He made reception after reception in the period, clearly a favored target for all four North team quarterbacks. At one point, he made four touchdown catches in four snaps during the drill. He showed athleticism, an ability to get open, and a penchant for making tough catches in tight windows.
“I feel like I’ve always been a red-zone threat -- just throw it up, I’ll go get it,” Vannett said after practice. “I’ll make a play.”
The former Buckeye won a National Championship last year, but received limited opportunities to make an impact in the passing game in college. Vannett made only 55 receptions for 585 yards in his collegiate career. But one of those receptions came in last year’s title game, as the tight end caught a touchdown late in the first quarter to give Ohio State its first lead of the game.
“I didn’t get many of those opportunities at Ohio State and I just wanted to show everything that I’m good at -- show the real Nick Vannett,” he said. “And I think I put that on display this whole week.”
It’s apparent from his stats, but Vannett was primarily a blocking tight end at Ohio State. His experience has shown on the field this week, as he’s been able to take on defensive linemen with success in the run game.
“I did a lot of that at Ohio State so I kind of grew to like it,” Vannett said. “I get a great feeling just knowing that I made a key block and sprung the run on that play. I get just as good a feeling from doing that than I do making plays in the pass game. So I enjoy doing both and I feel like that’s going to add more value to me, being able to do those things.”
Even though he wasn’t known as a pass catcher, Vannett was still a significant piece of Ohio State’s College Football Playoff victories last year. And that’s an experience Vannett said is almost hard to describe, in part because of everything the team had to overcome.
“People didn’t think we were going to get that far after Braxton Miller going down, the loss to Virginia Tech early in the season,” Vannett said. “Everybody was kind of looking forward to next year -- they kind of forgot about that year. And we stuck together, grinded it out, and came out on top. Getting to share that with all those guys in the locker room, it was incredible feeling.”
It’s well known how head coach Urban Meyer has recruited and developed talent since his arrival at Ohio State, which is reflected from the team’s four players in Mobile this week.
“It just shows the type of players that we have,” Vannett said. “We have ball players at Ohio State and we were well represented out here. I think we all did really well this whole week. And it’s just awesome to kind of put it on for back home.”
Speaking of Ohio State, Braxton Miller has been through a lot since he was named the 2013 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Back then, Miller was still a quarterback. But then, as Vannett mentioned, Miller injured his shoulder and subsequently went through a few arm surgeries.
Now, he’s attending the Senior Bowl as a wide receiver, after making a smooth transition to the position this year. Miller was effective in both the air and ground game, racking up 601 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns from a combined 25 receptions and 43 rushing attempts.
“I want to be a dominant receiver,” Miller said. “Inside, outside, or in the backfield, I’ll do whatever the team needs, I’m there for it.”
Through three practices this week, it looks like Miller could be on his way to doing so. He’s shown good burst at the line, and fairly crisp routes. Plus, he’s got good hands, making a number of tough catches throughout the week.
It’s tough to gage exactly where Miller may go in the spring draft. But at this point, it looks like he’s got a shot to have plenty of success in the league.
While quarterback Carson Wentz has received plenty of attention this week -- and rightfully so -- USC signal-caller Cody Kessler has made his share of throws this week, too. I caught up with him to talk about his experience at the Senior Bowl, and what it was like to play college football in Los Angeles.
We’ll have more profiles from the Senior Bowl coming to therams.com in the coming days, plus Dani Klupenger and I will wrap up everything for you in a fresh Rams Report.