Terps try to cut it in NFL meat market Poked and prodded, players await draft

April 18, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Clarence Jones says he has been poked, prodded, measured and sampled just about every week since the University of Maryland's football season ended in December.

"Just like a piece of meat," said Jones, a 6-foot-6, 277-pound senior offensive tackle.

Jones, along with Maryland quarterback Scott Zolak, wide receiver Barry Johnson, outside linebacker Jack Bradford and offensive tackle O'Neil Glenn, are the top Maryland prospects for the National Football League draft on April 21.

Since the Terps' 34-34 tie with Louisiana Tech in the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl in December, the five have played in all-star games, worked out for numerous pro teams and attended the February scouting combine in Indianapolis.

They haven't had a rest.

"I just try to go about my business as normally as possible, because you really don't have any control," said Johnson, 6-3, 201, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection who had 34 receptions for 629 yards and four touchdowns last season. "They call, say they want you to work out, and you try to do it. They are investing a lot of money, so you pretty much do whatever they want. The ironic part is that you're doing all this work just to get an opportunity to try out. The bottom line is you still don't have a guarantee."

The combine in Indianapolis was the big NFL audition.

All 28 clubs were represented, some by their head coaches, and each club had several physicians examining prospects with everything from tongue depressors to X-rays machines.

"You walk in there, and, at first, I was kind of in awe," said Glenn, 6-2, 283, who probably will play guard in the NFL. "You look up inside the arena, and there's [San Francisco 49ers coach George] Seifert and [New York Giants coach Bill] Parcells looking down on you. And then there's all of these All-Americans out there, and you realize they're no different from you."

Not at the scouting combine, anyway. Besides physicals, all players are tested in the 40-yard --, the broad jump, vertical jump and numerous agility drills. Some even got a chance to block, pass or catch, but no tackling.

"If there is something to be found wrong with you, they will find it," said Johnson. Jones was found to have a heart murmur, which caused him to miss part of the combine, but another doctor determined the condition was not serious and won't prevent him from playing.

"At first, I was shocked and very disappointed. I didn't know what was going to happen," said Jones, who was selected to the All-East Coast Athletic Conference Division I first team. "Yeah, I was angry until I found out everything was going to work out."

Zolak and Glenn thought they were impressive.

But not one official had an official word.

"It's hard to tell from these guys," said Zolak, 6-5, 220. "You don't know where you're going to be drafted or what. They say a lot of things, but nothing that's concrete."

Almost every pro team has come to College Park to work out Zolak, who threw for 2,590 yards last season, his first as a full-time starter. The Giants, San Diego and Los Angeles Raiders supposedly are interested. Glenn and Jones also have drawn a lot of pro attention, especially from the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams, with Bradford and Johnson getting only modest looks.

"I feel very comfortable, and I'm just glad they come out to see me," said Zolak. "Let's face it, pro football is not an 8-to-5 job. And it's better than working in the real world."

Jones said: "These workouts take more out of you than you think, but it's something you have to deal with, I guess. Sometimes, it's a pain."

Several scouts have been impressed with Zolak's enthusiasm and last season's performance, especially because he started for only one season. They also like his size and arm strength.

Randy Tyson, a scout for the Los Angeles Rams, said: "He's a big, strong kid, and, for a one-year starter, has a lot of leadership ability and athletic talent."

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicts Jones to be a fifth- or sixth-round pick with Zolak going in the eighth, ninth or 10th round. Bradford, an undersized linebacker at 6-1, 225, but who had 92 tackles last season, is projected by Kiper as a late-round pick or free agent. Kiper said Johnson, because of his lack of speed, probably will sign as a free agent, as will Glenn.

"Clarence is the big man at Maryland, because there aren't too many tackles out there his size who are good athletes," said Kiper. "On a very good day, he can take out the quickest defensive end in the game. Whatever happens, none of the Terps plans to be sitting by the phone on draft day. Zolak said he probably will play golf. The others said they will go about life as usual.

Almost.

"I won't be going job hunting till this is over," said Johnson. "Why go job searching? When you do, you want to make a commitment. That's hard to do when your heart is somewhere else and especially when you can catch a few balls for money."

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