School-record nine Tigers invited to NFL Scouting Combine
|Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 12:38 PM- -|
A Clemson school-record nine former players were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
On Wednesday, the NFL released the full list of this year's participants at the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The combine runs Feb. 28-March 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Linebacker Ben Boulware, running back Wayne Gallman, safety Jadar Johnson, tight end Jordan Leggett, wide receiver Artavis Scott, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams all received invitations.
Clemson had eight former players invited to last year’s combine.
NFL.com published an overview of each player.
*Boulware was the heart and soul of Clemson's national championship defense. His first love was motocross, though; he was home-schooled until the third grade so he could compete, but a broken arm suffered during a race ended that career. He was also a very good baseball player in high school (like his brother, Garrett, who was a 2014 draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds) -- but football turned out to be his best sport. The top 100 national recruit played in 11 games as a reserve and special teams demon in 2013 (25 tackles, 1.5 for loss). Boulware played a larger role on defense in 2013, starting twice and making 58 tackles, five for loss, and intercepting a pass against Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl which he returned 47 yards for a touchdown. He finished his career with two first-team All-ACC efforts, starring as a junior (82 tackles, eight TFL, two INT, seven pass breakups) and senior (team-high 116 tackles, 11.5 TFL, four sacks).
*Playing on the same team as perennial Heisman contender Deshaun Watson and star receiver Mike Williams has put Gallman a bit in the shadows nationally. The son of a Marine (Wayne, Sr.) has been an all-conference pick the past two years, however. As a redshirt freshman, he took over the starting job nine times, running for a team-high 769 yards and four scores. Things got real in 2015, as Gallman actually shared the team's Offensive MVP Award with Watson and was named first-team All-ACC after setting a school record with 1,527 rushing yards. Although he received considerably fewer carries as a junior (196 versus 283 in 2015), he still earned second-team All-ACC accolades with 1,002 yards and scored a career-high 15 times on the ground. Gallman did suffer a concussion against North Carolina State in October, but returned the next week to score twice in the big win over Florida State.
*Jadar (pronounced juh-DAHR) Johnson was stuck behind veterans like Robert Smith, Jayron Kearse, and T.J. Green as a sophomore and junior, but their departure opened the door for him to excel in the Tigers' national championship run. The in-state product from Orangeburg (appropriate for Clemson garb) garnered first-team All-ACC notice this year, leading the team with five interceptions, making 60 tackles and breaking up seven passes. Even though he wasn't able to start regularly in 2014 or 2015, he was a regular contributor (13 tackles, two TFL, two INT, two PBU in 2014; 15 tackles, two INT in 2015). As one of the top safety prospects in the country, Clemson coaches got him on the field on defense and special teams as a true freshman, as well (12 tackles in 11 games).
*Leggett wears the No. 16 jersey at Clemson as a tribute to his friend and former high school teammate, Ian Lockwood. The figure is the total of Lockwood's No. 10 jersey and Leggett's six. Lockwood passed away from brain cancer in 2011, but Leggett has stayed close with the family and wears a Livestrong bracelet every day as a reminder of his friend. Leggett's play on the field the past two seasons has gained him significant notoriety, being named a first-team All-ACC selection and finalist for the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. As a junior, he caught 40 passes for 525 yards and eight touchdowns. Leggett had 46 receptions for 736 yards (16.0 per) and scored seven times in Clemson's 2016 national championship season. During his first two seasons playing in Death Valley, the Florida product contributed heavily (one start, 12-176, two TDs in 2013; seven starts, 14-161, TD in 2014).
*Even though Scott is only a true junior, he managed to earn his communication studies degree in just two and a half years. That's as impressive a feat as his gaining all-conference accolades in all three of his seasons with the Tigers. Scott was a USA Today Freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC pick in 2014 with 76 catches for 965 yards and eight touchdowns. He came back to make 93 catches the next season, covering 901 yards and six touchdowns, in addition to 371 kick return yards on his way to first-team All-ACC honors. The Florida all-star aided Deshaun Watson for the Tigers' second run at a national title in 2016, garnering second-team all-conference notice with 71 catches for 592 yards (just a 8.3-yard average, his third straight year with a decrease in that category) and five scores (not including college football playoff games).
*Cordrea (pronounced cohr-DRAY) got his nickname "Tootie" from his older brother Codarius, who repeated the word several times after seeing his young sibling for the first time. The name stuck from there, in the same manner that Tankersley sticks to receivers in coverage. He struggled to find time in the secondary in his first two seasons, primarily playing on special teams (13 tackles in 2013; 11 tackles in 2014) as the Tigers' veteran defensive backs ruled the depth chart. Once his opportunity arose, Tankersley took full advantage, garnering third-team All-ACC notice after leading Clemson with five interceptions (one returned for a score) and nine pass breakups. He was a first-team all-conference pick and third-team Associated Press All-American for his efforts in the Tigers' national championship season of 2016, intercepting four more passes and breaking up a team-high 11 throws.
*Five Clemson Tigers left early for the NFL after the 2015 season. Watkins could have gone pro, probably landing in the second round, but he decided to stick around for his senior year to help his team win a national title. That did just that, thanks in part to Watkins' play on the defensive line. He led the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks among his 50 total stops, and was named first-team All-ACC and second-team Associated Press All-American at the end of the year. Watkins was a second-team all-conference selection as a junior with 69 tackles, eight for loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception that he returned for a score. The top 10 defensive tackle recruit patiently waited for his time to shine behind Clemson's always-stacked front four, playing in nine games as a true freshman (16 tackles, one TFL). He started one of the first three games of his sophomore year (11 tackles, 1.5 TFL), but redshirted the season due to injuries suffered in a September 2013 car accident that killed the driver, a high school friend. Watkins returned to play 11 games as a reserve the following year (13 tackles, two TFL).
*The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist took the Clemson program to another level, resulting in the school's first national championship in more than 30 years. Starting five games as a true freshman and winning four (14 touchdowns against just two interceptions), the 2013 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year immediately showed he belonged, even though he had to have surgery on a torn ACL after the season. In his sophomore season, Watson led his team to the National Championship (4,104 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns; 1,105 rushing yards, including 12 scores) and won the Davey O'Brien and Payton Manning Awards as the nation's top quarterback. Watson didn't take home as much hardware in 2016, but he still led Clemson to a national title while garnering second-team All-American honors (4,593 yards, 41 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.0 completion pct; 629 yards, nine TDs rushing).
*After a successful freshman season (three starts, 20 catches, 316 yards, three scores), Williams took a large step forward in 2014. He received third-team All-ACC recognition by catching 57 passes for a whopping 1,030 yards (18.1 per) and six touchdowns while freshman Deshaun Watson ran the show. Hoping to parlay that performance into an All-American junior year, Williams instead nearly saw his career end after fracturing his neck by hitting his helmet against the goal post on a touchdown catch in the season opener. He was cleared for contact before the 2016 season, however, and took advantage of his health in a big way. The second-team Walter Camp All-American and first-team All-ACC pick caught 84 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 scores, putting up highlight-reel plays on several occasions.