March 14, 2012

MSU PRO DAY: Anderson on The Map

EAST LANSING - Alphabetically, Todd Anderson's name appeared at the top of the list of the 20 draft eligible players who worked out for scouts and coaches Wednesday afternoon during Michigan State's annual NFL Pro Day.

Anderson's goal when he got up Wednesday morning was to make sure his name stayed on top of that list and moved up on the lists of those evaluating his talent at the Duffy Daugherty Practice Facility.

Anderson, who starred at fullback this past season for the Spartans after making the transition from defense to offense - was among a handful of Spartans not invited the NFL Combine - along with players like Keith Nichol, Brian Linthicum and Garrett Celek.

Wednesday's workouts which included strength, speed and agility drills was the opportunity the 6-foot-2, 265 former walk-on needed to showcase his talents in a position that doesn't get a lot of recognition but is vital to the success of many pro offenses.

Coming into Wednesday, Anderson didn't have a ranking among NFL scouts.

As a matter of fact, among Big Ten fullbacks, he didn't even receive a grade in most rankings, ones that highlighted Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing and even Northwestern's Drake Dunsmore, who was also listed as a tight end and a halfback.

Eventhough MSU won 11 games for the second straight season, Anderson was in a blocking scheme that helped open holes for two to three running backs a game - not just a single featured back.

"They looked at me as a guy who just played fullback for a year,'' said Anderson, who just smiled when told about Ewing's ranking. "I want them to look at me as a fullback but there aren't that many true fullbacks. They're rare but teams still need them. Me starting just one year, I think that definitely hurt me.''

So while the team's success may have garnered national attention, Anderson's contributions did not. But by the time Wednesday's testing finished, Anderson may have put his name into the War Room's of more NFL teams.

"I thought with my one year, I did a good enough job to show that this is my spot and that I feel comfortable here. Hopefully they see that too.''

Actually, according to teammate Jerel Worthy, Anderson wasn't as big a secret as he may have thought. While at the NFL Combine with Kirk Cousins, Edwin Baker, Trenton Robinson, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Worthy said there were teams who inquired about Anderson.

That seemed to provide even more motivation.

His best result of the day? A Pro Day-leading 35 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

"When Worthy texted me form the Combine and told me he had some teams asking about me that made me feel good, just to know I was on the map,'' Anderson said. "It's nice to know that if I put up some great number, they going to go, 'hey, I remember that guy.' ''

Other non-Combine invitees like Nichol, who also volunteered to throw some passes for the scouts, impressed with a standing jump of 39.5.

"I thought I put everything down but I didn't run the 40 like I thought I was capable of doing. I thought I was going to hit high 4.4s, somewhere in the 4.5s. I don't know what I did but I think I did that but I thought I put it down on everything else. I just really tried to show my routes and that I was a complete player. I think I helped my self and I feel good about it.

"Like anything else, I'm going to be thinking about that 40 time but the guy from the Saints was like, 'don't worry about it,' and the guy from the Bears was like, 'don't worry about it.' They known the speed is there, I think. I thought as a receiver, I showed up pretty well.''

All six Spartans, who were invited to the NFL Combine decided to participate in Pro Day for different reasons. Most of them came out again to improve on their speed and agility times in a much more relaxed and comfortable setting.

"When I left the Combine and heard some of my numbers, I was a little disappointed,'' Robinson said. "I wasn't down or anything. I just felt like I could do better so my goal was come out here and do better in some things and I feel like I accomplished that.''

Baker was able to improve on his NFL Combine 40 time, going from a 4.47 to an estimated 4.35. That brought some added attention from two Detroit Lions scouts who were attendance and spent some additional time at the end of Wednesday's session talking to Baker.

Cunningham also got into the 4.47 range and looked fluid catching the ball and running routes. He even pulled in a low throw from Cousins reminiscent of his juggling grab against Northwestern.

"That was Kirk be making me look good. That's all that was but I think I came out and showed my speed a little bit but routes and catching the ball, that's what we do,'' Cunningham said. "So that's what I concentrated on most. I want to perfect my craft. I wanted to come out and show these scouts that I can run crispy routes, catch fluently and run.''

And Cousins, who did well in Indianapolis - and who was rumored to have had dinner with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin earlier in the week - scoffed at the idea of skipping Pro Day, missing a chance to throw to his former teammates one more time.

Other Spartans, who put their skills to the test included wide receivers Brad Sonnntag and Chris Rucker. There were even some Spartans, who had tested the NFL waters or had been on teams and been cut, and wanted another opportunity to showcase their skills in hopes of getting another chance.

That quartet included 2011 class members Eric Gordon and Aaron Bates, 2010 graduate Kendal Davis and 2007 Spartan David Herron.

"Here, you see the results of working with Ken Mannie, our strength coach, and our whole program for the last four years,'' Dantonio said. "And they've toned things up in the last couple of months and sort of gotten used to the different drills they're going to have to do, and sort of tried to really pinpoint exactly where they need to improve.''

As usual, there were a number of former Spartans on hand to support Wednesday's group as they tried to make the jump to the next level.

Among the former Spartans in attendance, were recent Super Bowl champion Devin Thomas, Tennessee Titans running back Javon Ringer offensive lineman D.J. Young, who spent time on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad this past season.

THANKS KIRK: While that was the sentiment when Cousins played his final game in a Spartan uniform, it was furthered reiterated by Cunningham and Nichol, who had the familiarity of having 'their' quarterback throw them passes during individual passing drills.

"It was great. We have a chemistry and we're all working towards the same goal,'' Nichol said. "He's trying to get to the next level, I'm trying to get to the next level and nobody's trying to outperform themselves. Everybody's all just trying to work within themselves.''

While it was thought that Cousins may have been reluctant to throw at Pro Day for fear that he might display some previous unseen fault, Cousins said it was a no-brainer that he would be at Duffy on Wednesday.

"You certainly want to be at the Combine because of the opportunity it affords you and I really helped myself there. But I think I helped myself today. It's a constant evaluation but really it's a devaluation because they're trying to find something wrong with you, which isn't always the most enjoyable process to be involved in but that's the way it works. You don't have anything to hide. In this process, I want people to take a look at me. I don't want to act as if I have something to hide. So for me, any chance I have to throw in front of coaches or any individual workouts coming up later this month, I'm excited for those. There's a lot to prove and I've got nothing to hide

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