Penn State Nittany Lions: NFL draft

Stephon MorrisJustin K. Aller/Getty ImagesStephon Morris is only 5-foot-8, but his speed is his calling card for NFL scouts.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Cornerback Stephon Morris couldn't suppress a grin when he stepped outside Holuba Hall right after Penn State's pro day.

With a white business card from the New England Patriots in hand, Morris said he spoke with several teams -- including the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans -- but that wasn't the only reason for the smile. Standing at 5-foot-8, he knew his time at the 40-yard dash would be critical.

"You can't have a slow 5-8 corner," he said. "So I'm just glad I wowed them."

Morris couldn't have been happier with his speed Monday afternoon. He claimed he spoke to two scouts after his 40, one of whom hand-timed him at 4.16 while another clocked him at 4.22 on the first run. His official time was a 4.35.

"A 4.16?" one reporter asked incredulously.

"Yeah," Morris said with a laugh. "I rode into it, though."

Although that unofficial number would be pretty impressive if accurate, the bottom line is that Morris was able to turn in a good time after missing a spot in the NFL combine by a mere two votes. He said he his measurements came in at 5-foot-8, 188 pounds, and he did 18 reps on the bench press.

The media wasn't permitted to watch the workouts, which 25 NFL teams attended, but Morris said he was pleased with the scouts' response to his numbers. When asked again about his speed, Morris pointed toward the Outback Bowl in 2011 when he ran down Florida tailback Chris Rainey, who's been timed as fast as 4.28 seconds.

Regardless of his times, though, Morris is just hoping he might hear his name called in late April.

"There's shockers who get drafted every year," Morris said. "And, hopefully, I'll be one of those shockers."

Early rounds: Linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Jordan Hill said they're both hoping to be selected in the second or third rounds.

And if they do happen to drop to the fourth?

"I'll be a little upset," Hill acknowledged. But I'll be ready to go to work. I just need the opportunity; I need to get my foot in the door."

Said Hodges: "I'll be upset, too, if I went down that far, but I'm going to put it all in God's hands. Just as long as I have my chance to play in the NFL, it's a dream come true. No matter how you get there, it's how you perform once you get there."

Hodges said he'll be working out in State College for now and already has some individual workouts scheduled with a few teams. He wouldn't name them, but he did say he had formal interviews at the combine with the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, among others.

Hill impresses: The defensive tackle said he probably wasn't ready to run the 40-yard dash at the combine because of his lingering knee injury. But he wanted to do everything at the combine; he figured he'd just improve upon those numbers at pro day.

He did just that. He said he turned in a 4.97-second 40 -- 0.26 seconds faster than his combine time -- and increased his broad jump to 9-foot-3.

"I was able to get a full-night sleep; a lot more stress was off," Hill said. "It was my first 40 I ran out there ... and it was one of those things that was brand new to me."

Patience, patience: Now comes the hard part for Rimington Trophy finalist Matt Stankiewitch -- the waiting game.

The center said he felt relaxed after taking part in pro day, but he knew that feeling wouldn't last.

"Of course, you're on edge because you don't know what you're future's going to be like," he said. "I have it in my head that I'm going to get drafted. If I don't, I don't. If I do, I do. In the NFL, it matters where you end -- not where you start."

Stankiewitch took part in field drills and just the broad jump because he didn't want to risk injury and said he believed his numbers would likely be similar those at the NFL combine. He increased his broad jump six inches -- to 8-foot-2 from 7-8.

Package deal?: Fullback Michael Zordich is hoping to land on an NFL team, while his father is hoping for the same -- albeit as a coach -- after the Philadelphia Eagles revamped their staff.

The younger Zordich said the two often joke they're both looking for NFL jobs at the same time. And they're both on the phone trying to find the right place.

"That'd be awesome," he said about the two landing on the same team. "I wouldn't mind playing for Pop."

He said he's not sure whether he'll be drafted, but his focus at this point his just making it to a camp.
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill might have been frustrated by a slow start, but a strong, 12-tackle performance in the final game has undoubtedly increased his draft stock, according to Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench.

"He's making a strong case to be taken on Day 2 of the draft," Muench wrote.

Hill opened this season at the one-technique and was greeted in most games by double-teams. He wasn't used to it; he played the three-technique the year before, and Devon Still's ability ensured Hill didn't deal with multiple offensive linemen in 2011.

Through three games, Hill didn't record a single stop in the backfield. But Bill O'Brien decided to move him back to the three-technique, his usual position just outside the guard, and Hill was told to stop trying to take on both linemen during a double-team. He started focusing on just one.

Those simple changes obviously paid dividends. In the last nine games, Hill had 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. In the final game, he turned in his most dominating performance and had two sacks and three stops in the backfield.

Some coaches, such as Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, went out of their way to laud the defensive tackle. O'Brien has insisted Hill is one of the best interior linemen in college football. At 6-foot-0, he's not the tallest defensive tackle, but his motor definitely has NFL coaches talking.

For more on Hill, read Muench's Stock Report.

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