The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga may not be the first school you think of when considering college football, but the university has produced respectable results in recent years. In addition to sending future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens to the NFL, they have absolutely dominated as a member of the Division I-AA Southern Conference in recent years. This year, offensive guard Corey Levin and defensive end Keionta Davis are the school’s top prospects for the NFL Draft.
According to Walter Football, the Bengals met with Davis at UTC’s Pro Day.
You have to admire Davis’ conviction, as he could have left UTC to play at a few FBS schools who sent him late offers. But, he appreciated UTC’s willingness to look past his high school knee injury, rewarding them with an absolutely astounding career (132 tackles, 43 for a loss, 19 pass deflections, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 31 sacks). NFL scouts have been watching him since his electrifying junior year, so he is virtually guaranteed to be picked up at some point by the end of Day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Davis is exactly the kind of player the Bengals love. He’s strong, determined, uses hardships to his advantage and rewards loyalty with every ounce of production he can possibly provide. As a defensive end, his compact, powerful frame and 34 inch arm length translates perfectly to the Bengals’ 4-3 defensive system. He hits hard and puts effort into every single play to make sure the ball carrier comes down.
At his pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, which would have tied for eighth among the defensive linemen at the combine. He had a 37-inch vertical and 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press, that would have been third and fourth at the Combine, respectively. He did not take part in most of the Combine drills.
Unfortunately, as hard of a worker and player as he is, his technique can betray him. He lacks the quick twitch and positional fluidity that it takes to be a great defensive end in the NFL. His hips can be stiff and his burst is questionable. But, his work ethic and production might be enough to reward him with a spot on a roster, where he will have plenty of opportunity to work with NFL coaches who can help him refine the more questionable areas of his technique.
The Bengals also may have caught a glimpse of Levin at UTC’s Pro Day, although he was certainly not their primary focus. Following the departure of Kevin Zeitler to the Cleveland Browns this offseason, offensive guard is a position that is suddenly something for the Bengals to think about. Andre Smith is expected to challenge for the starting spot with T.J. Johnson and Christian Westerman pushing to fill the starting role. Levin would fit in as another backup to groom in Cincinnati.
An athletic and patient offensive guard with solid hand placement with functional awareness, Levin is a bit undersized for the guard position. However, his balance and core strength could lend well to a role as a backup offensive guard who can swing in to cover at center if necessary. He could stand to be more decisive with his punch and will need to work on his drive strength at the NFL level, but overall he is a solid offensive guard prospect who could stick on the Bengals’ roster for his flexibility and core strength.
Davis fits the Bengals’ prototype for defensive end but the team probably won’t want to pick him up before the sixth round, where they can afford to cut their losses if he cannot overcome his slow start and unrefined technique. However, if he can, the Bengals will be thrilled to work with a prospect with his dedication and character, in addition to the kind of production he is known to be capable of.