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College athletes from 4 local schools to participate in NFL Combine this week

By Paul Swenson, | Posted - Feb. 27, 2019 at 9:05 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Over 300 players will report to the NFL Combine this week, each one eyeing an opportunity to increase their stock before the NFL draft.

The list of players attending the combine includes several local college players, including six from the University of Utah, and one each from BYU, Utah State and Weber State.

Cody Barton, Jackson Barton, Marquise Blair, Matt Gay, Chase Hansen and Mitch Wishnowsky will represent the Utes, while Sione Takitaki of BYU, Dax Raymond of Utah State, and Iosua Opeta of Weber State will be in attendance at the combine.

The combine runs through Monday, with each athlete grouped by position. Each group participates in tests and drills for NFL coaches and scouts as they prepare for the NFL draft, which begins April 25.

The first group, which includes offensive linemen, special teams athletes including kickers and punters, and running backs began registration and medical testing Tuesday. The group will participate in other tests, measurements and media availability on Wednesday and Thursday before conducting on-field drills Friday.

Utah’s Barton, Gay and Wishnowsky and Weber State’s Opeta are all included in the first group that began registration on Tuesday.

Of Opeta, NFL analyst Greg Zierlein wrote: “Opeta will need to add more mass for his move inside to guard, but he does possess some natural strength if he can play with better bend to open up his leverage. … Scouts believe he has a chance to get drafted late.”

The second group includes quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends – including Dax Raymond of Utah State. This group will begin registration Wednesday and finish with on-field drills Saturday.

“Raymond is a capable athlete but might not have the attributes needed to uncover against safeties and nickel linebackers on the next level.” Zierlein wrote, “Raymond has the ability to compete for a roster spot in camp but needs to find an area to stand out in if he wants to stick long-term.”

Group three includes defensive linemen and linebackers — featuring Barton and Hansen of Utah and Takitaki of BYU. Group three will begin registration Thursday and conduct on-field drills Sunday.

Speaking of Takitaki, Zierlein wrote: “He covers up for a lack of speed and instincts with a hard-charging style that leads to feast or famine tape at times. … His playing style is tailor-made for special teams which could be his ticket into a backup linebacker spot at the back-end of a roster.”

The last group, defensive backs, will begin Friday and finish with on-field drills Monday. Utah’s Marquise Blair is included in this final group. According to NFL analysts’ pre-combine grades, Blair is the highest rated player of the nine locals participating in the combine.

"Athletic, full-throttle prospect with the mindset of a linebacker in a free safety body. Blair plays the game with an aggressive field demeanor that fuels his passion to race into the action, ready to strike on sight.” Zierlein wrote. “He’s long and rangy in coverage, and embodies the mindset that defensive coordinators want from their units."

Coverage of the combine can be seen on NFL Network beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday with the first set of on-field workouts.

Paul Swenson

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