Former Buffs Nate Solder, Jimmy Smith Were Made For the NFL Combine

Posting this for Bob. - JW

Watch the NFL Scouting Combine Feb 24 - Mar 1, only on the NFL Network.

This time of year we always hear about NFL prospects who are bound to impress at the upcoming combine and move up the draft board. Scouts and those who analyze are quickly enamored with the biggest, the fastest, the most agile of the NFL combine.

It is no stretch to say two players who are poised to be those guys who make "extra money" this upcoming combine are former Colorado Buffs CB Jimmy Smith and OT Nate Solder. Both players are big, strong and athletic. Both had interesting paths to the position they are today and both will be under the micrscope at the combine to see if they can back up the hype.

Jimmy Smith has long been thought of having first round talent starting as a sophomore. He started all 13 games as a junior but didn't always show the consistency on the field needed to play in the NFL until his senior season. The past year saw Smith dominate the opposition, hardly ever getting challenged. He was named first team All-Big 12 by the coaches. But when the season ended, no one could have guessed his draft status would rise as much as it has. Possibly chalk it up to being on a bad team his five years at Colorado. The 6'2" 205 pound corner from Colton, California is currently flirting with a top 15 pick. NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has even mentioned that Smith might be the second best corner behind LSU's Patrick Peterson. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper mentioned that once scouts looked past the success of the team Smith played on, they realized no one tried throwing on Smith:

"Smith is a late riser, a good player on a bad team and a guy who got less attention partly because quarterbacks wouldn't put a ball near him this past season," Kiper wrote. "But the film is stacking up now, and it proves why NFL personnel are really high on him. The final test for Smith will be whether he grades out well in Indianapolis. Based on what I know, he will, and he offers the Lions the cornerback help they need without having to sacrifice on value at this stage in the draft."

Cubuffs.com notes that Smith only allowed 11 completions in the 25 games he started since starting as a junior. Smith's level of play as a senior and the 6'2 frame as a corner has scouts drooling. Many believe he has the physical ability to match the strength of top flight receivers like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Throw in the fact that Smith ran a 4.35 forty last spring and it is easy to see the increase in attention. If Smith does indeed run a sub 4.4 forty at the combine, look for his draft stock to stay in the top 15.

If you thought 6'2" 205 pounds with a 4.35 forty was impressive, wait until you see Nate Solder's workout numbers get published from the combine. At the senior bowl pre-week measurements, Solder blew the lid off the place which is hard to do as an offensive tackle. He was instantly labeled the most athletic looking player in Mobile. The 6'9" 315 pound offensive lineman isn't just your regular big body, though.

Going into the past season, ESPN.com ranked Solder as one of their "freak" athletes in the nation. See if these measurements qualify as a "freak". Remember, this is a 315 pound person. Solder has less than 7.5% body fat, he power-cleaned 415 pounds, hang-cleaned 473 pounds and can run a 4.88 forty and oh yeah, has a 32 inch vertical jump.  

F-R-E-A-K

If you have a chance to watch one session this NFL combine, it would be the offensive lineman. This could be one of the better workouts ever for a guy in the trenches, especially if he breaks a 4.9 forty at 315 pounds.

Solder gets his athleticism from his high school and early college days as a tight end. He started out catching passes but before his sophomore season, he added 30 pounds and moved to the offensive line where he started every game. Amazingly quick transition, another reason many admire his athletic abilities.

Solder came into his senior year labeled as one of the best lineman in the country. He had proved enough his junior year to be named for the Outland Award watch list and ended up as a finalist for the award honoring the best offensive lineman in the country. He was named first team All Big 12 and earned All-America honors as a senior where he was a consensus choice. According to the CU SID, he played 2,540 out of a possible 2,542 plays on offense his sophomore through senior seasons; of those, exactly 1,400 were called passing plays, and he allowed just five sacks those three years.

Solder is still considered a work in progress due to only playing left tackle for three years. He still has room for improvement but you can't teach what he brings to the table in terms of athleticism and feel for the game. He is also very intelligent, making the final 16 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy in 2010, also known as the academic Heisman.

Todd McShay also had great things to say about Solder after his first day of Senior Bowl practices:

On the other side of the ball, Solder continues to be dominant. The thing that's impressed me is how stong he's been at the point of attack and finishing. We knew about his size and natural feet, and he's been all those things, but he's been nasty this week and it's been good to see. There are no cheap shots, but a couple of times when he could have finished a play a little easier, he just finished the guy. He buried Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan (who has a first-round grade) on Monday, and he went on the second level to pancake Boston College LB Mark Herzlich on one play and Ohio State's Ross Homan on another.

More from cubuffs.com on Jimmy Smith and Nate Solder below:

Jimmy Smith: One of the top defensive backs in the country, he garnered first-team All-Big 12 honors from the league coaches (honorable mention from the Associated Press); he was only thrown at about 20 times in man coverage (allowed just one touchdown, by Texas Tech), and he did have five passes broken up, but he had no interceptions which likely hurt him when it came to All-America honors. Phil Steele's College Football and collegefootballnews.com also recognized him as a first-team Big 12 performer, and he garnered first-team All-Colorado honors from the state's chapter of the NFF. His teammates selected him as the recipient of the Dave Jones Award as CU's most outstanding defensive player. He started all 12 games at right cornerback, and was CU's defensive player of the week for the Hawai'i and Georgia games (five tackles in each game, and three touchdown saves among them). In the Hawai'i game, he had one of CU's plays of the year, chasing down a UH receiver from at least 20 yards from behind, saving a score (the Warriors failed to score on the possession. For the second straight season, he had the exact same tackle count of 70 (third highest on the team, with 52 solo) with five PBU's, four tackles for zero, a forced fumble, one recovery, and a team-best five touchdown saves. He had a season-high 12 tackles at Oklahoma (10 solo), including a third down stop, and had five or more tackles in each of the last 10 games. He was one of 35 players on the official preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award (did not advance), presented to the nation's top DB (won on two occasions by former Buffaloes). He was a preseason third-team All-Big 12 selection by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele's College Football; collegefootballinsiders.com tabbed him as a preseason honorable mention All-American. The third fastest player on the team with 4.35 speed in the 40-yard dash.

Nate Solder: Solder, one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy which will be awarded December 9, was a dominant force on the offensive line this fall.  A tight end his first two years as a Buffalo, he moved to tackle in 2008 and gradually worked his way into becoming one of the top tackles in the nation.  In grading out to better than 94 percent for the season (90 percent or higher in 11 of 12 games), he played every snap on offense (847), thrice had 18 knockdown/finish blocks (versus CSU, Hawai'i and Kansas State) and recorded a team-high 148 total.  He also had 10 touchdown blocks while allowing just two quarterback sacks and three pressures.  All 32 NFL teams have scouted the Buffaloes in 2010, and the general consensus is that he will be a high first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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