Ryan Van Bergen draws rave reviews at Michigan football pro day; Kevin Koger limited by hamstring
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Ryan Van Bergen was lauded for playing through a painful ligament sprain in his foot during the Sugar Bowl. But as the euphoria from the BCS victory wore off, reality set in.
The injury was going to prevent him from being at full strength for his NFL workouts.
Van Bergen posted a 4.90-second 40-yard dash, a tremendous time considering he weighs 291 pounds and has been running at full strength for only about two weeks. That would have placed 39th out of 68 defensive linemen at last month's NFL Scouting Combine.
"I feel fantastic," Van Bergen told AnnArbor.com. "I think I upped my status a little bit. I only had two weeks to prepare, running-wise, but I came out here and pretty much had my best day ever.
"In the three-cone, I could have been a little better. I slipped a little bit, but still a respectable number. Otherwise, there’s not a single drill I’m disappointed with."
Van Bergen posted 31 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press. That would have placed 12th out of 45 defensive linemen at the combine.
After the workout, he said 10 to 20 teams spoke with him. That included an extensive chat with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who was the only head coach in attendance.
"He said I was very impressive," said Van Bergen, who will be a valued free agent if he is not drafted. "(Tomlin) said, 'You’re a five-tech, aren't you?' with these big ol’ eyes. I said, 'Yes I am, and I could be your five-tech.'
"I feel like I got to stay by the phone for the next 24 hours now, because a bunch of guys said they would be in contact."
Van Bergen has been working out with five former teammates at BarwisMethods, which is operated by former Michigan strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis. The lineman credited Barwis for helping to expedite his recovery.
Of course, he might have another secret weapon these days, too. Van Bergen, who nicknamed his long hair "Flow" during the season, has since cut off the locks. He now is sporting a buzz cut.
"It was a little painful to watch them sweep it up, but other than that, it was fine," Van Bergen said.
"At least it's aerodynamic."
Tight end Kevin Koger said in a text he was not able to run a 40-yard dash due to a tweaked hamstring.
That is a big blow for Koger, who said earlier in the week the 40 was his most important drill of the pro day.
"I just want to show everyone I’m faster than predicted," he told AnnArbor.com on Monday. "I think people have me around a 4.8 flat (in the 40-yard dash). I think that’s slow, personally, but there’s only one way to prove that and that’s to run faster."
Koger said he "no doubt" will be able to run a 40-yard dash for scouts before the start of the draft next month.
Although he couldn't run one Thursday, he was able to participate in the cone drill and run some routes. He, like the other receivers and tight ends, caught passes from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Koger posted 21 repetitions in the bench.
Steve Watson bounced from offense to defense, then back to offense in his five-year Michigan career. He suffered a knee injury as a freshman and three coaching changes.
But he returned to his native tight end this past season, and played well. He even recorded a touchdown catch against Northwestern.
His odds of being drafted are close to zero, but Watson made a serious case at the pro day to be picked up as an undrafted free agent.
Watson ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash and posted 26 reps in the bench press. Both would have placed fourth among tight ends at the combine.
"I shocked myself with the 40-yard dash," said Watson, who is working out at BarwisMethods and living with Van Bergen and center David Molk. "I had no idea I was going to run that fast. But 4.60, that’s the fastest I’ve ever run. And, hopefully, I never have to run one again."
Watson said the Steelers and Denver Broncos spoke to him after the workout, and expects to hear from more teams in the coming days.
His father, who goes by the same name, was a Pro Bowl receiver with the Broncos from 1979-87.
"They all said they need to watch film, so we’ll see what happens in the next few days," Watson said. "I just know I did really well, and I hope to get a shot. And with what went down today, I feel like I'll get one.
"Things are looking up."
Watson said the pro day went well enough for him that he no longer will compete in a regional combine in Cleveland on Saturday, as he had originally intended.
Mark Huyge is quiet by nature, and his game is much the same. But he also, quietly, had a solid season as Michigan's starting right tackle.
Now, he's putting on weight in hopes of catching on with an NFL club, probably as an undrafted free agent.
Huyge, who played last season at around 295 pounds, is now up to 311 thanks to an improved diet. He now is eating a lot of chicken and fish, after eating poorly for most his life.
"I was eating frozen pizza three times a week," he said. "I cut that out all together. There was a lot of late-night food runs and all that, too, because of school."
Huyge is majoring in naval architecture and marine engineering, a demanding field of study never previously undertaken by a Michigan football player. He is finishing up his final two classes now, then will graduate next month.
But during the season, that kind of course load meant little sleep -- and sometimes, no sleep, such as the all-nighter he pulled just before the San Diego State game.
"That was really, really difficult, I’m not going to lie," Huyge said. "But now, I'm getting eight to nine hours of sleep every night. I don't think there's been one night in which I've gone to bed later than 1 (a.m.). And man, do I feel good."
Huyge has hired an agent, Brad Leshnock of BTI Sports. Leshnock also represented former Michigan offensive lineman Adam Stenavich, who went undrafted before playing for four NFL teams from 2006-10.
Defensive tackle Mike Martin remains Michigan's top NFL prospect, projected to be taken sometime in the first three rounds. But since he did well at the combine last month, he elected to compete in only positional drills at the pro day. Receiver Junior Hemingway, a projected late-round pick, did the same. ... Center David Molk, who had said he hoped to run at pro day, was not able to do so. He weighed in and spoke to teams, but did not participate in drills.
Full list of participants
The list of 16 participants, according to the school:
Tony Anderson, Marell Evans, Kelvin Grady, Junior Hemingway, Brandon Herron, Mark Huyge, Zac Johnson, Kevin Koger, Mike Martin, David Molk, Martavious Odoms, Tom Pomarico, Michael Shaw, Ryan Van Bergen, Steve Watson and Troy Woolfolk.