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Breaking Down The 2010 NFL Combine
LSU WR Brandon LaFell
LSU WR Brandon LaFell
Posted Feb 24, 2010

With the NFL Combine kicking in, Richard Cirminiello breaks down the positions, the teams and states with the bragging rights for sending the most talent to Indianapolis, and shows which program really did have the most NFL talent. Check out the breakdown of this year's Combine.

2010 NFL Draft

Breaking Down The Combine

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2009 - Breaking Down The Combine
As the NFL world descends upon Indianapolis for that annual ritual known as the Combine, the nation’s premier college players are about to be poked, prodded, and psychoanalyzed for days...and dollars.

What may appear to be a circus-like atmosphere is, in reality, a well-organized platform for more than 300 top prospects to improve their professional draft status in front of future employers. The overwhelming majority of invitees will be drafted in April, but how high depends on everything from their speed and strength to their personality and body type. One-tenth of a second could be the difference between the first day and the final day, and a whole lot of money.

Exactly who comprises this next generation of pro players? Of course, it changes every year, but that doesn’t mean that trends are not developed over time. Geographic, institutional, and developmental tendencies will paint a mosaic of not just the athletes, but the schools that were their homes for as long as five years.

The Positional Breakdown
Generally speaking, the number of players from each position doesn’t shift too dramatically from year to year. Remember that this is an invitation-only event, and NFL teams will only invite those players they believe have the best shot of making an NFL roster. If you’ve got a friend on the Miami Dolphins staff, for instance, it’s not going to help you get to Indy. So, if there are 10 worthy quarterbacks or tight ends in a given year, that’s exactly how many will get through security at the RCA Dome.

Trends from 2009? There aren’t too many. The crop of interior linemen is way down compared to last February, when 32 were in attendance. If you want to earn an invite to this event, it helps to play tackle instead of guard or center. The competition will be especially intense at defensive end and linebacker, where the talent is substantially deeper than it was a year ago. With a whopping 42 ends on hand, NFL teams have a better than normal chance of landing a quality edge rusher. The lone long snapper? Well, that’d be TCU’s Clint Gresham, who began his career at Oklahoma, yet is no relation to TE Jermaine Gresham, also a former Sooner at the Combine.

QB … 19
RB … 26
FB … 3
WR … 44
TE … 20
OT … 28
OG … 11
C … 8

DT … 24
DE … 42
LB … 36
CB … 35
FS … 13
SS … 10

Special Teams
P … 5
PK … 3
LS … 1
RS ... 1

Bragging Rights (the states)
Okay, so you’re not completely shocked by the home states of this year’s 329 Combine invitees. As expected, California, Florida, and Texas dominated, with the Golden State replacing the Lone Star State at the top of the heap. Eye-openers? How about the strong showings of a handful of East Coast states, like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which sent players as far away as Florida, Iowa, Arizona, and Stanford? This year’s sole representatives of the District of Columbia and New Mexico are Illinois WR Arrelious Benn and Lobo C Erik Cook.

The 13 states not represented at the Combine are Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Delaware, Idaho, West Virginia, Montana, and Nebraska? Really? The Husker and Bronco staffs deserve a ton of credit and frequent flyer miles for amassing so much NFL-caliber talent outside the state border. For that matter, Iowa and Oregon also did a great job of making it to a BCS bowl game without a lot of home-grown talent.

California ...46
Florida ...44
Texas ... 37
Georgia ... 22
Louisiana... 16
Virginia ...15
North Carolina...14
New Jersey...13
New York...8
South Carolina...6
District of Columbia...1
New Mexico...1

Bragging Rights (the conferences)
Yes, this is going to be yet another slobbering love affair with the SEC. In yet another example of its dominance within the FBS, the league will have a jaw-dropping 23 more alums in Indianapolis than its nearest competition, the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-10. Predictably, the Big East came in last place among the BCS conferences by a wide margin, though it should be noted that it also has the fewest members. The top non-BCS conference? Well, unlike a year ago, when the WAC held the honor, it’s the Mountain West, which went from just 11 players to 18.

Carrying the banners of the smallest programs out of Division II are North Alabama WR Preston Parker, Hillsdale OT Jared Veldheer, Wayne State RB Joique Bell, Stillman DE Junior Galette, and Indiana (Pa.) CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. Parker and Galette began their college careers at Florida State and Temple, respectively, before transferring.

