Three Illinois football players invited to NFL Combine


Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Running back Josh Ferguson makes a run during the game against Northwestern at Soldier Field on Saturday, Nov. 28. Illinois lost 24-14.

By Charlotte Carroll

twitter: Three #illini football players will be taking part in the #NFLCombine that starts Tuesday in Indianapolis

For the first time in three years, Illinois football may produce an NFL draft pick.

Three Illini received invitations to the 2016 NFL Combine – Jihad Ward, Geronimo Allison and Josh Ferguson. The Combine runs from Tuesday to Sunday in Indianapolis.

Along with over 300 other college players, the three Illini will participate in a series of workouts and evaluations in preparation for the NFL Draft, which takes place April 28-30 in Chicago.

All three have scouts talking, but most eyes will be on Ward, who has been the consensus top pick from Illinois.

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The 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive end is highly touted for his size and athleticism — he was recently captured on the Illinois snap story dunking at the ARC. The junior college transfer received All-Big Ten honorable mentions in 2014 and 2015.

Ward grades in at 5.57 out of 10 on the Combine’s website which translates as a “chance to become an NFL starter.”

Wide receiver Allison comes in at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He had a strong showing in the East-West Shrine game with six receptions, 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Allison received attention for his standout grabs, but struggled with separating from defenders and dropped passes this past season. The junior college transfer grades in at a 4.86 on the Combine’s website, which translates to he “should be in an NFL training camp.”

The final Illini with an invite to the Combine is the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Ferguson. The running back is second on the school’s career all-purpose yards list with 4,474.

Ferguson has attracted scouts with his quick feet and ability to find holes, but struggled with stamina. He grades in at 5.34 on the Combine’s website, which means that he has “NFL backup or special teams potential.”

Illinois did not receive any invites to the 2015 combine, but linebacker Jonathan Brown received a 2014 invitation. Brown, however, failed to get drafted.

The last Illinois draft picks came in 2013 when four Illini were selected – Hugh Thorton, Akeem Spence, Terry Hawthorne and Michael Buchanan.

The Big Ten received 58 invitations to the Combine, with Ohio State leading the pack with 14 invites.

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