NFL hopefuls not so polished at Combines

Before teams could start digesting the information from the Scouting Combines last week, they were thrust into that dark pit known as free agency.

Attention will return this week to next month’s college draft as colleges begin holding their Pro Days, when scouts and coaches from NFL teams are allowed to come watch a school’s top prospects work out.

The month-long parade of Pro Days began Tuesday at Fresno State, with Oklahoma slated for yesterday and the granddaddy of them all, Miami, listed for today.

Players from Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Southern Miss will have the misfortunes of going head-to-head today against the Hurricane aggregation, which is certain to attract the majority of the personnel people.

Yet in a program basking in recent draft successes, many eyes will be on a huge negative uncovered last Sunday at the Combines in Indianapolis. Quarterback Ken Dorsey, he of the 38-2 career record as a starter, became an object of scrutiny after scattering more ducks than a trigger-happy hunter in a blind.

“He just cannot throw the ball,” one scout said after watching Dorsey, never noted for having a strong arm, waffle several footballs toward his receivers.

“After that,” another observer added, “he’ll be lucky to be drafted at all.”

Dorsey was one of the most disappointing prospects at the Combines, perhaps sharing the dubious title with Outland Trophy winner Rien Long of Washington State. The defensive lineman looked stiff as he struggled through his skills, and at times looked lost in the process. According to one coach, he displayed a bit of attitude to boot.

Some scouts, however, gave the 6-foot-6, 302-pound Long the benefit of the doubt since he did not start playing football until his junior year in high school. He had been a basketball player until that time, and his exposure to the game has been less than that of most other defensive line prospects.

While Dorsey and Long did not impress, several other players helped themselves with their workouts. At the top of that list was Southern California running back Justin Fargas, who, if he does make it big in the NFL, will be an excellent subject for a biographer.

Fargas grew up in a Hollywood atmosphere: his father, Antonio, played the character Huggy Bear in the “Starsky and Hutch” television series. He was a star prep runner in Los Angeles suburb Sherman Oaks and promised then Trojans’ coach John Robinson he would attend USC. But Robinson was fired and later-to-be Jets’ offensive coordinator Paul Hackett was hired. Fargas took a scholarship at Michigan instead.

He played as a freshman, but broke his lower right leg late in the season. When the fracture did not heal properly, doctors had to operate to rebreak the bone and insert two metal plates around it. When he finally recovered he was asked to play safety and in turn decided to transfer to Southern Cal for his final year of eligibility.

Fargas ran for more than 700 yards in his senior year, coming on as the season progressed. The 6-foot, 207-pound runner had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl and topped that by clocking in at 4.28 and 4.32 at the Combines. He has gone from a late-round selection to a second-round choice in an off-year for running back prospects.

Another player who helped his cause was Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Tyrone Calico, who ran a 4.4 in the 40 at 6-3, 220 pounds. The wide receiver position is wide open behind the top two, Charles Rogers of Michigan State and Andre Johnson of Miami. And Calico may have thrust himself into that second level, although the team drafting him will have to be patient as he develops his receiving and route-running skills to take full advantage of that great size/speed ratio.