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UCLA pro day gives former Bruins a chance to show off for scouts

UCLA pro day gives former Bruins a chance to show off for scouts
UCLA receiver Kenneth Walker III runs upfield after catching the ball during UCLA's pro day. (Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

The big man would have given his right arm to be working out on that practice field.

Alas, the right arm of UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley was in a sling Tuesday, with fresh bandages on either side of his shoulder from the labrum surgery he underwent the day after last month's scouting combine.

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Although representatives of all 32 NFL teams were on campus — including a pair of Hall of Famers in Rod Woodson and Kevin Greene — McKinley, a potential first-round draft pick, was relegated to spectator status. His recovery is expected to take four months.

"It sucks, because I do wish I was out there performing for these scouts and doing what I love to do, which is play football, but I'm out here to support my teammates and be a family," he said. "It's not always about me."

It proved to be a trying day for UCLA's other elite player, too. Cornerback Fabian Moreau appeared to tweak a chest muscle while performing the bench press, completing seven repetitions of 225 pounds before stopping, wincing, and briefly walking around the weight room while the pain dissipated. He did not return to the field to continue working out.

UCLA Coach Jim Mora said Moreau's injury was being evaluated but was "minor and nothing to worry about."

"He did everything at the combine and had good numbers," Mora said, adding that part of the appeal of Moreau is what he has between the ears.

"If he's in the right environment and around the right players, I think he's really going to flourish immediately, and his long-term prospects for success are undoubted.

UCLA cornerback Ishmael Adams runs the 40-yard dash during UCLA's pro day on March 21.
UCLA cornerback Ishmael Adams runs the 40-yard dash during UCLA's pro day on March 21. (Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

"It's fun to see people start to recognize what a good player Fabian is. He's played a lot. Part of it is he's a fifth-year senior, and they like that experience. So many kids now are rushing to get out of college and move into the pros. Sometimes, the best thing individuals can do is stay in college and garner that experience."

Some scouts quietly expressed disappointment that they didn't get to see Moreau participate in pass-coverage drills. He's considered by many evaluators to be a first-round talent, even in a draft class loaded with defensive backs.

For McKinley and Moreau, the most compelling argument is the impact they made in games.

"We look at a lot of things, but we mostly fall back on the tape," said Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who watched the workout alongside colleagues Ken Norton Jr. and Woodson (both of Oakland), Ken Zampese (Cincinnati), Greene (New York Jets), Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley and others. Most, if not all, will stay for Wednesday's pro day at USC.

Some Bruins now in the NFL came back to watch their former teammates perform, including Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley and Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Among the players who worked out for the evaluators were cornerback/returner Ishmael Adams, defensive tackle Eli Ankou, linebacker Jayon Brown, quarterback Mike Fafaul, defensive back Randall Goforth, defensive back Tahaan Goodman, defensive lineman Deon Hollins, tight end Nate Iese, linebacker Cameron Judge, tackle Connor McDermott, defensive back Marcus Rios, linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea, defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, and receiver Kenny Walker.

Most of those players won't be drafted or wind up on NFL rosters, but some likely will.

McDermott, who towered above the crowd at 6 feet 8, 304 pounds, is projected to be a mid-round pick.

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Scouts like Vanderdoes, who has been a workout warrior lately and weighed in at 301 after playing in the 330s last fall. Asked what he'd like to impress upon teams, he said, "That I'm in phenomenal shape right now and athletic as ever. I can play anywhere they need me to on the defensive line."

Mora said Vanderdoes "didn't have the kind of year that he wanted to have," but that, "I tell guys to go back and look at his sophomore film and you can see his athleticism, see his bend, the strength and suddenness in his hands."

Walker isn't considered an elite receiver, but he has blistering speed. Because each scout uses his own stopwatch, the 40-yard times can vary. At least one had Walker with impressive times of 4.30 and 4.32 seconds.

Adams and Brown are versatile and their ticket to the NFL, at least initially, likely would be as special team players. Brown is undersized as a linebacker at 6-1, 226 pounds, but led the Pac-12 in tackles with 120 and plays bigger than his measurables.

"I compared him to Sam Mills, a guy I was fortunate to coach in New Orleans," Mora said, referring to the late and beloved 5-9 linebacker. "People thought he was too small, but he got it done because he was smart, instinctive, and studied the game. I think Jayon has a lot of those qualities."

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

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