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Insider

Plenty of players performing at Pro Day

3/21/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The home stretch for the NFL draft begins in earnest Thursday for LSU alums, as the Tigers prepare for their annual pro day.

LSU will play host to a small army of NFL scouts and coaches Thursday morning. Hopeful draft picks from likely first-rounder Morris Claiborne to lesser names such as Ron Brooks will try to make an impression on league decision-makers.

LSU coach Les Miles is opening up the Tigers' football facility for his former Tigers, but when it comes to putting on a good showing for the NFL, he said the players are likely on their own.

"We really play very little [role]," Miles said of LSU's involvement in a pro day. "It's an organized agenda that's put together by us, but in terms of what we do, we'll be more inclined to coach the team that we have in the spring. We might come down and watch some of the old timers, but those guys are moving on."

That the attendees are moving on has been confirmed since January, and several of them even had a chance to showcase their abilities once at last month's NFL combine. Now begins the process of determining where they'll move on to.

High profiles: The Tigers have three prospects who are either hoping or expecting to make it into the draft's first round.

Cornerback Claiborne is almost a sure-fire top-10 pick, and that's sure to command a lot of attention. With the type of investment that goes into such a big pick, plenty of teams are sure to take a look at Claiborne and make sure they're getting their money's worth. The junior posted respectable numbers at the combine last month, so he should be fine in that regard. It will be interesting to see if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who hold the draft's No. 5 pick, stop by to take a look at Claiborne. New Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano just hired former LSU secondary coach Ron Cooper, who has worked with Claiborne the past three years, to take control of the Bucs' secondary.

Michael Brockers was already on campus working at the Tigers' facility as of Tuesday. Brockers, another first round projection, is likely hoping for a better showing than his trip to the combine. ESPN insider Kevin Weidl wrote earlier this month that Brockers disappointed in Indianapolis, although his tape from 2011 should offset those struggles. Still, a good effort Thursday couldn't hurt.

Rueben Randle enters Pro Day with a chance to make it as a first round pick, although that's definitely no guarantee. Randle's numbers at the combine weren't eye-popping, either. Although Miles said Randle's abilities have never centered around 40-yard dash times.

"He's got unbelievable ball skills, and I think he's physical -- he's big and strong," Miles said. "He's a tremendous target, and personally I wish we were throwing to him for another year. But I certainly understand that it's a wise move that he's there."

Tweeners: They certainly won't be topping any draft boards next month, but the Tigers sent several other alums to the combine with hopes of a good draft spot.

Brooks has the opportunity at another workout, although he might not want to after posting a blindingly fast 4.37 40 time at the combine. The same goes for departed linebacker Ryan Baker, who worked out at the combine, but could certainly stand to improve his stock in hopes of getting drafted.

Safety Brandon Taylor is another combine invite who will have an opportunity to better his resume in a more familiar environment Thursday. Taylor was part of the heartbeat of the Tigers' defense last fall, but his combine numbers -- a 4.58 40 and a 33-inch vertical jump -- don't jump off the page. As is often the case at this time of year, it will be interesting to see how Taylor's drill times weigh against his onfield accomplishments in the minds of scouts.

And of course, there is the Tigers' quarterback tandem of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. Seeing the pair back at LSU for the first time since the BCS Championship Game loss, this time with draft placement at stake, should be both fun and intriguing.

The rest: Several other LSU grads will have a chance to show off their abilities after not making the cut to the combine.

Defensive end Kendrick Adams was at LSU practice with Brockers on Tuesday. He should have a good chance to become one of the many Tiger defensive linemen in the NFL currently. Guard Will Blackwell will also be on display for the first time since he participated in the Senior Bowl in January.

That doesn't even include lesser names, like Stefoin Francois and Karnell Hatcher, who will surely be hoping to catch someone's eye.

Suffice to say, a lot of hopes and dreams will be on the line when the NFL descends on Baton Rouge.