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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Trio of ex-Wildcats testing at NFL combine

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Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat UofA loss to Stanford Saturday, September 17, 2011 at Arizona Stadium

Quarterback Nick Foles and receiver Juron Criner were arguably the most prolific pass-catch duo in the history of the Arizona football program. The question of whether or not their talents will translate to the NFL has yet to be answered.

The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis began on Saturday, and Criner and Foles participated in drills on Sunday. Performance at the scouting combine goes a long way toward determining how high, if at all, a player will be drafted in the NFL.

Prior to the combine, Foles was generally projected as the fourth-best quarterback by most scouting services, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill. After his performance on Sunday, his stock may be falling a bit.

Foles recorded a time of 5.14 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which was the worst of the 14 quarterbacks participating at the combine. Foles isn’t necessarily known for his speed, so while that number is surprisingly slow, it might not have had as much of an impact on his stock as it might seem. By comparison, former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett ran a 5.37 last year before the New England Patriots drafted him in the third round. The average for quarterbacks over the last four combines was 4.90.

The Austin, Texas, native measured out at a height of 6-foot-5, making him the tallest signal caller behind Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, who stands 6-foot-6 and seven eighths. His height is certainly a positive thing going for him, but the most important aspect of the combine for Foles would be his performance in the throwing drills.

Here is what Mike Sando of ESPN.com had to say about Foles’ performance:

“Foles struggled with his throws, particularly on post-corner routes. Coaches appeared to advise him on his deep-ball trajectory after Foles overthrew Arizona teammate Juron Criner on an early deep pass. Foles put too much air under subsequent deep passes. He did not hit receivers in stride on those balls. Foles did elicit a ‘good throw’ commendation from one coach after connecting with Michigan’s Kenneth Hemingway on a 10-yard out route.”

Criner’s 40-yard dash leaves much to be desired

For Criner, Arizona’s all-time leader in touchdown catches, the combine was probably even more important for his stock. Entering the combine, NFL.com’s Gil Brandt had Criner ranked the No. 96 overall prospect (Foles was No. 77). With wide receivers, the 40-yard dash can make or break a prospect’s draft stock.

If that’s the case, then Criner might be in a little bit of trouble, after his official time was recorded as 4.68. By comparison, Stanford’s Chris Owusu, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and Miami’s Travis Benjamin led all receivers at 4.36.

In other drills, Criner helped himself out a bit though, as he tied to record the ninth-best vertical jump for a wide receiver (out of 47 participants) at 38 inches. In the bench press, he put up 17 reps of 225 pounds, which tied for the sixth-best total. Criner also had the largest hands of any receiver at the combine, measuring 10.5 inches.

Draft analyst Wes Bunting of NationalFootballPost.com wrote: “I still have questions about Arizona WR Juron Criner and his ability to quickly separate at the next level consistently out of his breaks. He ran in the 4.6 range Sunday and just isn’t a real dynamic self-starter. He looked coordinated during positional drills however. But, I still see him more as a reserve only in the NFL.”

Wade ready to participate in drills

Cornerback Trevin Wade is the third, and last, former Wildcat invited to the combine. Defensive backs will participate in combine workouts on Tuesday. Wade said that he is “ready to go.”

“(Preparations) are going great,” Wade said. “They got me down here at the hotel and make sure I am on a nutrition diet, make sure I’m getting stretched and just being calm for my event.”

Compared to Criner and Foles, Wade isn’t nearly as valued by draft prognosticators, but a stellar senior season improved his stock to the point that he was considered talented enough by the NFL to be invited to the combine. Wade said that he expects to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.50 range.

“I just want to go out there and run, and show that I can run with anybody,” Wade said.

In his senior season, Wade recorded 52 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass deflections. He was named an All-Pac-12 second team selection for his performance. In CBS Sports NFL Draft rankings, Wade is ranked the No. 30 cornerback and No. 231 overall.

Foles, Criner and Wade, along with other Arizona players with NFL aspirations, will have the opportunity to improve upon their initial testing and impress scouts when the UA holds its Pro Day on March 19.

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