While the spring football season began this week for the 2013 Ohio State football team, many former Buckeyes with the potential to play in the NFL next year were back in Columbus for OSU’s annual Pro Day Friday.
Twelve players from last season’s 12-0 Buckeyes team were there to showcase their skills Friday, including potential first-round pick defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who entered the 2013 NFL Draft following his junior season.
At least 40 scouts attended Friday’s pro day, representing at least 28 NFL teams and one Canadian Football League team (Winnipeg Blue Bombers). Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback and OSU alum, was among those in attendance.
Hankins stood on his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine in the 40-yard dash and other measurable athletic tests, but did on-field drills Friday along with fellow former Buckeyes defensive linemen Garrett Goebel, Kharim Stephens and Nathan Williams.
Hankins said the NFL Draft Advisory Board projected him as a first-round pick, and he thinks he fits any NFL defensive scheme.
“I expect to be a first-rounder,” Hankins said. “That’s one of my goals. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m going to just keep working and getting better.”
Tight end Jake Stoneburner was among the standouts Friday, catching every pass thrown to him in on-field drills. Stoneburner said he did everything he hoped to Friday, including running a time in the 40-yard dash between 4.52 and 4.55 seconds.
“I wanted to run a faster 40, wanted to catch every ball,” Stoneburner said.
On the throwing end of those passes was another former Buckeye and 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
Smith, who last played in the NFL in 2010, served as the throwing quarterback during on-field drills.
Smith said he has worked with Stoneburner previously, and praised his work ethic.
“He’s a hard worker,” Smith said. “Sky’s the limit for the kid. To be 6-foot-5 and have the same speed as everybody on the field … I want him to be an overachiever. He hasn’t done enough so far. He knows I’m his biggest critic because I’m his biggest fan.”
Stoneburner said he thinks he improved his chances of being drafted with his performances at the combine and Friday.
“I just want to get drafted,” Stoneburner said. “I have really no idea where, who. If it’s the last pick in the draft, I’ll take it.”
Another player who caught both passes and attention Friday was Zach Boren, who continued to display his versatility.
Boren made the switch from fullback to middle linebacker in the midst of last season with the Buckeyes, but said he expects to play at fullback and on special teams at the next level.
Scouts, he said, have not been looking at him as a linebacker prospect. He displayed even more versatility by taking some snaps as a long snapper at the end of the pro day.
“I’ll do whatever to help out a team, to make a roster,” Boren said.
While Smith may have turned heads with his throwing, he said the focus of the day should be on the draft hopefuls.
“I’m going to leave that to Vince Young,” Smith joked regarding the former Texas quarterback who plans to work out at the Longhorns’ Pro Day on March 26, according to Sports Illustrated.
That said, Smith did not rule out the possibility of an NFL return, and implied that he wants a shot to play for a team within the state of Ohio.
“I’ve always loved the Cleveland Browns,” Smith said. “You never know.”
Offensive tackle Reid Fragel and linebacker Etienne Sabino joined Hankins, Stoneburner, Boren and Williams as combine participants who worked out again Friday.
Sabino, whose combine ended early after he injured his hamstring running the 40-yard dash, said he was glad to be able to participate in positional drills Friday.
“I feel like I looked smooth and that was really all I wanted to showcase,” Sabino said of his workout.
Buckeyes not invited to the combine who worked out Friday were Goebel, Stephens, defensive back Zach Domicone, cornerback Travis Howard, safety Orhian Johnson and wide receiver Taylor Rice.
Johnson, whose performance included a 10-foot-10-inch broad jump, said the Pro Day was an environment set up well for him to succeed because of his athleticism.
“I feel like I went out here and performed well and did everything the coaches wanted,” Johnson said.
Mark Jackson, a guard prospect who played his college football at Glenville State but is a Columbus native (Brookhaven High School), also worked out at Friday’s Pro Day.
Former Buckeyes defensive end John Simon, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, was unable to work out at the combine and again on Friday while continuing to recover from shoulder surgery. Simon will hold his own Pro Day on March 25, and said he expects to be “100 percent” healthy.
“I’m going to be ready to go,” Simon said. “I’ve been training all offseason for it, and I’ll go out here and give it all I’ve got.”