App Trail: Pro day a mix of beefed-up LBs, blazing 40s and punter passes
BOONE – From cornerback Mondo Williams running fast times in the 40-yard dash to punter Bentlee Critcher showing off a strong right arm as the primary passer, the Appalachian State football program’s pro day was visually striking.
Nothing stood out quite like Kennan Gilchrist’s sculpted physique.
A productive, athletic performer as a three-year starter at outside linebacker, Gilchrist has increased his weight from 215 pounds to 230 since the Mountaineers’ season ended in mid-December. With scouts from 22 professional teams in Boone on Monday, Gilchrist showed off the progress he’s made in transforming from an underweight linebacker to a 6-foot playmaker with more strength and muscle definition.
He was credited with 26 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press and a time of 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“At the next level, you can’t play linebacker at 215, so I already knew that,” Gilchrist said. “I had heard from several scouts that they felt like I was a little small, a little underweight. I did the things I was told, put the weight on and ran fast. I did what was asked of me.”
A year after defensive end Ronald Blair was a fifth-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers, App State has no surefire candidates to be picked in the NFL draft, which begins April 27. Doug Middleton went from being an undrafted safety in 2016 to signing a free agent contract and scoring a touchdown during his rookie season with the New York Jets, so the tougher path isn’t necessarily an impossible path.
Middleton was in attendance Monday as Gilchrist, Williams, Critcher, running back Marcus Cox, offensive lineman Parker Collins, safety Alex Gray, linebacker John Law, tight end Barrett Burns, defensive end Dez Reed, defensive end Nate Norwood, offensive lineman Jamie Collmar and linebacker Toronto Thomas worked out in the Sofield Family Indoor Practice Facility.
Gilchrist, Cox and Collins are among the outgoing seniors who received invitations to appear in postseason all-star games. The on-campus pro day also provided exposure to less-heralded players such as Williams, who intercepted four passes last season. With two shots at the 40-yard dash Monday, he ran the second one in 4.37 seconds.
“I was just trying to stay on the hash (mark) and run the hash as fast as possible, stay in a straight line,” Williams said.
The 40 was an important drill for Cox, who rushed for a school-record 5,103 yards in his App State career. An accomplished and skilled receiver out of the backfield, he said scouts stressed the importance of getting in and out of cuts with more explosiveness.
Cox ran a respectable 4.58 in the 40 and had 13 reps in the bench press.
“They say on game film that I have the game speed, and they wanted to see if I could translate it,” Cox said. “Coming in, that was the biggest thing I was worried about. Bench, being able to get in the 10 to 15 range, those were the two biggest things I heard. I felt fast.”
Collins, Collmar, Norwood and Fernandez all had at least 24 bench-press reps, with two negated attempts leaving Collins at 25, and Gray tested well in areas such as the 40-yard dash (4.51 seconds) and broad jump (team-leading 10 feet, 3 inches). A linebacker with 4.7 speed in the 40, Law moved quickly with team-leading times in both shuttle drills.
After the versatile Critcher punted and kicked off for scouts, he served as the primary quarterback for drills involving receivers, defensive backs and linebackers. That role is normally filled by an outgoing college quarterback or pro scout, but App State didn’t have any senior quarterbacks, and Critcher has no trouble passing for one with his mechanics, arm strength and tight spirals.
“Mike said it’s either going to be a scout or it’s going to be Bentlee,” Burns said of Mike Sirignano, the team’s strength and conditioning coach. “I was just hoping he was going to say Bentlee because he’s one heck of an athlete.”
Called upon to execute several fakes in actual games, Critcher did complete two of his three career passes for 50 yards.
“I haven’t thrown since probably the last game of the season,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a little sore, but it’s all right."
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