SPECIAL REPORT: Former Mountaineers Show Their Skills at the NFL Combine


I asked Caleb Wygal over at WVU Pros to give us a special report on the Mountaineers at the NFL combine. After the jump is his report. I would highly recommend checking out his site, as it follows a lot of former Mountaineers in the pros and gives very detailed information on how they’re doing. From Joe Alexander to Owen Schmitt, they’ve got you covered!

Six former Mountaineers were invited to participate in last week’s annual NFL Combine, held in Indianapolis. The combine is a place where those eligible for the NFL draft go to try to impress NFL Scouts and GM’s with their athleticism and skills. The players are measured, interviewed, hold personal press-conferences, workout, and go through drills to try to raise their draft stock.

The Combine has been known to make or break a perspective NFL players’ dreams.

Here, we’ll give you a breakdown of how each player performed, what was said about them, and what their outlook is leading up to their Pro-Days.

Noel Devine- RB: Devine electrified WVU fans for four seasons with his combination of speed and quickness. Many believed that he would be one of the fastest running backs at the Combine. Unfortunately, due to the ankle injury he suffered at the Senior Bowl, Devine was advised not to compete in most of the workouts or any of the drills. He says he’ll be ready to fully show his stuff at WVU’s Pro Day.

Devine weighed in at 179lbs as the lightest RB at the Combine. This is after he gained 17lbs during his workouts leading up to the Combine. He was also the 4th shortest RB, measuring at 5 foot, 7 1/2 inches. The only workout Devine participated in was the Bench Press. He lifted 225lbs. 26 times, ranking him 7th among RB’s, and 3 reps ahead of former Heisman winner, Mark Ingrahm.

Todd McShay, ESPN NFL Draft Analyst, had this to say about Devine:

“He’s very quick and could obviously be a home-run hitter for you. But he’s had trouble staying healthy. That’s one of the big things when you consider his size. There aren’t many guys his size in the NFL. You have to be durable, you have to be strong, you have to be just a special talent.

“He has a challenge ahead of him, but he’s a good enough athlete that he can overcome it.”

Although Devine did not pick up much buzz on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, he did generate a little bit of it off it. It was revealed that he had already spoken with five NFL teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Cleveland. Devine is currently projected to be drafted near the end of the draft, but a good Pro Day showing could greatly improve upon that.

Robert Sands- S: Sands decided to forgo his Senior year at WVU to enter the NFL Draft. He has a rare combination of size and speed at his position that many scouts and GM’s find intriguing. The thinking was, if Sands showed well at the Combine, he could propel himself up many draft boards.

Sands placed in the Top 10 in every category he participated in. He measured out at 6’5″ 225lbs. He finished first in the Broad Jump at 10’6″ and the 60-yard Shuttle with a time of 11.2 seconds. He was second in Vertical Leap (35 inches) and a finished with 3rd place in the 40-yard Dash at 4.57 seconds. He also had 12 reps in the Bench Press. Good enough for 6th place.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network called Sands a ‘highlight reel of big hits.’

Although his workouts were very impressive, he did not perform as well in his individual position drills.

Todd McShay commented that Sands did not meet expectations:

“Sands is very high-cut (6-4⅞) and his stiff hips stood out next to so many other smaller, quicker defensive backs. He’s a big, physical safety who will deliver hits, but his athletic limitations in coverage will keep him out of the first couple of rounds, and we have to take another look at the tape to see exactly where he’ll grade out.”

He is now projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick, which is the highest rating of any Mountaineer coming out of the Combine. He is reported to have met with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams GM, Billy Devaney, has hinted that they are ‘drooling’ of a safety that they are considering taking in the 2nd round.

Jock Sanders- WR: Sanders finished in the Top 10 in of the workouts for WRs: 40-yard dash, Pro Shuttle, and 3 Cone Drill.

Michael Bean, SB Nation had this to say about Sanders:

“A quick word on two guys that hurt their draft stock on Friday — West Virginia WR/RB Jock Sanders, and Pittsburgh RB Dion Lewis. Both measured at below 5-7 and looked it. They both showed they could struggle to stick in the NFL because they lack the size to be consistently effective in pass protection as third-down backs.”

Jock measured out as the shortest WR with the smallest wingspan. He has reportedly met the the Green Bay Packers.

Brandon Hogan- CB: After tearing his ACL in December, Hogan was limited on what he could do at the Combine. He ranked 10th in the Bench Press at his position with 19 reps. Hogan expects to run for scouts during his pro day in April.

One of the main questions Hogan faced were about his character issues. After being arrested multiple times during his WVU career, he had to face tough questions in order to prove his maturity. His off the field issues could be what ultimately decides when, or if, he’ll be drafted.

Chris Neild-DL: Neild was one of only 3 true Nose Tackles at the Combine. He finished 10th in the bench press with 30 reps. He ran the 40-yard Dash in 5.07 seconds, ranking him 2nd best at his position. Scouts think that Neild’s footwork is not developed enough to play the position in the NFL, especially in a 3-4 scheme.

Tony Dobies of the Daily Athenaeum remarked that Neild, for being one of the bigger guys out of the D-Linemen, that he was pretty quick in comparison. He is projected as a 6th round pick.

He also, unofficially, had the best beard at the Combine.

JT Thomas-LB: Thomas finished 9th in the Bench Press at his position with 23 reps. He also ranked 7th in the 40-yard Dash with a time of 4.77 seconds and  had a vertical leap of 30.5″. He is projected as a 6th round pick.

Wesley Bunting, Director of College Scouting for NFP said this about Thomas:

“You want a special team gem and nice nickel backers…WestVirginia OLB J.T. Thomas, guy can run, flip and close on (the) football.”