WESTWOOD—It is now March and the deeds of February seem like they occurred months ago. Most of America suffers from football withdrawal after Super Bowl weekend and are forced to watch basketball, hockey, or God forbid, curling. Thankfully the NFL provides a little window for us football junkies to get our fix with the NFL Combine.
Every year over 300 college football players from across the nation gather in Indianapolis to show just how great of an athlete they really are. The players are put through a gauntlet of drills, tests and interviews to determine if they have what it takes to play football in the NFL. Dozens of scouts, GMs and coaches flock to Lucas Oil Stadium to get an even closer look at the new stable of talent that could possibly be playing for their team or their rivals in the upcoming season.
In recent years UCLA football has not been well represented at the combine. Last year, Kahlil Bell was the only player from UCLA to make it too Indiana, but thanks to a winning season and UCLA notching its first bowl win in about three years, the Bruins were able to send three players this year.
Defense has been the staple of UCLA football for the past four years, so it came as no surprise that all the players to receive invitations were from the defensive side of the ball. The three players were corner Alterraun Verner, linebacker Kyle Bosworth, and defensive tackle Brian Price. All of them had solid performances at the combine and finished near the top of the group in few of the drills they participated in.
Brian Price was the first of the Bruins to go on Monday morning. The standout defensive tackle was a dominant force in the middle of the UCLA defense for the past three years. His quickness and ability to rush the passer made him one of the best players in the nation at his position and is the reason many football gurus have him going late on the first day of the draft. At the combine he showed he had the power to go with his quickness when he finished with 34 reps on the bench press, which put him among the top 10 of all defensive linemen. Kyle Bosworth and the rest of the linebackers went in the group after defensive line. Bosworth was a four year starter who was a steady contributor every game he played in. Anyone watching him on tape could see that he was a smart player who knew how to always be around the football and rarely left plays on the field. Bosworth posted a decent 40-yard dash time, running it in 4.69 seconds, but like Price he finished near the top in the bench press with 25 reps. Alterraun Verner competed on the final day of the combine with all the defensive backs and perhaps had the best showing out of all the Bruins there. His 40-yard dash time of 4.53 may not have been eye-popping speed, but his ability to move smoothly in and out of his backpedal and break on the ball was on par with all the other top corners in attendance. Besides his performance at the combine, another aspect of his game that jumps out at teams is his production. Like I said, he may not have been the fastest player at the combine, but his ability to play the ball and consistently be in position to make plays is uncanny. In his four years at UCLA, Verner finished with 13 interceptions and returned four of them for touchdowns. Scouts and other notable analysts haven’t been giving him as much attention as the corners from the big name schools like Joe Haden of Florida, but any team that takes him in the draft will be more than happy with what they are getting.
Draft day is still more than a month away and UCLA has more players who will be participating in their personal Pro Day later on March, but the solid performances of these three players on the biggest stage for a player trying to reach the NFL will hopefully open the door for even more Bruins to appear in Indianapolis next year.