The consensus is that all three University of Kentucky players who participated in the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis last week helped themselves.
Defensive tackle Myron Pryor measured a shade over 6-feet, weighed in at 319 pounds and ran a pretty good 40-yard dash time (5.05). That performance, combined with a strong week of practice at the East/West Shrine Game, has Pryor currently projected as a mid-round pick. There's not much depth at the nose tackle position in the 2009 draft, so Pryor could boost his stock even further if he can improve his 40 time at UK's Pro Day on March 11.
Free safety Marcus McClinton was among the faster safeties at the combine, running a 4.54 40-yard dash while measuring in at 6-01/4 and weighing 210 pounds.
As for Tim Masthay, the measuring sticks don't carry as much weight as the kicking. However, Masthay, a former All-State wide receiver at Murray, did run a respectable 4.84. Masthay said he did 14 punts, 11 kickoffs and held for the field-goal kickers, a job he performed while at UK. Masthay is hoping the fact that he can punt, kick off and hold will make him an attractive free-agent signing to an NFL team. He'll kick and punt at UK's Pro Day and then wait to receive invitations for individual workouts leading up to the draft.
McClinton is also hoping to improve his 40-yard dash time and thinks he can get in the 4.4 range. He missed training time leading up to the combine because of a hip injury suffered in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game in late January.
But in many ways, the combine was a humbling experience for McClinton, who's currently projected as a late-round draft prospect.
"The toughest part for me was accepting who I was," McClinton said. "My roommate was (Ohio State defensive back) Malcolm Jenkins, and he's a first-round guy. You've got a lot of people who are getting teams hunting them down and wanting to meet them. Me, I had less meetings. But I just had to accept my position knowing that I'm just as good as a lot of those guys and I'll have my opportunities to get exposure."
In light of a rash of off-the-field problems in recent years, the NFL is also placing more emphasis on character than ever before. McClinton got a first-hand dose of that in Indianapolis.
To his credit, McClinton always handled himself well in interviews and was a well-respected team leader. But in March 2007, he was charged with wanton endangerment when a bottle that contained explosives made of dry ice went off, causing McClinton minor hand injuries. McClinton eventually pleaded to second-degree disorderly conduct and missed no game action and never had any more issues at UK. Yet the incident was a hot topic with scouts during the combine.
"It was one of the first things they asked about," McClinton said. "That kind of bothered me, that my character was made an issue. Everybody knows I'm a good kid. It wasn't the biggest thing in the world. I was being childish, and I accepted responsibility for it. But when it came out in the media, it made me sound like I'm a terrorist. It was an automatic character flaw."
McClinton said he thinks he cleared the air over the incident during the interviews.
"After I explained to them what really happened, a lot of them laughed," he said. "But it was quite a learning experience. You make a minor mistake when you're younger, they're going to bring it up."
McClinton will resume working out in Cincinnati with trainer Clif Marshall at Ignition APG in Cincinnati.
Marshall worked with the strength staff at Louisville in 2005, and he helped Stefan Lefors train his way into being a fourth-round pick that year. Marshall then left Louisville to join the strength staff of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2007, and he's in his third year at Ignition. He's working with about 20 athletes, including one of the fastest risers in the draft, Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin. Barwin ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, the second fastest among defensive linemen, and is now seen as a second-round pick.
Kinks to work out before UK/Miami can take place
There could be a major obstacle standing in the way of UK opening the 2009 season against Miami (Ohio) at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium on Sept. 5. Miami already has a game scheduled at Northwestern for that same date.
Northwestern Athletics Director Jim Phillips told ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger, Adam Rittenberg, this week that he was unaware of Miami's intentions to move the game and expects Miami to honor its signed contract for the game.
Miami officials have not commented on the Kentucky game or its plans for its 2009 schedule.
UK has two available dates, Sept. 5 and Sept. 12, to fill the final void on its 2009 schedule. If the Cats had to settle for its open date on the season's first week, they would be forced to play on 12 consecutive Saturdays.
SEC spring practice dates
Here are the spring practice schedules for all 12 Southeastern Conference football programs, with the end date representing the spring game:
Alabama (starts March 23, spring game April 18); Arkansas (March 24-April 19); Auburn (March 24-April 18); Florida (March 25-April 18); Georgia (March 16-April 11); Kentucky (April 1-April 25);
Louisiana State (March 12-April 18); Mississippi (March 26-April 18); Mississippi State (March 24-April 18); South Carolina (March 3-April 11); Tennessee (March 10-April 18); Vanderbilt (March 10-March 28).