14 Syracuse players work out for NFL scouts
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)
Chandler Jones wore a big smile on his face, thinking about a friendly bet he'd already made with brother Arthur about being selected high in the NFL draft. Rob Long was beaming, too, but for a much different reason.
The two former Syracuse standouts were among 14 former Orange players who worked out for NFL scouts on Thursday at Manley Field House, and there were plenty of eyes on all of them. Scouts from 31 teams - 37 people in all - showed up. That's up from 24 teams a year ago, a good sign for Orange coach Doug Marrone, whose third season at the helm ended with a five-game losing streak and no bowl appearance.
''It was a very, very good day, one of the biggest days we've had in a long time,'' said Will Hicks, the Orange's assistant athletic director of athletic performance. ''It was very, very smooth. All of our kids performed well. All the coaches and scouts were very complimentary of how the program was run, how the kids did the drills the right way and were very attentive, looked like they'd been there before.''
Also competing for attention were: tailback Antwon Bailey, wideout Van Chew, kick returner and receiver Dorian Graham, cornerback Kevyn Scott, safeties Phillip Thomas and Olando Fisher, offensive guard Andrew Tiller, fullback Tombe Kose, offensive tackle Michael Hay, and tight end Nick Provo. Back from the 2010 team that won the Pinstripe Bowl were tight end Jose Cruz and receiver Aaron Weaver.
Jones, Provo, Tiller and Thomas attended the NFL Combine two weeks ago, and Hicks said they improved some numbers in certain drills. Though Provo attended the combine, he underwent shoulder surgery in December and wasn't cleared by doctors to perform any of the physical tests or receiving drills.
Jones impressed despite having lost 11 pounds due to a bout of stomach flu.
''Chandler did exceptional in the position work today,'' Hicks said. ''Some of those kids who didn't go to the combine made some noise.''
Jones, a standout defensive end for the Orange who opted to forgo his final year of collegiate eligibility to enter the draft, said teams also were looking at him as an outside linebacker. He's being projected as a second-round pick but said he's been hearing maybe late first round. His brother was a fifth-round pick by Baltimore in 2010.
''I think I did really good, a lot better than the combine,'' Jones said. ''At the combine, I found myself stumbling a lot. I was a little nervous. I feel comfortable out here. There were a lot of guys here. I just wanted to put on a show. It's the last piece of the puzzle.''
The workouts were closed to the media.
Afterward, Long, sporting a full head of hair, said he was cancer-free. A year ago, when he took part in pro day, Long had just overcome a cancerous brain tumor and his head was bald from chemotherapy treatments.
''It's just good to see Rob healthy enough to punt,'' Hicks said. ''He's busting a couple of lights out there right now. We're just proud of the fact that Rob's still here and able to do this.''
Long lost the end of his senior season to the brain tumor. After missing Syracuse's victory in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl, he underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments instead of preparing for the 2011 combine. This time, he's optimistic he'll get a shot in some camp.
''I think things went really well today. It was a good day for me to take in, obviously, a much different performance than a year ago,'' Long said. ''I'm much healthier. I punted really well. I hit the ceiling every time. I think there's some interest. Hopefully, I opened a few eyes. There were times I wasn't sure I'd be back here again.
Now, he has a second chance.
''Getting into the NFL is not easy,'' Long said. ''I think if I get to a camp I can win a job. It's where I want to be.''