Corn Elder was Miami’s best defensive player last year. He’s fully confident he’ll have an NFL future.
“My film speaks for itself,” he said.
He’ll get a few more words in this week, along with eight other former Hurricanes who are heading to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. From the press conferences Wednesday and Thursday and interviews with teams to the televised, much-discussed workouts Friday through next Monday, they’ll get a shot to overcome any doubts about their talent, makeup or measurable attributes.
By the time the NFL Draft begins April 27, Elder will have to prove to NFL teams his size won’t hurt him against pro competition. He is listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds.
While analysts from NFL.com and Bleacher Report have praised him in recent weeks — one called him “the best tackling corner in the draft,” and projects him as a CBS Sports projects him to be a fifth-round pick. If he were a few inches taller, his stock would certainly be higher.
“I know what I can do,” he told The Post last Thursday at Core Fitness in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, where he was training with several former teammates and other NFL hopefuls. “I think I’ll test well. I’m pretty confident about everything else. I’ll try to do well at the combine, pro day, do well in the interviews and take it from there.”
Wide receiver Stacy Coley, whom CBS Sports also sees as a mid-round pick, and Elder showed 4.4-second speed in drills that day. Coley is one of the faster receivers in the draft, but teams will want to see if he’s fully healthy after an injury-marred UM career.
“I’m very healthy. My body feels amazing right now,” he told The Post. “I had some injuries, but I got through the season and I’m here now. … I’m working hard, I feel stronger, my weight and speed are increasing.”
Some players elect to sit out certain parts of the Combine, but like Elder, he plans to perform every drill. Coley, who is reserved when speaking with the media, admitted he’s not excited about being grilled by NFL personnel executives during the whirlwind interview process.
“I’d rather be on the field,” he said. “I just want to get the process over and get on a team and show what I’m capable of.”
That’s his dream, as it is that of Justin Vogel, Miami’s punter extraordinaire the last three seasons. He’ll be one of five punters in Indianapolis, so the stakes are high.
“Obviously our position’s not as physical, so you’re getting yourself ready for like, a battle,” he said. “It’s more about who can stay consistent and controlled throughout the whole process. Everyone’s going to have high emotions and anxiety. It’s how you handle it.”
Few punters are drafted, but if Vogel doesn’t sneak into the late rounds — like his UM predecessor, 2014 sixth-round pick Pat O’Donnell — he won’t be waiting long for phone calls.
The other Hurricanes heading to the combine include tight end David Njoku, a projected first-round pick and one of the top athletes in the draft; quarterback Brad Kaaya, who has been training in Arizona and is projected to go in the top three rounds; offensive guard Danny Isidora, a mid-round projection; safeties Jamal Carter and Rayshawn Jenkins, both late-round projections; and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, who did not play last year after being dismissed from UM in August. He has been working out at Bommarito Performance Systems in North Miami Beach.
UM’s Pro Day, set for March 29 at the Dolphins’ training facility in Davie, is the big day for Miami NFL hopefuls who didn’t earn a combine invite.
That list includes former linebacker Jermaine Grace (dismissed along with Muhammad) and wide receiver Malcolm Lewis, who are training in Atlanta. Their agent, Malki Kawa, told The Post that Grace is up to 223 pounds and as fast as ever, while Lewis — who was never the same after his 2012 ankle injury — is as healthy as ever. Another Kawa client, tight end Stan Dobard, wants to show scouts at Pro Day his increased speed and improved hands. He hopes to be a free agent signee, like running back Joe Yearby, who declared for the draft early, and cornerback Adrian Colbert. Fullback Marquez Williams and center Alex Gall will try to extend their careers, too.
That’s a group of 16 NFL hopefuls from one college team. There are many more like them, and not many available spots.
Each of the 32 NFL teams may carry 90 players heading into August training camp. The number of summer jobs — 4,770 — is more than cut in half by the season, when teams trim to 53-man rosters and five-man practice squads. That means 1,856 players will be on NFL teams.
Elder believes he’ll be one of them, and if anyone doubts that, he’ll try to show them what he showed Miami’s new coaching staff last spring. They arrived at UM and expressed worry that their defensive backs didn’t tackle well.
Dalvin Cook, Ryan Switzer and many others will tell you: He can.
“I knew I could tackle,” Elder said. “But it definitely motivated me a little bit more. The new coaching staff doesn’t know much about you. I felt like I had to prove myself all over again. It was my last chance to show them and all the NFL coaches what I can do.”
In games, anyway. That’s one way he’ll be judged: his college film against those of dozens of other elite cornerbacks. This week, we’ll see another way, up close and live on TV.