Belichick, top Alabama prospects among pro day spectators
By JOHN ZENOR
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama's pro day featured some prominent figures in spectator roles, including NFL head coaches, highly rated prospects fresh from the combine and a former Southeastern Conference head coach expected to join the Crimson Tide staff as an analyst.
Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne primarily watched their teammates work while a third projected first-round pick Calvin Ridley ran pass routes toward the end.
Besides NFL coaches like New England's Bill Belichick, also on hand was ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who was sporting Alabama jacket. The prospects weren't the only ones preparing for a new gig.
Tide coach Nick Saban says the school is still going through the hiring process for Jones as an analyst. Jones was fired last season by Tennessee
"I don't know where that is," Saban said. "We have issues that we have to go through to be able to hire somebody from another school and I haven't gotten a report on where that is right now. We are interested in him being a part of our staff."
As usual, plenty of teams are interested in hiring former Alabama players, too.
Head coaches in attendance included: Belichick, Tennessee's Mike Vrabel, Detroit's Matt Patricia, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin. All 32 teams were represented, including a half-dozen general managers.
Most of the top prospects either just watched the on-the-field activities or did only position drills in addition to meetings with team officials since they had just returned in the past two or three days from the combine in Indianapolis.
Ridley ran routes with former Tide quarterback Blake Sims throwing to him. Linebacker Rashaan Evans, a potential first-rounder, and defensive end Da'Shawn Hand were among those doing position drills.
Ridley wasn't altogether pleased with his combine performance despite running a 4.43 40. He is still projected as likely the first wide receiver to be drafted.
"I didn't have a good combine, not like I wanted to," Ridley said. "But I'm very happy right now. I know that I'm going to be in a great position and I'm going to be all right."
He wanted to show on pro day "that I can come out here and win and catch the ball and get up field and make plays. I just want to let them know that I can run routes. I'm going to get open."
Ridley reminded Sims of his own favorite target at Alabama, Amari Cooper of the Oakland Raiders.
"I see that he's got speed," the former Tide quarterback said. "When I saw Calvin running down that field, I thought I saw No. 9."
Center Bradley Bozeman got his first chance to perform for NFL scouts since he didn't get a combine invite. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times and showed off for NFL types a slimmed-down 6-foot-5, 296-pound frame, down 32 pounds from the season.
"They have their doubts about my athleticism or whatever, but I think I make up for that with my on-the-field ability and just all the intangibles that I bring to the table," Bozeman said.
The upcoming quarterback competition between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa was another hot topic in post-workout media interviews.
Hurts is a two-year starter but Tagovailoa led the Tide to a comeback overtime win in the national title game .
Saban has indicated he might look at playing both quarterbacks next season, and both Sims and Ridley like the idea.
"They're going to find some way to get both those great football players to be playing and helping this team," Ridley predicted.
Sims said their different playing styles present preparation challenges for defenses. But he figures his old coach will make it work.
"Coach Saban, he's the GOAT so he's going to make sure we do the right thing," he said.
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .
Updated March 7, 2018