Big days ahead at Combine for Te’o

Howard Balzer

February 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm.


Manti Te'o will be a player that scouts will have their eye on at the upcoming Combine. (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

The Super Bowl is only 16 days in our rear-view mirror and the Combine is already here.

Talk about moving forward. The NFL put things behind very quickly, especially those teams in the Super Bowl. The Ravens could barely celebrate their victory before talk began concerning quarterback Joe Flacco’s contract.

Likewise in San Francisco, where something is expected to give soon with quarterback Alex Smith, who is scheduled to be paid $8.5 million in 2013, but doesn’t want to be a backup.

And while personnel issues will be a large part of the Combine because virtually the entire league is there from a front-office standpoint and agents, too, the college players are still what it’s all about.

Wednesday they begin arriving and start running the gauntlet from physicals to interviews to workouts.

Perhaps the most anticipated interviews will be the ones team conduct with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, as well as when he meets the media Saturday. It’s not an understatement to say that Te’o’s draft status could largely hinge on how well he handles the questions teams ask.

Te’o has been preparing for the Combine at the IMG Academy in Florida, and the only day he missed came when he traveled for the interview he did with Katie Couric.

Said former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, who is the football operations director at the academy, “He missed precisely one day. He’s gone about his business and been the same guy all along. I really admire that because a lot of guys his age would not be able to handle this as well as he has. I haven’t seen any signs of it being a distraction and I expect him to go up to Indianapolis and have a great Combine.”

Notre Dame teammate Tyler Eifert concurred with Weinke. The tight end said, “Manti has been the same Manti I went to college with. He left to do the Katie Couric interview for one day and I think he was back that same night. He’s been out on the field working just like he’s always worked. I’ve tried to be there for him, but I don’t know that he’s needed all that much help because he’s such a strong person to begin with.”

Next is Ogletree

Also under significant scrutiny at the Combine will be Georgia inside linebacker Alec Ogletree. Showing how much he cares about his pro career, Ogletree was recently arrested for DUI after being suspended for four games last season after failing a drug test.

His agent, Pat Dye Jr., told, “Last weekend, my client Alec Ogletree was pulled over for speeding and a lane violation in Arizona. After the officers smelled alcohol, they conducted tests and also cited him for DUI. Although Alec regrets this incident terribly, he is thankful that there was no accident and that no one was hurt. Because this matter is still pending, we cannot comment further publicly at this time.”

Ogletree has been rated as a first-round pick on most analysts’ projections, but teams will shy away from him and some will remove him from their boards entirely.

Yet Another Test

The NFL has added a new test at the Combine to go along with the Wonderlic intelligence test.

Cyrus Mehri, who has long been an advocate for minority hiring in the NFL and co-founded the Fritz Pollard Alliance, helped create the new test along with numerous NFL executives.

Mehri told USA Today this test “kind of levels the playing field from a socio-economic point of view. A lot of guys may be very intelligent, but are not as book-smart as others. Someone may not be the best reader, but they can still be very smart in picking up things.”

The new test takes 60 minutes, while the Wonderlic is a test that has 50 questions and those taking it answer as many questions as they can in 12 minutes.

Mehri likes the new test so much, he said, “These guys are making these multi-million dollar decisions, and in some regards it’s like they are walking into a dark room with a flashlight. This is going to turn on the lights.”

A Quarterback Conundrum

There are those that believe this year’s draft might see no one selected in the first round, that will be a shocking development despite the lack of any can’t-miss prospects.

The reality is that quarterbacks are over-valued and there will be teams, as always, that will one higher than they should. After all, in 2011, Jake Locker was selected eighth overall, Blaine Gabbert 10th and Christian ponder 12th.

Teams wanting a quarterback will convince themselves no one worthy will be there in the second round, even though that’s where Cincinnati got Andy Dalton and San Francisco nabbed Colin Kaepernick in 2011.

In awful position is the Kansas City Chiefs after they picked this year to have the first overall choice when there is no quarterback remotely worthy of that high a selection.

Chiefs’ general manager John Dorsey told the Kansas City Star, “There is no quarterback where personnel guys can definitely say, ‘He’s a first-round pick.’ There were so many inconsistencies in the collective group. There was not one guy that stood up and said, ‘I’m the guy in the position this year.’ There really wasn’t one clear-cut guy.

“There are too many technical flaws, scheme flaws. There are so many different variables that there are a lot of people all over the place on naming the top four or five guys and who those guys would be.”

The Chiefs will scrutinize the quarterback crop very closely, and likely hope a top-quality prospect will be available early in the second round. Dorsey spoke glowingly of coach Andy Reid’s ability to find good quarterbacks/

“I think Andy is a really good evaluator of quarterbacks,” Dorsey said. “I want him and I to go to as many quarterback workouts as possible and actually set our own up.”

The Quotebook

New Jaguars general manager David Caldwell on his preference of selecting players in the draft from big school: “I always believe in drafting and acquiring toward what the norms are. If 93 percent of the players in the NFL are playing at Division I-A programs, that’s the norm. I’m not saying I would never draft a small-school player, but they would have to dominate that level. I wouldn’t say absolutes, but I’m a believer: Big school, big competition.”