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NFL Combine: TE Cornelius Ingram has much to prove

GAINESVILLE -- The NFL Scouting Combine begins today, Feb.18, and ends on Tuesday, Feb.24. It's a big week for a select few. Some players will one day be millionaires based upon this week and some will see their dreams of playing professional football come to an end. 

Four Gators -- Percy Harvin, Cornelius Ingram, Jason Watkins and Louis Murphy -- were invited to this year's NFL Combine. In case you were wondering, the Combine is a job fair for college players hoping to be employed by NFL football teams. If you want to know what players do at the NFL Combine, then CLICK ME! In addition to that fun stuff, players will also be weighed, measured, questioned and tested by NFL scouts, general managers, coaches, directors and doctors.

Every year there are one or two players whose measurable skills stand out among their peers. Last year it was Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jake Long (Michigan Wolverines), whose 11-inch hands and 35 3/4-inch arms wowed all. Then there was Tampa Bay Bucs receiver Dexter Jackson (Appalachian State) who ran a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. It was enough for the Bucs to draft him in the second round.

Ingram This year, tight end Cornelius Ingram [PICTURED] could be one of the players with the most to gain (or lose) based on his measurable skills. Ingram tore an anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee before the 2008 college football season. Since that time, he has been rehabilitating and training for the NFL Combine.

Ingram has a lot to prove his week after missing the 2008 season. NFL general managers are always on the look out for pass-catching tight ends who create match-up problems for opposing defenses. Has Ingram fully recovered from his injury? Is he worth the risk? Scouts will watch intently as Ingram races from point to point in the three-cone drill, which tests a player's ability to change directions. How will Ingram's reconstructed left knee respond? If Ingram can clock one of the fastest 40-yard dash times among tight ends this week, then his draft stock will rise considerably.

Like Ingram, receiver Percy Harvin will be judged by his measurable skills this week. Exactly how tall is Harvin, after all? He is listed at 5-11. If Harvin measures out at 5-9, then his draft stock could take a hit.

Receiver Louis Murphy (6-2, 205) never was the Gators' first option. Will his combination of height and speed overshadow his lack of production at the collegiate level?

Offensive tackle Jason Watkins is an intriguing prospect. He won't be the most experienced and polished offensive lineman at the NFL Combine but there is something to be said for a guy who only played two years of high school football only to emerge as the Gators' best at his position on a national championship team. Can Watkins prove that his raw athleticism is enough to warrant a draft pick?

Oh, and if you're keeping score at home, and we know you are, UF has more players at the NFL Combine this year than Florida State and Miami combined. Florida State sent two players to Indianapolis and only ONE Miami Hurricane was invited. South Florida will have two players at the NFL Combine this week. Other instate schools: Central Florida (1), FIU (0), Bethune-Cookman (0) and Florida A&M (0).

Among Southeastern Conference schools, LSU (9 players) and Georgia (8 players) will have the most representation at the NFL Combine. Here's the complete SEC breakdown. Alabama (5), Arkansas (2), Auburn (3), Florida (4), Georgia (8), Kentucky (3), LSU (9), Ole Miss (6), Mississippi State (1), South Carolina (6), Tennessee (6) and Vanderbilt (1). 

-jo-

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