AUBURN, Ala. — The NFL combine has been in mind with everything Ben Tate has done at the Bommarito Performance complex in Miami the last month and a half.
The former Auburn running back’s daily schedule runs the gamut, from specific drills he’ll do in front of NFL scouts this week to full-fledged workouts to prepping for the barrage of questions he’ll be asked during the interview process.
“You know, this is a job now,” Tate said, “so definitely everything is focused all toward this.”
Tate and defensive end Antonio Coleman will be the Tigers’ two representatives at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis for the NFL’s scouting combine, which lasts from today until March 2. In that time they’ll be subjected to a seemingly endless series of drills, tests and interviews by more than 600 NFL personnel, including coaches, general managers and scouts.
While Tate has worked out in Miami, Coleman, a late addition to the original combine roster, has trained up the road at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, Fla.
Both have plenty to prove this week. ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said the 6-foot-1 1/2, 255-pound Coleman, who was strictly a defensive end in college, projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or an edge pass rusher in the pros.
“Speed and athleticism are going to be the key entities for him at the combine,” Kiper said. “It’s not the whole workout. If he can just define elements of his game that need to be strong, then if he does come through with that he can be a third- to fifth-round pick.”
Kiper said Tate’s draft status relies less on his combine numbers, projecting the running back to go anywhere in the fourth to sixth round.
He said not much differentiates the running backs in the draft, which include former SEC standouts Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss, Anthony Dixon of Mississippi State, Montario Hardesty of Tennessee and Charles Scott of LSU.
“In terms of Tate, it’s not necessarily about workouts,” Kiper said. “We talked about that earlier, identifying one area. At running back, the workout, unless you’re going to be a Chris Johnson (the Tennessee Titans’ all-pro back) and be in the elite speed category, running backs are going to drop regardless.”
Tate, who measures 5-foot-10, 214 pounds, doesn’t possess blinding speed, but he thinks his experience running out of an “I” formation offense early in his Auburn career and his ability to run downhill will translate well to the pro game.
“I think I have a great skill set for the NFL,” he said. “I’m confident in my speed. I think people might be shocked at how fast I am.”
Both Tate and Coleman have some experience dealing with scouts, having gone through the poking and prodding involved at last month’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, where Tate had three carries for 12 yards and Coleman made three tackles, assisting on a tackle for a loss.
“It’s definitely an advantage to have gone through that process a little bit,” Tate said. “I thought I performed really well. I think I showed that I was a complete back and one of the better backs there. I definitely think I proved that.”
Tate has also worked on expanding his brand name. He’s started pages on Twitter and Facebook. The latter has 13,014 fans, with videos and updates on Tate’s activities throughout the draft process.
His latest posts, naturally, have centered on mentally preparing for the combine, and with good cause, considering what’s at stake. Not that he’s nervous.
“You always try to go out and do your best,” he said. “You just try to keep that up. … I expect to perform well.”