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Future Knights in the NFL: Rutgers Football Pro Day 2019 recap

Hilliman and Hampton shine, others stay on radar of NFL teams.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Rutgers
Hilliman improved his stock most at Pro Day.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

After the first five spring practices for the current Rutgers Football squad, the out of eligibility Knights of the gridiron showcased their physical abilities along with a few friends in the Rutgers practice bubble on Friday morning.

Let’s take a look at who participated, how they did, and who improved their chances of collecting an NFL (or CFL or AAF, etc.) paycheck.

QB: Giovanni Rescigno, Rob Nittolo, Chris Laviano, Colin McGovern (Stetson)

Rescigno: The parts of three-year starter (6’2”, 233 lb.) at quarterback failed to impress with a 4.85 40, but the 7.21 three cone was better and 4.21 20 yard shuttle would have placed 5th among QBs at the combine. Maybe he should have been playing tight end or even fullback? The positional drills were key and from the clips he looked a lot better than some expected. His ability to run held him back from developing as a passer in actual game action. TRENDING EVEN.

Nittolo: Rob was a good soldier after transferring to RU. At 6’0”, 204 lb. you could see why he needed to take an indirect route to the Big Ten. That said, he exploded for a 35.5” vertical, 9’11” broad jump (3rd for QB at combine), and 4.62 40 yard dash (also 3rd for QB at combine) which explains how he dominated at lower levels. If he has his Italian down, maybe he plays over there. See the tweet below for the crazy vertical that would have placed first among QBs at the combine. TRENDING UP

Laviano: Yes, I don’t know who was most shocked to see his name on the list of participants we received on Thursday. His physical skills were decent for a QB, 27.5” vertical, 9’4” broad, 4.95 40, 7.17 3 cone, 4.50 20 yard shuttle so it comes down to positional drills. As disappointed as fans were in his 2,247 yards in 2015, the passing attack hasn’t been close since. The bigger issue for NFL scouts may be his gypsy status since leaving the banks. TRENDING EVEN

Colin McGovern out of Stetson also participated.

RB: Jonathan Hilliman, Josh Hicks

Hilliman: Jon hopes to follow in the footsteps of Gus Edwards yet again. This time the former Boston College star registered a 4.44 40 which would have been second at the combine among running backs. 5’11” and solid 216 lbs. made it even more impressive along with 20 bench reps. His broad and vertical were near top 10, and his 20 yard shuttle would have placed fifth, tied with speedster Myles Gaskin. He surely played his way onto draft radar which is no surprise to those who saw his highlights and gaudy stats at BC. TRENDING WAY UP.

Hicks: Josh came back for a second go around after seeing his former teammates Robert Martin and Gus Edwards reach the NFL in 2018. When he got decent blocking, Hicks made plays all four years and was extremely effective in short yardage. Despite being just 5’8”, he is down (yes down) to 195 lbs. yet still put up 16 in the bench press. Josh achieved a 4.45 40 and his second attempt was still a 4.46, which would have been second at the combine among running backs. His 36” vertical would have been 6th (explains that INT v Army) and 10’3” broad jump 7th. He could play in Canada, but really could dominate in the AAF. TRENDING UP.

WR: Damon Mitchell, Vance Matthews

Mitchell: “Duwop” was back for a second year after participating last year. Perhaps with several Scarlet Knights playing in the AAF he hoped to have another shot. The 4.77 40 and pedestrian times in the 3 cone and 20 yard shuttle reiterated why he was never able to get separation as a wide receiver, but packed plenty of punch as a special teams warrior. TRENDING SLIGHTLY DOWN.

Matthews: Vance participated in 2017, but not last year. He was always a team player so it’s possible part of the reason he came back was to help out his former quarterbacks by running routes and catching a few balls. He could not match his astonishing 4.49 40 and finished with a 4.65. TRENDING DOWN.

TE: Jerome Washington

Washington: Injuries kept RU’s most well rounded offensive player (and best Uber driver) on the sidelines for much of 2018. After leading the team in receiving in 2017 coupled with 202 yards on just 11 catches last year, the receiving skills are clearly there. And don’t forget about his butt catch against Nebraska. Jerome checked in at 6’2”, 241 pounds, though he always looked bigger in pads. 18 bench reps and a 4.75 40 were not elite, but middle of the pack, as were his other times. The big question with him is health, and if healthy, NFL teams will surely give him a look. TRENDING EVEN.

