AUBURN, Ala. – The three former Auburn football players who will participate at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine can point out a rare part of their résumé.
“Contributed to a National Championship” is something that out of the 333 players invited to Indianapolis, only defensive end Corey Lemonier, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, tailback Onterio McCalebb and any Alabama Crimson Tide can boast.
However, the buzz around that trio of Tigers – along with other NFL Draft hopefuls in wide receiver Emory Blake and linebacker/safety Daren Bates – has been muted, in part because of Auburn’s dreadful 2012 season, just two years after raising the BCS crystal ball.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock did produce approving evaluations of Lemonier, Lutzenkirchen and McCalebb during a conference call Monday to preview the Combine, which begins Wednesday.
But he recalls two years ago, when he observed the Pro Days at Auburn and Alabama on back-to-back days. These were a few months after the Tigers’ famed 28-27 comeback from 24 points down to stun the Tide in Tuscaloosa, on their way to the national title.
“Alabama had a lot more talent. Auburn had Cam Newton,” Mayock assessed. “There was not a whole lot of talent running around on that national championship team. There really wasn’t. Alabama’s talent dwarfed them – I’m talking about from a two-deep perspective on offense and defense.
“So it doesn’t surprise me that we’re not seeing all those names at a high level right now.”
Mayock projects a second- or third-round selection for Lemonier, who was an SEC all-freshman pick that title season and first-team all-SEC in 2011 – both choices made by the coaches’ selections – but struggled the second half of his junior year. There are some draft services who view Lemonier as a high-second-round prospect, with an outside shot of slipping into the top round.
“Lemonier is an interesting prospect. I think his best football was probably his sophomore year, and maybe a little bit at the beginning of this year,” Mayock said. “Everybody knows he’s talented, but he hasn’t played up to what he should played at.”
Addressing Lutzenkirchen, a 2011 second-team all-SEC tight end recovering from hip surgery, Mayock said, “I like him a lot, I think he’s really solid.”
McCalebb is only the second SEC player to compile 2,000 rushing yards, 1,000 kick return yards and 500 receiving yards, and ranks as the NCAA’s third-highest rush average (6.37 yards per carry) among last year’s active players.
“McCalebb’s going to run fast. That’s what he does,” Mayock said. “He’s going to add return value, and he’s going to run real fast at the Combine and get people pumped up. But he’s probably a fourth- or fifth-round pick because that’s where those guys go.”
The Combine runs from Feb. 20-26, and fans can watch the action from Feb. 23-26 on NFL Network. Tight ends are featured Feb. 23, running backs on Feb. 24 and defensive linemen on Feb. 25.
The NFL Draft is April 25-27 in New York City.