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Published: Tuesday, 2/24/2009

OSU players show skills at Combine

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Two months of waiting come next for the eight Ohio State Buckeyes who have been in Indianapolis for most of the past week, taking part in an extensive round of testing known as the NFL Scouting Combine.

The session is part marathon audition and part meat market for those players hoping to continue their careers in the professional football ranks. The regimen of physical, mental and psychological exams are carried out in advance of the 2009 NFL Draft, which takes place April 25-26 in New York City.

For Ohio State senior linebacker James Laurinaitis, working out at the Combine is essentially going through a job interview. There were more than 600 coaches, scouts, executives and doctors from all 32 NFL teams on hand for the invitation-only talent parade.

It s a process you gotta go thru, Laurinaitis said during his turn at the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the Combine. But it s exciting. You walk down the hall and see all the NFL teams colors it s something you dream of as a little kid.

James Laurinaitis, another OSU linebacker, is expected to be a first-round selection James Laurinaitis, another OSU linebacker, is expected to be a first-round selection
MICHAEL CONROY / AP Enlarge

Laurinaitis, a three-year starter for the Buckeyes and the two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, said his career at Ohio State prepared him well for the intense scrutiny of the Combine and, he hopes, for the rigors of the professional game.

I think Ohio State linebackers have a great tradition. In my eyes, it s the best place to play if you want to be a linebacker, he said.

After the day-long medical exam, performance tests follow in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle run and three-cone drill, along with personal interviews and written testing. Most draft experts expect Laurinaitis to be the first or second inside linebacker picked in the draft.

Fellow senior Marcus Freeman took part in the Combine as well, and the consensus among the pros at the event is that Freeman will be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds, well after Laurinaitis.

The first Buckeye chosen could be defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, who ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has going as the first cornerback drafted and the ninth pick overall, to the Green Bay Packers.

Kiper cites Jenkins football smarts and says the first-team All-American and Thorpe Award winner plays with a mean streak.

Jenkins hopes this opportunity to perform in person in front of the NFL brass will put to rest any talk of him moving to safety in the pros.

I ve been comfortable playing corner my last four years that s where I m more comfortable at, Jenkins said. I think I can make some plays there.

Junior running back Chris Beanie Wells had his laundry list of injuries scrutinized during the Combine, and his performance in the physical skills aspect of the workouts is expected to make him one of the top three running backs chosen, according to the consensus opinion of experts.

Senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie said he was well-prepared for the demands of the Combine, since his dad, Terry Robiskie, is a long-time coach in the NFL. Robiskie credited Ohio State coach Jim Tressel with finishing the work Robiskie s father started.

Ohio State is one of the best places to go if you are wanting to grow as a football player, and wanting to grow as a person, he said. I think coach Tressel does a phenomenal job with his program as far as bringing guys in and getting them ready physically, and getting them ready for the mental side of it as well. I think it s one of the best places in the country.

Robiskie is generally projected as a third-round NFL draft pick, but the fortunes of teammates Alex Boone, Donald Washington and Brian Hartline are less clearly defined. All three hoped to use this trip to the Combine to increase the value of their stock while the NFL scouts watched from close range.

Hartline, who had just 21 receptions in 13 games this past season, said he was anxious to utilize the big stage presented by the Combine to show that he made the right choice by leaving OSU early for the pros.

It s always fun trying to prove people wrong, or go against people that kind of doubt you, Hartline said. But that s kind of the idea of sports. Everyone gets doubted from day one, so that s nothing new. I think this is all pretty important, this combine is going to carry probably a little more weight on my side.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Matt Markey at:mmarkey@theblade.comor 419-724-6510



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