OL: Tariq Cole

Cole’s body of work as a three year starter at left tackle and associated game tape are more of a tell than anything he could do on pro day. At 6’5”, 324 pounds he surely has the size to play any of the five offensive line positions in the NFL. His 27 bench press reps was good, but not elite. The 7.85 three cone was pretty good for his size. Keith Lumpkin who preceded him as a three-year left tackle was with Indianapolis and Buffalo, so Tariq will definitely get a look, it’s not every day you find Power Five left tackles who started three years in front of quarterbacks who missed ZERO games due to injury. TRENDING SLIGHTLY DOWN.

DL: Kevin Wilkins, Muhammed Wainright, Darnell Davis, Kahzin Daniels (Charleston)

Wilkins: Kevin arrived at Rutgers with as much potential on the defensive line as anyone since Nate Robinson. He really flashed at the end of his redshirt freshman season and was a starter ever since at three positions across the defensive line. His 5.21 40 made it crazy to think he played defensive end at times at 6’2”, 301 lb. That said his 24 bench press reps is probably below what he hoped, but his 7.35 in the three cone would have been 7th among defensive linemen at the combine. His 4.44 in the 20 yard shuttle would have been 11th among d-linemen also, so you have to think he gets picked up as a UDFA or at worst a tryout. Big guys with good athleticism don’t grow on trees. TRENDING EVEN.

Wainwright: The 5th year senior walk-on from Georgetown played himself into a role on the two-deep. He is a solid 6’3”, 241 lb. and put up reasonable numbers across the board. His 4.95 40 yard dash is more of an interior lineman and the lack of elite athleticism is what prevented him from beginning his career at a Power Five school. Teams are always looking for bodies on the line and guys get stronger for many years past age 23, so he could surely emerge in the AAF as his next stop. TRENDING EVEN.

Davis: The former walk-on was a participant for the second consecutive year and weighed in at 239 lb. His overall numbers were not above average for a defensive lineman as his tweener status was what made him earn it every step of the way. TRENDING EVEN.

Kahzin Daniels out of Charleston also participated.

NOTE: Three-year starter Jon Bateky did not participate.

LB: Deonte Roberts, Trevor Morris

Roberts: The captain is 6’1”, 230 lb. which is exactly the current NFL linebacker size prototype. 17 in the bench was serviceable as was his 4.68 40 yard dash. The rest of his numbers were middle of the pack for a linebacker, so it will all come down to what scouts think of him as a Mike linebacker. He started for three years and had plenty of solid moments like his kick block touchdown run against Kansas where he would not be denied. Someone in the NFL will at least offer him a tryout with an outside chance of being an undrafted free agent right off the bat. TRENDING EVEN.

Morris: Like his fellow three-year starter in Roberts, Trevor was similar at 6’0”, 222 lb. He did 18 in the bench and managed a 4.69 40 yard dash. His other numbers were just a tad below Deonte’s and more speed is required to play as an outside linebacker. The wildcard is if a team thinks he should be manning the middle with his gaudy tackle numbers (9th all-time at RU) and offers him a tryout. Trevor has plenty of game tape as well and may have saved his best game for last at Michigan State. If he was a little faster the CFL would surely come calling, so it will be interesting to see what happens with him. TRENDING EVEN.

DB: Kiy Hester, Saquan Hampton, Blessuan Austin, Isaiah Wharton, Darin Peart (Stony Brook)

Hester: Kiy played in the NFLPA collegiate bowl which gave him extra exposure to other top prospects and now claims to be fully healthy for the first time in a while. He measured at a solid 5’11, 209 lb. which explains the punishment he was able to inflict in the middle of the field, though his 12 bench press reps was less than he would have liked. His overall numbers were not bad (including a 4.67 40 yard dash), but did not boost his stock in any way. The biggest takeaway is that when he was at his best at the college level, Kiy was an absolute missile from either safety spot and has no glaring deficiency that would expose him at any level of football. TRENDING EVEN.

