Southern California linebacker Clay Matthews and receiver Patrick Turner are among the 2009 draft prospects the Tennessee Titans will host in the coming days.
Teams are allowed to host up to 30 draft-eligible players prior to the April 25-26 NFL Draft, up from 20 a few years ago. The Titans are allowed to work out players with local ties like Turner and Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore, also expected to visit, and not count them against that 30-player total.
According to league sources, Matthews is soon scheduled to visit Baptist Sports Park, where his uncle Bruce Matthews played the final five seasons of his 19-year Hall of Fame career.
Matthews, who is Clay III, is the son of former Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr., and the grandson of Clay Matthews, Sr., who spent time in the 1950s with the San Francisco 49ers.
The younger Matthews is on his way to becoming a third-generation pro football player, and his stock has risen as he went from being a walk-on at USC to a starter, who excelled last fall as a senior for the Trojans. He is projected by many to be a potential first-round pick in this year’s draft.
Turner is a name that is familiar to Nashville football fans. He starred at Goodpasture Christian School in Madison and was a highly sought-after recruit, who eventually landed at USC.
Turner caught 49 passes for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior for Southern Cal.
Others who have confirmed visits with Tennessee include Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin, Northern Iowa defensive end Everette Pedescleaux, North Carolina State running back Andre Brown, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks of Auburn, cornerback Lardarius Webb of Division I-AA Nicholls State and wide receiver Demetrius Byrd of LSU. Linebackers Jason Williams of Western Illinois and Lawrence Sidbury of Richmond are also on the Titans' list of expected visitors.
Barwin is an interesting prospect, simply for the fact that he spent three seasons at Cincinnati at tight end before he shifted to defensive end as a senior. Some teams also project him as a potential outside linebacker.
“He can do so many different things and is so versatile that lots of teams would get him in there and determine how best to use him,” agent Scott Smith said. “He can play (defensive) end, tight end and linebacker and is comfortable with all of those.”
Barwin has visits already scheduled with eight teams, according to Smith.
Marks, a 6-1, 300-pound defensive tackle, is entering the draft after his junior season with the Tigers. The Titans lost defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth this off-season to the Washington Redskins. Haynesworth signed a six-year, $100 million deal with $41 million in guarantees.
Pedescleaux, 6-6, 305, comes from the Division I-AA level at Northern Iowa, and has a background in basketball as well as football.
“He’s a big athletic guy, a basketball player. I think his best football is in front of him because he hasn’t played a lot of football,” agent Angelo Wright said.
Webb of Nicholls State is also coming to Nashville. Webb, despite playing at the Division I-AA level, is viewed as a potential sleeper type prospect. He began his career at Southern Mississippi, but transferred after violating teams rules there. He is also a return man on both punts and kickoffs and has run a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash.
Cornerbacks Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest and Darius Butler of Connecticut are also believed to be scheduled for visits with the Titans as well. Both are represented by Drew Rosenhaus, who would neither confirm nor deny the scheduled visits.
Brown, 6-0 225, was hand-timed at 4.37 (electronically at 4.47) in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. The Titans have spent at least second-round picks on running backs in each of the past three drafts with LenDale White (second round, 2006), Chris Henry (second-round 2007) and Chris Johnson (first round 2008).
Byrd caught 35 passes as a senior for Louisiana State, including four touchdowns. The Titans are in need of depth at the wide receiver position, given their lack of experience behind current starters Justin Gage.
Linebackers Williams and Sidbury are both smaller school prospects from Western Illinois and Richmond, respectively. The Titans are in the market to find linebacker prospects to help on special teams and provide depth behind their current starters.