Former WVU Players Debut in NFL Minicamps - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Former WVU Players Debut in NFL Minicamps

Ryan Nehlen makes a catch at Detroit's camp on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Nehlen makes a catch at Detroit's camp on Saturday. Photo:

Rookie minicamps are wrapping up throughout the National Football League on Sunday and some former West Virginia players are getting their final chance to make an impression.

Reports out of St. Louis and New York are largely positive with regards to WVU's three Draft selections, as Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Geno Smith each begin working to prove their worth to their respective teams.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said in an interview following his team's camp that he is anxious to get the ball in Austin's hands as frequently as possible, an approach the Mountaineers' staff utilized throughout his senior season. Bailey has also reportedly impressed with his ability to stretch out and make difficult catches both in traffic as well as down field.

Smith, who has had far more criticism of late based on concerns off the field than on it, spoke with the New York media following the first day of Jets camp and said he is doing his best to ignore those critics and instead show his skills with the ball in his hands.

He's still getting used to the playbook and lining up under center so often, but Smith reportedly looked crisp with his passes while showing that he can take teaching as he tries improving his footwork and his pocket awareness.

Those three are pushing themselves toward starting roles and significant playing time. Other former WVU players are just trying to stick with a roster.

Among those in action this weekend are Kent Richardson, the defensive back who was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the AFL before the Cleveland Browns picked him up in the offseason, running back Shawne Alston with the New Orleans Saints, Josh Jenkins with the Seattle Seahawks and both Ryan Nehlen and Josh Francis in Detroit for the Lions' camp.

The latter three are all participating in camps on a tryout basis, though none of the undrafted free agents like Alston come to camp with any sort of guarantees.

Former WVU offensive lineman Jeff Braun found that out firsthand a week ago when he went through Baltimore's camp before the team released him in favor of a more veteran option at the center position.

Nehlen, the University High School product, spoke from Morgantown before he left for Detroit, where he believes he will find out Sunday night just what his future with the Lions will be. The Lions' official website posted a photo gallery from Saturday's camp, which included three photos of Nehlen.

Each player faces an uphill battle to land a spot on an NFL roster, but this is the weekend to make that impression.

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