INDIANAPOLIS — With added exposure comes added scrutiny, and more Missouri football players than ever before have been under the microscope for the past four days at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine.
The group of six is the largest Mizzou has sent to Indianapolis since the combine’s move there in 1987, and with the growing diversity of offensive and defensive schemes in both college and the NFL there are a lot of questions about each player’s ability to transition to the professional game.
With many teams recently shifting to 3-4 defenses, a move that Patriots coach Bill Belichick described as “the trendy” thing, teams are looking for players who can fill a variety of roles. As defenses become more complex there is a growing need for versatility among defensive players at every level. Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood played primarily as a 4-3 defensive tackle during his time at Missouri, but teams have expressed an interest in his ability to move into other roles.
“They want me to be versatile just in case something happens,” Hood said. “They ask me questions about whether or not I can play a five (3-4 defensive end) or a three, (4-3 defensive tackle) or even if I can play the nose (tackle).”
Hood is part of a trio of Tigers defenders, along with William Moore and Stryker Sulak that are working out for scouts and NFL personnel at the combine. But while Hood has to convince coaches and scouts about his versatility, Moore has shown that he can play all over the defensive backfield. After playing mostly deep safety in 2007, Moore was used at both safety positions and at nickel back in 2008. The lack of position solidarity might have played a role in the sharp drop off in Moore’s productivity last season, but he says his 2008 film will show coaches that he is willing and able to do it all.
“I never got the chance to settle in and master one position, but it was great to be versatile and move around from free to strong and even to come down and play the nickel position,” Moore said. “I hope scouts see that I have versatility to play in the box and cover the field.”
Questions about players from a defense that was often maligned in 2008 can be expected, but even more queries are being made about how members of the Tigers' offense will fit into pro style offensive systems. The Tigers were in the top 10 in the country in scoring offense for the past two seasons, but the vast differences among Gary Pinkel’s spread system and the more rigid offensives of the NFL have produced apprehension about the lofty statistics put up by players like Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin.
Coffman wasn’t able to work out with the rest of the tight ends on Saturday because of a broken left foot, but he’s still been meeting with teams throughout the combine. One of the main questions in those meetings deals with whether or not Coffman can make the transition into being more of an in-line blocker at the professional level.
“I think they (NFL teams) are definitely wondering it about it,” Coffman said. “I think a lot of them have seen film of me doing regular blocking in the open field, and they want to see if that could possibly transition a little bit.”
When asked how he might better make the transition to a role involving more blocking, Coffman said that effort would outweigh experience.
“You’ve just got to be coachable,” Coffman said. “You’ve got to go out there and want to learn. You have to go out there and work hard to get better. You have to want to get better, you have to want to be the best at your position.”
There are also questions about Coffman’s durability, but despite the concerns, many scouts still think that Coffman will be taken on the first day of the draft. The same cannot be said about Chase Daniel.
Many of the concerns about Daniel have been about his size. Daniel was measured at 6 feet on Saturday, which puts him about 4 inches shorter than the ideal NFL quarterback. But along with the worries about his size, Daniel’s accuracy has come into question after a poor showing at the East-West Shrine game in January. Despite the perceived problems Daniel and his teammates are adamant about his ability to produce in the NFL.
“I feel like I can bring a lot to the NFL,” Daniel said. “I think I’m mobile enough. I think I’m intelligent enough, and I think I’m more than accurate enough to play in this league. I think those are the three main factors you have to have to play in the NFL.”
“Everybody just tries to find the negatives,” Coffman said about Daniel. “It’s a job. It’s a full-time job, and these guys get paid a lot of money. Once he gets a shot, I think he’ll show them that he can do it.”