The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks anticipate NFL draft

	<p>Former South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger was called a “solid second rounder” by <span class="caps">ESPN</span> <span class="caps">NFL</span> Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.</p>
Former South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger was called a “solid second rounder” by ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Safety D.J. Swearinger projected 4th safety, 44th overall pick

Preparation for the NFL draft can feel like training for a track meet.

In former South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger’s opinion, scouts test mostly for measurables that aren’t necessarily practical for football, like how fast you can run 40 yards in track shoes.

“You don’t run a 40 on the football field,” Swearinger said at USC’s Pro Timing Day. “You play football, so whatever my numbers are, I’m just ready to play football.”

Swearinger and other Gamecocks will be doing just that soon, as the lengthy — and often bizarre — draft process comes to a close tonight with the first round. Though USC players are unlikely to hear their names called in the first round, five Gamecocks are expected to be drafted, starting with Swearinger.

In a recent conference call with reporters, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Swearinger is a “solid second rounder” in a draft class with an elite group of safeties. In one mock draft, he projected Swearinger as the No. 44 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers, the fourth safety drafted.

After Swearinger, wide receiver Ace Sanders, running back Marcus Lattimore, defensive back DeVonte Holloman and defensive lineman Devin Taylor could all be drafted between the third and seventh rounds. They’ve each had unique journeys since beginning preparation for the draft, experiencing a variety of frustrations throughout the process.

“It might just be like a meat market out here,” Sanders said at USC’s Pro Day. “There’s a lot of scouts, a lot of players trying to up their draft stock, hopefully to get in the draft or get picked up by somebody, so it’s very competitive.”

It took Sanders until the deadline to decide he would forgo his senior season and declare for the draft. He said he drove to Columbia for the first day of class, realized he didn’t want to return for another season of college football and returned home to Florida the same day.

“I didn’t have to go, but I just felt that things weren’t going to get any better, so it was like, ‘Get it while it’s hot,’” Sanders said.

Kiper said Sanders’s 40-yard dash time has been disappointing considering his size and stock as a punt returner. At Pro Day, he ran 4.56 seconds while Kiper says he should be running in the 4.4s.

“He’s tremendously quick and explosive,” Kiper said. “So with the returnability, he could be a Day 3 guy who makes the team and contributes.”

Even Kiper hasn’t been able to nail down where Lattimore will be drafted after two knee surgeries in back-to-back years, labeling him as a “wild card.”

Lattimore has gone about the draft process differently than most NFL hopefuls in the country, physically limited because of his knee rehabilitation. At the NFL Combine he met with teams and underwent thorough medical examinations. He was capable of doing some drills at USC’s Pro Day, but he wasn’t able to run.

“I think everything he does helps because he’s a great kid,” Kiper said. “He’s out there trying to get back to 100 percent. He’ll work as hard as anybody possibly can to do it. I think his passion, his desire, his character is all going to help him because you have to have that to rehab the way he needs to, to get back to 100 percent. Fortunately there was no nerve damage. He’s going to play football again.

“I think he probably will redshirt this year. He’ll be ready to go in 2014. A team that has extra picks in the third or fourth round, I think could look at Marcus Lattimore very seriously at that point.”

USC coach Steve Spurrier told reporters in a teleconference Wednesday that Lattimore’s influence in the locker room is enough to improve any team.

“I’ve made a point to tell the world that if you have Marcus Lattimore on your team, he makes everyone else better,” Spurrier said. He’s the first guy in the meeting room, in the weight room, in the workouts. He does a little extra. He does everything you ask and then a little more.”

Kiper said extra picks in the late rounds will get Taylor and Holloman drafted. He thinks Holloman can make a team as an outside linebacker, though Kiper is still baffled by Taylor.

“Devin Taylor is the enigma,” Kiper said. “With all that talent, I kept waiting for him to become a first-round pick. He never did. Produced the kind of results you expected — flashed but wasn’t consistent. If you get into the fourth-, fifth-round area, Day 3 with a kid with that enormous physical gifts he has, it makes sense.”

Holloman spoke with former USC cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a first-round pick to the Buffalo Bills last season, for advice on the predraft process of combines and training. He was still “weirded out” by how little sleep he got at the combine in Indianapolis.

“It’s just amazing that even the coaches have energy to see the next day,” he said.

Perhaps that was preparation for this weekend, when USC draftees will experience sleepless nights as they wait for their names to be called.


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