In Tuesday's Statesboro Herald
Former Georgia Southern cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks joined McKinnon at the NFL combine on Saturday. Read about his experience in Tuesday's issue.
INDIANAPOLIS —When Georgia Southern upset the Florida Gators in Gainesville on Nov. 23, college football fans learned the name Jerick McKinnon.
Now that they know his name, McKinnon is hoping to turn some heads at this weekend’s NFL combine.
“I’m going to do all the drills, compete and hopefully put up some good numbers,” McKinnon said inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday. “I’m really banking on (Saturday) to put up some big numbers in the bench press.”
Each player at the combine, regardless of position, attempts to bench press 225 pounds as often as he can. McKinnon is hoping to have the most reps of any running back. He also expects to run faster in the 40-yard dash than some may expect.
“I know some people have me running slow, and I’m not going to throw a number out there, but just watch,” he said. “It’ll be a good time. I think I may shock some people.”
A converted quarterback, McKinnon is a tough runner who still needs to develop as a blocker. He struggled all week in pass protection drills at the Senior Bowl.
“I haven’t done much pass protection, and I need to get coached up on all the techniques, but it’s something I’m willing to do,” McKinnon said. “I think I showed I can put a hat in there and compete, but as far as technique, that’s where I can improve the most.”
While his hands may be a big question catching the ball, it is something he’s comfortable doing while admitting he needs to learn the nuances of running routes.
But carrying the football is where McKinnon shines. A strong, 5-foot-8, 209-pound bowling ball, McKinnon was a 1,000-yard rusher as a senior after running for over 1,800 yards as a junior.
“I love to make plays,” McKinnon said, citing his vision and speed as two of his strengths. “I can make defenders miss and feel like I have good balance and patience. Pressing to the line, I can make a cut and get north-south real quick.”
McKinnon ran for 125 yards on just nine carries in Georgia Southern’s monumental win at Florida last November.
“As an FCS team, you know you’re going to have one elite team on your schedule,” McKinnon said. “They had some injuries, and so did we, but we knew we had a chance to compete against them. We went in there and they had never seen our type of offense. We just took advantage of the opportunity and were fortunate enough to come out on top.”
McKinnon is one of two Eagles at the combine. He was joined in Indianapolis on Saturday when cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks arrived. Westbrooks will meet with the media on Sunday.
“We’re transitioning to the Sun Belt and this helps us get bigger on the national stage,” McKinnon said. Defensive back JJ Wilcox was at the combine last year and was a third-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys.
“That really got a lot of people into Georgia Southern,” McKinnon said of Wilcox. “More scouts are looking at the school now.”
As far as his own transition to the NFL, McKinnon realizes he’ll have to play special teams. He also believes his quarterback experience will help him and credited the Eagles coaching staff for explaining schemes well.
“They were really helpful in picking up coverages and blitzes,” he said. “I’ve got to give them credit, and I think it helps me to understand what everybody else does. When you have a guy who understands what’s going it, it’ll help make it an easy transition.”