Breaking Down The 2012 NFL Combine, Part 2
West Virginia DE Bruce Irvin
West Virginia DE Bruce Irvin
Posted Feb 19, 2012

Breaking down the positions, the teams, and the raw numbers for the NFL Combine ... Part 2

2012 NFL Draft

Breaking Down The Combine, Part 2

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2011 - Breaking Down The Combine
- 2010 - Breaking Down The Combine
- 2009 - Breaking Down The Combine

- 2012 - Breaking Down The Combine, Part 1 

Bragging Rights (the conferences)

For starters, it needs to be noted that for these purposes, conference affiliation is based on where a school was a member in 2011. In other words, Nebraska players count toward the Big Ten, Utah the Pac-12 and Boise State the Mountain West.

As has seemingly always been the case in this spot, the SEC maintained its hold on the pole position, equaling last year’s 53 reps at the Combine. The Southeastern Conference is followed by the Big Ten and the Pac-12, which received boosts from imports Nebraska, and Utah and Colorado, respectively.

Conversely, the Big 12 slipped into fifth place, in part because of the departures of the Huskers and Buffaloes. The Big East did a nosedive from 2011, dropping 33% from 30 kids in attendance to 20.

Tops among the non-AQ leagues? Conference USA, which headed north, while benefitting from dips from the Mountain West and the WAC, which was obviously impacted by the exodus of Boise State. The NFL continues to display its willingness to aggressively mine the lower divisions for next-level talent. Led by the Southern Conference, the FCS has 22 representatives, up from 17 in 2011.

Five players performed at the Division II level a year ago, including two former SEC products, North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins (Florida) and Cal U-Penn OG Rishaw Johnson (Ole Miss). And one, Regina Rams DE Akiem Hicks, played the second half of his college career in Canada.

SEC … 53
Big Ten … 45
Pac-12 … 45
ACC … 44
Big 12 … 34
Big East … 20
C-USA … 13
Mountain West … 12
WAC … 11
Independents … 8
Sun Belt … 8
MAC … 7
Southern (FCS) ... 6
Division II … 5
Big Sky (FCS) ... 3
Colonial Athletic (FCS) ... 3
Big South (FCS) ... 2
Great West (FCS) … 2
MEAC (FCS) … 2
Missouri Valley (FCS) … 2
Canada West … 1
Ivy League (FCS) … 1
Ohio Valley (FCS) … 1

Bragging Rights (the programs)

The reigning national champs will also be sending the most players to the NFL Combine—no shocker there. A year after being poorly represented, largely because of youth, Alabama will go 10-deep in Indianapolis. Directly in the Tide’s rear view mirror are Georgia, LSU, Miami and Wisconsin with eight each.

Boise State and Iowa are sending seven of their kids to the Midwest at the end of February. The Broncos top all other non-AQ programs. Testament to the ability of the Hawkeyes’ staff to coach up athletes, just one of Iowa’s representatives earned more three stars coming out of high school.

It’s no wonder that Arizona State fired Dennis Erickson, and Cal head coach Jeff Tedford is on the hot seat. The Sun Devils and Bears combined for just one more victory—13—than their total number of players invited to the Combine—12.

Carolina suffered the largest year-over-year decline, sinking from a nation’s high 12 reps to six. Regardless, new head coach Larry Fedora should have few problems securing top-flight recruits in the future from the talent-rich region.

It was another unusually rough year for one-time SEC powers Florida and Tennessee, who’ll be represented by only five combined players in Indy, three Gators and two Vols. That combination is the same as the WAC’s Nevada, which will impressively have five former Pack players at the event.

Most of Texas’ talent is still in Austin, good news for struggling head coach Mack Brown; just four ‘Horns will appear at the NFL Combine. Ditto Virginia Tech, Arkansas and Ohio State, which also have just four of their own in Indianapolis. And West Virginia, a program sending only LB Najee Goode and DE Bruce Irvin to the workout.

Nothing good, however, can be gleaned from the fact that UCLA will be represented by just a single Bruin, TE Cory Harkey. Or that Texas Tech was shutout.

