On Monday we took a glimpse into the future of the Virginia Tech running game and the potential impact junior David Wilson could have now that he has the backfield all to himself. So what better time than to look into the past and see how Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, who both declared early for this year’s NFL draft during this past offseason, are doing.
Williams and Evans were at the Hokies’ first spring practice last Wednesday watching from the sidelines as their former teammates went back to work, and each were gracious enough to speak about what the past few months have been like since they decided to leave school early.
After gaining just 477 yards in 2010 due to a hamstring injury, Williams said much of his offseason has been spent working on his 40-yard dash time and proving to scouts that he is the same durable back who gained 1,655 yards as a freshman. Battling a bout of the flu at the NFL combine in February, Williams managed only a time of 4.58 seconds. But during Virginia Tech’s pro day last month, he said he recorded a 40 time of 4.45 seconds. He’s also convinced that he could be as high as a low first round pick, and he won’t drop lower than the beginning of the third round.
Evans, who came back from a torn ACL to gain 854 yards and score 11 touchdowns in 2010, was perfectly content with his 4.58 second 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine and chose to not run at the Hokies pro day. Instead, he’s spent the past few months adding seven pounds of muscle to his frame while also working on his pass-catching skills. He now weighs 227 pounds and believes he’s in the process of showing pro scouts that he’s not simply a bruising back.
But enough from me. After the jump, read for yourselves what the two former Virginia Tech stars had to say about training for the NFL draft.
What have you been up to: “Just training, trying to maintain. I had a workout with the Dolphins [last Wednesday] that went well. I’ve had a couple workouts: the Ravens, the Patriots and now the Dolphins. I fly to Kansas City [last] Sunday and I have the Redskins on the 14th. And I think I’m setting up a visit to the Dolphins, too.”
On pro day: “It was good; it was productive. I ran my 4.4 like I wanted to, and that was really the thing I wanted to accomplish pro day wise. Because skill and drill wise that really comes easy and naturally to me. But that 40, I really had to crack down and run a good time.
What were the times: “I heard a 4.45 and I think my lowest was a 4.49.”
Any teams seem more interested: “You got your teams that seem interested. You got some that don’t. I talked to about 20 teams at the combine. I really don’t know what the intention was or what the approach was, but I met with a lot of people. Everybody seemed kind of the same to me.”
Feelings about the NFL lockout: “There’s nothing to be nervous about because I have no control over it. I can be nervous about things I have control over, but I’m not in that meeting room. I’m not in those discussions about the season, so I’ll just wait around and see what happens.”
Any second thoughts about leaving early: “I really miss playing for Virginia Tech. I’m gonna miss playing here, but I wanted to play in the NFL since I was 7. I didn’t really know what college I was gonna go to, but this is really the only dream I’ve ever had. So I feel good about my decision.”
Going to New York for the draft?: “I talked to the guy who invites people and he said that with the whole boycott thing, they haven’t really been inviting people yet. He said he hoped to call me when he starts inviting people. I’m not sure if that was a ‘yeah, you’re coming’ or ‘I just want to let you down easy because you’re not coming.’ So I’m just waiting around.”
On this year’s Virginia Tech team: “We got great guys to replace us. Tyrod [Taylor] got Logan. Me and Darren got David Wilson. All the receivers are here. The whole O- line is here. We missing [tight end] Andre [Smith], but we got some guys that can replace Andre and block on the edge. It really isn’t a step off.”
On Logan Thomas: “I think if there’s one thing Tech fans don’t know about Logan, it’s that he’s fast, as big as he is. I don’t think he’s got the Tyrod escape, make something out of nothing ability, but he can still run and get out the pocket and create something. It’s really not gonna be a big step off.”
Do you miss playing with Virginia Tech?: “All that training stuff, that stuff gets old fast. This is what you want to do, you want to be out here practicing. That’s the only thing I’m missing right now. Just lifting and running and catching footballs, that stuff gets old fast.”
On the combine: “I got some good feedback. I worked my butt off to run well and catch well and I know I did both of those pretty well. It’s pretty much out of my hands now after I get done with these private workouts and everything. It’s pretty much out of my hands. It’s just about a team making a decision.”
On not running at pro day: “I stood by my combine numbers [4.58 second 40-yard dash]. It’s faster than I thought I was gonna run, and talking to coaches, it was faster than what I told them that I was gonna run. I was super happy about that.”
On adding weight for the combine: “I’m still that size [227 pounds]. I’ve always had that with me, but I lose it fast sometimes if I’m not training like I was training back there. It was two training sessions a day. Here you get once, maybe one every other day.”
Are you more versatile?: “I feel like I’m a little bit more versatile because I got an opportunity to work on stuff. Here, this offense just kind of demanded a certain thing and the offense I came from in high school, it was about the same. You just run the football, and I never had a lot of opportunities to line up at wide receiver and run routes and stuff like that. That’s just where I’m different from other people. I just come from a running background and that’s what I know how to do and that’s just what I’m good at and that’s just where I shine at.
Working on pass catching?: “Yeah. I’m not in the situation where my main focus is looking at the first down lineman or the inside game. I’m not learning an offense, so I’m working on things that pertain to my game.”
What are teams telling you?: “I’m getting the same type of stuff. They just want to see me be more versatile. Everybody knows that I can run the football and I can take care of the football, I can break tackles, I can score the touchdown. They just want to see me be a little bit more of a pass catcher. That’s just the only thing. The game in the NFL, you just got to be a little more versatile and that’s where you make your money. There’s nothing wrong with being a power back … it’s just you can be used a lot more ways if you can do a lot more things.”
Where do you think you’ll be drafted?: “It just depends. I’ve heard as high as the third round and then as low as the fifth round. It just depends on where I’m at, who else those teams are looking at and whether they want to get a running back.”
Confident about that?: Oh yeah, because I’ve had a good number of teams say they like me and like what I can do. And then in my private workouts I’ve shown that I can catch the football. I’m putting that to rest.”
Any second thought about leaving early?: “The only thing is I do miss this out here. I miss being on the field with a helmet and I might not get to do that for a couple months. But I’m still excited to go and attack this challenge. I’m about to get my degree, so to be honest, I feel like my time here, it was over and I was ready to make that jump.”
On the NFl lockout: “There’s nothing I can do. I’m on the outside looking in basically, so there’s nothing I can do. That’s been my whole thing since I came out, just controlling what I can control, and that’s why I’ve been working as hard as I can. That’s the only thing I can control, is how fast I run, how good I look when I make a cut, if I catch this ball. That’s all I’ve been working on and that’s all I’ve been thinking about.”