Thus far, Devon Kennard has done everything he said he was going to do.
He has a few months to make it a clean sweep by being taken in April’s NFL Draft.
The Desert Vista graduate and USC linebacker played in the East-West Shrine game in Florida last weekend and created some buzz in the week of practices leading up to the game.
It was the kind of performance the 6-foot-3, 257-pound prospect needed. The kind he predicted when he talked to the AFN in June.
“It hasn’t gone as expected, but it’s not over yet,” said Kennard, who redshirted last season after tearing a chest muscle just before the start of the season. “I have one more year to go and I’m feeling good about it.”
Kennard finished his career at USC by leading the team in sacks (9) and recorded 60 tackles, including 13 for a loss. After enduring four years of surgery and rehab, it was the kind of finish Kennard needed to spark NFL suitors’ interest.
Then he headed to Florida for the Shrine game, a showcase for senior football players hoping to get drafted, and made an impact.
He showed throughout the practice week some versatility and ability to drop back in pass coverage.
It can only help as he tries to make his way up the draft board as he prepares for the NFL Combine Feb. 19-25 in Indianapolis by working with Athletic Gaines, a training facility for the premier athlete and top celebrities, in Los Angeles.
A good performance there and Kennard could shoot up the draft prospect list.
Right now CBS Sportsline has him as the 189th best player and No. 18 at outside linebacker with a fifth to sixth round projection, while ESPN has him tabbed as the 20th best defensive end.
The World Wide Leader’s draft analysts had this to say about Kennard.
“A very polished individual. Above-average student that handles his business both on and off the field. Accountable and well respected by teammates and coaches. Father Derek Kennard played two seasons in USFL and 11 years in the NFL. ...
Tough and not afraid to mix it up. Shows good fight at the point of attack and works to shed blocks. Flattens and chases in pursuit on outside runs or when pursuing from the backside. ...
Above-average core strength and plays with proper leverage setting the edge. Possesses quick and heavy hands to establish positioning. Above-average instincts and initial quickness to create disruption in the backfield. Lacks elite power base and will be engulfed by more massive blockers on occasion.”
“Average first step quickness. Adequate power and flashes ability to transition speed-to-power. Needs work in terms of technique with hands but possesses quick to work with. Lacks ideal torso flexibility but displays ability to dip inside shoulder to shave edge. Needs development as a counter puncher. Average closing burst.”
Kennard, who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications in the spring of 2012 and began work on a master’s degree in communications management, came out of Desert Vista in 2008 as one of the top recruits in the nation despite tearing his anterior cruciate ligament three games into his senior season based on the 24 sacks he complied as a junior, but never remained healthy enough to make a similar impact.
Then Kennard watched his Arizona buddies Dion Jordan (third overall to Miami), Marcus Wheaton (third round/Pittsburgh) and Marc Anthony (seventh round/Baltimore) get drafted in April.
Now his name should be called this time around. The only thing he can control is the work he does between now and then.
“Arizona football has come a long way,” he said. “I’m proud of those guys. I hope I can keep the (pipeline to the NFL) going.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.