After playing twice for the No. 1 ranking last season, repeatedly being dubbed college football’s two best defenses and eventually settling the national championship between them, the top defensive players from those teams are ready to start Round 3 – at the NFL scouting combine.
“Right now, it’s just mental, but when we get back on the field, it’s going to be just like the way it was,” Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpartick said Sunday with a smile.
Scouts couldn’t ask for a better scenario.
Players from both teams are out to impress team executives, hoping to improve their draft stock.
Bragging rights are also in play.
Kirkpatrick and LSU’s Morris Claiborne are going head-to-head to become the No. 1 cornerback chosen in April. Alabama safety Mark Barron and outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw are generally regarded as the No. 1 players at their positions, as is LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
Six of the 59 defensive backs invited to Indy came from these two SEC programs, and that doesn’t include LSU Heisman Trophy finalist Tryann Mathieu.
For the Tigers, it’s a chance to reaffirm their self-proclaimed reputation as DB University.
“Patrick (Peterson) gave us the name, and we just kept it going,” Claiborne said, laughing after one of his teammates ruined the secret.
But it’s not all going to be jabs and trash-talking around Lucas Oil Stadium.
The reality is most like seeing familiar faces around an unfamiliar environment.
“People ask us ‘Why aren’t we fighting?’ ” LSU cornerback Ron Brooks said. “That was in college, they got us, they beat us fair and square and there’s no hating going on out here. We’re all here for the same goal.”