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Canidate, other NFL hopefuls work out for pro coaches

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
March 22, 2000
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In the second of three timing days for NFL hopefuls from the UA football team, three standout offensive players received most of the attention from professional coaches and scouts yesterday at Bear Down Field.

Wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, running back Trung Canidate and quarterback Keith Smith each had personal workouts and ran through several drills for NFL coaches and scouts.

UA head coach Dick Tomey said college players still have an opportunity to impress scouts before the NFL draft, which is Apr. 15-16 in New York.

"I think you can help yourself considerably at this point - answer questions about yourself," Tomey said.

Canidate, who finished his career at Arizona as the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,626 yards and 26 touchdowns, was put through several short running and receiving drills by coaches from the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams.

In one drill, Canidate took a handoff in the backfield and ran to the line of scrimmage, where four cones were placed horizontally with about a five-foot gap between them. A coach would fill in one of the gaps as Canidate approached scrimmage, forcing him to quickly choose which hole to hit.

"They just wanted to see agility and reaction, just more or less football stuff instead of the 40 (yard dash)," said Canidate, who also caught passes out of the backfield and the wide receiver position from Smith.

"What they're doing to Trung is they've really focused in on his individual skills, and he can really help himself," Tomey said.

Canidate's most impressive moment of the day, though, came earlier in the afternoon during the 40 sprints. In each of his two runs, he drew awes from NFL coaches and cheers from onlooking teammates after running unofficial times of 4.28 and 4.26 seconds.

Canidate said the two impressive times were not his fastest.

"It wasn't my day today, but it was a good day," he said.

Scouts who were clocking Canidate compared times to see if they had made a mistake.

Canidate is showing scouts he has the physical tools to play at the next level, but Tomey said that's not the most impressive aspect about the Phoenix native.

"He's a tremendous player, but he's a better person than he is a player, and that's the thing to me that sets him apart," Tomey said about Canidate, who finished his career as the leading yards-per-carry running back in the history of the Pacific 10 Conference.

"He's the best I've ever been around," Tomey said.

Also receiving considerable attention was Northcutt, who has been projected by many NFL draft experts, including ESPN's Mel Kiper, as a mid-first round pick in next month's draft.

Northcutt, who ran an unofficial 40 time of 4.45, said he is ignoring all pre-draft speculation.

"I'm not buying into any of that," he said. "I'm not looking to be drafted in the first round, I'm just looking to do the best I can and prepare myself and let everything else take its place."

After the sprinting session, Northcutt ran short routes, out patterns, timing routes and deep patterns and caught passes from Smith.

He did not work out at the defensive back position like he did earlier this month.

Smith, who finished the 40 in an unofficial time of 4.75, missed the mark on some of his early passes to Northcutt and was visibly upset. He responded later by connecting perfectly on several deep timing routes to Northcutt.

He was also noticeably bothered by a tight right hamstring.

"It's as hard as a rock," he told teammate Ortege Jenkins between drills.

The offensive players weren't the only Wildcats to run special drills.

Linebackers Marcus Bell and DaShon Polk were put through about 10 minutes of footwork exercises.

Both Polk (who weighed in at 233 pounds) and Bell (235) also drew second looks earlier in the weight room at McKale Center, where each received cheers for their jumping measurements.

Polk recorded a vertical leap of 34 inches, while Bell jumped 33-1/2. In the standing long jump, Polk and Bell notched marks of 9 feet 5 1/2 inches and 9-1, respectively.

Canidate had a vertical leap of 38-1/2 and a standing jump of 10-1, while Northcutt elected to skip both events.

The most impressive Wildcat on the bench press was offensive lineman Manuia Savea, who put up 225 pounds 28 times.

Northcutt, Canidate, Smith and Bell all skipped the bench.

The hardest thing for all UA players hoping to play in the NFL could be the waiting game, as guys like linebacker Scooter Sprotte, and defensive backs Greg Payne and Kelvin Hunter must wait to see if their number is called on draft day.

And to make matters worse, they often have no clue as to what the scouts are reporting about them.

"They don't tell you," Tomey said. "Those guys, it's like they're all like the CIA because they want to keep their personal opinions confidential because if they really value somebody, they don't want somebody else who may respect their evaluation capabilities to rethink that person."

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