Pro Day Tour '14: Southward Shines

No safety at the Scouting Combine even approached Dezmen Southward's workout at Wisconsin's pro day.

Wisconsin's Dezmen Southward might not be the best safety in this year's class.

There's no doubting that he's the most athletic.

Southward was not allowed to test at the Scouting Combine due to a faulty diagnosis that suggested he had a fractured C-5 vertebrae. Southward sought a second opinion and Dr. Bob Watkins — the same surgeon who operated on Peyton Manning and Sean Richardson — cleared Southward.

That made Wednesday's pro day workout a pivotal event for Southward, whose viewed as a late-round prospect or perhaps a free agent. He responded with a staggering workout that certainly caught the attention of the Packers, who have a major need at safety. Southward was told he ran his 40-yard dash between 4.31 and 4.38 seconds and hit 42 inches on his vertical.

The fastest safety at the Scouting Combine was Florida State Terrence Brooks, in 4.42 seconds. Only four safeties were even under 4.50. His vertical leap was a whopping 4 inches more than any other safety at the Combine. Only Vanderbilt's Kenny Ladler (10 feet, 7 inches) did better than Southward's 10-5 in the broad jump.

"I think there were a lot of unanswered questions," Southward told reporters, including Badger Nation. "‘How fast is he? How explosive is he? Can he flip? Can he go up and get the ball?' I think a lot of those questions I was able to answer."

Southward (6-1, 212) started at safety for the Badgers but also was used at nickel, with the coaches taking advantage of his size to match him up against the likes of BYU's Cody Hoffman. He was a two-time honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. Southward played in a school-record 54 games. In his two seasons as a starter, he intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and had 11.5 tackles for losses.

The production didn't exactly match the athleticism. That made the Combine a big deal. When he wasn't allowed to go through drills, he said he "balled my eyes out."

"(Watkins) definitely told me I should have been out there running (at the combine), which really angered me," Southward said. "But at the end of the day, the light at the end of the tunnel means I don't have a fractured neck. So, that's the most important thing. I'm excited about that and I'm ready to move forward."

Wisconsin's best defender, inside linebacker Chris Borland, had a disappointing Combine from an athletic standpoint with a 4.83 in the 40 and a 31-inch vertical. On Wednesday, he jumped 35 inches and felt he was faster in the 40, though he didn't have any times. At 6 foot and 248 pounds, Borland is not an imposing player on paper. However, he was incredibly productive. He finished his career ranked sixth all-time at Wisconsin in total tackles (420) and set a Big Ten record with 15 forced fumbles.

"I play the game the right way. I'm a smart player. I make the guys around me better. I play fast," Borland said. "As far as off the field, I think that's a strength of mine being a leader, a locker-room guy, a high-character guy. I can definitely help the team from that aspect."

Receiver Jared Abbrederis and running back James White excelled in position drills. Abbrederis can play outside and in the slot, and White — while perhaps not a starter — has three-down ability. Tight end Jacob Pedersen improved his 40 time from 4.89 at the Combine to the mid 4.7s, he said. Nose tackle Beau Allen, a Scouting Combine snub, put up 30 reps on the bench and had a 31-inch vertical.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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