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Pro Day in Clemson: Observations ahead of the draft

William Stehn
Running back Will Shipley’s 38.5″ vertical jump was the highest leap of the day, and his 4.39 40-yard time was the fastest run of the day as well.

Thursday morning saw the NFL descend on the Upstate to watch the best and brightest of Clemson football at Pro Day. All 32 professional teams were represented, though Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the only head coach in attendance. 

Observing from the second level of the west end zone in the Poe Indoor Practice Facility, below are a few notes from the long-awaited day:


Running backs:

Will Shipley looked like he had been putting maximum effort into his preparation over the last few months, drawing several “Oohs” and “Aahs” from the crowd throughout his drills. He opened strong with a 38.5” vertical jump, the tallest of the day, which would have been fourth for his position had he participated at the combine earlier this month. 

He furthered his resume with an official 4.39-second 40-yard dash — tying him for fourth among running back combine results — and a 1.54-second split. Standing at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, his muscular frame helped add explosiveness to the position drills he ran with a member of the Ravens’ staff, which included footwork and passes. 

Although he dropped his first pass, thrown by former quarterback turned graduate assistant, Paul Tyson, he shaped up quickly and with little nervous energy. He struggled catching on close slants but was impressive in open space in the backfield, suggesting his tools as a return specialist. 


Defensive backs:

Nate Wiggins’ incredible athleticism and awareness of his body in space undoubtedly moved his draft stock up several spots in the eyes of the league. He sat out every event except position drills, where he trained with fellow defensive backs Jalyn Phillips and Sheridan Jones. 

The unit was led by members from the Jaguars and the Bills, with Jacksonville applying a specific focus to Wiggins and Jones while Buffalo worked with Phillips. 

Jones noted that he spent the last few months at home with his trainer “bulletproofing my hips. I’ve had troubles with hip flexors, so I figured, why not go back home and train with one of the guys who knows my body the best.”

Philips, meanwhile, had struggled with shoulder injuries that caused him to miss several games last season. “I wanted to show that I’m healthy. I had some shoulder issues and wanted to prove I’m strong on the bench.” His 18 reps proved his point. 

“I go to sleep at peace knowing that I’m this close to my dream,” he said.

As a whole, the trio made several impressive catches in open space, a crucial skill for interceptions in the backfield. Their quick returns relied on powerful explosions off the foot once the ball was secured, an area which Wiggins excelled in.

He did not touch his current 4.28-second time for the 40-yard dash, as the second-fastest result at this year’s combine is unlikely to be moved much. 


Offensive line:

Will Putnam, the only member of the offensive line showing his talents, worked with Green Bay for his position drills. He looked good through several different skill tests, moving from his back to feet in minimal time, practicing snaps straight into blocking techniques and resisting movement with heavy pads.

Although he was not the fastest, clocking in at 5.45 seconds for the 40, his raw strength, thanks to his 6-foot-4, 301-pound frame, earned him 28 reps on bench press, the highest number of the day and just one below Ruke Orhorhoro’s combine result of 29.


Defensive line:

The defensive line participants, a list composed of Orhorhoro, Tyler Davis, Xavier Thomas and Justin Mascoll, were mainly focused on strength and force to indicate their pass-rushing abilities. They worked with staff from the Dolphins, Jets and Patriots through their 20-minute workout.

As has been proven time and time again in his six years with the team, Thomas’ knack for moving quickly off the line and attacking whoever is unfortunate enough to be in his line of sight is his best asset. Considering he moved all 6-foot-2, 253 pounds of himself across 40 yards in 4.56 seconds — behind only Shipley and Wiggins — he definitely improved his draft stock. 

Orhorhoro completed the shuttle and L-drills, which he did not do at the combine. He mentioned that he spoke with all 32 teams and had 25 official visits, saying, “It was kind of like speed dating. It was a good experience, and I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to be there.”



Jeremiah Trotter Jr. was present but did not participate due to a minor hamstring strain. He will practice privately with teams on April 9. 

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About the Contributors
Grace O'Donnell
Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
William Stehn
William Stehn, Asst. Photo Editor
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