PULLMAN – Washington State will send a prolific quarterback, an All-American left tackle and a Swiss Army knife running back to next month’s NFL Scouting Combine.
Gardner Minshew, Andre Dillard and James Williams have all accepted invitations to the 2019 Combine, which will be held this year from Feb. 26-March 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The combine is a weeklong showcase for the country’s top collegiate players to work out for and interview with pro coaches and executives ahead of April’s NFL draft.
Minshew’s father Flint told The Spokesman-Review earlier in the week the WSU QB received his invitation in early January. Williams, the junior RB who decided to forfeit his final season of college eligibility, had to to wait longer and confirmed via text he’d received his invitation Thursday.
The Cougars have sent a steady stream of players to the combine since seventh-year coach Mike Leach took hold of the Pac-12 North program in 2012. WSU has had one representative at the combine every year since 2013 and the Cougars have had nine players go the last three years after sending six the previous four.
Four WSU players accepted invitations to Indianapolis last year: quarterback Luke Falk, right tackle Cole Madison, wide receiver Tavares Martin Jr. and defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa. Falk and Madison were both drafted while Mata’afa was a highly coveted free agent, eventually signing with the Minnesota Vikings.
The combine breaks up players by position group and requires them to participate in a variety of drills, including a 40-yard dash, a vertical jump, a broad jump, a three-cone drill and a shuttle run.
Minshew, Dillard and Williams will knock out the physical tests over the first two days. According to the combine’s tentative workout schedule, running backs and offensive linemen will go through drills on March 1, with quarterbacks following on March 2.
WSU’s combine invitees were each vital pieces for the Pac-12’s top offense in 2018 – one that scored more than 37 points per game and rolled up more than 451 yards per game.
The FBS leader in passing yards per game, Minshew set a Pac-12 single-season record with 4,779 passing yards. The graduate transfer QB threw for 38 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
Dillard protected Minshew’s blind side and was part of a Cougars offensive line that allowed just 13 sacks all season. The Woodinville, Washington, native participated in last Saturday’s Senior Bowl – as did Minshew – and emerged as one of the top OL prospects in the 2019 draft, and potentially the top offensive tackle.
Williams declared for the draft about a week after WSU’s 28-26 win over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl. He’ll be the first Leach running back to participate in the combine and also the first WSU RB since Jerome Harrison went in 2006. Williams finished the season with 16 touchdowns – one shy of the school record – and piled up 1,173 all-purpose yards.