TUSCALOOSA – There were two big story lines to follow coming into Alabama’s pro day – Cyrus Kouandjio’s health and AJ McCarron’s arm.
Both sounded satisfied that their workouts in the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility on Wednesday helped answer some questions that NFL teams may have.
“ I felt like it was good,” McCarron said after the quarterback was pretty sharp in an extended throwing session with teammates Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell and former teammate Marquis Maze. “I've been hearing everything about arm strength and deep outs and comebacks.
“ I feel like I should silence all that. I threw it deep early in the workout and I threw it deep late. I felt like it was a real good day.”
Kouandjio may have more to do to satisfy scouts after a tough performance at the NFL Combine last month. He said he felt “a lot better” than he did in Indianapolis.
“ This is my home so I felt at ease, no sense of nervousness at all,” Kouandjio said. “I just went out there and did what I was born to do.”
The offensive tackle, who was measured at 6-foot-7, 311 pounds on Wednesday – 11 pounds lighter than at the Combine – did his position drills in Tuscaloosa. He will do the running and other measurable at Alabama’s second pro day on April 8.
“ My plan for this pro day, I would do field work and let these coaches know how good of an athlete I am on the field, my foot work, how great I am on the field,” said the lineman, who declared for the draft with a year of eligibility remaining. “And then (on April 8) I’ll go into track stuff and tell them how good of a track athlete I am. My goal is to show a dramatic increase from the last time I was timed, and show a lot of increase.”
After a less than stellar showing in Indianapolis, rumors swirled about the offensive tackle’s knee – which was news to the player and his college coach. Internet reports indicated that six NFL teams did not clear Kouandjio, who missed the last half of his freshman season due to knee surgery. He started every game the past two seasons at left tackle.
“ To be honest with you, after the Combine that night my agent called me and said, ‘Hey, is there something wrong with your knee?’” Kouandjio told reporters after his workout.
“ I was completely confused. I said, ‘No, there’s nothing wrong with my knee.’ I thought he was joking. But he kept asking.
“ I was surprised. I was like, ‘There’s nothing wrong with my knee. Is there a rumor out there?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, a couple of media things came out that there was something wrong with your knee.’ It was interesting, but I never worried about it because I know and the film will tell you there’s nothing wrong with my knee.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban noted that since Kouandjio returned from his injury, he never missed a practice, let alone a game. The coach told reporters to make sure leaked medical information is accurate.
“ I think you all need to be responsible to be sure you’ve got the right information, because a lot of the information you got is not correct,” Saban said. “So that’s not good for the player and it’s not good journalism on your part.
“ The teams we talked to, I can’t find anybody that failed the guy on a physical. If you don’t understand how people grade players in terms of NFL medical grades, it’s not pass-fail. There are usually five categories that a guy falls in, and if you don’t understand it you shouldn’t be writing about it, because he didn’t really fail.”
Saban said he thought Kouandjio was a first-round talent. Several mock drafts since the Combine have him being picked on Day 2 of the draft, in the second or third round.
“ Yes, I think he’s a first round guy,” Saban said. “But what I don’t have the opportunity to do being the coach here is I can’t compare him to every other guy in the draft. That’s what makes somebody a first round draft pick. Where is your talent and ability relative to everyone else?”
Kouandjio, the only offensive lineman at pro day, was put through an extended workout and said he felt good after dropping weight since the Combine. On April 8, he plans to improve on a disappointing 5.56 40 time that he posted in Indianapolis.
McCarron felt like he made the most of his throwing session. He knows he wore out Norwood, Bell and Maze, who were all working out for scouts, too.
“ At the Combine, you only have a few throws. Guys are a little more fresh, so sometimes with deep balls or deep outs, you might complete a little bit more,” the quarterback said. “My receivers were tired today. I've got to buy those guys dinner tonight for sure, because they were exhausted from doing their own workout and then coming to run for me. But I felt like overall it was a good day.”
Roll call: Alabama had a number of players participating in at least a part of pro day. Of course, 12 of them were at the Combine in Indianapolis.
But Bell, cornerback John Fulton and linebacker Tana Patrick were not invited to the Combine. Bell recorded a team-best broad jump of 9 feet, 11 inches. Defensive back Deion Belue posted a jump of 9-9.
Defensive lineman Ed Stinson did 27 reps (of 225 pounds) on the bench press, easily the day’s best. End-linebacker Adrian Hubbard had 18 reps and Patrick added 17.
Other participants in at least part of pro day included safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, linebacker C.J. Mosley and specialists Cade Foster and Cody Mandell.
Among those missing from the workout were defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (knee) and offensive lineman Anthony Steen (shoulder), who will perform at the Tide’s second pro day on April 8.
Mosley happy: Linebacker C.J. Mosley, considered by most of the top linebackers in the country, probably solidified that when he ran a 40 time between 4.5 and 4.6. He didn’t run the 40 in Indianapolis and that was one of the last lingering questions about him.
Still, he has gotten plenty of health questions and was thoroughly examined at the Combine.
“ The more injuries you have, the longer you’re going to be in the hospital,” he joked. “Before the Combine ever happened, in January they went over everything I had hurt in the past all the way from my freshman year. So it was good then. There wasn’t no red flags thrown up, they didn’t have a question on anything I didn’t have an X-ray on, so that turned out well.”
Mosley dislocated his hip in the championship game against LSU and was held out of contact last spring with shoulder issues. He expected to be put through the ringer.
“ The scouts, they wanted to check everything and make sure there weren’t any risks,” Mosley said. “I understand where they were coming from. But they got the same test (results) that I got.”
Maze returns: Just being on the field with Maze again made McCarron and Norwood smile.
“ Man, it’s great having Marquis back,” Norwood said. “I haven’t ran alongside him for about two years.”
“ I miss 4-dog. He's a handful now. He's a good dude. Me and him have always been close,” McCarron said. “He looks great. He looks like he hasn't lost a step. I told him he lost that gut he had when he was here. He was working out with us in Jackson. I definitely think he'll have a chance to be able to make a team, for sure.”
Maze, who tore his hamstring in the championship game against LSU and later had surgery to repair it, said he’s been working to get back into the game. He got a free-agent tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers and survived until the final cut – but did not make the team.
“ I’ve just basically been taking care of my son and my family and working out,” Maze said.
He wants to stay in the game.
“ I’ve been playing this game since I was 4 years old,” Maze said. “It’s always been my passion. My goal is to make it to the NFL and have a pretty easy career.”
Who’s who: All 32 NFL teams were represented, including NFL head coaches Sean Payton (Saints), Marvin Lewis (Bengals) and Chip Kelly (Eagles) and general managers Mickey Loomis (Saints), Jerry Reese (Giants) and Rick Spielman (Vikings).