From the underclassmen watch, through a week of practice at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl respectively and onwards to the NFL combine we go.  We will be keeping you up-to-date with our ever expanding Insider Report from now until February 24th, when the fun starts in Indianapolis. Update 2/22: Cannon slimming down…Smith looks like a beast….Casey doesn’t…

2/22

Our 2011 combine coverage starts live from Indianapolis in two days.  Yet before the event officially kicks off here is the latest buzz around the training facilities.

- Several league insiders said despite the pending lockout it will be business as usual at the combine for teams and agents.  We have been alerted to dozens of meetings taking place in which teams hope to lock up both restricted and unrestricted free agents presently on their roster.

- Jimmy Smith/CB/Colorado continues to look impressive in his combine training.  It was reported to us he looks like a linebacker but runs like a fast cornerback.

- On the other hand we hear Jurrell Casey/DT/USC, whose at the same training facility in Carson, California with Smith, has been unimpressive.  People have described him as having a squat/low to the ground built with thin legs.  He’s looked unathletic in training.

- We were surprised like many that cornerback Vance Cuff/CB/Georgia, who was not a regular starter for the Bulldogs, received a combine invitation.  Its based on sheer athleticism and as one source told us Cuff could, “roll out of bed and run the forty in the 4.3′s.”

Brandon Saine/RB/Ohio State is someone we liked coming into the season but scouts are unimpressed with his running instincts.  As one told us, “if there was a part in the Red Sea, Saine would not find it.”….ouch!

- We hear it will be touch and go as to whether or not Daniel Thomas/RB/Kansas State runs at the combine.  While he’s evidently looked good in training we were told the hamstring issue, which kept him out of the Senior Bowl, continues to be a bit of a problem.  As of last week Thomas was still having issues with tightness in the muscle.

- Last we reported the high expectations of Nevada tight end Virgil Green at the combine.  Sources have also told us the Arkansas tight end, D.J. Williams is also expected to run well.  We were told to expect times in the low 4.5′s.

- As we tweeted, or twittered on Monday, Adrian Clayborn/DE/Iowa will perform at the combine.  We hear he’s been tipping the scales in the mid 280′s and has been running in the high 4.6′s recently in training.

- Marcus Cannon of TCU will be one to keep an eye on.  We were told his playing weight last season was almost 375-pounds, but he’ll be well below that when he weighs in this week.

- We raved about North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin during our coverage of Shrine practices.  In similar fashion we wrote glowingly about the skills of his former teammate, cornerback Kendric Burney from the Senior Bowl.  Yet sources have told us scouts were unimpressed to the point of being turned off by the interviews each turned in at those respective games.  Something to keep an eye on as both will be grilled on the issues which caused each to receive suspensions last season.

2/16

- Sources told us this evening that Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee and the signs are looking positive.  While Romeus hopes to get some sort of workout in for scouts prior to the draft its’ unlikely as his surgery, which was completed in late November, is a six month rehabilitation process.  Romeus was recently examined by Dr James Bradley of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the report was a good one.  Romeus will be at the combine undergoing medicals.

- Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph is another rehabbing at a fine pace from his surgery, this one to a hamstring.  While Rudolph won’t workout at the combine we are told he’s likely to be 100% when he takes part in the Notre Dame pro-day.

- Another walking wounded, Stephen Paea of Oregon State, is also improving at a rapid pace.  Paea, who underwent knee surgery for his injured meniscus three weeks ago, is walking around without crutches.  He is likely to bench press at the combine then hopes to get an individual workout in for scouts immediately before the draft.

- We were critical towards Greg Little of North Carolina for not competing in any post season All Star game as his former teammate Marvin Austin did but sources told us yesterday the Shrine Game did not extend an invitation to Little and the Senior Bowl refused to invite any of the permanently ineligible Tar Heels.

- Quarterback Jake Locker of Washington, whose Senior Bowl performance we ripped, has been working with former All Pro quarterback Ken O’Brien with the hopes of improving his techniques.  Carson Palmer and Matt Cassel are a few former prize students of O’Brien.  The former New York Jets signal caller has described Locker’s recent workouts as “lights out”.

- Several defensive linemen have looked real good in training recently, starting with Markus White of Florida State.  A late invitee to the combine, White has been running in the high 4.5′s at 265-pounds recently.  The hope is to break the 4.60-second barrier at the combine, where the expectations are White will have a vertical jump over 36-inches and a bench press over 25-reps.  One team we know of has a 2nd/3rd round grade on the Florida State prospect, who’s getting consideration at defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker.

- Lawrence Guy of Arizona State is another looking athletic in recent weeks.  The junior has been running 4.8′s in the forty while tipping the scales over 300-pounds.

- Receiver Armon Binns has also run some surprisingly fast times.  According to one close source Binns went under 4.5-seconds in training recently.

