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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Versatility: Three Aggie players look to take their next step in the pros

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Photo by Jonathan Taffet

Junior RB Devon Achane (6) runs for a touchdown during A&M’s game vs. LSU at Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (Jonathan Taffet/The Battalion)

“The more value you have and the more versatility you have, the better it’s going to be,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.

The ability to play in multiple positions is one of the most valuable traits a player can possess in the NFL. And on March 28, not just one but three Aggie football players were able to showcase their skills and abilities to play in multiple areas on the field.

This past Tuesday, all 32 NFL teams were present for the 2023 Texas A&M Pro Day. Due to the NFL annual league meeting on March 26, no NFL head coaches were present in College Station. Fortunately, according to A&M athletics communications, among the NFL personnel present were four defensive backs coaches, two special team coaches and two running backs coaches. 

This event allowed NFL prospects to complete workouts they missed out on or felt “they didn’t meet personal expectations” at the NFL Combine that started on Feb. 23 and ended on March 6. 

One of the three players looking to revamp their times in the timed drills from the combine was former Aggie cornerback Jaylon Jones.

“Definitely wanted to come out here and redo the 40-yard dash,” Jones said. “I didn’t meet my expectations at the combine. I wanted to come out here and show my skills. Improve in different areas. That’s why I came out here to do this.” 

After running a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, Jones improved upon this time by .17 of a second and finished with an official time of 4.40. This time would place him eighth on the list among prospective players at his position entering the 2023 NFL Draft on April 27. 

Regardless of speed, Jones’s 6-foot-2 height and above 30-inch wingspan will boost his draft stock and set him up for a long and successful career, Fisher said.

“In time, you always look at corners in the back end of their careers,” Fisher said. “The guys that have size like that could go back and even be a safety on the back end of their careers because maybe they lose half a step here and there but are physical enough to do those things… I think he can be a special team guy as well because he is so long and physical. Whether you are covering a kick or blocking a kick … Size matters.”

The Pro Day also allowed scouts and coaches to work in more one-on-one situations with the prospects and run position-specific drills they didn’t get to see in Indianapolis, at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Former running back Devon Achane, the second Aggie player present, who spent some time with Dallas Cowboys run game coordinator Jeff Blasko and New York Giants running backs coach Jeff Nixon.

However, these coaches already know what Achane can bring to the table in terms of speed and quickness. In the combine, Achane finished first among running backs in the 40-yard time as he clocked in at 4.32 and finished second in the 10-yard split at 1.51.

What the coaches — especially Blasko and Nixon — wanted to see was his ability to catch the ball and run routes. 

“In this league, you can’t just run the ball,” Achane said. “You have to be able to catch out the backfield. Thankfully, I’ve experienced playing receiver, running routes, caught from inside in the slot and outside. That feels good to show that I can do both.”

What separates Achane from other running backs in the draft, Fisher said, is his versatility on offense and his ability to play special teams as well. 

“He’s a matchup problem,” Fisher said. “Not just because of his speed, but because of his athleticism and natural ball skills down the field. Devon is going to be a three-down guy and people don’t realize that. The way the NFL is now with the situations and diversity, he is going to excel in the game up there.”

The last Aggie in attendance was former Aggie defensive back Antonio Johnson who, despite finishing in the middle of drills at the combine, is as versatile as his teammate on the offensive side of the ball. 

When he first arrived in Aggieland, Fisher plugged the East Saint Louis native at Nickel because of his ability to tackle and guard the quick receivers in the slot. 

“Not many safeties can play the second level, what I am saying is down in the box and be physical, then have the ball skills to play on the top end in the third level,” Fisher said. “The safeties that [are drafted] high like himself, some guys are coverage guys and some are tackle guys… he has the ability to do both.”

The main difference between the Pro Day in 2022 and the Pro Day this season was that, on Tuesday, it took place outdoors and featured high-50-degree weather and cold wind. 

This event started with the broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard dash on the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band Drill Field, as well as the 5-10-5 shuttle, three-cone drill and bench press. After, the NFL personnel, players and media moved to Coolidge Practice Fields to finish the day with position drills. 

However, the change of scenery and weather didn’t affect or influence the players’ performance, Johnson said. Just being able to work out with his teammates once more was all he could ask for.

“Being out here with my guys was really my dream,” Johnson said. “No matter if it’s indoors or outdoors or in the rain, sleet or snow I was able to work with my guys. We did a good job and we performed well… We play in all types of weather and field conditions. You have to be prepared for whatever.”

The three Aggies from the 2022 season were joined by three A&M graduates who one time wore maroon and white uniforms. 

Connor Blumrick, a 2019 and 2020 Aggie letterman finished his career at Virginia Tech before taking part in the A&M Pro Day. Along with him was Cameron Buckley, who played in College Station from 2017-19 and finished his career at Jackson State, and Clifford Chattman, who was also an Aggie letterman in 2018 and 2019 and finished his career at UTSA.

“The transfer portal, there are some good things about it and there are some tough things about it,” Fisher said. “They left for opportunities and I am never going to deny someone opportunities … These guys gave their heart and soul here … I hope all those guys had a great workout here and it was great to see them all.”

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