Carolina Panthers

NFL Scouting Combine: Florida CB Hargreaves hasn’t let stature limit him

Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves (1) celebrates after he intercepted a pass to secure the Gators’ 28-20 over East Carolina late in the second half of the Birmingham Bowl.
Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves (1) celebrates after he intercepted a pass to secure the Gators’ 28-20 over East Carolina late in the second half of the Birmingham Bowl. AP

Former Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is not a big guy, but he talks a big game – and usually backs it up.

Hargreaves, a coach’s son and a top-10 draft prospect, pronounced himself the nation’s top corner before his final year in Gainesville. And though Gators teammate Jalen Tabor said in November he was the country’s top corner, Hargreaves hasn’t backed off his own bold statement.

“I said I was the best corner in college football,” Hargreaves said Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I had to live up to that. I thought I did.”

Hargreaves, whose father has been an assistant at South Florida, Houston and Arkansas, collected seven interceptions and 17 pass breakups his finals two years of college. The knock on him is his size: Hargreaves measured 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds at the combine.

But Hargreaves said his matchups against wideouts like Odell Beckham Jr., Amari Cooper and the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5) prepared him well for the NFL.

“At the end of the day it’s all about competing. Height, size – it doesn’t matter,” Hargreaves said. “When you go against a guy like Kelvin Benjamin, there’s not much technique you can use. You’ve got to compete.”

Three things we learned

▪  DE Carl Nassib was 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds when he arrived at Penn State. He weighed in here at 277 and measured 6-6 7/8. “They just couldn’t give me 6-7,” he joked. Nassib says healthy eating – “a lot of chicken” – helped him add weight and develop into one of the nation’s top pass-rushers. Former Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien was among those who doubted Nassib’s pro potential. “A lot of people did,” he said.

▪  Ohio State QB Cardale Jones was in the midst of a great morning, and then he pulled his hamstring. The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder has a lot to prove here after he lost his starting job last season. He was off to a good start Saturday, posting a 36-inch vertical leap and a 4.83-second 40. But he pulled his hamstring on his second 40 and did not participate in the throwing drills. He’ll have two weeks to heal before Ohio State’s pro day March 11.

▪  Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard, whom the Panthers have followed closely this week, had a great day Saturday. He ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash and tied for the best vertical of the receivers at 41 inches. He could be a starting slot receiver early in his career.

By the numbers

12 Pounds Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland dropped recently using a low-carb diet to get himself lighter for combine drills.

4.32 The 40-yard dash time, in seconds, of Notre Dame WR Will Fuller, making him the fastest wideout among the group that ran early Saturday.

32 Reps of 225 pounds on bench press for Appalachian State’s offensive lineman Ronald Blair, who could be gone by the end of round two.

Observations

▪  Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander may have been the best media interview of the week. He spoke with passion and said to his detractors, “I don’t talk trash. I speak facts.”

▪  Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg didn’t have a good day on the field throwing to receivers. Hackenberg had a lot of accuracy issues, and the quarterback many had as the best before the college season started didn’t help his falling grade.

▪  There was a hot mic on the NFL Network set Saturday that caught someone calling North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz the “next former Browns quarterback.” It could have been worse.

They said it

“Both scenarios sound pretty awesome. So awesome.” – Nassib when asked whether he’d prefer playing with or against older brother Ryan, a backup QB for the Giants.

“He just said it’s a business, you gotta work at it. It’s a job that you never fully understand, fully know it and fully have all the answers to. You just gotta go out there and work.” – N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett on the advice he got from Russell Wilson.

“Today I was at 232. I’m not really worried about that. I usually play at 235. I just really didn’t have a big breakfast today.” – Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee on what he weighed in at Saturday.

What’s next

Sunday’s highlight: Defensive linemen and linebackers go through the 40 and their positional drills at Lucas Oil Stadium. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman will be keeping an eye on a defensive tackle group considered one of the deepest in years.

Combine on TV: Beginning at 9 a.m., NFL Network.

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