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Miami football players showcase skills in front of NFL scouts

<p>Wide receiver Jack Sorenson gets in a set position before the shuttle drill in Miami&#x27;s Pro Day Tuesday morning.</p>

Wide receiver Jack Sorenson gets in a set position before the shuttle drill in Miami's Pro Day Tuesday morning.

Former Miami wide receiver Jack Sorenson was nervous going into Miami football’s Pro Day Tuesday morning. 

“If you don’t have nerves, I think it means you don’t care,” Sorenson said. “I’ve been dreaming for the past eight weeks about this day.”

Sorenson, along with five other draft-eligible Miami players, showcased his talent in front of personnel for 21 of the NFL’s 32 teams in Miami’s Dausch Indoor Performance Center. 

Players who participated include Sorenson, safety-turned-linebacker Sterling Weatherford, safety Mike Brown, defensive back Cedric Boswell, and defensive ends Ben Kimpler and Dominique Robinson, the latter of whom participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last Saturday.

There were also two non-Miami players who took part in the event: Youngstown State tight end Andrew Ogletree and Northern Illinois offensive lineman Brayden Patton, the son of Miami offensive line coach James Patton.

The event started in Miami’s weight room. Players did bench press reps with 225 lbs. and a vertical jump as scouts gathered all around them, moving to get a better angle. Weatherford led all participants with a jump of 36”, while Kimpler and Brown both got up to 33”. Sorenson recorded a 31” vertical. 

Photo by Jessica Monahan | The Miami Student

Defensive back Mike Brown leaps for his 33" vertical jump at Miami's Pro Day Tuesday morning.

Of course, Weatherford’s mark likely would’ve been shattered had Robinson decided to jump. The wide receiver turned defensive end recorded a 41” jump at the NFL Combine, slightly above his goal of 40”. This led him to skip the jump, as well as the bench press, broad jump and 40-yard dash.

After the vertical jump, players moved to Ben Roethlisberger Field, where they went through more agility tests. Brown and Weatherford recorded jumps of 10’5” and 9’9” in the broad jump. Weatherford and Sorenson participated in the shuttle drill, and Weatherford also did the 3-cone drill. Not all players participated in every event.

Photo by Jessica Monahan | The Miami Student

NFL scouts watch as wide receiver Jack Sorenson gets ready to do the shuttle drill in Miami's Pro Day Tuesday morning.

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The drills gave Sorenson a chance to showcase his agility and athleticism. Though he ranked in the top 10 for receiving yards in the FBS this season, scouts still wonder about his ability to compete against top-tier athletes, especially coming from a non-Power Five program like Miami.

“Coming from a G5 program, there’s a lot of questions with speed, there’s height, there’s strength, there’s agility, there’s all these different things that are initially tacked onto your name,” Sorenson said. “A big thing for me was just coming out and showing I have speed, I can get in and out of cuts, I can test similar to other Power Five guys.”

Then came the most glamorous – if not all that important – drill of the day: the 40-yard dash. Scouts and fans love to cite the 40 times of their favorite players in the draft, though some aren’t sure it matters at all.

Still, it was the only on-field drill that everyone besides Robinson chose to partake in. Cones were set up to give players a clear runway as scouts stood on either side to watch as each player strode by them. 

Each player got two chances to run, as even a single hundredth of a second could boost a player’s draft stock. Weatherford recorded times of 4.6 and 4.57 seconds, while Brown’s best recorded time came in at 4.55 seconds. The Miami Student was unable to obtain everyone’s times in the 40-yard dash.

After the agility drills was the position of the event where players actually got to do something resembling football. Boswell, Brown and Weatherford showed their skills in coverage with drills where they had to move laterally while keeping their eyes on the quarterback (role-played by a scout in attendance) and waiting to track a pass in the air.

Brown excelled in the drill, snagging an errant pass with just his left hand in one rep. Weatherford showed his safety background during the drills, moving well laterally. Weatherford’s cover skills will be vital in the NFL, where linebackers are more often asked to drop back in coverage.

After this, Sorenson ran routes and caught passes from a familiar arm: Miami’s sophomore quarterback, Brett Gabbert. Sorenson relished the opportunity to catch passes from Gabbert, who he learned would be participating in the pro day two weeks ago (Gabbert, though technically draft-eligible, is not in this year’s draft class). The pair had been able to practice together for a few days leading up to Tuesday. 

“It was awesome. I think Brett throws one of the better balls around the country,” Sorenson said. “Obviously, he put it where it needed to be and made my job pretty easy. I just had to run the route.”

Perhaps the most important part of the events for the players is the chance to talk to scouts. Though Robinson got a chance to talk to NFL personnel at the Combine, Tuesday gave coaches and scouts a chance to have extended conversations with him.

After doing drills with the Titans coach, he also got a chance to talk about the team’s scheme and concepts in a meeting room. Robinson also had an extended conversation with the Cincinnati Bengals after the event.

“I was able to meet with them and talk more about football than I did at the combine,” Robinson said.

As a player whose draft prospects are up in the air, Sorenson needed to make a good impression as not only a tremendous player, but as a good person to be around.

“GMs value the character and quality of the human that you’re bringing into the locker room, because you see that one bad egg can spoil the rest,” Sorenson said.

Throughout the event, current Miami players watched everything unfold — some were on the sidelines, and others were looking down on the action from the second floor of the Indoor Performance Center.

Sorenson was glad to have moral support from familiar faces.

“I think it just shows the culture that we have and definitely the culture that these guys are going to continue to keep up,” Sorenson said.

All six players are hoping to hear their names called at this year’s NFL Draft, which will be held on Thursday, April 28 through Saturday the 30th.