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Baylor's Pro Day changes pace; NFL scout talks Zamora, Fuller

April 6, 2017

Change of pace at Baylor's Pro Day

Art Briles has been gone from Baylor Football for almost one year, but I’m not sure his absence has been felt more acutely in that interim than it was yesterday at Baylor’s first Pro Day of the post-Briles era.

I was at the 2012 Pro Day in which future first-rounders Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright connected on the field while the musical stylings of Kanye and Jay-Z blared throughout the indoor facility.

Last year, videos of LaQuann McGowan’s vertical and broad jumps blew up on twitter, as his teammates and the strength and conditioning staff cheered loudly from mere feet away. NFL scouts and credentialed media mingled on the field at both events, and there were very few limitations placed on any attendees.

Yesterday, the media was cordoned off away from the on-field action. Music was cut off prior to the onset of testing and drills. There were words of encouragement to be heard from current Baylor players who were in attendance, but this was not the spectacle of years past.

In a year that has been full of incremental change—a head coach is let go, but his staff remains for the season, a new strength staff is hired, but the main guy remains for several months—this was a bit of a jarring contrast.

This is not a bad thing; it is just … new.

14 Bears participate in the day’s first scouting session

For quarterback Seth Russell, Wednesday was the second opportunity to throw for scouts representing 29 of the 32 NFL teams and, while he isn’t yet at 100-percent physically, Russell was at ease in his post-workout media session.

Both WR KD Cannon and OL Kyle Fuller were in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, so yesterday was much more of an exhibition and an opportunity to meet with team representatives.

School Pro days are, ultimately, for the players who don’t receive combine invites including Aiavion Edwards, Ryan Reid, Shock Linwood, Kaleb Moore, Tyler Edwards, Lynx Hawthorne, Orion Stewart, Tion Wright, Lache Seastrunk, Pat Levels, and Ishmael Zamora.

Ishmael Zamora
There will always be those little “what if?” questions regarding Zamora.

“What if Ish had stayed for one more season at Baylor?” Or, “What if the preseason dog incident hadn’t occurred?” Even, “What if Ish had been invited to the NFL combine?” But it’s best to let those questions go.

I spoke with former Baylor football player and current NFL scouting consultant for the Dallas Cowboys, Terry Gray, at the conclusion of yesterday’s event, and he reminded me of the futility of dwelling on such unknowns.

“Well, you just never know. There’s always the possibility of injury. New system, new offense, would he have the same opportunities? It’s just one of the things that’s unknown. You could make a case that he’d go higher, but you could also easily make the case that his stock wouldn’t rise any higher,” Gray explained when I asked him if Zamora could have been a first-round pick had he stayed around for another year.

One thing is certain, though, and that is that Zamora undoubtedly helped himself with yesterday’s performance. As Gray told me, the combination of his size with his speed is the stuff of which NFL dreams are made.

“He’s a rare blend of size and speed that you just don’t see very often," Gray said. "Every once in a while you’ll see the large, big receivers that can run fast straight ahead, but he’s got lateral movement, agility.

"He knows how to run a route, he’s learning conventional NFL routes, and I know some of that’s new to him. I think he ran faster than most of the NFL thought he would. Of all the guys that ran today, he probably had the widest range of different times, but he’s plenty fast for a man that size. He has the explosion.”

The thing about the NFL draft is that, oftentimes, there are surprises. It is hard to predict how limited field and the whispered “off field issues” will affect a player with the physical talent that Zamora possesses, but Gray didn’t rule out the possibility that there could be a run on the big-bodied receiver.

“He’s a big, big man that runs really fast. Very fast,” Gray mused. “He’s what a lot of NFL teams are looking for. Everybody wants a big receiver, and he’s that for sure. I don’t see any limitation to his career moving forward.”

Kyle Fuller
For offensive linemen Kyle Fuller and Tyler Edwards, there is, perhaps unfairly, a very real “Baylor stigma” to overcome. Gray spoke candidly with me about this topic:

“I think that Baylor, for whatever reason, has gotten unlucky with OL in the NFL. For whatever reason. And a stigma obviously develops when you have first rounders and not a lot of success, and, fair or not, there’s a little track record there of people not playing up to what you hope they would. They’ve not played as well as everyone had hoped they would, so there’s a track record, fair or not fair.”

While a frequently-used knock against Baylor WR and QB prospects has been the “system” label, it seems to be most damning for offensive line prospects.

Gray, a former lineman himself, explained.

“Grading an OL from Baylor and these other schools that play the way Baylor used to … it’s very difficult to find how they will transition to more of a structured NFL offense. In many cases, it’s almost like two completely different types of football. So, yeah, the system, I do think it plays a factor in that.”

Fortunately, prospects like Fuller and Edwards have shown themselves to be coachable and versatile to scouts. Gray noted that former Bear Tyler Edwards, who finished at Baylor in 2014 and participated on Tuesday, can play any of the five OL positions, while Fuller has worked out very well in scouting sessions and is likely to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds.
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