ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Campus workouts will be key for ex-Cats

2010-03-12T00:00:00Z Campus workouts will be key for ex-CatsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 12, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Mike Diaz isn't on anybody's "big board." He wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He hasn't hired an agent.

The former Arizona Wildcats' left tackle knows today is his one shot to make an impression on NFL scouts.

Diaz and 18 other former UA players will be weighed, measured, timed, poked and prodded during pro timing day on campus.

Scouts from all 32 teams will gauge which Wildcats have pro futures.

"Hopefully, I'll be decent enough for them to give me a shot," Diaz said. "Right now, it's pretty much a mental deal. I'm just trying to get my mind right so I can go out there and perform at the highest level I can."

Three UA seniors - tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Devin Ross - are expected to be taken in April's draft.

But since Gronkowski, Mitchell and Ross all attended the combine last month, they aren't expected to do much today. Ross will run the 40-yard dash, while Mitchell is expected to participate in the three-cone drill. Gronkowski, a potential first-rounder, will hold his own pro day March 27.

Today's drills mainly mark a chance for the lesser-known players to stand out. Participants range from three-year starter Cam Nelson and veterans Sterling Lewis and Xavier Kelley to special-teamer Orlando Vargas and walk-on Haig Abnous. Arizona's players have been buzzing about running back Nick Booth, who has the size - but not necessarily the résumé - to compete for a roster spot.

"I think we've got a lot of players that have a chance to make teams, late-round guys and free agents," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "I think we have some really promising seniors. They'll have to test well and do something; if they can do that, I think they'll enhance their possibilities."

The Wildcats are taking their one chance seriously.

Nelson and other players have been following a strict diet and training regimen since January. Fast food has been strictly forbidden, as has drinking alcohol and partying. Their only vices are water (1 1/2 gallons a day) and sleep (eight hours a night).

"A lot of us didn't get the opportunity to go to the combine, though we felt like we should have. We're going to take advantage of the opportunity that's in front of us," Nelson said. "Hopefully, something works out."

Call it the Nate Ness scenario.

Ness, a former Arizona safety, starred at last year's timing day. He wasn't drafted, but ended up landing a spot on two NFL rosters last fall. Ness is expected to compete for playing time in the Miami Dolphins' defensive backfield next season.

Any of Arizona's draft-eligible seniors would be happy to follow Ness' lead.

"I'm just like Nate and those guys," Nelson said. "I'm a hard worker. I'm going to listen and do whatever the coach asks."

THE PARTICIPANTS

Nineteen players, including four who played their last downs with Arizona in 2009, will participate in today's pro timing day on campus. TE Rob Gronkowski will hold his pro day March 27.

2010 draft class

DB Haig Abnous, LS Jason Bertoni, OT Mike Diaz, HB Chris Gronkowski, OG Herman Hall, DB Corey Hall, LB Xavier Kelley, LB Sterling Lewis, WR Tyler Lyon, DT Earl Mitchell, S Cam Nelson, S Brandon Tatum, LB Vuna Tuihalamaka, WR Terrell Turner, LB Orlando Vargas

2009 draft class

WR B.J. Dennard, DB Marquis Hundley, LB/HB Brandon Lopez, QB Willie Tuitama

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