Smith Brings Out Best in Stoneburner on Pro Day
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jake Stoneburner has a lot of people to thank for his flashy performance at Ohio State’s Pro Day on Friday.
He should probably start with Urban Meyer and Mickey Marotti, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Stoneburner can now add a former Heisman Trophy winner to that list after Troy Smith made the former Buckeye tight end look like a legitimate pro prospect on a day where he really needed it.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I can roll out of bed and throw spirals, what can I say,” teased Smith, who captured the school’s seventh Heisman Trophy back in 2006 while leading the Buckeyes to a perfect 120 regular season.
Smith showed off his big arm, throwing a few 60-yard touchdown passes to Stoneburner, one of 14 players working out for NFL and CFL scouts at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus.
Stoneburner did most of the work, of course. Unlike the NFL Combine, where he looked slow and out of place, the 6-5 senior out of Dublin stole the show in front of 36 scouts from 28 different NFL teams.
“The sky is the limit for the kid,” said Smith, who played with guys like Ted Ginn Jr., Santonio Holmes and Anthony Gonzalez during his three years as a starting quarterback for the Buckeyes.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“To be 6-5 and have the same speed as everyone else on the field. He’s legitimately just as fast as me. I think the world of him and the Atlanta Falcons need another Tony Gonzalez. Why not Jake Stoneburner?"
Stoneburner ran a 4.65 at the combine in Indianapolis last month. While that number was the third-best among tight ends, it didn’t do him any favors in his attempt to improve his stock after an up and down senior season in Columbus.
“The combine looks glamorous on TV, but talk about anxiety,” Stoneburner said shaking his head.
“Running down that tunnel with every GM, scout and coach watching you is something you can’t prepare for. You put a lot of pressure on yourself to do well because you’re with the best of the best.”
He said he didn’t sleep much in the nights leading up to his combine performance, and it didn’t help they completely psyched him out right before he stepped up to the line in Indianapolis.
“Right before you go to run your 40 the guy goes here’s the money pit, get yourself some money right now,” Stoneburner said.
“I’m trying to prepare my start and you’re throwing that at me. The adrenaline almost was too much.”
Back in his element, with former classmates like Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and J.B. Shugarts on hand, Stoneburner turned in a reported time 4.52 on Friday. It was almost the same time turned in by defensive backs Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson, both speedy guys who reportedly ran 4.5 flats on OSU’s pro day.
“That is not a dime a dozen at his position,” said Troy Smith, who started games in Baltimore and San Francisco, the two Super Bowl teams from this past season.
“That’s what the game is changing to. The Jimmy Grahams, the Vernon Davis’s, the Jake Ballards – give my Ohio State guys some love. But hopefully he showed some guys today he can really run.”
It certainly didn’t hurt Stoneburner having a former Heisman winner throwing him the football on such a critical day. The two started working together this offseason at the suggestion of former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who recruited both Smith and Stoneburner to play for the Buckeyes.
“That guy’s incredible. I was running as fast as I can 40 yards down the field and didn’t have to take one single less stride,” Stoneburner said of Smith, who was known for his accuracy at Ohio State.
“He hit me right in stride. He definitely made an impression today because he looked flawless out there.”
Stoneburner also credited Smith with helping to build his confidence after a senior season in which he never quite lived up to the expectations of being a playmaker in Urban Meyer’s new offense at Ohio State.
“I can see why he won the Heisman, see why he was a captain,” Stoneburner said.
“He motivated me better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Having him out there definitely made me look better.”
Fragel, Hankins Looking Good
Stoneburner wasn’t the only Ohio State player who impressed the scouts on pro day. Some of the big names people came to see didn’t run the 40-yard dash on Friday, but Reid Fragel and Johnathan Hankins both looked impressive doing position drills.
Fragel showed off his footwork in pass protection, but it was his physique that really caught everyone’s attention. The 6-8, 300-pound offensive tackle took over his shirt for the workouts and he looked like he was ready to jump out there with Stoneburner and catch some passes from Troy Smith.
Teammate Johnathan Hankins also looked good on Friday. The only Ohio State guy projected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft next month, Hankins said he is currently at 320 pounds after coming to Columbus at 350 three years ago.
Boren Turning Heads
He wasn’t the most physically impressive guy at Ohio State’s pro day on Friday, but Zach Boren proved once again he is willing to do anything he has to do to get on the field at the next level.
After moving from fullback to linebacker during his senior season, Boren was back on offense Friday working with Stoneburner and former walk-on wide receiver Taylor Rice as a pass-catcher.
He wanted to do some defensive drills, but the coaches talked him into focusing on offense and special teams. He also worked out as a long-snapper for the NFL scouts in attendance, and while his 4.8 40 won’t blow anyone away, his intangibles make him an intriguing prospect.
“In terms of a guy changing positions, I don't know that I've ever seen anyone do any better than that,” Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau told The-Ozone.
“I was amazed at the transition that he made and how natural he made it.”
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