Penn State players prepare for opportunity in NFL
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Former Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark has been sleeping in assistant coach Jay Paterno's basement while preparing for next month's NFL draft.
Linebackers Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman have been busy cruising the country to interview with various NFL teams. Bowman dropped by the Steelers' South Side facility Monday for a visit.
Defensive tackle Jared Odrick, a projected first-round pick, also has been on the go, conducting personal workouts for numerous NFL general managers and player personnel directors.
He is one of eight players, including five defensive linemen, who have committed to attend the opening night of the three-day NFL draft April 22 in New York.
A three-year starter, Odrick was the Big Ten Conference's defensive player of the year this past season. NFLDraftScout.com rates him the fifth-best defensive tackle and the 33rd-best player overall.
"I think I fit at a lot of places," he said. "It will be interesting to see what happens."
Lee, from Upper St. Clair High School, has been attempting to convince NFL teams during his workouts that his injured knees are fine. NFLDraftScout.com ranks him the second-best inside linebacker and project him as a second- or third-round draft choice.
"Each time I work out, I prove that I'm healthy and 100 percent," Lee said. "But I'm sure there's still questions about it and I'm going to continue to get them. I think I've shown that I can come back from an injury and I can play through injuries.
"I'm training a little bit differently, kind of gearing more toward the weaknesses in my body, and I think that I've made some good strides."
Bowman, who bypassed his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, originally was projected as a late first-round pick. But he has since slipped to the third or fourth rounds after running poor times in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and scoring an 11 out of 50 on his Wonderlic intelligence test, according to ProFootballTalk.com.
A two-time, first-team All-Big Ten pick, Bowman had to deal with off-the-field issues at Penn State. He was involved in an on-campus fight in 2007 and later admitted to smoking marijuana after flunking a drug test, resulting in his probation being extended another year. In addition, he became a first-time father this past season.
"We all know I've had my issues," Bowman said. "[NFL teams] want to know about all those things. I answered their questions. We all have to mature sometime and learn from the mistakes we made.
"Things are different. You can see they're different. I don't do some of the things I used to do. I work a lot harder and focus a lot more."
Clark was a two-year starter for the Nittany Lions and the Big Ten's co-MVP this past year, yet he very well could go undrafted. NFLDraftScout.com rates him the 24th-best quarterback prospect and the 444th-best player overall.
"It's a little frustrating, because like I said, you don't know what's going to happen," Clark said. "You've heard tons of possibilities. Like I said, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. I'm just hoping that things go right. This has been a lifetime dream.
"I've heard [anywhere] from fifth, sixth or seventh round, and I've even heard free agency."
Clark, one of six Lions who attended the combine in Indianapolis, also took part in Penn State's Pro Day March 17 at Holuba Hall.
He said no NFL teams have talked to him about a possible position change. But there has been a lot of discussion about Clark's throwing motion, which former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg tried to help refine in Tampa before the combine.
"I've had to fine-tune it," Clark said. "I had to make sure my arm wasn't detached from the rest of the body through my rotations and everything. I put that all together. My stride isn't as long as it was in college -- it's a lot shorter -- and I have a lot more power behind the football now."
Penn State also has a few other players who might be drafted. They include tight ends Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler, offensive tackle Dennis Landolt and linebacker Josh Hull.
• Round 1: April 22, 7:30 p.m.
• Rounds 2-3: April 23, 6 p.m.
• Rounds 4-7: April 24, 10 a.m.
• Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York.
• TV: NFL Network.
• Steelers: First pick is No. 18 overall.
First Published March 30, 2010 12:00 am