HBCU players excel at the NFL Combine


Four players from HBCUs participated in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.  North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen, Tennessee State offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, South Carolina State offensive lineman Javarius Leamon and Tennessee State defensive back Ezra Robinson were four of the 330 invitees to the Combine.  The Combine is broken down by position and each player had a chance to interview with teams and to show off their athletic ability in various skills including 40-time, broad jump and bench press to name a few.

This year’s players were the most HBCU players since five were invited in 2013.  Last year, Javon Hargrave (South Carolina State), Temarrick Hemingway (South Carolina State) and Ryan Smith (North Carolina Central) were invited.  All three players were drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Cohen had an impressive showing.  The 2016 BOXTOROW National Offensive Player of the Year ran the third fastest 40-time of all running backs (4.42).  Listed at 5’6” his height has been of concern to most NFL teams.  His performance at the Combine elevated him from a possible free agent signing to a player that will almost definitely be drafted.

Cohen had all the requisite achievements, becoming the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher and finishing his career with 5,619 yards.  He rushed or over 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons, including 1,588 yards this past season and 18 touchdowns.  Cohen was the only non-FBS back to participate and on the NFL Combine Website graded out at a 5.49 which was 12th. Comparatively speaking, LSU running back Leonard Fournette graded out the highest at 7.1.

Dunker, a 2016 BOXTOROW All-American, ran the third fastest time of the offensive lineman, running a 4.98/40 – in leopard print cleats no less.  Dunker also had a good showing at the Senior Bowl which had already elevated his draft status.  Dunker is a former transfer from the University of Florida and played all four years at TSU.  He graduated in December and will have one more opportunity to impress scouts at his pro day on March 17.

Dunker is the fourth TSU offensive linemen to participate in the Combine in the last five years and looks to become the fifth offensive lineman drafted in the last four years.  He could go as high as the fourth round.

Leamon has intangibles that you can’t teach.  He’s 6’7”, 332 pounds.  He bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.  Scouts would like to see him put in more work in the weight room, but like the fact that he uses his size to his advantage.  He is projected as a sixth-round pick.

Robinson, also a BOXTOROW All-American, is the first defensive back for TSU to participate in the Combine since Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2007, who was also the last Tiger defensive back drafted.  Robinson is the longer shot of the four to get drafted.  This year’s corner class is really deep.  Robinson ran a 4.48/40 at the Combine and jumped 10’10” in the broad jump which was fifth best amongst corners.

As of February 17, USA Today’s Draft Wire had Robinson rated as the 26th best cornerback in the draft.

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