Cole Beck’s 40-Yard Dash, Defensive Tackle Trio Highlight Relatively Light Virginia Tech Pro Day

Specialist Cole Beck missed most of the 2023 season with a shoulder injury, but he was able to participate in Virginia Tech’s pro day Wednesday. (Ivan Morozov)

Cole Beck brought a Blacksburg High track singlet to Virginia Tech’s pro day Wednesday, giving half a mind to run his much-anticipated 40-yard dash in Bruins blue and gold as a lark and to represent his hometown.

He ended up leaving it in his bag, opting, like most of the other Hokies participating, for a sleeker, aerodynamic, shirtless approach. 

Scouts clocked the speedster Beck in the low 4.3-second neighborhood with his 40 — readings on a few stopwatches ranged from 4.28 to 4.32 — a time that would leave most players doing cartwheels. But for an ACC track champion like Beck, who sought at least a 4.25, it wasn’t quite his best.

“I wouldn’t say a disappointment, but I would say not good enough,” said Beck, who wasn’t exactly in peak form, having only trained for five weeks since being cleared from a shoulder injury during the football season. 

“I wasn’t sure if I would even have enough time to get to pro day, so to even be able to come out here and compete and go through everything without being injured, feeling good, ran fast and jumped far, jumped high, it was decent.”

Overall, it was a relatively light pro day for the Hokies, who had eight players in attendance and only six who participated in drills. 

Beck, a specialist who did running back and receiving drills Wednesday and plans to pursue a full-time track career if nothing hits with football this spring, was joined by defensive tackles Pheldarius Payne, Mario Kendricks and Norell Pollard, safety Luke Bussel and long snapper Justin Pollock in doing drills for pro scouts in Tech’s weight room and indoor facility. Safety Nasir Peoples and linebacker Alan Tisdale were present but did not do any of the events. 

It’ll likely be a light year in the NFL Draft for the Hokies, with so many of their top-end prospects deciding to come back to school for 2024, though none of the seniors on the roster improved his stock as much during the 2023 season as Payne, who reached double digits in tackles for a loss with 10 and registered four sacks. 

Despite coming off an Achilles injury and switching positions, sliding inside to tackle, Payne’s 90.5 defensive grade on Pro Football Focus was the highest on the Hokies and third of all interior linemen nationally.

The D-tackle pushed it a little bit too much at pro day, though, tweaking a hamstring in his first attempt at the 40 and pulling up in the 20-yard shuttle before wrapping up his day.

While Payne, who’s trained in Greensboro at Proehlific Park, a facility founded by former NFL receiver Ricky Proehl, would have liked to back up his film with solid testing numbers, he hopes his on-field results speak for themselves.

“I’m not a numbers guy, personally,” he said. “I just wanted to show what if on film is in person too. …  I’m just a player, really.”

Kendricks, meanwhile, had a solid day in his testing. Measuring 6 feet, 295 pounds, he had 27 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical, a 7.2-second cone drill and a 4.4-second shuttle. 

Most impressively, he clocked a 4.76-second time in the 40, scooting enough for a big man to draw some oohs and ahhs from onlookers — a crowd reaction even Beck didn’t get.

Kendricks thought he had a better 2022 than 2023, despite comparable stats, and wanted to use his training at DeLaCruz Sports Performance in Orlando to get his body weight up while staying lean and explosive. He said his agent has talked with Jacksonville and Tampa Bay about participating in local pro days in his native Florida.

“It feels great, man, just being able to go out here and showcase to the scouts what you’ve got,” Kendricks said. “You know, we’re kind of low draft guys, and you get to prove a point.”

Pollard had the best bench press numbers of the day, putting 225 pounds up 29 times. While that was one shy of the goal he set for himself, he was nevertheless pleased with the figure. Only one defensive tackle had more than 29 reps at the NFL Combine — LSU’s Jordan Jefferson at 34.

Rather than train elsewhere, Pollard opted to stay in Blacksburg and work out with Virginia Tech’s staff, giving a shoutout to strength coaches Jarrett Ferguson and Greg Allen for their work with him since the end of the season.

“Just everybody’s always preaching ‘This is home,’ and I feel that,” Pollard said. “Got to see my teammates, got to just be involved with the team still, give some of those new guys pointers, how the defense is run. I love my teammates, and just to see them every day I was training, it was just a positive.”

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    1. He did some catching drills, so I’d imagine WR or RB. Also caught some kickoffs.

      NFL just changed its kickoff rule, so his best asset, being a gunner, kind of goes out the window.

      All that said, I think he’s a long shot even to get a camp invite somewhere.

      1. Could he be a returner in the new NFL kickoff rules? Looks like there will be two returners on the field and not many touchbacks.

    1. It was a smattering. If it was the full 32, I’d be surprised. Didn’t write down the specific teams there.

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