2/14

- We have confirmed that Clemson junior defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, rated as the number two available prospect on our board, underwent minor knee surgery after the team’s bowl game to repair an injured meniscus in his knee.  Bowers initially suffered the injury midway through the 2010 campaign yet played the entire season.  No ill effects are foreseen and Bowers has been training full bore in preparation for the combine.

- While he may not match the amazing combine performance turned in by Vernon Davis in 2006, sources have told us Virgil Green of Nevada may come real close to the marks turned in by the former first rounder.  Training for the combine in Florida since his solid performance during Shrine week, Green is up to 252-pounds, slightly more than he tipped the scales in Orlando.  Those around the pass catching tight end expect him to run his forty in the very low 4.5′s and have not discounted the possibility of Green breaking below the 4.50 mark. His vertical jump could exceed 40-inches and Green is likely to top the 25-rep mark on the bench.  Sources have told us while Green is expected to turn in the top marks of any tight end at the combine, his pass catching workout will also impress scouts as he’s looked sharp in training- something not unexpected.

2/13

- USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith, who played most of the 2010 campaign weighing 285-pounds, is up to 304lbs and hopes to tip the scales between 307-to-310lbs by the time he weighs in at the combine.  Right now he’s projecting to complete 26-to30 reps on the bench, a solid number for a lineman with a 35-inch arm reach.  The expectations are Smith will run a fast time in the forty at the combine and could breach the 4.80-second mark.  This assumes he runs in Indianapolis.  We can confirm that Smith hurt his knee late in the ’10 season then had it scoped once the campaign ended.  He then spent most of the month of January rehabbing the knee.  Its’ not deemed serious but Smith may decide to wait for the USC pro-day, which is a month after the offensive lineman workout at the combine, to take part in the running and shuttles.

- We understand Adrian Clayborn of Iowa is also deciding whether or not he will run at the combine.  Clayborn expects to tip the scales around 285-pounds, not much of a difference  from the 280-to-289lbs which he fluctuated to and from during the season.  We understand teams are likely to question a shoulder issue which is not deemed serious yet has plagued Clayborn since he was a kid.

- Back on January 5th, during our breakdown of the players from the offensive side of the ball that were invited to the combine, we mentioned on the low total of centers asked to participate in Indianapolis.  It’s ironic then that two who were not invited, Colin Baxter of Arizona and Tim Barnes from Missouri, are at the top of the center list on a number of teams boards around the league.

2/9

- Last week in San Antonio at least six different teams said they rank Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as the number one prospect in the draft.  The opinions were comprised from scouts, personnel directors and a few coaches.  All had Newton rated clearly higher than Da’Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcel Dareus and competing signal caller Blaine Gabbert.  We hear the Miami Dolphins have been inquiring heavily into Newton at this stage of the game.

Even with that we hear all is not peaceful in the Newton camp.

Last year Tim Tebow released a video prior to the combine, revealing his improved throwing mechanics.  Newton will take it one step further with his “media day” which is scheduled for tomorrow.  Many in the Newton camp are against the show tomorrow and most of the scouts we spoke with think its’ foolish.    They will frown upon it more if Newton does not throw at the combine, and according to sources familiar with the situation as of now the game plan is to hold him out of the throwing workout at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27th.  Obviously that’s subject to change.

- At this early stage is seems the player that most enamors the Denver Broncos, who own the second pick of the draft, is LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

- Sources have told us Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who received the scorn of scouts after he did not travel to the Senior Bowl, has looked sensational in workouts as he prepares for the combine.

- Looking for a sleeper at the cornerback position in the draft?  Keep close tabs on Miami Hurricane senior Ryan Hill, who started over Marcus Van Dyke for most of the season.  Scouts give Hill a higher grade than the one handed to Sam Shields, a former cornerback sleeper from the Hurricane program.

- We are working on a few important stories which surround the North Carolina prospects we hope to have up in a few days.  As of now we can tell you cornerback Charles Brown and Ryan Houston are both returning to Chapel Hill for the 2011 season.  Sources from the school have also told us safety Deunta Williams has been on campus, walking around with a boot on the ankle he severely broke during the Tar Heels bowl game.  Though no confirmation, it looks as though it will be a while before Williams is 100%.   Sources did say tight end Zach Pianalto, who’s season ended in October after he fractured his right fibula, has completely healed.

-  We hear scouts were so turned off by the performance of Arkansas offensive lineman DeMarcus Love at the Senior Bowl that a number of teams now have his teammate, Ray Dominguez, rated higher on draft boards.

- No doubt one of the biggest winners coming out of the Texas vs The Nation game was IUP defensive end/outside linebacker Mike Gee.  The undersized college defensive end showed tremendous skill rushing the passer in the game and did enough during linebacker drills in the adverse weather conditions to make scouts think he can make a smooth transition at the next level to a variety of schemes.  Gee was not rated by scouting services coming into the season and did not receive a combine invitation yet looks like a solid late round pick.  We hear a number of 3-4 teams have shown an interest in him.