Friday, September 22, 2017

Six Mountaineers set to participate in NFL Combine

WVU safety KJ Dillon is set to participate in the NFL Combine on Monday. (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

WVU safety KJ Dillon is set to participate in the NFL Combine on Monday.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

INDIANAPOLIS–The on-field portion of the NFL Combine is set to get underway on Friday and go throughout the weekend, and six former West Virginia University football players will partake in their first steps towards the NFL Draft.

More than 300 of the country’s top prospects will be on hand to show their skills to NFL scouts between Monday and Friday.

K.J. Dillon, Karl Joseph, Nick Kwiatkoski, Nick O’Toole, Wendell Smallwood and Daryl Worley were all invited to the Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Each day is broken down into different sections. On Friday place kickers, running backs, special teams and offensive linemen will get a change to showcase their skills. Saturday quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends will take the field. Sunday defensive linemen and linebackers will go and Monday belongs to defensive backs.

Each athlete goes through a session of measurements and medical examinations, interviews, psychological evaluations and on-field workouts. On-field activities include the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap, broad jump, shuttle and 3 cone.

O’Toole and Smallwood will be the first two Mountaineers to show off their skills to scouts.

WVU's Nick O'Toole averaged 45.1 yards per punt in 2015. (Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

WVU’s Nick O’Toole averaged 45.1 yards per punt in 2015.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

O’Toole averaged 45.1 yards per punt with a hang time of 4.06 seconds during the 2015 season. The 6-foot-3, 219-pound punter only had two games all season without a punt of 51 yards.

He is athletic and ran for a fake punt this season. O’Toole’s weakness is his accuracy problems that plagued him in 2015. His touchback total increased from three percent in 2014 to almost 21 percent this year.

Smallwood declared for the NFL draft after his junior season with WVU. The 5-foot-10, 208-pound running back was the Big 12’s leading rusher in 2015.

He rushed for 1,519 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games, while also catching 26 passes out of the backfield for 160 yards.

Smallwood’s weakness appears to be his size and that he isn’t as flashy as some of the other backs, but he knows how to use his body to get additional yards at the end of a run. He is smart and has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

No Mountaineers will be participating on Saturday.

On Sunday, Kwiatkoski will get his turn to shine. He had 303 tackles during his career at WVU.

The 6-foot-1, 241-pound linebacker is capable of playing both inside and outside linebacker. He was known as the heart and soul of the Mountaineers’ defense.

Nick Kwiatkoski had 303 career tackles at WVU. (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruf, BGS)

Nick Kwiatkoski had 303 career tackles at WVU.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Ruf, BGS)

Kwiatkoski is tough and excels at tackling. He earned first-team All-Big 12 accolades this season with his 86 tackles, ten for loss, three sacks, three interceptions, and seven pass breakups.

Scouts worry about his ability to match power at point of attack. He also needs to improve usage of his hands instead of using his shoulder so much, but his work ethic and ability to tackle impresses.

And on Monday, WVU’s group of top-notch defensive backs will take the field.

Dillon, Joseph and Worley were members of the Mountaineers’ secondary that struck fear in opponents this season.

Despite suffering an ACL injury, Joseph is WVU’s most highly touted prospect.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound safety Joseph had 284 tackles and eight interceptions, but he was best known for his earth rattling hits.

Joseph was having a stellar season before getting injured. He had 20 tackles, five interceptions and one sack in four games. At the time of his injury, Joseph led the FBS in interceptions.

The Orlando, Fla. native was a team leader and fan favorite. He plays every game with passion and heart.

Karl Joseph had five interceptions in four games before getting injured in 2015. (Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

Karl Joseph had five interceptions in four games before getting injured in 2015.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

Joseph is a play-making safety with man cover ability plus ball skills. He is tough and comes out of nowhere and lays opponents out.

His injury hurt his draft stock, but Joseph is still considered one of the top safeties available.

Dillon stepped up his game after the Mountaineers lost Joseph. He finished with 55 tackles, 7.5 for loss, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups, garnering second team All-Big 12 accolades.

The 6-foot, 209-pound safety had an up and down career at WVU. Much of his freshman season was devoted to special teams. In 2013, Dillon earned a starting spot, but only started nine games because of a case of severe dehydration that hospitalized him.

It was his junior year when Dillon started to make a household name for himself. He had 62 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass breakups in 12 games.

Dillon is athletic, but he doesn’t run through his tackles and running backs have a tendency of carrying him. He has too many missed tackles over the last few seasons, but scouts feel that is an area that can be improved with a little more muscle and some guidance.

Like Smallwood, Worley chose to forgo his senior season and leave for the draft.

Worley missed the Cactus Bowl after being declared academically ineligible. In 2014, he had missed two games after being suspended after being accused of assaulting a woman outside a nightclub. He eventually pled no contest and received a six-month suspended sentence for his actions.

Worley earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2015. He finished seventh nationally with six interceptions. He had 12 pass breakups, 49 tackles and forced two fumbles this year.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound cornerback is quick and has fast hands. He can redirect receivers with aggressive shoves and can make tackles.

His weakness is the fact that he lacks the agility and hips to maintain his feel for receivers underneath. At times becomes pre­occupied with the vertical chase and fails to find deep ball headed his way.

Coverage can be seen on the NFL Network.

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