While the NFL Combine’s on-field drills have assisted teams in profiling the top college prospects, they have also proven a useful source of education for the UK’s NFL Academy athletes.
Indianapolis has showcased the searing speed of Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, hosted stock-boosting efforts from Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs and underlined the already well-documented talent of versatile Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
The value of the combine workouts warrants annual debate, but for present and future Academy students-athletes at Barnet and Southgate College the event is an opportunity to take notes of their own from the emerging tape.
“If you’re in that Academy age group, I think you want to use your eyes and evaluate what they do well and what your coaches have taught you,” NFL UK’s Head of Football Development Will Bryce told Sky Sports. “Are they doing that?
“If they are a running back are they carrying the ball high and tight? Are they protecting the ball or are they holding it loose like LeSean McCoy? Are their eyes up when they’re running or are they looking down?”
ISAIAH. SIMMONS. 🔥
4.39u 40-yard dash for the 238-pound linebacker! @ClemsonFB @IsaiahSimmons25
📺: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork
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Whether it be receivers completing their routes or pass rushers attacking pads as if they are offensive linemen, Bryce pointed to the commitment in uncontested circumstances as a primary lesson.
“Watch how they finish,” he explained. “I think finishing is huge, it’s everything. I think that’s work ethic and will power a lot of the time.
“When you watch these guys finish drills whether they are d-linemen or safeties or running backs, there are cones out there 20/30 yards past where you’ve caught the ball, you’re expected to run all the way through that.
“If I was to encourage an Academy player to watch the combine, watch that. Pay attention to that.”
No one should be that big.
And that strong.
And that fast.
But @HawkeyeFootball OL @tristanwirfs74 was in a record-setting workout.
📺: 2020 #NFLCombine continues 4PM ET on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/45Mu9GoyRZ
Entry into the UK’s first NFL Academy class entailed a test of physical attributes in similar combine-style drills, with Bryce and Academy head coach Tony Allen there to oversee the trials at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last July.
Showcasing talent is one thing, but it is producing the fundamentals that is vital to the process for Bryce.
“These kids aren’t the finished article,” he added. “The way they go over bags, the way they bend, the way they move. They’ve played in college, they aren’t playing as starters in the NFL at the moment.
Looking at our combine performers 🔛🔝.
Introducing Dante Barnett 👏#NFLAcademy #NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/VEs6yfYLbw
“They’re going to have a lot of their own bad habits which I guess is what I’m saying. They still need to learn.
“But watch the things that you have control over, that’s finishing, protecting the football, exploding out.
“Those kind of things are key to me for somebody to be successful. If you’re finishing and practising hard it brings others along hopefully, they’ll see that and want to do that because it’s the right thing.”
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