Alabama … 10
Georgia … 8
LSU …8
Miami ...8
Wisconsin … 8
Boise State ... 7
Iowa ...7
Oklahoma … 7
Oregon … 7
Penn State … 7
USC … 7
Arizona State … 6
Cal … 6
Clemson … 6
Florida State … 6
Michigan State … 6
North Carolina … 6
Notre Dame … 6
Oklahoma State … 6
South Carolina … 6
Stanford … 6
Texas A&M … 6

Bragging Rights (by position)

Most likely to produce a Combine quarterback? The Pac-12 and the state of Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine running back? The SEC and the state of California
Most likely to produce a Combine wide receiver? The ACC and Big Ten and the state of Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine tight end? The Pac-12 and the state of Florida
Most likely to produce a Combine offensive lineman? The Big Ten and the state of California
Most likely to produce a Combine defensive end? The ACC and the state of Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine defensive tackle? The ACC and the state of California
Most likely to produce a Combine linebacker? The ACC and the state of California
Most likely to produce a Combine safety? The SEC and the state of Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine cornerback? The SEC and the state of Florida

Wishing On a Star

Clearly, sizing up high school recruits is an inexact science, but you might be shocked to learn just how imprecise the process has become. And just how many of this year’s Combine invites were scrambling just to get a free ride a few years back. Well over 10%, or 39 late bloomers, were completely off the grid and often forced to take an alternate route, such as walking on or building a body of work at a junior college.

Another 92 players were rated two-stars, the equivalent of a future journeyman or part-time starter, by when their high school careers concluded. Hey, it’s not where you begin this journey, but where you end it, that matters most.

At least in terms of this past year, the positions most likely to produce surprises are tackles on offense and cornerbacks on defense. The states? Texas, California, Florida and Georgia in that order. The schools? Boise State and Nevada, with five apiece, tailed closely by Michigan State and Wisconsin from the Big Ten, which explains why all four programs have been so successful in recent years. The conference? The Big Ten, with the Big 12 trailing close behind.

The somewhat off-the-radar, two-star high school quarterbacks looking to improve their draft grade include Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Southern Miss’ Austin Davis, Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish, Houston’s Case Keenum, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Yale’s Patrick Witt.

Of the 28 former five-star high school recruits, eight hailed from California, and six are from the state of Florida.

5-star … 28
4-star … 82
3-star … 87
2-star … 92
Unrated… 39

*High school rankings are courtesy of

Doing Their Homework

Of the 65 college sophomores and juniors who declared early for the 2012 NFL Draft, 10 have not been invited to the Combine, up from four a year ago. That unfortunate group includes Wyoming RB Alvester Alexander, Texas RB Jamison Berryhill, Kansas State RB Bryce Brown, Minnesota TE Tiree Eure, Syracuse WR Dorian Graham, Boston College DE Max Holloway, Miami WR Aldarius Johnson, Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson, Purdue G Ken Plue and Auburn QB Barrett Trotter.

No, it does not mean that all of the decisions were sound ones, but at a minimum, the overwhelming number of early entries will get their chance to show they belong in the most important pre-draft event. Maybe the NFL advisory committee isn’t doing such a bad job after all.

A Major Issue

Each of the 328 invitees were student-athletes for at least the last three years. We know about their athletic prowess and resumes, but what about the student side of these future pros? They declared academic majors, attended classes and, in some cases, have already earned a diploma.

Their fields of endeavor are as varied as their backgrounds and skill sets. Many chose rather innocuous, broad fields, such sociology, general studies and communications. In other words, football was their major. There were, however, intriguing exceptions. For instance, Stanford QB Andrew Luck is headed toward a degree in Architectural Design. Cal P Bryan Anger, San Diego State P Brian Stahovich, Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill and Stanford WR Chris Owusu are studying biology.

Utah OT Tony Bergstrom’s backup plan involves his degree as a chemical engineer. Penn State LB Nate Stupar would like to become a filmmaker. Texas A&M PK Randy Bullock is poised to become a petroleum engineer once his playing days are over. Each is well positioned for success, even if the NFL gig doesn’t work out.

Sociology … 12%
Communications … 10%
Criminal Justice … 8%
Business … 8%
General Studies … 5%
Sports Management … 4%
Interdisciplinary Studies … 4%
African-American Studies … 3%

JUCO or not JUCO

Of the 328 participants in this month’s event, 19 have done an apprenticeship at one of the nation’s junior-colleges, breeding grounds for quick fixes and future stars. Arguably, no one leveraged the two-year schools better than Baylor, which signed Big 12-leading rusher Terrance Ganaway out of Texarkana (Tex.) College and all-conference C Philip Blake from Tyler (Tex.) Junior College. The position most likely to travel from the JUCO ranks to Indianapolis this year is offensive tackle, which will send six blockers to Lucas Oil Stadium.

- 2012 - Breaking Down The Combine, Part 1