SEC … 64
ACC … 41
Big Ten … 41
Big 12 … 41
Pac-10 … 40
Big East … 21
MWC … 18
FCS … 15
WAC … 14
C-USA … 11
MAC … 7
Sun Belt … 6
Division II … 5
Independents … 5

Bragging Rights (the programs)
If you’re looking for tangible proof that USC has as much talent as any school in the country, tune in to the NFL Network at the end of February. Over the last two seasons, the Trojans have sent 23 players to the Combine, more than any other program during that time. Still, they were dethroned in 2010 by LSU, which has a cool dozen alums in Indy. With that many next-level players on the roster, shouldn’t you accomplish more than a Capital One Bowl loss? Heck, Troy finished its year at the Emerald Bowl. Draw your own conclusions.

Clemson and Virginia Tech led the ACC, yet Georgia Tech, with just four early entries, won the league crown. Of Iowa’s seven invitees, only one, LB Pat Angerer, played his high school ball in the state. Cincinnati has only two Bearcats in attendance, QB Tony Pike and WR Mardy Gilyard, which equals the number of Big East championships it’s won in the last two seasons. How about Auburn with as many reps as James Madison, two, or CB Kyle Wilson carrying the Boise State banner? It could mean that most of the talent is still on campus and eligible in 2010. For that matter, Ohio State, Oregon, Nebraska, Georgia, and North Carolina are sending just four kids to the Hoosier State. Not so good for short-term bragging rights, but a good sign for this fall and beyond.

What does it say about Fresno State that it has more invites than any other non-BCS school, yet perennially takes a back seat in the WAC to Boise State? It all comes down to coaching, and Chris Petersen jetted past Pat Hill a few years ago.

LSU …12
USC … 11
Florida ... 10
Alabama ...10
Oklahoma … 9
Iowa ...7
Ole Miss … 7
Texas … 7
Penn State … 6
South Florida … 6
Cal … 6
Clemson … 6
Fresno State … 6
Oklahoma State … 6
Virginia Tech … 6

Bragging Rights (by position)
Most likely to produce a Combine quarterback? The Big 12 and the state of Florida
Most likely to produce a Combine running back? The SEC and Pac-10, and the state of California
Most likely to produce a Combine wide receiver? The Big 12, and the state of Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine tight end? The Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-10, and the states of Illinois and California
Most likely to produce a Combine offensive lineman? The SEC, Big 12, and ACC, and the state of Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine defensive lineman? The SEC and the state of Florida
Most likely to produce a Combine linebacker? The SEC and Big Ten, and the states of Georgia and Texas
Most likely to produce a Combine defensive back? The SEC and the state of California

Wishing On a Star
Obviously, sizing up high school recruits is an imperfect 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 scholie a few years back. Almost 10%, or 32 late bloomers, were completely off the grid and often forced to take an alternate route, such as walking on or building a resume at a junior college. Nearly half of this year’s brightest NFL talent couldn’t get beyond two stars coming out of high school, which is usually considered a middling recruit who may or may not even crack the starting lineup at some point.

At least in terms of this year, the positions most likely to produce surprises are defensive back and wide receiver. However, unlike in the past, there were plenty of rags-to-riches quarterbacks in this cycle. Western Michigan’s Tim Hiller, Cincinnati’s Tony Pike, Troy’s Levi Brown, Fordham’s John Skelton, Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson, Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner, Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour, and Penn State’s Daryll Clark all failed to generate more than two stars.

Partially out of necessity, some programs will perennially take marginal high school talent and coach it into a product that appeals to the pros. The staffs at Troy, East Carolina, TCU, and South Florida at this tactic. The Bulls lead the Big East in Combine invitations, yet just none of their six representatives left high school with a grade higher than two stars. Jim Leavitt ought to take a bow and put that on his resume as he seeks new employment.

Texas, Florida, and California aren’t all about the 5-star blue-chippers, like Sergio Kindle, C.J. Spiller, and Jimmy Clausen. No, these states also produced a slew of rising stars, many of whom went on to produce for the WAC, Mountain West, and Big East.

5-star … 35
4-star … 70
3-star … 85
2-star … 86
1-star … 21
Unrated… 32

Doing Their Homework
Of the 53 underclassmen granted special eligibility for the 2010 NFL Draft, just one, Arkansas DB Jerell Norton, has not been invited to the Combine. By the way, this is the second year in-a-row that an early entry Hog has been left out in the cold. No, that doesn’t mean all of the decisions were sound ones, but at a minimum, the overwhelming number of sophomores and juniors 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.

JUCO or not JUCO
Of the 329 participants in this week’s event, 15 have done an apprenticeship at one of the nation’s junior-colleges, breeding grounds for quick fixes and future stars. None has had a faster ascent than DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who had a cup of coffee at South Florida and is now considered a possible high first-round selection.