Former UA receiver, quarterback prep for NFL Draft
Arizona’s NFL prospects put their skills to the test in front of numerous scouts and player personnel at the UA’s Pro Day on Monday
Despite the Arizona football team’s struggles last season, Nick Foles was still considered a top quarterback prospect for the NFL Draft. Numerous websites pegged him as the fourth-best signal caller behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill.
Trent Dilfer, an ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning quarterback, went on a Twitter-posting spree raving about Foles back in December. Dilfer went as far as calling him a better pro prospect than former No. 1-overall pick Sam Bradford, and said if Foles played in the SEC, he would have been a Heisman finalist.
Three months have passed since then, and on the surface a lot has already changed in regards to his NFL prospects. On Monday, Foles worked out at Arizona’s NFL Pro Day in front of numerous NFL scouts, a situation he struggled a bit with a few weeks ago.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Foles ran a combine quarterbacks-worst 5.14 40-yard dash, had just a 30.5-inch vertical jump and struggled in positional drills. Foles said that all the talk of draft stock and projections has not really affected him, as he doesn’t pay much attention to what is being published about him.
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat Juron Criner 82
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 9 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon State Beavers at Arizona Stadium Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Tucson, Ariz. Oregon State upset the home team 27-29.
“I don’t look at all, cause if you start looking, then your mind starts going,” Foles said. “I really don’t mess with it. I do what I can control, (that stuff) is not important to me. My dad looked a little bit and he even stopped. It doesn’t do any good because everyone’s going to have an opinion and all I can do is the best I can do, I can’t do any better than that.”
As for his much-maligned workout numbers, Foles improved pretty much across the board on Monday, as he said he ran in the 4.95 range and improved his vertical to 33.5 inches. Frank Scelfo, Foles’ former position coach at the UA, conducted the workouts for Foles and the receivers and said the 40-yard dash is irrelevant in his opinion.
“Whatever, I don’t care,” Scelfo said, laughing. “He ain’t gonna get paid running the 40, you know. It’s as simple as that.”
Foles has been in Tucson for the last two weeks, working out in preparation for the Pro Day and the draft in April. The Austin, Texas, native, in addition to working out with Arizona’s assistant track and field coach Francesca Green, has been staying at Scelfo’s house for the time being, along with former receiver David Douglas.
“Coach Scelfo has been awesome throughout my career, he’s been here for me,” Foles said. “He’s let me stay with him, I’m close to his sons and his family so it’s been a blessing to work with him and the guy’s a great coach. If I could play for him again someday, it’d be a dream come true.”
Weather conditions were not ideal at the NFL Pro Day on Monday, but Foles wasn’t too concerned.
“I’m going to play in this environment, these guys are going to play in this,” Foles said. “We have played in this same weather in Oregon, but colder, so when it comes down to it, it’s just throwing the rock around, doing what we’ve always done. It was fun to go out here and throw with the guys one more time.”
Criner improves 40-yard dash time
At the NFL Scouting Combine a few weeks ago, former Arizona receiver Juron Criner ran just a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash. At the NFL Pro Day held for prospective UA draftees at the Jimenez Practice Facility on Monday, Criner did well to improve those numbers in lieu of the NFL Draft starting on April 26.
The Las Vegas native ran a better, although still not ideal, unofficial time of 4.61 in the 40-yard dash. But that may not have a big effect on his draft stock, as various NFL team scouts, specifically from the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers, in the crowd could be heard discussing Criner’s phenomenal body control, going as far as to cite a catch he made against UCLA this year.
“You got to just learn how to control your body and, as a receiver, you got to run your routes at your exact depth and catch the ball when it comes to you,” Criner said.
Despite his poor 40-yard dash performance at the combine, Criner did well in other drills there. Since then, Criner has been working out in Las Vegas, focusing primarily on cardio and conditioning drills. From now until the draft, Criner said he wouldn’t be doing much working out, as he will focus more on cardio.
Entering the Pro Day on Monday, there were some questions about his speed as a result of that lackluster 40-yard dash at the combine, but Criner said he did not feel any added pressure despite the presence of so many NFL scouts and personnel.
“We do this day in day out, it’s just something that you gotta do unconsciously,” Criner said. “So, no, no pressure at all.”
The 6-foot-4 receiver, whose prolific UA career included the most touchdown catches in program history, was happy to be back in Tucson catching passes from his former signal caller Nick Foles.
“It was routine. We’ve been together for two years now and if we take time off, then we come back, it’s like we never left,” Criner said.
In his senior season, Criner caught 75 balls for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns. At the combine, Criner put up 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and had a 38-inch vertical jump.
Foles intrigued by prospect of learning from Peyton Manning
For a while, the Denver Broncos were showing interest in drafting Foles come April. On Monday, the Broncos won the biggest prize of this year’s NFL free agency when it was announced that Peyton Manning intended to sign with them.
If the Broncos are still interested in him, Foles is more willing than ever to take his talents to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
“The key is if they believe in me. I’m going to go out there and work my butt off and continue to prove to people that I can play this game at a high level,” Foles said. “That’d be a great situation to learn from. You’re not going to go in there and beat out Peyton Manning, that guy is amazing, he’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever play this game.
“You want to learn form him. Last year I watched his tape, and to tutor under a guy and learn and pick his brain, see how he does, if I could take any bit away from that that’d be awesome.”
Foles went on to cite Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn as a good example of what could come from learning from under an All-Pro quarterback. The former LSU quarterback sat behind Aaron Rodgers for four years, before starting for Rodgers in the final game of last season, and set a franchise record with 480 yards and six touchdowns. Recently, Flynn was signed by the Seattle Seahawks to compete for their starting quarterback position.
“(Flynn) made the most of his chance,” Foles said. “That’s what it comes down to when you’re a backup like that.”