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How Michael Pittman Jr. can steal the hearts of evaluators at the NFL Combine

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, everyone. I’m sure you’re aware that some changes were coming to Conquest Chronicles. My name is Cam Mellor and I’ve joined the team at SB Nation to help create content and help serve the community here at Conquest Chronicles. It’s great to meet you!

I’m very eager and excited to get going here and meeting everyone involved as we join the Trojans in our attempted return to glory. Just a bit of background about me: up until just a month ago, I was the lead college football analyst and social media director at Pro Football Focus (PFF) and have over a decade of writing experience dealing with college athletics. I’ve learned a lot over the past month of studying the community here at CC. I’m excited to help build a thriving community here, including involvement, leadership and many other factors that I’m excited to bring to all the loyal CC readers in 2020 and beyond.

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With that introduction out of the way, and with the NFL combine already up and running, it’s time to take a look at how USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. should be able to wow scouts in attendance in Indy. Take it from me; I’ve been there before and know what they’ll be looking for.

So, about Pittman...

If you watched any USC football game over the past three/four seasons, even just a Pac-12 conference game, you likely know who Michael Pittman Jr. is. The son of former NFL running back and Super Bowl XXXVII Champion Michael Pittman, the younger Pittman dominated action at times during his tenure with the Trojans.

At USC, Pittman played in 48 games and racked up 171 receptions for 2,519 yards and 19 receiving touchdowns. The offensive game plan change in 2019 paid large dividends for Pittman who broke out with a 101-catch, 1,275-yard season this past year in offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s Air Raid Offense. He was one of the nation’s top receiving playmakers and entered the draft on the heels of one of the more impressive seasons from a USC receiver since JuJu Smith-Schuster put up 1,454 yards in 2015.

Fortunately for Pittman, he stands at 6’4 and didn’t have any major issues with drops or injury concerns during his final season. Unfortunately for Pittman, however, is that he’s just another name in the receiver pool that has been dubbed as the most impressive wide receiver class perhaps in NFL draft history.

So what can Pittman do to ensure he steals the hearts of draft pundits and scouts alike in attendance in Indianapolis during the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine?

First things first: his test results must yield positive, if not head-turning. He doesn’t have to go out there and run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash but he certainly shouldn’t run anywhere above 4.8 seconds at his height and weight. To garner some affection, though, that 4.4-4.5 range will certainly pull at the heartstrings of those into such metrics.

The bench press, as unimportant as it may seem, may show the ability that some may crave for a receiver to use his hands and arm strength to separate as well as block downfield. Hitting a solid number near 17-20 reps on the 225-pound bench press would be a terrific goal. The vertical jump will likely be much more important to get scouts in attendance to start drooling. We all know how high Pittman can jump in live game action so it won’t be a surprise to see him jump through the roof during testing.

Outside of the testing areas, Pittman already seems to be winning over the hearts of the folks in attendance in Indy. There’s a certain undefinable quality that players must possess when dealing with the media circus that is an event like the combine and he’s already fielded question after question with no real trouble so it seems.

He even spoke of his versatility in terms of where he can line up and win on offense, even if that’s something we haven’t really seen of him during his time at USC (Pittman logged the majority of his snaps for his entire career lined up out wide). There was even a joke peppered in during Pittman’s interview process when fielding a question about his family pedigree.

When asked about why he plays wide receiver and not running back like his dad, Pittman responded with a quick, easy quip “because he’s 6-foot and I’m 6-foot-4.”

There are days of one-on-one interviews going on and moments that Pittman can shine with his personality outside of his individual workouts that also commence on Thursday. Combining his pedigree and his ability on the field with his likely ability to test extremely well, the recipe is there for Pittman to steal the hearts of some of those scouts and NFL draft pundits in attendance.

He’s already checked off one aspect of that and the rest will unfold before our eyes on Thursday. If he can nail those on-field drills and show his secure hands in passing drills, Pittman certainly will be a name that the east coast will have to start talking about.

And you can be sure that once they cue his tape from 2019, they’ll fall in love.