Royster Picks Up the Pace

Evan Royster

Former Nittany Lion running back turns in 4.54-second 40-yard dash at Penn State's Pro Day, making up for a slower time at the NFL Combine.

The number -- 4.65 -- stood out among those compiled by Penn State running back Evan Royster at the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago in Indianapolis, and not in a good way.

That was his time in the 40-yard-dash. Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's respected draft analyst, called it “pedestrian” in an interview with Fight on State Tuesday, the day before PSU held its Pro Day at the school's football complex.

Turns out there was a reason for Royster's subpar clocking -- a “tweaked hamstring,” as he called it.

And while Royster said the injury affected him more in the other drills than it did in the 40, his performance at Pro Day indicates it was slowing him down in that event as well.

Now fully healthy, Royster ran a 4.54 Wednesday in Holuba Hall, something he hopes will get pro scouts “looking at (him) a lot more.”

Royster, who was measured at 5-11_ and 213 pounds, acknowledged that there was “a fair amount” of pressure Wednesday, given his struggles at the Combine.

“I kind of came here thinking this was my last chance to kind of show what I have when I'm at full strength,” he said.

Royster, who finished his college career with a PSU-record 3,932 yards, did only the sprint and the 3-cone drill Wednesday. He had bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times at the Combine, and was prepared to stand on that number.

Mayock said Tuesday that pro scouts “are pretty good about giving you credit for whatever your best numbers are” and said they would certainly be “excited” if Royster showed the improvement in the 40 he ultimately did.

“They're not going to say, 'He run a 4.65 and now he ran a 4.5, so what is he?' ” he said. “They want to see the kid run better.”

And now they have.

Mayock and Russ Lande, draft analyst for The Sporting News, said that in general, NFL teams are able to put prospects through their own specific drills during Pro Days. There is more direct interaction with the college players than there is at the Combine, more hands-on coaching. And the players are in a familiar environment, and thus more likely to be relaxed. Royster is certain that was true in his case.

“Even some of the scouts came up to me and said, 'You look less nervous; you look good,' ” he said. “It's a lot easier when you're somewhere where you're comfortable and you're used to the lighting and stuff.”

Lande has Royster going in the fourth or fifth round of the draft, which consists of seven rounds and will be held April 28-30, while Mayock projects him as a fifth-rounder.

The only other Penn State player to appear at the Combine was center-guard Stefen Wisniewski. He stood on the numbers he put up there, notably his 5.35 40 and 30 repetitions in the bench press, and did only positional drills Wednesday. He has heard he might go late in the first round or early in the second, which is also Lande's expectation. Mayock has him going one round later.

“He's a very athletic kid,” Lande said of Wisniewski, who checked in at 6-3 and 312 pounds Wednesday. “Very competitive. Super tough. Intelligent kid. Pretty much has everything you want to be a good, solid starter in the NFL, in my opinion.”

His versatility will help him. So too will his genes; his dad, Leo, and uncle, Steve, both played in the NFL.

“I think there is something to bloodlines,” Mayock said. “I think the NFL people believe in it. … I think it's just a belief that there's something to bloodlines, and the kid's been around (the game) all through his life. There's some security to that.”

Wisniewski said he has been hearing “just good things,” but not a lot of specifics; teams are “kind of playing poker” and hesitant to reveal their actual intentions. But certainly he didn't hurt himself Wednesday.

“I did real well,” he said. “Got some good feedback. Wasn't too tough. It's just O-line stuff. It's what I do.”

Here is how some other Penn State players fared on Pro Day:

• Defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu, carrying 298.5 pounds and standing a shade over 6 feet tall, topped out at 4.77 in the 40, but only did 26 reps in the bench press -- “a little on the low side,” he acknowledged.

Still, NFL teams appear to like his non-stop motor. He is projected as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, and will likely go in the late stages of the draft, if he goes at all.

“There's a better-than-average chance he's going to be a free agent,” Lande said. “But he's a good, solid college football player. A lot of experience as a starter -- three-year guy. He's a good, solid prospect.”

“And,” Mayock added, “he'll to be in somebody's training camp, and he's going to be a tough kid to cut, because he's got such a great motor and he works so hard at his craft.”

Ogbu, who called himself “a big football buff,” has seen guys do well at the Combine or on Pro Day, then fail to pan out at the next level. For that reason, he said, “I really pinned a lot of my hopes, dreams and aspirations on the actual 13 games I played (during the regular season).”

He didn't view Wednesday's workout in the same light, though he said it was “in the mix.”

“It went well for the most part,” he said. “I'm not 100 percent satisfied, but I feel like I did well enough to show the scouts something.”

• Wide receiver Brett Brackett, standing 6-5_ and weighing 248 pounds, did 22 reps on the bench, but was uncertain of his 40 time. A self-described “tweener” -- i.e., not big enough to play tight end, not swift enough to be a wideout -- he said he was “really happy” with his performance.

A source close to the program told FOS Brackett ran in the 4.53-4.61 range. Brackett also turned in a very strong 6.7-second three-cone drill and had a 34-inch vertical.

“I put it all out there,” he said. “I felt like I did everything to the best of my ability, and hope the times reflect it.”

A likely free agent at the next level -- “His name's come up a little bit,” Mayock said -- Brackett's pro future could hinge on his ability to play special teams. If a fringe wideout can do that, Mayock added, he is “going to have a chance to develop. If they don't think you can be a special teams player, you've got no shot.”

• Linebacker Bani Gbadyu, measured at 6 feet, 235 pounds, ran a 4.55 40, did 20 reps in the bench and saw his vertical leap measured at 38 inches. He broad jumped 10-9. He is hoping his showing puts his name “on the draft board for a lot of people,” after a disappointing 2010 season.

“I'm excited to see what's next,” he said. “Hopefully, with God's help, I can get my name called.”

Gbadyu tweeked a hamstring during the event, a source said, or could have tested even better.

• Offensive tackle Lou Eliades, still recovering from surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, did 34 reps in the bench press.

Eliades, who goes 6-4 and 309 pounds, suffered his injury against Temple, a month into the season. He underwent surgery six weeks later -- he had to rehab his MCL in the meantime -- and believes he is 60 percent recovered from the injury.

• Linebacker Chris Colasanti measure in at 6-0, 236 and did 28 reps in the bench. His top 40 was in the 4.75-second range.

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