Hampton: The parts of four year starter (6’1, 206 lb.) improved his stock at the combine and by all accounts did even more Friday. He didn’t even attempt to improve on his 4.48 40 time, broad jump, or bench. Instead he did do a 36.5” vertical (would have been 6th at the combine among safeties), 6.98 3 cone (would have been 6th), 4.28 20 yard shuttle, and 11.47 60 yard shuttle (would have been 4th). Word is that he was smooth in position drills, too. (see tweet above). The potential the coaches saw in him is peaking at the right time for him individually and he will probably be drafted as early as the 4th round, but more likely 5th or 6th. TRENDING UP.

Austin: The recovering star (6’0 1/2”, 199lb.) was at the NFL combine but only participated in the bench press. He elected to run the 40 and clocked a 4.65 and 4.71 which is disappointing, but somewhat expected as he has not fully recovered from injury. It’s probably good enough for teams to give him a tryout and see what he looks like in a few months, but due to the injury risk is less likely to get drafted. TRENDING SLIGHTLY DOWN.

Wharton: The four-year starter measured 6’0”, 200 lb. His 4.64 40 yard dash didn’t do him any favors as a cornerback, but he made up for it with a 6.89 three-cone (would have been 9th at combine among DBs), and blazing 11.28 in the 60 yard shuttle which would have been the best at the combine by any player regardless of position. If he could have run a slightly better 40 this would have improved his stock because what could scouts see in positional drills they don’t have in 48 starts of film? TRENDING EVEN.

Darin Peart out of Stony Brook also participated.

Specialists: Nick Johnston, David Bonagura, Ryan Anderson

Johnston: The walk-on Johnson faced a tough challenge to get on the field at RU, sitting behind one of the best punters in the nation last season. He used his lack of height to produce an incredible 6.92 in the three cone drill. Any shot at a look at the pro level will come from the interpretation of his performance in positional drills. He is a punter after all, though faced stiff competition in Ryan Anderson Friday. TRENDING EVEN.

Anderson: Ryan was back for a 2nd year in a row and only participated in positional drills, but athleticism (former college hoops player) is a non-issue. How he slipped by the NFL, CFL, AAF, etc. is still crazy to me. He’s also a lefty which has at times been a huge asset, so I expect NFL teams just seeing his face again to be a plus in his quest. TRENDING EVEN.

Bonagura: David was back for a 2nd year in a row. He just did positional drills and with kickers, they often improve their leg strength well into their 20s, even early 30s. David checked in at 249 lbs. so it’s not for lack of muscle. TRENDING EVEN.


  1. The number of contributors who as recently as a year ago seemed to have an outside shot of being drafted from this class is quite high. This is good for their individual futures in football, but somewhat disappointing that with this much talent in the senior class, RU did so poorly in the win column.
  2. The performances in these underwear Olympics are not just for the NFL these days. The CFL has proven fertile for Scarlet Knights more in recent years and the AAF signed people like Paul James and Myles Nash who participated in recent RU pro days despite less than impressive statistical performances as seniors.
  3. Defensive backs will be missed. Twice in recent memory Rutgers lost so many and both times it was a bitter pill to swallow for quite some time. None of these guys are absolute studs, but the four of them together made for a solid group with no glaring deficiencies whatsoever. Communication and consistency is critical in the defensive backfield to avoid breakdowns and for the most part they did that. Hopefully they all can play on Sundays. Happy trails!

What’s next?

Local Pro Days. NFL teams like the Jets and Giants ill host local pro days where some of these top performers could get another chance to impress scouts.

After that, April 25 begins the NFL draft. As soon as the draft concludes on April 27, eligible undrafted players can sign free agent contracts.

May 3-6 and possibly May 10-13, NFL teams can hold rookie mini camps.

Rutgers Pro Day flashback: 2018, did it even matter?

A year ago, I wrote, “No one really blew the scouts away out of nowhere.” Perhaps that was wrong or maybe the bodies of work prior were enough to earn tryouts. From there Janarion Grant earned an opening day roster spot while Sebastian Joseph was drafted. Robert Martin was a Giant all year and Gus Edwards became a starter for a playoff team in Baltimore. Myles Nash and Darius Hamilton have gotten burn in the AAFC. Anthony Cioffi made plays in the CFL.