PSU welcoming NFL scouts to practices

Michael Mauti is listed among Mel Kiper's top five senior outside linebackers for the 2013 NFL draft. Lee Coleman/Icon SMI

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Jordan Hill always notices the strangers standing on the sidelines during Wednesday practices, the ones with NFL caps and yellow badges that read "Scout."

They'll pace the sideline, sometimes grab Bill O'Brien for a quick sidebar and scribble notes. Hill watches them back sometimes; he knows a strong play could affect teams' April draft plans.

"It's a little different because if you did something wrong, they're writing stuff the whole time and you're thinking what they're writing," Hill said. "You just have to put that aside and practice how you know you can."

Unlike past seasons, Bill O'Brien has welcomed NFL scouts to the practice field. Usually at least a half-dozen drive to Happy Valley every other Wednesday to watch Penn State's players, and athletes like Hill watch right back.

On Wednesday, representatives from Minnesota, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh were in attendance. Center Matt Stankiewitch didn't say Thursday whether he knew which teams followed his play that day, but he's well-aware of the scouts' overall presence.

"Of course there's added pressure," he said, "but you just have to go out and practice the way you always practice."

Stankiewitch tries to calm himself because he knows what's at stake. He could be poised for an NFL future, and Wednesday practices are just another chance to prove himself. According to Mel Kiper, Stankiewitch is already the fifth-best senior center available for the 2013 NFL draft -- and those Wednesday practices might just boost his stock.

But Stankiewitch isn't the only coveted prospect. Kiper recently placed both Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges within his top-5 list of senior outside linebackers. No Penn State player cracked his Big Board, the top-25 picks, but it only takes one impressed team to defy those projections.

"Sometimes you go a little harder than you usually do," Hill admitted, "but you got to focus on what you're doing and what you can do Saturday."

NFL scouts did not routinely travel to State College during Joe Paterno's tenure. During pro day, the Holuba Hall parking lot was often packed with representatives from most NFL teams -- but rarely did scouts see players outside of game days or the pro day.

O'Brien said last week that every NFL team has already passed through Penn State this season. He likes to tell recruits that, and his players are growing more accustomed to the welcome change.

"I do it, No. 1, because I think we owe it to our players here first and to give them an opportunity to be seen by the next level," O'Brien said.