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Eight MAC players land NFL Combine invites

Instead of its traditional location in Indianapolis, the NFL Combine will occur at five MAC campuses, among other universities across the country.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Indiana v Ball State Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Combine won’t transpire in its traditional venue of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Instead, the Combine is coming to Muncie, Buffalo, Kent, Oxford, Kalamazoo, and dozens of other college campuses around the country.

All in-person NFL Combine workouts will occur at teams’ individual pro days. Invitees will also participate in virtual media sessions as part of the COVID-19 adjusted Combine experience. This year, 323 NFL Draft hopefuls received invitations to participate at the 2021 NFL Combine. Of those 323, eight players hail from five Mid-American Conference universities.

Compared to previous years, MAC players landed two invites in 2020, nine in 2019, five in 2018, and a decade-high 11 invites in 2017. Ball State, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (OH), and Western Michigan will all host an NFL Combine invitee at their respective pro days this March.

Ball State

Antonio Phillips, CB: Phillips is the lone member of the reigning MAC champions to receive an NFL Combine, but this is no slight to Ball State. The Cardinals could return up to 20 of 22 starters for the 2021 season while Phillips pursues a promising professional career. The star cornerback garnered two All-MAC selections in his final two years in Muncie, totaling eight interceptions and 18 pass deflections over the timespan. Not only is Phillips a talented defender, but he excels as a hitter on the perimeter with 20+ solo tackles in each of his three years as a starter.

Buffalo

Jaret Patterson, RB: Patterson is now in the annals of college football history after producing increasingly ridiculous numbers each season at Buffalo. The All-American only needed five games to cross the 1,000-yard threshold thanks to a 301-yard performance at Bowling Green and a 409-yard outing (second highest single-game total in history) against Kent State. The once under-recruited tailback now enters the NFL Combine as one of the premier names at his position. Patterson’s incredible break tackle and cutting abilities should convince scouts to target the 2020 MAC Offensive Player of the Year come draft day.

Kayode Awosika, OT: Awosika enters the Combine after two All-MAC selections and a Second Team All-American selection by the FWAA in 2020. He transitioned from right tackle to left tackle for 2020, but his dominance sustained. Buffalo finished second in fewest sacks allowed in 2019 and first in 2020 — yielding only one sack in Awosika’s senior year. Pass blocking aside, the 6’5”, 315-pound linemen spearheaded a rushing attack which ranked third in yards per game in 2020.

Malcolm Koonce, DE: Koonce presents speed and aggressiveness with his pass rushing technique. He earned a Combine visit after earning consecutive First Team All-MAC appearances and registering 13 sacks in his final two campaigns as a Bull. Koonce enjoyed a breakout 2019 when he ranked first in the conference in sacks and blitzed his way to the MVP award of Buffalo’s first-ever bowl victory in the Bahamas. At 6’3”, 250 pounds, Koonce may transition from his defensive end role to an outside linebacker at the NFL level.

Kent State

Isaiah McKoy, WR: McKoy was a key component of college football’s No. 1 ranked offense in 2020. The wideout burned opposing corners as a viable deep threat, averaging 15.6 yards per reception in 2019 and increasing that output to 18.2 in 2020. Due to a COVID-shortened season, Kent State played four games last year but McKoy made each appearance count. He scored in all four, accumulating 455 yards while operating as the primary target on a top 10 passing offense.

Miami (OH)

Tommy Doyle, OT: Doyle prepared for his NFL Combine day back in August. Weeks after the MAC originally canceled its fall 2020 season, Doyle ended his RedHawk career and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. But that hiatus was temporary, as the 6’8”, 326-pound lineman threw on the pads as soon as the MAC reversed its course of action and returned in November. Doyle, in his second season functioning at left tackle, earned a spot on the All-MAC First Team. Miami only had a sample size of three games in 2020, so with limited film from last fall, Doyle has the opportunity to make a massive statement at his pro day.

Western Michigan

D’Wayne Eskridge, WR: Eskridge owns the Twitter handle @allaroundplays. And it’s perfect, because those three words embody what the Western Michigan standout accomplishes on the football field. A wide receiver, return specialist, and former cornerback, Eskridge is one of the most electrifying players in the draft. In three consecutive years in Kalamazoo, the playmaker averaged over 20 yards per reception. Eskridge made his final collegiate days his best, recording 768 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in six games, while also averaging 27.5 yards per kick return with one special teams touchdown. Look for Eskridge as a contender for the top 40-yard dash time at this year’s NFL Combine.

Jaylon Moore, OT: Moore is the next prospect in Western Michigan’s impressive lineage of offensive linemen, which includes Willie Beavers, Taylor Moton, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Luke Juriga. Moore, a two-time All-MAC selection, also participated in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January, so NFL scouts are already enthused with the 6’5”, 315-pound tackle. Starting three years and 32 games at left tackle, Moore provides the experience and pass protection skills needed to thrive against NFL pass rushers.


MAC Pro Day Schedule

The eight NFL Combine prospects will complete their NFL Combine interviews at their respective pro days. The pro days aren’t limited to Combine invites, however. Other draft hopefuls will also participate in similar workouts. Here is the pro day schedule for MAC teams:

  • Kent State: Monday, March 15
  • Buffalo: Thursday, March 18
  • Ohio: Friday, March 19
  • Bowling Green: Monday, March 22
  • Toledo: Monday, March 22
  • Central Michigan: Tuesday, March 23
  • Western Michigan: Thursday, March 25
  • Miami (OH): Monday, March 29
  • Ball State: Friday, April 9