Clemson Tigers' pro day illustrates talent gap with other blue bloods
By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer
Keeping up with the Clemsons of the world has become even more difficult for many traditional powers in the Dabo Swinney era.
Clemson has had a player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in seven of the past eight years. Add expected No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence to the mix in 2021, and it’s not hard to see Clemson again separating itself from many of the sport's blue bloods.
Take the Texas Longhorns, who also held their pro day Thursday and ache to be a superpower.
Since 2015, Texas has not had a player selected in the first round. FOX Bet odds for Texas breaking that drought are +150 Yes / -185 No.
The Huskers have five players scheduled to participate in their pro day — all seniors. None of them is considered a Day 1 prospect, and Nebraska might not see a player drafted until the fourth round or later.
Georgia Tech's most recent first-rounder was Derrick Morgan in 2010, and Minnesota hasn’t had one since Laurence Maroney in 2006, though Rashod Bateman gives the Gophers an outside shot of ending that streak this year.
Bateman rates ahead of both Texas receivers who competed in the Longhorns’ pro day. Although Tarik Black and Brennan Eagles each have elite size, they’re being drowned out by others in another deep receiver draft.
The most recent Texas wideout chosen in the first round was Roy Williams in 2004, and the Longhorns haven’t had more than five players selected in any draft since 2007. With eight performers on their pro day, the Longhorns would do well to see half of those players selected.
Cosmi is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in this draft. In 2019, he shocked us all in UT’s game against West Virginia, in which the big man faked pass-blocking while quarterback Sam Ehlinger rolled to his right and completed a lateral throwback to Cosmi at the Mountaineers' 22-yard line.
At 6-foot-7 and 309 pounds, Cosmi made two men miss and ran through a third for a touchdown. He has made 34 starts in 35 games in his career and finished as an All-Big 12 First Team selection after only eight games in 2020.
Knowing he’s up against stiff competition at his position for first-round selection, Cosmi was under the spotlight on his pro day. But that’s also the benefit of this year’s NFL scouting combine: There ain’t one.
Not really, anyway. Yes, 323 players were selected to participate in the NFL’s combine. But none of them will compete in in-person workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
An event that usually lasts an entire week will be packed into a day of medical evaluations, Zoom interviews and watching players work out on screen.
The Underwear Olympics will have a home-field aspect to it for the first time in its history. Players will work out at locations all over the country, and most of them will do so at the same facilities they’ve used for three or more years.
That not only means Cosmi got the benefit of running on his home track. It also means that track could prove to be faster than one he might’ve run on in Indianapolis, and he showed out on it, with a 4.84 40-yard dash. Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater ran 4.88 in the 40 at his pro day. That’s just behind former first-round offensive tackle selection Tristan Wirfs’ 4.85 a year ago.
Texas safety Caden Sterns, Black and Eagles helped themselves, too, with times of 4.4, 4.53 and 4.55 in the 40, respectively.
There have already been some fast times run, too, particularly in the 40-yard dash. Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes ran 4.26 in the 40 at the House of Athlete NFL Scouting Combine.
UT outside linebacker Joseph Ossai is the Longhorns' best bet to go in the first round, though, after an outstanding 2020 with 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles.
Even if he doesn’t, he’s devastating off the line of scrimmage. He became the first Big 12 player since Ndamukong Suh to account for 12 tackles, six for loss and at least three sacks in a game.
On Thursday, Ossai ran 4.63 in the 40, put up 32 reps on the bench and hit 41.5 inches on his vertical jump.
Ossai’s pro day performance could lead to the biggest win for Texas on the recruiting trail since the team landed five-star prospect Maalik Murphy’s commitment last month — if Ossai is selected in the first round.
Texas needs to show it can still vault players to the NFL Draft in the first 32 picks, and the only person who could’ve helped that cause more is the quarterback.
Last weekend, video surfaced of Sam Ehlinger tossing a football 77 yards through the air — a tremendous feat of skill but not quarterbacking.
Most Power 5 skill players can toss a football a long way. Only a handful of them can do that accurately, and Ehlinger is still trying to prove he’s one of the handful.
After four years and 46 starts, Ehlinger leaves Texas as one of its most beloved players, with a grip of "He’s A Great Guy Awards," including the Wuerffel Trophy, Bobby Bowden Trophy and Jason Witten College Man of the Year.
None of those awards answers the O’Jays Exam, though: Can you come out and play?
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.