MSU holds small but productive Pro Day as it looks to continue NFL Draft streak

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Following Michigan State’s first spring scrimmage of the season, the Spartans had their annual Pro Day Friday with scouts from nearly half of the NFL flooding into the Duffy Daugherty Building looking at potential players to add to their squads.

“We’ve had 28 players drafted here and numerous players signed free agents over the course of these last 11 years, so there’s a path to the NFL here,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “I thought our guys did a nice job out here today. It was well represented.”

Just five Spartans participated in the day’s events, which is the fewest Dantonio has ever had in his 11-year tenure in East Lansing. Brian Allen, Chris Frey, Demetrius Cooper, Gerald Holmes and Brett Scanlon were among the five participants showcasing their skills. Allen was the lone Spartan to attend the NFL Combine and deferred participating in many of Friday’s drills. He did, however, run through some lineman drills.

Of the five Spartans who participated, most NFL scouts came to check out what Allen brings to the table. As mentioned above, Allen showed nothing new to the 18 scouts that he didn’t showcase three weeks ago in Indianapolis.

Brian Allen

Allen is one of the more highly touted centers in the draft, rated in the top-10 for centers by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Three weeks ago at the NFL Combine, Allen measured in at 6-foot-1, 300 pounds and was one of the top performers when it came to the bench press test. Allen pumped out 225 pounds 27 times, which was good for eighth-best among offensive lineman at the combine. Allen has committed to working out in Arizona and his durability is what separates him from the others in the entire class. Allen started in all 13 games for MSU in 2017 and has appeared in 51 career games, starting in 38.

“They saw me run and do all that stuff at the combine, so there’s really no purpose of doing it again,” Allen said. “I’ve been setting up some workouts here in the next couple of weeks to keep moving forward and getting to the end of April.”

Gerald Holmes

Holmes has to be the biggest NFL wildcard out of the five who took the field today. Carrying the ball 79 times for 298 yards and one touchdown in 2017, Holmes played a pivotal role in the team’s win at Michigan last season and at Ohio State back in 2015.

Holmes had the most impressive Pro Day of the five, surprising many of the scouts with his athletic ability. The big 6-foot-1, 231 pound tailback out of Flint recorded a 10’8” broad jump, which would’ve been tied for second among running backs at the NFL Combine. He also posted a vertical jump of 35 inches.

Holmes has the potential to be a solid backup in the NFL and his physical, bruising running style may land himself on a practice squad at the very least.

“I wanna get drafted,” Holmes said. “I’d love to get drafted, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m not gonna hold my head down.”

Chris Frey

Frey is a guy who’s been doubted about his football potential his whole life. He was being dubbed a “MAC” guy coming out of high school, yet he proved those skeptics wrong as the senior captain was fourth on the team with 55 tackles and four sacks in 2017.

Frey isn’t the quickest mover and because of that, had a difficult time dropping into pass coverage this season. He did, however, put up 18 reps on the 225-pound bench press test, tying Big Ten counterparts Jack Cichy and Josey Jowell. He also recorded a 33-inch vertical jump, which ties Jewell for 13th among linebackers who participated in the combine.

Frey’s speed issues and technical skills aren’t eye-popping NFL lures, but his work ethic and game motor may find him on a team with a similar role that former MSU teammate Riley Bullough is playing for the Buccaneers.  

“I’m excited for what I was able to show today,” Frey said of his performance at Pro Day. “This was the biggest interview of my entire life. It’s been something I’ve been dreaming for since I was very, very young.”

Demetrius Cooper

Cooper is a guy where, just looking at him, you can marvel at the amount of potential he could have at the next level. Cooper appeared in all 13 games this year, tallying 29 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss after seeing a drop in snaps with Kenny Willekes breaking onto the scene in his place.

Measuring in at 6-foot-6, 249 pounds, Cooper had a rather pedestrian Pro Day. He logged just 10 reps on the 225 test and a below-average 28.5 inch vertical jump.

Cooper has had some off-the-field issues while at MSU, which may be something that keeps him off an NFL roster. He’s got the physical traits to blossom into a solid edge rusher, but in the meantime, he will most likely go undrafted, and in a league where teams are always needing defensive ends, he could have a chance to be claimed in free agency. 

“Whoever wants to take a chance on a kid from Chicago, I’d give them my all,” Cooper said on wanting a chance to be drafted. “I’m gonna work my best to open up somebody’s eyes.”

Brett Scanlon

The Western Michigan transfer had as good a Pro Day as a place kicker could have. At 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, Scanlon surpassed his defensive end teammate and pushed an impressive 13 reps on the 225 test. He also matched Cooper with a 28.5 inch vertical jump.

Scanlon averaged 60.5 yards per kickoff this season for the Spartans and also had 14 touchbacks on the year.

Kickers are indispensable in the NFL, and in a league that has little patience for mediocre special teams, they always have a chance to land on a team. Scanlon will have a chance to work his way around the league and find a team. The CFL option for the first couple years is never a bad route to go.

Michigan State will have its annual Green vs. White Spring Game on April 7, with kickoff set for 5 p.m. The Spartans open up the 2018 season on Aug. 31 when they welcome the Utah State Aggies to Spartan Stadium. Kickoff for the season opener has yet to be announced.