PSU pro day gives prospects last chance to impress

Shuttle runs. Forty-yard dashes. Broad jumps.

After running through pro day Monday at Penn State before about

20 NFL scouts, defensive tackle Jordan Hill is finally done with

the kinds of drills and agility tests required for most draft

prospects.

”How many times have you ever seen me jump in a game,” Hill

asked rhetorically with a chuckle to reporters after his

workout.

Hill and linebacker Gerald Hodges are probably the Nittany

Lions’ two best draft prospects. The seniors helped guide a tough

defense that helped Penn State finish 8-4 in coach Bill O’Brien’s

first year.

For known commodities like Hill, who was invited to NFL combine,

Monday presented a chance to improve on particular skills. Hill

said he decreased his 40-yard dash time to 4.97 seconds. And he

went 111 inches in the broad jump, seven better than in

Indianapolis at the combine.

The difference? More rest, and less stress than in hectic

Indianapolis.

He doesn’t mind the agility tests. It’s just that there’s more

pressure when dozens of scouts, executives and media are breaking

down your every move. And he’s doing all of this, while also

finishing up his degree requirements.

When asked about the end of the process, Hill said ”he was more

relieved than anything else. Just because I get to do the stuff

(now) that I’ve been doing my whole life.”

Hill has been mentioned as a possible third- or fourth-round

pick. Hodges said he’s hoping to go in the second or third.

Hodges said his main goal on Monday was to ”just come out here

and be a little more sharper on the drills … I just wanted to get

out there and look a little fresher coming into the day.”

The athletic Hodges said he was measured for a 35.1-inch

vertical jump on Monday. He’s had interviews, he said, with

Detroit, Oakland, Baltimore, Minnesota and Tampa Bay, among other

teams.

Hodges is hoping his ability to learn the tweaked defensive

system under O’Brien will help show NFL scouts he can pick up new

schemes quickly.

”I’m not nervous any more. I feel that all the pressure is off

my shoulders,” Hodges said. ”I’m waiting for the day that I can

suit up in an NFL uniform.”

Hodges combined with fellow senior Michael Mauti to form one of

the best outside linebacker duos in the country. But Mauti missed

the emotional 24-21 win in the season finale over Wisconsin after

tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the third

injury to a knee in his otherwise impressive Penn State career.

Considered a second- or even late first-round pick at one point,

the latest injury could concern teams. ”His medical exams are

going to be crucial to his draft stock,” according to an analysis

on NFL.com.

Mauti underwent surgery that was performed by Steelers

orthopedic surgeon James Bradley. He’s still on the recovery trail,

and didn’t take part in Monday’s workout. But he did meet with

about five NFL scouts.

”It really is the biggest job interview as a football player,”

Mauti said. ”That’s not an exaggeration.”

Doctors say his recovery is ahead of schedule. He said he was

confident he would be ready for NFL training camp this summer.

Either way, Mauti’s leadership qualities remain unquestioned. The

fiery, hard-nosed player is considered perhaps one of the best

leaders to ever come out of Penn State.

Quarterback Matt McGloin was Mauti’s roommate during their

freshman year and one of the leaders on offense as a senior. The

rags-to-riches story of the former walk-on from Scranton is now

well-known in Pennsylvania after McGloin set several passing

records in his only season under O’Brien, the former offensive

coordinator of the Patriots.

McGloin wasn’t invited to the combine, but did play in the Texas

vs. The Nation all-star game last month. Hill, Hodges, Mauti and

center Matt Stankewitch were the four Nittany Lions who took part

in the combine.

”For guys that didn’t get to the combine, this was a great

opportunity for them,” Mauti said. ”You can tell those guys are

training hard. I’m proud of them.”

McGloin said he’s concentrated the last few months on getting

quicker, losing a little weight and working on footwork and

mechanics.

”I showed I had the arm strength capable of playing at the next

level. I thought my footwork looked good, but it’s just the way I

felt,” McGloin said after his workout. ”It only takes one team to

fall in love with you.”

Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP