For the first time that anyone can remember, UM Pro Timing Day -- aka the UM combine -- was rained out midway through today's event at Greentree Field on campus. A torrential downpour halted everything after eight players completed their 40-yard dash.
Players got their lifting and verticals done inside the weight room just before the downpour erupted.
The remainder of Pro Timing Day is scheduled for Friday, March 25th at 9 a.m.
What a disappointment for all those Hurricanes seniors who were training to be in optimum shape for running the 40 and doing outside drills on this day.
Many of them, though, such as wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and linebacker Colin McCarthy, did a lot of their work and running already at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Van Dyke ran a lightning-fast 4.28 second in the 40 in Indianapolis.
UM posted the 40 times. The fastest 40 among the ones that got done? A 4.39 run by former special teams player and reserve cornerback Cory Nelms. Nelms also had the best vertical jump -- 37 inches.
Tailback Damien Berry ran a 4.45 40, with Graig Cooper running a 4.6.
Defensive back Ryan Hill ran a 4.52, fullback Patrick Hill ran a 5.05, tight end Richard Gordon ran a 4.65, Kylan Robinson ran a 4.73 and Jared Campbell, Calais' younger brother, ran a 4.7.
The second best vertical jump was Brandon Harris' 34.5 inches
"It was a good turnout,'' said McCarthy, who said he kept all his NFL Combine numbers and the only thing he would have done Thursday was position drills. "Obviously it would have been nice to get out here and perform, but the weather didn't hold up. The best thing about this is everyone has two more weeks to prepare.''
> Former UM defensive end Calais Campbell, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals, said the UM event is more nerve-racking than the one in Indianapolis. "The combine everybody is in the stands, and it's just the other guys around. But when you're here, it's more personable. Everybody is around, especially in the weight room and everything. All these GMs and decision-makers are right there in front of you while you're getting ready to jump or getting ready to lift. The combine, everybody is farther away.''
Campbell said he was impressed with UM's future NFLers. "Brandon Harris, I feel like is one of the better corners in the league. I wouldn't mind having him on the Cardinals. We could use a little help. And Allen Bailey, he'll definitely turn some heads.
Campbell said he has met most of the UM coaches except for Al Golden -- "Everytime I go up there he's been kind of busy so I'm going to meet him eventually. One thing I know for sure is I'm glad they brought Art Kehoe back just because he's the only guy who has been here for all five national championships. Hopefully we can make it six.''
ANTONIO DIXON VISITS
Antonio Dixon, 6-3 and 325 pounds, entered the NFL as a free agent in 2009, and now is a defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. Dixon, who lived in homeless shelters as a child and has persevered in battling what was once a severe stuttering impediment, recalled his UM Pro Timing Day: "You never count anybody out,'' he said. "It is a little nerve-racking because it's the first time doing it here in front of all these scouts and coaches. But somehow I stayed calm and collected,'' he said, laughing.
JON BEASON ALL SMILES
Jon Beason, a star linebacker whose first season with the Carolina Panthers was in 2007, seemed to be having a good time on Greentree Field. "I absolutely remember this day,'' he said. "It was a very exciting day for me. I didn't have the best combine workout so coming out here and doing the drills again proved to be a big day. Guys get all bent out of shape about it, but they don't know that this is the best time of their lives, man. You know you're going to go, if you're one of those guys who's going to get drafted, and it's like a dream come true. This is what it's about for us. This is it. This is your last chance to show what kind of person you are to get a chance for people to actually meet you and show what kind of player you are.''
Beason said he met Golden and "he's a real sharp guy. I believe in him. I like the way his system is. He's very structured -- attention to detail and small things. I think that's what we needed to get over the hump. Obviously I'm a big Coach Shannon fan. I thought based on where he came into the program and where he left it, he did a good job.''
DONNIE SOL RETURNS
> And this, from former UM running backs coach Don Soldinger, who runs football camps all over the country: "This thing here is big -- it's big. A tenth of a second can mean a lot of money. A tenth of a second, a rep on the bench. Because they put a lot of stock in it. I think they should put more stock in 'Can a guy play?'''
> Other former UM players who attended the rain-shortened event: Willis McGahee, Jimmy Graham, Spencer Adkins, Dedrick Epps, Greg Olsen, Brian Monroe and former old-time greats Jim Kelly, Warren Sapp, and Bernie Kosar.
> Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio attended, as well as Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
> Canesport reported Thursday that 6-4, 202-pound Cordele (GA) Crisp County High wide receiver Jontavious Carter committed Thursday to the Hurricanes' Class of 2012. Carter's numbers in his only season of football this past fall: 49 catches for 650 yards and eight touchdowns.
-- SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN