SC's Ingram, Gilmore, Jeffery work out for NFL
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery hopes he's finally put the criticisms aside and changed his fortunes for next month's NFL draft.
The slimmed down, sure-handed Jeffery had a solid 40-yard dash performance and was among the main attractions for NFL personnel attending the school's pro day on Wednesday.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was on hand to watch Jeffery and other standouts, including defensive end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephon Gilmore during the workout at South Carolina's stadium.
The throng of people, many with timers, gathered around as Jeffery stepped up to run the 40, something he didn't do at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. While Jeffery said he didn't hear his time, Twitter posts from scouting services pegged the lanky, 6-foot-3 wideout in the 4.5-second range.
"I just tried to let everybody see what I've got,'' Jeffery said. "I gave it my best shot.''
Jeffery's future looked set last summer. He was heading into camp off a record-setting season of 88 catches for 1,517 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's college football preview and the only questions seemed to be by how many receptions would he surpass his old mark.
Jeffery was a certain top-five draft pick if he chose to leave, according to several preseason mock drafts.
Instead, Jeffery never found the form or production from 2010. He played at a huskier 233 pounds and was not the offensive focal point as the Gamecocks struggled to pass downfield.
It didn't help when Stephen Garcia, South Carolina's starting quarterback, was kicked off the team midway through last season. Coach Steve Spurrier went to a more ground-oriented attack behind less-experienced sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw.
Jeffery was spectacular at times - he was the Capital One Bowl MVP for his 51-yard Hail Mary grab before halftime that swung momentum in the Gamecocks 30-13 win over Nebraska - but still ended the year with just over half the catches (49) and yards (762) of a season earlier.
Jeffery worked hard since declaring for the draft in January and weighed 213 at pro day. He also put on his trademark show of catching nearly everything thrown in his direction.
Garcia was back at Williams-Brice Stadium to pass to his former teammate - Garcia was the Gamecocks starter during Jeffery's breakout 2010 season - who made several nice grabs including one deep in the right corner of the end zone.
Jeffery got a big smile, a handshake and several words of praise from Ryan, whose team has the 16th pick overall in April's draft.
Ryan "said I looked real good and just keep working hard,'' said Jeffery, expected to go in the NFL's second-round draft.
Plenty of NFL scouts came to shore up their high opinions of Ingram and Gilmore.
Ingram was a first-team All-American at defensive end projected as a top-10 pick next month. He's had a feature on ESPN's Sports Science and has been invited to New York City by the NFL for the draft.
Several scouts nodded approvals as Ingram finished off some defensive line drills.
"I just try and come out here and work for it. I don't try and focus on making myself money or all that,'' Ingram said. "I want to work hard and lay it on the line and I think the results will take care of themselves.''
Gilmore is an early entry cornerback who helped himself at last month's combine with a 4.40-second showing in the 40, third best among corners. He's also projected as a late first-round selection. He did not run Wednesday.
A humbled Garcia also was grateful the school allowed him to take part in pro day after his troubled college career. Garcia was suspended five times, finally dismissed for good when he failed a test for alcohol last October. Garcia had agreed to a zero-tolerance policy as a condition of his reinstatement from suspension No. 5.
Garcia said he's gotten his head straight in auditioning for keep his football career good. Garcia said he's gotten good feedback from NFL teams and hopes to catch on this spring.
"I've got my eyes on one goal and that's the next level,'' Garcia said. "We'll see what happens.''