Virginia Tech held their first Pro Day of the Justin Fuente era Wednesday afternoon with all 32 NFL teams represented at the Hokies' new indoor football facility.
Kendall Fuller, the Hokies' highest-rated draft prospect, once again did not participate in any drills after also sitting out the football portion of February's NFL combine. Nearing the final stages of recovery from his September knee surgery, Fuller remains optimistic about his health and draft prospects.
"It's not disappointing, it's just the process of being injured, waiting till you're 100% there," said Fuller. "You definitely wanna be out here, you wanna compete, showcase your talents. It's just the cards I'm dealt."
Once Fuller gets a clean bill of health, he'll begin to contact NFL teams to potentially set up individual workouts ahead of April's NFL Draft. That day, Fuller believes, is fast approaching.
"I feel really good. Rehab's going well, training's going well. Waiting to get that strength and power back," said Fuller.
Medical concerns kept defensive tackle Luther Maddy sidelined as well. After playing through chronic left knee tendinitis throughout the 2015 football season, Maddy began rehabbing what he referred to as "jumper's knee" in January. When his progress stagnated, the Florida native decided a small knee procedure was the best course of action.
"I have a nagging injury to my left knee. Basically chronic tendinitis, jumper's knee. Had to get a small procedure done in the beginning of February," said Maddy. "Two to three month recovery, so I'll be back healthy by the time (training) camp starts.
Maddy's timeline seems a tad more definite than Fuller's, an individual Pro Day for the defensive tackle already set for April 19 in Blacksburg. And while Maddy admitted that the timing of his latest injury was "terrible", the Florida native is anxious to show NFL scouts what he can do with two healthy knees.
"I'm very confident. Once I get to this pro day April 19th and show that I'm healthy, I've been hearing a lot of good things," said Maddy. "I'm confident I'll hear my name called late (in the draft)."
Unlike Fuller and Maddy, Dadi Nicolas took full part in the day's festivities. After posting a defensive-line best 41 inch vertical at the NFL combine, Nicolas once again looked the part Wednesday, showcasing his dynamic athleticism to a bevy of NFL scouts at the Beamer Barn.
Nicolas has bulked up — at 239 pounds, Dadi is heavier than he's ever been — and appears ready to make the likely transition to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
"I think I'll be playing linebacker, most likely," said Nicolas. "And if not, if I'm putting my hand in the dirt, that's fine, too. I'm looking forward to just playing football again."
Nicolas' pass coverage ability remains somewhat of an unknown, but, in true Dadi Nicolas form, the demonstrative defensive end says it's far from his biggest focus heading into the draft.
"Dominating football is my biggest focus," Nicolas said. "Just being able to start in the league and lay down a legacy for myself."
Jokes aside, Nicolas did comment on his growing comfort level with dropping into pass coverage.
"I'm more confident than I've ever been when it comes to covering and stuff like that," said Nicolas. "My IQ has grown tremendously."
Ryan Malleck also went through the full gamut of drills for scouts Wednesday in an attempt to establish a solid 40 time and showcase his pass-catching abilities. Mission accomplished, Malleck said, as he was clearly pleased with his Pro Day performance.
Where the workmanlike Malleck ends up remains to be seen, but the Steelers and Lions each had their tight end coaches in attendance today. (And yes, it was quite strange to see newly-hired Lions tight end coach Al Golden dressed in black and baby blue.)
The Steelers certainly seem to be a logical destination for Malleck with the recent retirement of longtime Pittsburgh star Heath Miller. For his part, Malleck certainly didn't shy away from that possibility.
"That'd be awesome," said Malleck of replacing the beloved Miller. "I really liked the way he played the game the last 11 years. I think my game is similar to his, his style, being able to run block and also catch the ball down the field."
JC Coleman was the final notable Hokie to partake in Wednesday's festivities, and the diminutive tailback was happy with his Pro Day performance as well.
"I just wanted to show them that I can catch the ball out of the backfield," said Coleman. "I'm plenty fast enough to be in the NFL. I'm strong. I showed that. I'm explosive...It was an overall good day."
While Coleman doesn't have any delusions about his draft prospects — the 5'6" running back more than likely won't be hearing his name called this April — he envisions a Darren Sproles-type role if he manages to break into a training camp.
"He's had a very successful career in the NFL," said Coleman. "Definitely wanna model my game after him and show that I can."
Several former Hokies were in attendance today, perhaps none more notable than former sixth-round pick and current Redskins standout Kyshoen Jarrett. In addition, Chase Williams, Caleb Farris and Tariq Edwards all worked out in an attempt to latch onto an NFL team as a free agent.
Curious about how former offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's pro-style and tight end-heavy offense helped prepare Malleck for the NFL, I asked Ryan about that exact dynamic.
"I think it helped me a lot because I know from the combine, a lot of the verbiage is the same to what Coach Loeffler does," said Malleck. "So it was good to see the plays are very similar to what he ran."
Maddy pointed out the Vikings, Bills, and Raiders as three teams who have shown the most interest in him throughout the pre-draft process. None of those teams, unfortunately, will pit Maddy against Peyton Manning, his childhood football idol.
"I know, man," joked Maddy. "I wanted to play with him or at least sack him one time, but he's gone now."
My NFL scouting abilities are a little rusty, so I didn't bother timing any of the players as they progressed through their drills. However, official testing results are posted on HokieSports.com.