It’s not National Signing Day for recruitniks, but it’s up there. I speak of the annual NFL Scouting Combine which looks like half Westminster Dog Show-half meat market. Amazingly there will be plenty of live-tweeting about it and wouldn’t you know, four Nebraska Cornhuskers have been invited to display their wares.
Andy Janovich, Fullback
Janovich was done a severe disservice under former offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s scheme, which barely included the fullback at all. Thankfully, Mike Riley’s initial year at Nebraska may have shown the NFL a can’t-miss prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft.
In terms of what Janovich can do, even his former coach admits not handing him the ball more may have ultimately been a mistake. "We probably came on getting Jano involved too late,” Riley told the Lincoln Journal Star.
He’s easily one of the hardest workers in this draft and that should be underscored during his time at the Combine and at Nebraska’s upcoming pro day.
Notable Quote: “If I was lucky, I was playing one to five snaps a game at fullback, and whatever special teams. I’m sure I wasn’t even on the radar. But after this coaching staff gave me a shot, it opened my eyes.” – Omaha World-Herald 1-11-2016
Alex Lewis, Offensive Tackle
Lewis transferred to Nebraska from Colorado and while he gave the Huskers a solid left tackle, he was also good for several false start penalties and the occasional personal foul per game.
If that weren’t enough, he took to social media to scold Nebraska fans following the Big Red’s 36-33 loss to Miami. He vented at those who chastised him for a personal foul, which may have ultimately cost the Huskers the game. Following the Huskers 14-13 loss to Illinois, he took to blowing kisses at Nebraska fans adding, "I'm sorry we suck."
At this point, Lewis has to show that he’s more than an average offensive lineman who can let backlash from poor choices get under his skin. The Combine presents an opportunity for him to excel both physically and show he’s matured mentally. If he can’t, he may be lucky to get drafted.
Notable Quote: "I know he feels bad and sorry about his response. Alex is a good guy, he's sensitive, he made a mistake on a penalty that was bad and he knows that. We all know that” – Mike Riley regarding Lewis’ social media rant following Nebraska’s loss to Miami.
Maliek Collins, Defensive Tackle
Nebraska’s best shot at a first-round pick, Collins decided to skip his senior season for a shot at fame and fortune in The League. He was consistently double-teamed during the 2015 season allowing other defenders the opportunity to make plays.
His decision to turn pro was made quickly and he immediately began working with professionals to get him in peak condition for the Combine.
Perhaps the only thing working against Collins is how deep this class is with quality defensive tackles. That said, if he has an excellent showing at the Combine followed up with performances to match at Nebraska’s pro day, he could sneak into the end of the first round.
Notable Quote: “It’s going great. I’m really down here just focusing on being the best me I can be. Just focused on my craft. Whether it’s running the 40 or jumping the vertical or the broad jump, just maximizing my ability so I can do my best and peak at the right time.” – Omaha World-Herald2-11-2016
Vincent Valentine, Defensive Tackle
Like Lewis, Valentine is going to have to have an amazing Combine to wow his way up the charts. As mentioned with Collins, the defensive tackle board is deep with talent. While Valentine did graduate early, he could’ve benefited from another year of work and avoiding such a backlog of talent at his position.
Early on in his career, it looked like he may be the better of the duo between him and Collins, if not an equal. However, Collins surged past Valentine and it’s no coincidence. He became easier to move out of the way, logging only six tackles (four solo), 3.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. It didn’t help matters that he missed three games this past season.
He absolutely must thrill in offseason workouts or he may not even be drafted.
Notable Quote: “Ultimately, any college program would just as soon the guys on the roster really want to be there.” – Omaha World-Herald’s Sam McKewon on Valentine’s choice to leave early.