The difference in the Houston Cougars Pro Day year over year was stark. In 2015, the Cougars indoor athletic facility was populated by regional scouts, friends and family.
In 2016, regional scouts were on hand and so were plenty of friends, family and Cougar football teammates. It's just that they were joined by eight or nine defensive back coaches from NFL teams, an NFL head coach, an NFL general manager and multiple high ranking front office officials. It was quite a different party than it had been just a year ago.
That tends to happen when there's a potential first rounder in their midst.
- Cornerback William Jackson went to Indianapolis after missing the Senior Bowl, a bit of a mystery. After he ran a 4.37, though, his life changed on the spot. He went from being a dark horse favorite corner of a handful of people to being the flavor du jour of many, including those at the back end of the first round.
His star has risen over the past month and that manifested itself at TDECU Stadium on Thursday morning. But, he wasn't the only one that caught the attention of the NFL scouts on hand.
- At this point last year, linebacker Elandon Roberts had a total of 33 tackles. In his entire career. But, by the end of the 2015 season, he was fourth IN THE NATION in tackles with 142. In a single season. Last offseason, Houston head coach Tom Herman challenged Roberts to make some changes in his game and he went above and beyond to do so. It was his day to shine as well. He ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash and had scouts looking at each other wondering if they all had a consistent time on the stopwatch. He was smooth and explosive in his positional drills at 5-11, 234 lb. but his lack of true linebacker size could hurt. But, not on this day, that's for sure.
- Jackson's secondary mates Adrian McDonald, TreVon Stewart and Lee Hightower performed alongside and left an impression, in particular the long and rangy Hightower. McDonald and Stewart won't stand out in a Pro Day situation like this given the lack of size or blazing speed, but when the lights go on, they're ready to play. Hightower looked more like a receiver, but his length is attractive. Furthermore, he was smooth as can be on his transitional drills on the field.
- Running back Kenneth Farrow had a 38" vertical jump and a 10'5" broad jump, in addition to the award for best beach body on campus. Wideout Demarcus Ayers ran in the mid-4.5 range which was significantly faster than he ran in Indianapolis.
- But, most came to see Jackson and the masses were pleased with the results. The smile never left his face as he did position drills, 3-cone, short shuttle and long shuttle tests. When I asked whether he was headed to Chicago for Thursday night of Draft weekend, he turned to me, grinned ear to ear and said "I hope I get that call."
He better leave his ringer on.
Check out the best shots from Thursday's scene at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.