Players from schools big and small will be doing their best to impress scouts at the NFL Combine on Feb. 23 through Feb. 26 in Indianapolis. Over 300 invitees will be attending, including a number of players from Pittsburgh area schools ranging from NFL talent-factories like Penn State to small schools like California University of Pennsylvania.
Each day gives a different set of positions the chance to show their skills and athletic ability. There will be at least on participant from a Pittsburgh-area university on each day, and eleven overall. Below is a breakdown on when each player can be seen.
Saturday, Feb. 23: Tight ends, offensive linemen, specialists
Penn State, West Virginia, and Youngstown State all have big men scheduled to work out on the first day at the combine. All three need to have a big performance to play themselves into draft consideration.
Youngstown State guard Lamar Mody is the highest rated of the trio, with a grade of 54.5, according to NFL.com. That puts him near the bottom of the offensive linemen invited to the event, so he needs to a good performance.
Joining Mody will be centers Matt Stankiewitch of Penn State and Joe Madsen of West Virginia. Stankiewitch seems to have the toughest hill to climb, as his grade coming in was just a 52.2. Madsen is just below Mody at 54.0.
Each is among a logjam of offensive linemen who are fringe draft prospects. It will be interesting to see if either Mody, Stankiewitch, or Madsen can separate from the pack.
Sunday, Feb 24: Quarterbacks, Running backs, wide receivers
West Virgnia will have plenty of skill players on display, with wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey joining quarterback Geno Smith. Pitt will also be represented on Sunday by running back Ray Graham.
Smith is the highest-rated quarterback heading to Indy, and is in line to be a top-10 pick. Smith's grade of 91.0 easily tops the next scores if 83.5 by Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Miami (OH)'s Zac Dysert.
Two of Smith's favorite targets are among the best receivers invited to the combine. Austin was given the fourth-best grade, while Bailey is the 10th most highly-rated wideout.
Pitt running back Ray Graham will be the only former Panther, and grades out as the 12th-best at his position.
Monday, Feb. 25: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Penn State will dominate day three of the combine, as it will be represented by three members of its 2012 front seven. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill, along with linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti.
Hodges and Mauti are keeping the "Linebacker U" tradition alive, as both are among the top-10 linebackers heading to the event. Hodges grades out at 72.4, just edging Mauti at 71.8. Hodges is the fifth-best outside linebacker, while Mauti is the fifth-best on the inside.
Hill needs to have an outstanding performance, as he finds himself behind plenty of other defensive linemen prospects. He needs the combine more than his other Nittany Lion teammates.
Tuesday, Feb 26.: Defensive backs
Free safety Rontez Miles of California (PA) will be representing small schools everywhere as is the lone Pittsburgh-area athlete participating in the final day of workouts. Miles is a longshot, grading at 52.0, but is impressive for a player at a Division II school to even receive an invite.
The entire combine can be seen live on NFL Network all weekend.