Five former Huskers met with the media Monday morning in advance of Tuesday’s Pro Day at Nebraska. Running back Dedrick Mills, tight end Jack Stoll, offensive linemen Matt Farniok and Brenden Jaimes, and cornerback Dicaprio Bootle will all take part in individual drills and testing as they prepare for the NFL Draft.
With the lingering effects of COVID-19 shutting down this year’s NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, NFL scouts are flocking to various Pro Days to watch otherwise Combine-worthy players. Jaimes got one of those invites, which means all five guys can potentially benefit from the additional eyeballs in Lincoln on Tuesday.
They talked about what they’ve been working on, what they want to get done on Tuesday, and other Husker-related musings. Here are the highlights:
>> Speed kills. On Tuesday, it could breathe life. Dedrick Mills and Dicaprio Bootle are both squarely focused on their 40-yard dash times as Pro Day nears.
“It’s very important,” Bootle said. “I like to say that I ran my way into Nebraska and tomorrow morning I’ll run my way into the league.” Before arriving at Nebraska, he ran a 4.3 40 at a camp. This is a speedster we’re talking about here, Bootle just doesn’t like to boast.
But now is the time to show off and talk yourself up. When he was asked if there was a specific number he had in mind, it led to a brilliant exchange.
“I got a question for you,” Bootle said, flipping the script of these things around with a grin, “What do you think very fast, extremely fast is?
For a corner, probably in the 4.4s, right?
“Lower,” he said.
Shooting in the 4.3s?
“Yeah,” he said.
Bootle has a lot of the qualities a team looks for in a corner, he just happens to stand 5-foot-10. Flash some speed and it’ll go a long way.
Mills is sort of in a similar spot. Scouts, he said, know he can block and know he’s a physical kind of back, but they want to know how fast he can run. It feels a little like the situation Devine Ozigbo found himself in following the 2018 season. Big guy, bruising guy, started catching it out of the backfield at the tail end of his career, and now teams want to see him on the clock.
A lot of his training so far has consisted of quickness drills and catching the football, working on sideline catches and toe drags.
There are similarities, he says, between Nebraska’s offense and a few of the schemes he could be drafted or signed into in the NFL. Mills has worked on his patience while at Nebraska, but admitted he’s a one-cut kind of guy and “sometimes I can get kinda anxious and just go.” Still, he’s made strides to become an attractive NFL tailback.
Teams just want to see that speed.
“I’m not even going to lie to you right now, that is my main focus, just making sure I run this 40 well,” he said. “Every other drill I can care less for, I just want to show the scouts that I’m faster. That was the main concern.”
Look for a 4.5 target time.
>> Brenden Jaimes got a taste of what the next level was going to be like when he went down to Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl back in January. He was with the best of the best. Every rep had to count. “It was very valuable,” he said. In part because while there he met with every team.
“I played a lot of different positions at the Senior Bowl, I wanted to show how versatile I was and show that I could play at that level at any position the coaches asked me to be at,” Jaimes said. “I think I proved a lot in that sense.”
Projections for the 6-foot-6 left tackle are sort of all over the board. Jaimes is likely Nebraska’s most draftable player in this class, and he’s made a point in the months following the 2020 season’s end to give teams as many reasons as possible to take a shot on him.
Jaimes has heard he could be a team’s left tackle, a team’s swing tackle, or a guard/tackle kind of guy. “I’ve even worked on playing center the whole time I’ve been training just to show I can do it and if they need me I can do it,” he said. His ability to play fast off the ball and knock guys back has been highlighted as a strength, while scouts want to see a little more flexibility.
“I just want to hit the numbers I know I can hit,” he said of his goals for Pro Day. “As far as position drills go, just show how versatile I am and show that I can bend better, I can move better, I can explode off the ball better.
“I’ve earned my way to be in this position, nothing was really handed to me so I just want to show them that I’m gonna try to be the hardest-working guy on the field no matter what and just give it my all out there.”
>> A new guy, Matt Farniok is. He cut his hair, which he’d been growing all throughout college—donated it, actually, to Wigs For Kids—and got leaner. During the season, Farniok said he was playing at 325. Since, he’s dropped five pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of muscle.
A stronger core and a stronger back, that was the workout emphasis for Farniok.
“I’m not going to be walking down the read carpet, I’m going to be trying to sneak in the back door,” he said. “I’m fine with that. I’ve always prided myself on being a hard-worker, being tough, finding a way to overcome whatever is thrown in front of me.”
>> Remember Jack Stoll’s injury scare in the season-opener against Ohio State? It’s a distant memory for the tight end right now, it seems.
“I take pride in (the fact) I was told it would be a four-week recovery and I only ended up missing one game for it,” he said. “Playing with pain, that’s just football. I just got used to it and as the weeks went on I barely thought about my knee.”
The worst feeling, he said was simply the brace rubbing against his skin.
“The knee feels perfectly fine now,” Stoll said.
>> Several guys talked about their decisions to forgo the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. Each was equally interesting.
“At the end of the day, I felt I’m the best football player I have been and I felt like I was ready for that next challenge, ready for that next step, ready to step out of the comfort zone that was Nebraska football for me,” Stoll said. “I just felt like I was ready to take that next step.”
And that was pretty much the thinking of Bootle as well.
He talked with me a little more in-depth about that decision two Fridays ago on The Varsity Club Podcast
And then there was Jaimes, who made the decision to opt out of Nebraska’s final game of the 2020 season, a road contest with Rutgers during the Big Ten’s Championship Week.
“We’ve always been team players, and at some point in our careers we have to be able to do things that are best for us,” he said. “In my case, I didn’t even know that the Rutgers game was going to be a thing. I had made a decision and talked to my parents and some of the coaching staff about being done after the regular-season games. Unfortunately it was pretty poor timing with the Rutgers game. When my decision came out it was like 50/50 whether we were going to play or not.
“I felt like my best tape had already been played. I did everything I could for this university, I gave it my all for four years and that was that. It was time to move on.”
>> Pro Day is tentatively scheduled to begin at 11:30 CT Tuesday. Media will be in attendance and will be allowed to share photos and videos from the event, a pleasant surprise and break from the protocol of years past. So, fans will see a bit more from these five Huskers yet.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.