Jared Cook caught 73 passes during his USC career and a few dozen more Wednesday during USC's pro timing day. But it was a catch Cook did not make that the tight end had to explain to scouts at the NFL combine last month.
Cook, one of the highest-rated tight ends in the draft, said he was asked "20-some times" about an interception at Clemson on a Chris Smelley pass thrown behind Cook, who reached back and deflected the ball to a Tigers' defender.
The play led to a sideline argument between Smelley and Cook and prompted USC coach Steve Spurrier to bench Cook for most of the second half.
"(Teams) just want to know what my thought process was and what exactly happened in the situation. So I had to explain to them. And they were asking why I thought that coach Spurrier did that," Cook said. "Coach Spurrier wasn't confident in the way I was playing. He thought I could have dove backwards for the ball and actually went and got it. That's something I just had to learn from."
Size matters. Perhaps the most important aspect of pro day for Kenny McKinley was the weigh-in. McKinley, the Gamecocks' career receiving leader, said scouts have questioned whether the 6-foot, 190-pounder is big enough for the next level.
"My strength still can be better. But I believe I'm as big as I'm gonna get and as big as I need to be, really," McKinley said. "I'm 189, 190. I still can get a lot stronger. But I'm still showing I've got good quickness and can run good routes."
Size matters, part II. Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley weighed in at 249 pounds, 25 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season.
"I knew they weren't interested in a 275-pound linebacker. I knew the weight problem was going to be a concern for every team," Brinkley said. "After the (knee) injury (in 2007), I never really had a chance to get my weight down. Once I went into training, I had a chance to get it down."
Blast from the past. Former Gamecocks quarterback Syvelle Newton has not played in a game in nearly three years, but the Marlboro County native worked out in the hopes of landing an NFL tryout.
Newton, who turns 24 next month, was in training camp with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes two years ago and was with the Arena League's Georgia entry last summer before being cut.
"I haven't quite gave up the dream," said Newton, who helped coach at Brookland-Cayce last fall. "I'm 23. I'm still waiting on that phone call. If I get in camp, I'll have no problem making a team because I really feel like a lot of these guys that are out here, they ain't better than me."
Extra points. Of the six players who attended the combine, two ran the 40-yard dash again Wednesday — cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and strong safety Emanuel Cook. Official results were not available. ... Representatives from 26 teams were in attendance, including Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney. ... Munnerlyn and Cook attended Deion Sanders' pre-draft camp in Texas, where Munnerlyn said he learned to backpedal better. Munnerlyn said USC coaches taught the "shuffle" technique in the secondary.
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.