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Carolina Panthers

South Carolina hosts Pro Day, with multiple prospects in attendance

Tyreek Johnson South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C.— You could hear Xavier Legette coming before you saw him. With NFL coaches, scouts, agents, media, and family members on hand, the field in the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Practice Facility on campus at South Carolina was flanked on every side. Legette ate up ground, though, pounding the turf both quickly and with finesse to match quarterback Spencer Rattler's throw, as if a herd of horses were coming down the straightaway but still measuring the curve.

The result was a perfectly in-stride catch and throw, a ball thrown 40-plus yards on air. Legette made the difficult catch look extremely easy, drawing the admiration of the crowd in the process.

In total, 15 former Gamecocks were working out for teams on Tuesday during South Carolina's Pro Day. Yet even with quarterback Spencer Rattler throwing in drills, it was no secret, Legette was who many there wanted to see.

"That's just them telling me that they want me on their team," Legette said of the turnout. "A lot of coaches came and hollered at me before and after this process here, man. A lot of them, they say they got a buzz in their facility for me, and I'm just ready to see where I'm going."

Scouts from numerous teams were on hand, meeting prospects, timing runs, and leading drills. Among them was a small Panthers contingent. In a wide receiver heavy draft, Legette is an intriguing prospect. He may not have the top-end speed and flashes of someone like Marvin Harrison Jr. or Rome Odunze, but he could still become a difference-maker for a team in need of a receiver.

Asked about possibly playing for the NFL team closest to home, Legette said, "That would be great, man. I'll be right down the road. It would be a bit easier for my family to come watch me play."

Xavier Legette

The Gamecocks Pro Day kicked off a string of Pro Days around the Carolinas, coming in the next few weeks. The Clemson Tigers will host their workouts for league personnel on Thursday. North Carolina, UNC-Charlotte, and NC State will host theirs the last week of the month. Being one of the earliest Pro Days means scouts will have time to compare many other prospects to those who worked out on Tuesday. It could also mean those in garnet and black in Columbia could make an early impression.

"Go ahead and get it over with," joked edge rusher Tyreek Johnson. "A lot of guys come in, like, for example, the whole week now, I was kind of nervous. You only got one shot, one opportunity to make a good impression.

"If you are able to make a good impression first, nice and early, it helps us out, especially as they're comparing us to other guys they see."

The Pro Day, while a chance for prospects like Rattler, Legette, and tight end Trey Knox to shore up their times from the NFL Combine, is also an opportunity for those who didn't receive invites to Indianapolis to impress scouts. Guys like Johnson or running back Dante Miller.

Johnson was hampered by injuries during the first three years of his college career. It put him at the bottom of a depth chart that would have likely forgotten him if not for a coaching change. When Shane Beamer and company arrived in Columbia before the 2021 season, Johnson saw his best chance to break out of purgatory.

"If you were to ask me probably like three years ago, I probably wouldn't think I'd be here. Based on one decision, I probably wouldn't even be here at this draft.

"It was back during COVID. COVID was a hard time. I felt like I wasn't going to get the opportunity I should've gotten with past injuries… you'll be at the bottom of the depth chart; your coaches don't necessarily want to invest time in the guy.

"So, when you're at the bottom, you got to work your way back out to the top, and that's what I did. I grinded it out…When the new coaching staff came in, just grind it out, it helped put me in that position; when the new coaching staff came in, just ground out, and it helped me put myself in the position that I was in today."

Tyreek Johnson

Johnson's best game as a Gamecock came against Texas A&M this past season when he had seven tackles. A blocked field goal against Florida added to his season. At 6-3, 270 pounds, he can afford to add some weight, but his frame excites scouts, who see him as both a potential rusher and interior tackle.

"Most of the time they say they want to see me at 280 (pounds) so I can be able to play D-end and D-tackle. They see me playing both as sort of a hybrid, and I'm fine with that. I'm perfectly fine with that," Johnson explained.

"I basically kind of did it here. We had scheme-wise that I was going to play a 3-technique, but we didn't really run it in a game. I played a lot of 4i this season and a lot of 6i. Playing the 3-tech, to me, ain't no different than playing the 4i."

Tuesday was also an opportunity for a prospect like Miller to remind NFL teams what he can provide when given the chance to step on the field. A native of Rockingham, NC, about 70 miles east of Charlotte, Miller originally attended Columbia University. When he decided to spend his graduate student years closer to home, the Ivy League's COVID rules caused him to lose a year of eligibility. His NCAA appeal was denied, meaning he hasn't played in a competitive game, other than an All-Star game, since 2021.

Miller told reporters on Tuesday that some scouts clocked his unofficial 40-time around 4.27 seconds. If that time holds—or is anywhere close—it'll be enough to springboard him onto draft boards around the league.

"I can play receiver, play, running back, kick-off, returner on special teams. And there's not a lot of guys who are faster and stronger," Miller said. "I don't say that to chip anybody else, but it's just the mindset I have to go with now.

"I wanted to show that I can run efficient routes, do things under control. That was the biggest thing for me today. Make sure I did everything under control, catch balls, look at it and tuck the ball, understand the route schemes. So, I think I demonstrated that."

The NFL draft is still well over a month away, but the process is speeding up now that Pro Day's have kicked off. For those in Columbia, though, the hard part is over, and the fun is just beginning.

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