(EDITOR'S NOTE: When SB Nation Tampa Bay reappears soon, you may see this article posted there as well. Ken and I will both be contributors to the regional site, where we'll write about USF among other things. But don't worry, we'll still have plenty of material for this site.)
The buildup to the NFL Draft can be tiring. Dozens of college football players have their futures resting not only in the hands of pro scouts and general managers, but in "draft gurus" who can potentially make them -- or cost them -- millions of dollars on little more than a whim in a mock draft. Sometimes an allegation surfaces and the damage sticks (see also: Sapp, Warren), but more often these things even themselves out, like they did with USF's Jason Pierre-Paul last year. Still, it might be my least favorite part of the college football calendar.
Unlike last year, when five USF players were chosen in the draft and each ended up making their respective teams, the Bulls' only probable draftee this year is defensive tackle Terrell McClain. The Dancing Bear, as coach Skip Holtz called him, had a big week at the East-West Shrine Game and was a late addition to the Senior Bowl before bowing out of the game with a hamstring injury. He was the only USF player invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and he did pretty well for himself in Monday's workout, recording a 5.02 in the 40-yard dash and showing quickness in the shuttle and three-cone drills.
In an interview with MiamiDolphins.com, McClain was grateful to all of last year's USF draftees for helping to open the door to him this season.
"It opened the door for me because we had two defensive linemen here last year,” said McClain, who at 6-foot-2 and 297 pounds is seen as a solid run stopper. “That allowed for scouts to come back to our school and see the other talent that’s there, which we’re proud of. It’s a good accomplishment and right now I just think we should just get more players here from South Florida to come and show their talents and skills at the Combine.”
There's a wide range of opinion on where McClain might be drafted. NFL.com's assessment is by far the most optimistic:
McClain is a very disruptive run defender that should be able to contribute immediately in a defensive line rotation. He gets off the ball quickly ... fast strong hands to engage and disengage in an instant ... McClain brings it on every down and he should not last past the second round.
SBN's NFL Draft site, Mocking the Draft, also likes McClain's upside.
The more I watched McClain the more like liked about the kid. He is still a bit raw but possesses the athletic ability and size to develop into an effected defensive lineman. McClain showed a great motor and effort which will help with his transition to the NFL.
Other sites feel McClain is draftable but may be more of a project. The Sports Xchange, which feeds data to CBS Sports and to NFLDraftScout.com, pegs him as a 5th-6th rounder. NFL Draft 101 has him listed as a projected 5th round pick.
Doesn't play nearly as low or generate as much leverage as you would expect from a guy his size... More of a finesse guy who can rely on his quickness and footwork only in order to be effective... Possesses an average-sized frame and some decent athleticism, but his inability to use his hands and play with leverage really hurts his chances of making an NFL roster.
I won't even hazard a guess as to where McClain will ultimately be drafted. He could get pulled into the draftniks' perpetual hype machine after his Scouting Combine performance, his draft stock rising and falling like Charlie Sheen's blood alcohol content. Even if that doesn't happen, at a certain point the NFL Draft becomes kind of a crapshoot -- after the first couple of rounds, players can either be picked much earlier or hang around much later than anyone expects.
One thing we know for certain, though. Terrell McClain will show up to training camp somewhere ready to roll, and if he doesn't make an NFL roster this year, it won't be for lack of trying.