KNOXVILLE – Tennessee’s pro day on Wednesday was a time for past UT talent to show NFL representatives what they can do.
It was also a display of what might’ve been for UT.
Highlighted by session that featured former quarterback Tyler Bray throwing to receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Zach Rogers and tight end Mychal Rivera, a group of former Vols went through a mini-combine that included position-specific drills, along with tests such as the vertical leap, the broad jump, the bench press, the 40-yard dash and the three-cone drill.
“We had a good showing,” said Zach Rogers. “I thought our timing was down, so that was the main key. I thought we looked pretty smooth.”
Bray, Patterson, Da’Rick Rogers, Rivera and Hunter were the main draw of an event that hosted representatives from all 32 NFL teams, including notable names such as Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Those five – all of whom also participated in the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February – opted to skip a majority of the individual tests, but did throw and run routes with the NFL personnel departments watching intently.
“It felt a little different [than Indianapolis] because all your former teammates are here,” Patterson said. “You’re working with your quarterback – he’s going to put it right on you. I’d say it was better than the combine.”
Added Hunter, who set a personal best in the vertical leap (41.5 inches): “I felt everything went good. There were some events I could’ve done better at – running routes and catching the ball.”
It’ll be a matter of when, not if, that group is drafted, but for some, such as fullback Ben Bartholomew and receiver Zach Rogers, Wednesday’s event was about proving that they belong in the NFL as well.
Both seemed to help their cause.
Bartholomew led the group with 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, had an impressive vertical leap of 34.5 inches and ran the 40 in 4.68 seconds. Despite a few dropped passes during the passing drills, he likely made his case to be a late-round pick or to be picked up as an undrafted free agent.
“I wanted to show my versatility,” said the 6-2, 245-pound Nashville native. “I wanted to show I can run a fast 40, I can run routes, catch balls and that I have the strength to play the fullback position.”
Zach Rogers, who was aiming for a 40 time in the low 4.4s, seemed content with his 4.51 performance.
“I felt like my start could’ve been a little better, but overall I was pleased with it,” he said.
Though the focus was on the future Wednesday, there were still some lingering frustrations from UT’s 5-7 campaign in 2012. Having Da’Rick Rogers, a receiver who was dismissed from the team in August, in attendance, was further a reminder of what could’ve been.
“I don’t even want to talk about last season,” said Patterson. “With all those guys we got, I expected a better year than we did, but we didn’t.”
Asked about his legacy, quarterback Tyler Bray, who is up to 230 pounds after playing closer to 215 at UT, said he wasn’t sure how fans would remember him, adding, “We didn’t win a lot of games.”
• Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), defensive tackle Montori Hughes (UT-Martin) and quarterback Jake Ryan (Austin Peay) were the three participants who did not play for UT last season. Rogers and Hughes are former Vols, while Ryan, a Knoxville native, is the son of former UT quarterback Pat Ryan.
• Full list of participants: Da’Rick Rogers, Zach Rogers, Hughes, Ryan, Patterson, Bray, Rivera, Rogers, Bartholomew, Hunter, defensive back Rod Wilks, defensive back Prentiss Waggner, cornerback Marsalis Teague, defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore and linebacker Herman Lathers.
• Lathers pulled his hamstring on his first 40-yard dash (4.69) and was done for the day after that.
Top 3 per event:
Bench press (reps of 225 pounds)
1. Bartholomew (30)
2. Sentimore (26)
3. Rivera (21)
1. Hunter (11’6”)
2. Bartholomew (9’10”)
3. Z. Rogers (9’7”)
1. Hunter (40.5”)
2. D. Rogers (38”)
3. Bartholomew (34.5”)
1. Z. Rogers (4.51)
2. Teague (4.64)
3. Bartholomew (4.68)
For complete results, click here.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga