Big East hopefuls discover there’s an “I” in “Combine”

By Darrell Laurant  |   Saturday, February 23, 2008  |  Comments( 0 )

College Football
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There's an interesting symmetry to the 25 Big East players invited to the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis -- you could almost make a viable team out of them.

The only quarterback is Brian Brohm of Louisville, and he's joined in the backfield by 2,000-yard rusher Ray Rice of Rutgers as well as Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt of West Virginia (the latter a fullback). The Mountaineers' Darius Reynaud along with the Louisville duo of Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia would make up a dangerous wide receiving corps (with Taj Smith of Syracuse in reserve). Mike McGlynn and Jeff Otah of Pitt, Jeremy Zuttah and Pedro Sosa of Rutgers, Donald Brown of Connecticut and Breno Giacomini of Louisville are well-regarded offensive linemen.

Louisville's Gary Barnidge and Pitt's Darrell Strong are the tight ends, and there's even a Big East kicker -- Barnidge's teammate, Art Carmody.

The conference has less of a representation on defense, but it's still impressive, led by South Florida cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams plus fellow Bull Ben Moffitt, a linebacker. Jameel McClain of Syracuse, Angelo Craig of Cincinnati, Joe Clermond of Pitt and Johnny Dingle of West Virginia are rated as strong pass rushers, and DB Tyvon Branch of Connecticut could race Trae Williams for the title of the team's fastest player.

There's no punter, but who needs one with that offense?

Of course, this is just a fantasy. There may be no "I" in team, but there is one in "Combine," and this annual ritual is very much every man for himself. Chances are all 25 of these Big Easters will be in somebody's camp come August, but their 40 times, bench presses and even Wonderlic scores this week will go a long way toward determining where they'll be chosen.

It's usually better to come into the combine as a "lesser known" (no living, breathing Division 1 player these days is unknown). Guys like Brohm, Rice, Jenkins and Douglas will be under a microscope, their every flaw laid bare. Late-bloomers like Clermond, Otah, Branch and Smith, on the other hand, have the bar set much lower.

Yet the combine itself has a glaring flaw. It can measure speed, strength and intelligence, but not toughness and a love of physical contact -- qualities that can often trump those numbers the scouts enter into their notebooks.

Over the next few days, we'll keep you up on how the Big East guys are doing.
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