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Five Alabama standouts to watch at NFL Combine

Tony Brown (#2) celebrates big play for Alabama's defense in 2016 versus Washington
Jason Getz - USA TODAY Sports

Media personnel for the National Football League will be all over Lucas Oil Stadium next week for this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. While 336 participants make up the event, the goal in mind is to impress scouts, general managers, owners and head coaches in terms of trying to secure a favorable draft status.

For the University of Alabama, it leads all schools in the Southeastern Conference and Division I with 14 players heading to Indianapolis, Ind. 

Guys like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Da’Ron Payne and Rashaan Evans are thought about as high draft values. Fitzpatrick is regarded by most analysts as a top-five pick, while Ridley, Payne, Evans and Ronnie Harrison have been viewed as first to second round names. 

Alabama football head coach Nick Saban expects for all his former players to excel; however, there are five names in particular that could really dominate this stage. Of the individuals listed below, four were five stars prior to arriving in Tuscaloosa from their respective high schools. 

Tony Brown, Cornerback 

Off-field problems kept Tony Brown from reaching his full potential.  

He was a physical defender when he arrived and displayed much of that skill set at times on special teams. The 6-foot, 198-pound cornerback was pegged as the Crimson Tide’s emotional leader in its secondary, and after post-game interviews in College Football Playoff matchups versus Clemson and Georgia, one cannot deny the element Brown provides this program. 

He ended last season with 31 tackles and recorded a pivotal interception off Bulldogs’ quarterback Jake Fromm in the national title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

With the work he puts into building his body, Brown should breeze through all on-field drills at the combine. He was clocked in the 4.3s throughout his time at Alabama and may even put in the best number of reps on the bench press. Contrary to popular belief, Brown is highly intelligent. 

His interviews during the CFP were entertaining, but if he can deliver a business savvy mindset, different franchises will buy into taking a chance on the native Texan. 

Robert Foster, Wide receiver 

Injuries and frustration robbed Robert Foster of what should have been a productive career at Alabama. With all mishaps aside, he did finish his redshirt senior year with 174 receiving yards and a touchdown on 14 catches. Tide fans witnessed the pure speed Foster has in a game against Colorado State, where he grabbed a 10-yard pass and turned it into a 52-yard sprint for a score. 

Hailing from Pennsylvania, Foster has balance and body control in the slot or outside, vertical target. At 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, he’s a much-improved route runner with strong hands. 

In competing with talent such as Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, Deon Cain of Clemson, James Washington of Oklahoma State and Anthony Miller of Memphis, Foster has to find ways to capture the attention of scouts. 

Da’Shawn Hand, Defensive end 

He played behind quite a few marquee names to start his career, and though a knee injury (medial collateral) tried to derail him last season, Da’Shawn Hand managed to have a good senior campaign. He chimed in with 27 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. 

Despite missing three games, Hand assisted a Tide defense that was firm against the run in the playoff. He did some good things in pass rush drills at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, but is listed at No.18 for defensive end prospects in this draft class via CBS 2018 NFL Draft Tracker.  

Bo Scarbrough, Running back 

After punishing teams down late in 2016, Bo Scarbrough didn’t have the same effect on schools a season ago. Many thought he would return to form following a leg injury against Clemson, but it was Damien Harris that stole the show. Scarbrough, a native of Tuscaloosa County, Ala., ended with 596 yards and eight scores, yet questions concerning his health from the issue did surface. 

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Scarbrough possesses the size to be a factor at the next level but has to improve his running style between the tackles. He has a tendency to run too upright at times and likes to bounce plays outside too quickly, rather than taking two-to-three-yard gains. 

Levi Wallace, Cornerback 

He rose from being a walk-on, to becoming one of the biggest stars in Alabama’s secondary during his senior season. Levi Wallace honored his father to a tune of 48 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a team-high 15 pass breakups, three interceptions and a touchdown in 14 games. 

Despite battling the flu, he was credited with a couple of pass breakups in the CFP – including one against Clemson that resulted in a pick-six for linebacker Mack Wilson. He was exceptional in man coverage throughout the year, but Wallace’s play in zone schemes is suspect in moments. 

Improvement in this area at the combine bodes well for him. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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