Feb. 27, 2008
BERKELEY - The California football team was very well-represented at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine which wrapped up on Tuesday in Indianapolis. The Goden Bears had seven players invited to the event - only three collegiate programs had more player representation at the biggest pre-draft event of the year. Over 300 of the top prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft attended, including Cal standouts Thomas DeCoud, Justin Forsett, Mike Gibson, Lavelle Hawkins, DeSean Jackson, Andrew Larson and Craig Stevens.
While there was plenty of attention on players such as Jackson, Hawkins and Forsett, a couple of under-the-radar guys made big impressions at the event. Offensive lineman Mike Gibson bench-pressed 225 pounds 31 times, tied for fourth among all offensive lineman, while posting a 27-inch vertical jump (seventh), a 9-2 broad jump (fifth) and the best three-cone drill time of all offensive lineman at 7.02 seconds.
"It was crazy," Gibson said about the experience. "There's a lot of pressure, your football career is almost coming down to one day. You don't get much sleep, your're running around, you hurry up to wait. It's an emotional roller coaster. But I think with the pressure and all, I handled it pretty well. It's hard to perform at your best in that environment; I didn't exactly meet my personal expectations, but I think I did well."
All of Cal's players have been training relentlessly since the end of the season to make good showings at the combine. Gibson worked out with veteran trainer Chip Smith, the father of current Cal fullback Zach Smith, in Atlanta to prepare for the Combine.
"I was in Atlanta from the bowl game on," Gibson said. "My only break was to play in the Shrine Game. We just trained the whole time, a lot of resistance running and a lot of swimming pool workouts, while focusing on proper nutrition and taking care of your body."
Craig Stevens also excelled at the combine, posting the top bench press among tight ends (31 presses of 225 pounds), despite battling the flu leading up to the event. Stevens also surprised many with his 4.59 second time in the 40-yard dash - a time better than many receivers at the event.
SI.com's Tony Pauline listed Stevens as one of his top surprises from the Combine. "Stevens is considered one of the better blocking tight ends in the draft but a minimal receiving threat," Pauline wrote. "His 40 time of 4.59 seconds and outstanding pass catching workout now have many rethinking that opinion."
Other Golden bear highlights from the Combine included Jackson posting the top 40-yard time among wide receivers (4.35) and Forsett registering 26 reps on the bench press (tied for fourth among RBs). Hawkins and Jackson were both noted as being very impressive in the gauntlet drill, a drill where they run the width of the field while catching passes coming at them from each side of the field. DeCoud, who was the last Bear to go through the events as a cornerback, posted a strong mark in the vertical jump (35.5 inches) and the 40-yard dash (4.45) as well as a solid three-cone drill time (6.85).
Analysts on the NFL Network said about Jackson, "Fast, good hands, polished, played in Coach Tedford's offense, look at his hands, watch him run the gauntlet, under control, that's what you look for in a wide receiver."
Cal's NFL Prospects will next workout at Cal's Pro Day on Tuesday, March 11 at Memorial Stadium.
The 2008 NFL Draft will be held April 26-27.
The 2008 Cal Football team is scheduled to begin spring practice on March 17. While all spring practices are closed to the public, the team will have an open practice sponsored by Peterson on Saturday, April 12 as part of Cal Day. The Golden Bears open the 2008 season by hosting Michigan State on Saturday, Aug. 30. Cal has posted six straight winning seasons for the first time in over 50 years while advancing to five straight bowl games (with four wins) for the first time in program history.