As the red and white confetti fell from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome rafters and Louisville celebrated a SugarBowl victory, many Gator fans were already turning their attention to the next season. But as all Gator fans know, and as Sharrif Floyd showed by taking out an ad to thank Gator Nation, once a Gator always a Gator.
With spring practice only a couple of days away, it would be easy to forget about the players who are no longer with the program, but we would be remiss to not follow the players who will step up to the stage that is Florida Field one final time.
While the NFL Scouting Combine is the biggest opportunity for departing college athletes to impress NFL teams, not every player is invited to Indianapolis. Florida’s pro day will give players like Frankie Hammond Jr., James Wilson, Sam Robey and Omarius Hines an opportunity to showcase their skills to NFL teams.
Hammond finished his career with 63 catches for 809 yards and six touchdowns. The biggest concern surrounding Hammond is his size. Listed on the team’s website at 6’ 187, and we all know how some players can shrink when they’re officially measured, Hammond would benefit greatly by measuring as close to those numbers as possible. Scouts will also be interested in how Hammond can run a route tree. Being recruited by Urban Meyer and playing much of his career in a spread offense, Hammond never had to show an extensive knowledge of routes. Finally, a fast 40-yard dash time could put him on a lot of team’s radars. A member of the track and field team, Hammond should be able to post an impressive number that should hopefully open up some scouts eyes.
Hines was a jack-of-all-trades during his time at Florida and that kind of versatility can be useful in the ever-evolving NFL. As league rules change to benefit the passing game, players like Hines can be used all over the field to create mismatches for opposing defenses. Hines spent time at tight end, receiver and even some time in the backfield during his career in Gainesville. During his time in orange and blue he caught 61 passes for 767 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball 31 times for 323 yards and four touchdowns. His 323 rushing yards are the third-most for a receiver in school history, trailing only Wes Chandler (356) and Percy Harvin (1,852). An impressive time in the 40-yard dash and a good number on the bench press would go a long way for Hines and his potential draft stock.
Sam Robey and James Wilson are two more players who will get a chance to showcase their skills on Tuesday.
Wilson battled injuries throughout his entire career and getting a clean bill of health as well as moving well in positional drills should peak scout’s interest. Robey was a career backup but played all over the offensive line. That type of versatility should be appealing to many NFL teams. Neither players are expected to hear their names called during the draft but good showings at pro day could land them on a roster as undrafted free agents.
Pro day also offers players who were invited to the scouting combine a second chance to better their numbers. For Mike Gillislee, it is an opportunity to improve upon his bench press numbers and possibly even better his 40-yard dash time. Gillislee’s 15-reps on the bench press were among the lowest number at his position. While Gillislee doesn’t need to break any records in this exercise, improvement from his combine number would show scouts dedication in the weight room and to his future in the NFL.
Gillislee could also benefit from improving upon his 4.55 40-yard dash time. On tape, Gillislee looks much faster than a mid 4.5 runner. The turf at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is notoriously fast and getting into the 4.4 range would move Gillislee back up into a very talented running back class.
Two former Gators were limited participants in Indianapolis and will use pro day as their only opportunity to work out for a wide range of scouts.
Xavier Nixon didn’t participate in any drills during the NFL Combine but should be a full participant at pro day. However, Nixon did weigh in at 6’6”, 321 pounds in Indianapolis, which is a good start for him. Nixon struggled to keep his weight above 300 while at Florida and if he can show scouts the same mobility and footwork at this new weight, his draft stock will instantly go up. While Nixon may have played his best football as a freshman, you can see flashes of dominance against talented pass-rushers on film that show he has the talent and ability to become a starter at the next level.
Jordan Reed’s departure may have come as a bit of a surprise to a lot of Gator fans. Personally, I believe Reed would have benefitted from another year in college. But then again, I’ve never had someone offering me the potential to make millions of dollars and can fully understand why he made the decision he did.
Reed should benefit greatly from the success that Aaron Hernandez has had in New England. While Reed’s production doesn’t match Hernandez’s during their time at Florida, they have a very similar skill set.
Reed was moved around from quarterback to tight end during his career and really only has two seasons under his belt as a pure tight end. He has a high ceiling, is an excellent route runner, great with the ball in his hands and is scheme versatile. All of those traits have scouts interested in Reed as a prospect and improving on his combine numbers could move him as high up as the second round.
While Reed’s 4.72 40-yard dash was good enough to place him seventh among tight ends, he is faster than that number and will likely improve it during pro day. Getting his time into the low 4.6 range would be ideal.
The Gators’ offense was ranked 104th in the nation a year ago but that ranking doesn’t mean there weren’t talented players on the field.
If you’re good enough to play in the NFL, scouts will find you.
For the offensive players, pro day will provide an opportunity to show they are better than that offensive ranking and ready to take their game to the next level.