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Trojans have much to gain at NFL Combine

by Garry Paskwietz

The annual NFL combine gets underway later this week in Indianapolis with seven Trojans taking part, and here’s a look at where those players stand heading into the event.

OLB Su’a Cravens

Cravens is likely to be the first USC player drafted, and there don’t seem to be too many questions from NFL personnel about his football instincts, athleticism or play-making ability. All the intangibles are there for Su’a to be a solid defensive player, and the only issue right now is the dreaded “tweener” tag that has been applied to him. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds he is stuck between the ideal size measurements of safety and outside linebacker. Fortunately he has played both spots, and it will simply be a matter of which team eventually decides he is a “football player”.

Current draft projection: Second round

What he can gain at the combine: It will be important for Su’a to test well in order to maintain his upper-round draft status and he can always help himself with a good performance in pass coverage drills.

QB Cody Kessler

For all of his production and experience at the college level, there are measured evaluations for Cody so far in the draft process. He is recognized for his efficient play, his accuracy in the short-to-intermediate passing game and his durability, but the scouts also note that nothing really stands out about his game relative to the professional level. His playing career has been well dissected, and he got the value of attending the Senior Bowl workouts so he is a known commodity, which should be a benefit.

Current draft projection: Day three pick

What he can gain at the combine: His ability to throw on the run has been one knock on his game, and he would do well to impress in this area during throwing drills.

RB Tre Madden

The biggest storyline for Madden in the eyes of pro scouts is his health. If he didn’t have a series of injuries in his USC career you would be looking at a versatile 235-pound back who runs tough, can pass block and catch the ball. Unfortunately, the injury history is there, with two full seasons missed and parts of his senior year as well, so Tre will need to show he is healthy to improve his chances of being selected in the late rounds.

Current draft projection: Late round to free agent

What he can gain at the combine: The best thing he can do at the combine, and the USC Pro Day, is simply show that he is as healthy as possible as he returns from a knee injury.

CB Kevon Seymour

One year ago Seymour was considered a potential mid-round pick as an athletic corner with good experience, but a senior year filled with injuries and inconsistent play have tempered those expectations. Instead, Seymour will be looking for a late-round selection as he does bring solid size and skills at a key position of need.

Current draft projection: Free agent

What he can gain at the combine: Performing with confidence and shining in coverage drills would enhance Seymour’s chances of being drafted.

OC Max Tuerk

After suffering a knee injury midway through the season, Tuerk has not yet recovered enough to where he will do any running or on-field drills at the combine but he will be able to do the bench press and team interviews. He will look to schedule a pro day workout in late April to maximize his chances of healing. With the ability to play, and succeed at, multiple line spots there is going to be a lot of interest in Tuerk.

Current draft projection: Mid-round

What he can gain at combine: It is important that any medical testing go well, and it will be interesting to note Max’s weight at the event, since one criticism is that he will need to add bulk at the next level.

FB Soma Vainuku

Vainuku will be an interesting player to follow in this process. He didn’t get a lot of work at the tail end of his USC career (no pass receptions in the last two seasons) but he starred enough on special teams to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl. Soma is an impact player on coverage teams but there will need to be a potential role on offense to improve his chances of making a team. The good news for Soma is that he has ability with the ball in his hands, it’s just a matter of showing it.

Current draft projection: Late round to free agent

What he can gain at the combine: Showing good hands. It will be a boost if Soma can open some eyes in terms of his ability to catch the football.

DT Antwaun Woods

Woods is a classic “squatty” interior lineman with a chance to be a good run-stuffer in the league. He also brings a lot of the intangibles that coaches look for, particularly effort, and that is one thing that can show up in combine drills.

Current draft projection: Late round

What he can gain at the combine: Any positive performance by Woods in the pass rush drills will help his stock.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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