KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones was beaming like a proud parent Friday afternoon, and in fact compared himself to one when asked about the Vols’ pro day session.
“First of all just the character and the way they represent themselves and the Tennessee brand,” Jones said, asked about the NFL prospects his first two recruiting cycles will have produced by the end of this year’s draft (April 27-29).
“They went through that workout together led by Josh Dobbs, and as a coach, it was exciting to see that,” Jones said. “They meant so much to our football program … and they have grown so much in our program as people, but also as football players.”
About 100 NFL coaches and personnel managers were on hand at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, including at least a dozen GMs, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin and five NFL coordinators.
Bill Belichick, the Super Bowl winning coach of the New England Patriots, and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton already had come through for private workouts.
Jones shook his head when asked to reflect on how Friday’s pro day illustrated how far his program has come in his four years at the helm.
After all, the Tennessee Jones was hired into had gone just 2-14 in SEC games the previous two seasons, and the list of NFL representatives at pro day was only 14.
Tennessee was then at an historic low, still on probation with recruiting restrictions lingering from violations that took place during Lane Kiffin’s one season as head coach (2009).
Jones has produced back-to-back Top 25 seasons for the Vols, an SEC-best three straight bowl wins and for the first time in three years, Tennessee will have a player selected in the NFL draft.
At least five Vols are expected to hear their named called at the NFL draft (April 27-29), and several others have the look of priority free-agent signees if not late-round picks.
Defensive end Derek Barnett is a surefire first-round selection, and Alvin Kamara, Josh Dobbs, Josh Malone, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton each have the potential to be selected in the first four rounds.
“We’ve come a long way, just the talent, and you can tell a lot about your program by the number of (NFL) personnel at your pro day, we have maybe 100 people here,” Tennessee director of player personnel Bob Welton said. “The guys were prepared, they worked hard for this day, and it was great to see them come out and perform.”
Dobbs showcased the event with an impressive script of 59 throws, finishing with a 50-yard strike that found Malone in stride in the end zone.
Barnett soldiered through a tight hamstring to run a 4.9-second 40-yard dash — just off his 4.88 pace at the NFL combine in Indianapolis earlier this month.
Sutton ran an impressive 4.15-seconds in the 20-yard shuttle — a time that would have ranked among the top 10 at the NFL combine.
Cornerback Malik Foreman was among the UT players not invited to the NFL combine who showed their skills on Friday.
Foreman turned heads with a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, while 309-pound offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman impressed with a 5.04-second 40 and team-high 27 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Jason Croom measured in with prototypical NFL tight end size (6-4, 252), and showed his athleticism (34-inch vertical jump) and explosiveness (120-inch broad jump).
(Results from Tennessee pro day)
unofficial results from events participated in on Friday
Player, Height, Weight, 40-yard dash, Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, 20-yard shuttle, 60 shuttle
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, 6-0, 230, 4.65 (40), 35.5 (VJ), 117 (BJ), 4.44 (20 shuttle), 11.85 (60 shuttle)
DE Corey Vereen 6-1, 254, 4.82 (40), 28.5 (VJ), 113 (BJ), 4.44 (20 shuttle), 12.20 (60 shuttle), 26 reps (bench)
OL Dylan Wiesman 6-3 1/2, 309, 5.04 (40), 28.5 (VJ), 105 (BJ), 4.85 (20 shuttle), 27 reps (bench)
LB Kenny Bynum 6-1, 234, 4.74 (40), 28 (VJ), 106 (BJ), 4.40 (20 shuttle), 12.34 (60 shuttle), 20 reps (bench)
TE Jason Croom 6-4, 252, 4.63 (40), 34 (VJ), 120 (BJ), 4.44 (20 shuttle), 12.00 (60 shuttle) 24 reps (bench)
CB Malik Foreman 5-9 1/2, 188, 4.37 (40), 35.5 (VJ), 121 (BJ), 4.23 (20 shuttle), 11.63 (60 shuttle) 11 reps (bench)
DE LaTroy Lewis 6-3, 254, 4.81 (40), 32 (VJ), 119 (BJ), 4.31 (20 shuttle), 12.63 (60 shuttle), 21 reps (bench)
DT Danny O’Brien 6-1, 288, 5.12 (40), 29 (VJ), 103 (BJ) 4.47 (20 shuttle), 25 reps (bench)
DE Derek Barnett 6-2, 264, 4.9 (40), 31 (VJ), 112 (BJ), 4.48 (20 shuttle), 20 reps (bench),
DB Cam Sutton 5-10, 187, 4.15 (20 shuttle)
RB Alvin Kamara 5-10, 213, 4.25 (20 shuttle)
*WR Robert Meachem 6-1 1/2, 225, 4.58 (40)
* 32-year-old NFL veteran, former Vol