YSU hosts 2024 Pro Day

Cardale Jones prepares Mitch Davidson before his throwing period. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Cameron Niemi / The Jambar

After a 45-28 loss against Villanova University in the second round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs on Dec. 2, seven Youngstown State University football seniors declared for the 2024 NFL Draft.

This marked the beginning of a nearly three and a half month preparation period for the seniors.

The seven players who declared for the Penguins are quarterback Mitch Davidson, wide receiver Bryce Oliver, linebacker Greg Benton Jr., tailback Dra Rushton, offensive lineman Ryan Johnson, and defensive backs Marcus Hooker and Quincy Lenton.

Youngstown State hosted its Pro Day on March 27. All seven players participated in multiple events.

Scouts from three NFL teams were in attendance at Pro Day. Three were from the Cleveland Browns, one came from the Green Bay Packers and one represented the San Francisco 49ers.

Height and weight took place under Stambaugh Stadium in the football weight room, and the bench press and vertical jump took place in the gym.

The players then moved over to the Watson and Tressel Training Site for the broad jump, 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and on-field individual drills.

Parents, coaches and several players from this year’s team attended in support. Mike Mcallister, former Penguin and current Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman, also attended to support his former teammates.

Davidson and Oliver had the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of scouts in January, as they participated in the 2024 Trillion Tropical Bowl.

For the vertical jump portion of Pro Day, Oliver had a 32-inch vertical jump. Davidson, Lenton and Johnson had 33-inch vertical jumps. Benton reached 33.5 inches and Hooker had the highest vertical jump of 36 inches.

Davidson, Rushton and Johnson did not participate in the 225-pound bench press. Benton hit 16 reps, Lenton had 13, Oliver had 12, and Hooker had 11.

As the players moved inside for the field tests, Hooker led the way in the broad jump at 10 feet, 4 inches. Oliver was right behind as he jumped 10 feet, 3 inches.

Benton had a best jump of 10 feet, 1 inch, and Davidson jumped 10 feet. Rushton jumped 9 feet, 3 inches, while Lenton jumped at 9 feet 1 inch. Johnson finished at 8 feet, 10 inches.

Oliver recorded the best 40 time out of the group, as he ran 4:48 officially and 4:43 unofficially. Benton ran 4:56 officially and 4:59 unofficially.

The players then performed various individual offensive and defensive drills for their respective positions.

Former Ohio State University and NFL quarterback Cardale Jones attended and ran Davidson through his throwing portion of Pro Day.

Davidson said he has been training with Jones in Columbus in preparation for Pro Day.

“It’s been amazing. You look at a guy like him who did it at the highest level in college and then that transferred to the NFL where he was actually pretty successful. He was a draft pick, played in the XFL, he’s been around everywhere,” Davidson said. “To have a guy like Cardale Jones in my corner through this process has been nothing but amazing.”

Mitch Davidson is pictured above. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

Oliver and YSU sophomores Luke Hensley and Max Tomczak have also run routes for Davidson.

Rushton said he is confident he can make a team and will take advantage of any opportunity he may get.

“My agency has told me a few teams said that they were looking at my film and they liked the things they saw,” Rushton said. “I know if I get on a team, I’m gonna stay on a team as well. So, I’m just hoping I get a call. Putting everything in God’s hands.”

Dra Rushton sets up for the three-cone drill. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

Last year, former YSU running back Jaleel McLaughlin was signed as an undrafted free agent and went on to make the 53-man roster for the Denver Broncos. McLaughlin rushed for 410 yards on 76 attempts and scored three total touchdowns last season.

The last Penguin to be drafted by a team was back in 2022, when the Indianapolis Colts selected Drew Ogletree with the 192nd pick in the sixth round.

The NFL Draft will take place in Detroit, Michigan from April 25 to 27, which will include all seven rounds. Undrafted free agency will begin after the draft.