solder
Missouri

3

QB Blaine Gabbert
Baylor

2

OL Danny Watkins
Texas A&M

2

LB Von Miller
Iowa State

1

SS David Sims
Kansas State

1

RB Daniel Thomas
Texas Tech

1

DT Colby Whitlock

WAS IT A BAD DECISION OR NOT?

There was a record 56 players granted special eligibility to the 2011 NFL Draft – these were players who had been in college for three or more years and still had eligibility on the NCAA or NAIA level.

A total of 54 of those players received invitations to the Combine to workout. The only two that did not were Georgia Tech OT Nick Claytor and Virginia DE Zane Parr.

That doesn’t mean Claytor or Parr will not be selected in the draft. It just means they’ll have to work harder at convincing teams to bring them in for individual workouts.

CHECKING OUT THE TAR HEELS

There are 15 colleges that have five or more players with invitations. The leader is North Carolina, with 12 players, or three more than the next school on the list. This group will be watched very closely, especially a pair of top ranked defensive linemen who did not play a game last fall because of NCAA suspensions: Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn.

Iowa, Ohio State, Miami and Nebraska have nine invitees each. Georgia, LSU and Southern Cal have eight each. Clemson, Florida and Wisconsin registered seven invites and Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Connecticut and West Virginia had six players served with invitations.

NUMBERS DROPPING FOR HBCU

There are only two players in the combine who attended a historically black college or university. From Fort Valley State comes WR Ricardo Lockette and from Hampton there’s DT Kenrick Ellis.

That’s the lowest number of HBCU players invited in the last two decades.

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