Rex Ryan, 30 NFL teams show up for Illinois pro day

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.—The University of Illinois hasn’t attracted a crowd for its pro day like it did today since 1996 when the Illini got a daily double with Kevin Hardy being selected second overall and Simeon Rice going third overall.

The program will not produce a pick that high this year but defensive tackle Corey Liuget, running back Mikel Leshoure and linebacker Martez Wilson all have a chance to be selected in the first round. Thirty of the 32 teams were present for the workout today with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and two defensive coordinators showing up – Rod Marinelli of the Chicago Bears and Perry Fewell of the New York Giants.

The trio of top stars stood on their workouts from the Scouting Combine but did go through positional drills. Liuget and defensive end Clay Nurse were worked out by Marinelli. Liuget was explosive getting off the ball and his short space quickness was evident.

“It was a good workout,” Marinelli said. “A very good solid workout.”

The Bears had six representatives present, including director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, and the St. Louis Rams had four members on hand. It’s believed the Rams could be taking a close look at Liuget for the No. 14 overall pick.

“If I get in the top 15, it is a dream come true,” Liuget said.

He was also struck by the appearance of Ryan.

“I love coach Rex,” Liuget said. “He asked me if my last name was Ryan. He definitely is a comedian. He is a funny guy.”

Leshoure went through positional drills that Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer helped run. He made a nifty one-handed reception downfield.

Here are some more notes from the day:

*** Liuget said he hopes he is invited to New York for the draft, a controversial topic for top prospects the last few days.

“I definitely would go,” Liuget said. “I would love to go. I am going to go if I get the invite. Yes, I will go.”

*** Liuget said he asked the draft advisory board to evaluate him before declaring he would come out and he was told he had a third-round grade. What’s improved his stock?

“I think they went back and watched film a lot and seen, ‘Hey, this guy has first-round ability,’” he said.

*** Liuget and Leshoure both have private workouts and visits lined up but declined to name teams.

*** Guard Randall Hunt, who is considered a potential late-round selection, got lots of work with representatives from two teams – the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. He went for a post-workout interview with the Bengals. Hunt, who participated in the East-West Shrine Game, put up 33 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds.

*** Illinois coach Ron Zook was happy to watch underclassmen Liuget and Leshoure work out, players that could sure help him in 2011.

“I don’t try to tell them what to do,” Zook said. “I am going to give them the information the NFL gives me and then they have to make that decision. I think you go to college to learn how to make money. Honestly, we want them to get their degree, that is the most important thing. If they have the opportunity to come out early, then I think it is the right thing to do.”

*** Also working out for scouts were outside linebacker Nate Bussey, wide receivers Eddie McGee and Jarred Fayson, cornerback Travon Bellamy, safety Antonio Gully and punter Anthony Santella.

The only NFL teams not spotted were the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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