This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Let's face it you guys want more Pro Day stuff.
http://bit.ly/1ZxPtJS">We did a story yesterday covering some of the basics. It takes a little longer to transcribe and write when there's also football practice in the afternoon. But here's some notes and quotes from Utah's Pro Day:
• A potential big winner was Jason Fanaika. Fellow prospect Tevin Carter might've said it best: "I feel he was the highlight of the day to me. To be that big and move that fast, he did a pretty good job."
Measuring at 6-foot-2 and weighing 271 pounds at the Combine, Fanaika improved on his 40-yard dash time by two-tenths of a second for a reported 4.7 flat. He also participated heavily in linebacker drills, which he said he hasn't done all that much of lately, but showcase that he can play standing up as well as with a hand on the ground.
"I'm pretty versatile," Fanaika said. "I think that what separates me from every single person in this draft is I can say with confidence that I've played every single possession in the box. I've started there. I've been productive."
He's been on scouts' radar for a while, and http://bit.ly/1THv04r">played in the Senior Bowl. Fanaika's career started at linebacker at Utah State. He was more of a down lineman at Utah, but played some stand-up linebacker. If he truly can find ways to contribute as an NFL linebacker, that would be enticing to several teams given his size.
It's also challenging to know how to look physically. Some teams want Fanaika to lose weight. Some want him to gain weight and play down on the line. He's in a bit of a holding pattern at his current size to see what his future team wants. He's heard good feedback that he will get drafted this year.
"From what I've heard is middle [rounds]," Fanaika said. "That could mean anything: third, fourth, fifth. I'm just trying to work my tail off and get drafted so I can help out a team in any area."
• Kendal Thompson showed his skills as a receiver and returner at Utah, but he's already had a QB Pro Day at Oklahoma. Thompson said he's trying to showcase his versatility for the NFL, where he's seen to have a higher upside at receiver with his size and speed.
Thompson had the top overall unofficial time in the three-cone drill (6.7 seconds), showcasing his agility. He didn't dropped too many passes from Travis Wilson, his former competitor at quarterback. He showed soft hands on several catches, and obviously has a head for offensive schemes given his quarterback experience. He also shagged a few punts from Tom Hackett.
"It's obviously different from growing up a quarterback, although I did other things as well," he said. "Just the challenge of learning new techniques at receiver and catching punts is new to me. But the competitor I am, I embrace that challenge."
Thompson isn't the only quarterback considering a position change. While Wilson made several adjustments to his throwing motion in an effort to prepare for being an NFL signal-caller, he reiterated that he's not against a position switch at 6-foot-7 with his build, tight end might make the most sense if a team determines he has a future other than quarterback.
• Jared Norris improved on his Combine performance, and it may come down to comfort level. Norris said he worked hard on a lot of drills, and he saw some improvement in his 40-time (4.72) and some incremental improvement in some of his other field tests. Of the linebackers, he might've been the most fluid-looking athlete when he put on gloves and did position-specific tests.
He said it helped being in his old digs with old teammates, and the "comfortability factor" may have helped his overall performance
"Here, I got a full night of sleep," he said. "At the Combine, you're waking up at 4 a.m. for some things, and going clear on through to 5 at night with doctor's appointments. It's a process, but it's also a test to see how mentally strong you are and on the last day you have to perform. And that's how it goes."
At Utah, it's much more low key. While there's still the intensity of being watched by scouts, your competitors are familiar faces. Your settings are innately familiar. When Norris lifted the bench press bar on Thursday, it had Utah logos on the weight plates.
"I think overall," Norris said, "I had a better day here than I had at the Combine."
• Jason Whittingham's secret: his dad. The linebacker had one of the best days of anyone in the measurable drills, finishing among the top three Utes in bench, vertical, broad jump, shuttle, and 40-yard dash. And Timpview coach Cary Whittingham personally oversaw much of the training that got his son to that point.
Jason has trained for a potential football career while working a day job for an internet security company in Lehi. Around 3 p.m. every day, he arrived at Timpview as Cary wrapped up the school day. Jason worked out for about three hours, doing core lifts and some other exercises to loosen up his hips and improve his athletic ability. Then he'd go home to his wife, who is expecting in October.
It's a busy life for Whittingham. But his Pro Day may have increased the likelihood that his future schedule includes pro football.
• Devontae Booker's day is coming next month. For now, he's just rehabbing his knee. He didn't work out on Thursday, and Booker said he'll have his own personal Pro Day (maybe others will be added to the docket) in his hometown of Sacramento on April 12.
But just because he hasn't been doing drills doesn't mean he hasn't been getting feedback. Scouts like his running style, and they appreciate he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Need to improve? Pass protection.
"If I can't protect the quarterback, I won't be playing," Booker said. "So really focusing on pass protection."
Booker said he considers himself to be a first-round pick from a talent perspective. But the NFL has taken fewer backs in the first round in the recent era Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon getting picked in the top 15 last year was a bit of an aberration in today's league. While Booker has gotten some positive feedback, there has been other media reports about how his knee (http://bit.ly/1l9pU2R">he tore his meniscus at the end of last season) might be a more pressing concern than previously thought. Booker has pushed back his workouts as he continues to try to get healthy.
But he does expect to perform next month, and he said he'll have an NFL Draft party "probably in a bowling alley or something." Considering his running style, it might be an apt location.
• Here's a question Gionni Paul would like to ask: How necessary are these NFL Combine/Pro Day drills? One would assume that the NFL scouting process has been honed over many years into a tried-and-true formula for finding athletes. But in that process, some athletes are hyped up for drill numbers, and http://bit.ly/1NqtAXL">others who were productive on the field (like Paul) won't look their best.
At 5-foot-10, Paul is already battling uphill, and his athletic performance in his drills haven't helped his case. Paul said he ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, which while clocking in much faster than his NFL Combine run (5.05 seconds) he still said was a little disappointing. While he improved on his vertical leap for a 35-inch jump, other drills he still hoped to do better.
But then again, why?
"If the numbers need to be so good, why is this the last time running [Pro Day drills] for my career?" he said. "After your first year, you're not going to be doing another 40, you're going to be playing ball. And at the end of the day, I'm a ball-player. I'm very driven. I love the game."
Paul has spent the last few weeks training in Utah, living with his daughter and his girlfriend, who is six months pregnant with a baby boy. He has a name picked out: Travelle Lightning Paul. He hopes the middle name in particular inspires his son to run a better 40-time than he ever did.
"He gonna get in his head right from the get-go: Speed, speed, speed," Paul said. "He's gonna be one heck of a football player."