Audition day is nearly here for hundreds of prospective NFL employees.
The NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis will allow many of this year's draft prospects to showcase their skills with scouts and top team executives watching.
On-field drills begin Saturday and run through next Tuesday.
This year, seven guys who played for Utah schools will be headed to Indiana, hoping to improve their NFL draft stock. Of those seven, there are two each from Utah, BYU and Utah State, and another from Southern Utah.
Two of them, the Utes' Star Lotulelei and the Cougars' Ezekiel Ansah, are being predicted as first-round draft picks and will try and prove they are worth top-end draft money.
The other five include Utah's Joe Kruger, Utah State's Will Davis and Kerwynn Williams, Southern Utah's Brad Sorensen and BYU's Braden Brown. All of them will be trying to improve their draft statuses and make positive impressions on NFL teams.
Here's a breakdown of each of the Utah college athletes, including what they need to do at the combine and who they compare to in the NFL.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd
Utah, Defensive tackle
6-foot-4, 320 pounds
The Lotulelei file: Lotulelei would have likely been a first-round pick if he left Utah following his junior year in 2011. Instead, he stayed for his senior season and did not hurt his draft status. The defensive tackle recorded 42 tackles, including 10 for loss, and five sacks in 2012; he was disruptive in several facets, with four fumble recoveries, three fumbles forced, four pass breakups and four pass deflections. In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Todd McShay still has Lotulelei going to Kansas City as the first pick of the 2013 NFL draft; most other prognosticators predict Lotulelei will be selected in the first five picks.
What Lotulelei needs to answer at the combine: At times, his passion for the game has been questioned. In a recent "Draft Tracker" podcast, former NFL scout Bucky Brooks said Lotulelei can be a dominant player when he wants to be, but he feels some teams may shy away because, in Brooks' opinion, Lotulelei takes some plays off. With an opportunity to impress, will Lotulelei's football passion shine through at the combine?
NFL.com prospect grade: 92, which equates to a first-round pick who's an immediate starter and a potential Pro Bowler.
When Lotulelei competes at the NFL combine: Defensive linemen will participate in the bench press Sunday, Feb. 24 and in on-field workouts Monday, Feb. 25.
NFL.com comparison: Haloti Ngata
Ngata, who played for Highland High School in Salt Lake City, was a defensive tackle prospect out of Oregon. He was taken by Baltimore with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft. Ngata has proved to be a force in the league from his nose tackle position, having been named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster each of the past five years. Ngata has 362 tackles and 22 sacks during the regular season in his career. With the Ravens' win two weeks ago in Super Bowl XLVII, he also now has a championship ring.
BYU, Defensive end
6-foot-6, 270 pounds
The Ansah file: Ansah wreaked havoc, albeit inconsistently, in his only season as a starter for the Cougars. In 2012, Ansah recorded 62 tackles, including 13 for loss, 4½ sacks and a forced fumble. He also proved to be disruptive in the pass game, as he had nine pass breakups, six quarterback hurries and an interception. Ansah's draft stock, which has been rising over the past several months, received a big boost when he won South MVP honors during the annual Senior Bowl all-star game. Ansah ended the high-profile game with seven tackles, 3½ tackles for loss, 1½ sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
What Ansah needs to answer at the combine: Ansah's sharp rise in interest from NFL teams is because of his raw football ability despite having such a short time of development in the game. For the hype to continue to rise, Ansah needs a strong combine performance to prove he's worth the risk of a first-round pick. Will the former track star be able to put up strong numbers across the board at the combine?
NFL.com prospect grade: 89.3, which equates to a first-round pick who's an immediate starter and a potential Pro Bowler.
When Ansah competes at the NFL combine: Defensive linemen will participate in the bench press Sunday, Feb. 24 and in on-field workouts Monday, Feb. 25.
NFL.com comparison: Justin Tuck
Tuck was a defensive end prospect out of Notre Dame and was taken by the New York Giants with the 74th overall pick in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft. In eight seasons with the Giants, Tuck has 49½ sacks (including a high of 12 in 2008) while starting 75 games and earning two Super Bowl rings. His best year was in 2010, when he had 76 tackles, 11½ sacks, four pass deflections, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Utah, Defensive end
6-foot-7, 280 pounds
The Kruger file: The younger brother of current Baltimore Raven Paul Kruger made a surprise move by declaring for the NFL draft after his junior season. In 2012, he led the Utes in sacks with six, and added 30 tackles, including eight for loss. Kruger also proved his versatility in several other statistical categories, with two forced fumbles, two quarterback hurries, two pass deflections, an interception, one pass breakup and a blocked kick.
What Kruger needs to answer at the combine: Kruger is predicted to be a mid-draft pick and is rated 24th among the combine defensive linemen graded by NFL.com. Will Kruger, who's been critiqued as having too high a pad level, be able to improve his stock by outperforming other defensive linemen at the combine?
NFL.com prospect grade: 73, which equates to a second- or third-round pick who develops into a starter eventually.
When Kruger competes at the NFL combine: Defensive linemen will participate in the bench press Sunday, Feb. 24 and in on-field workouts Monday, Feb. 25.
NFL.com comparison: Jared Odrick
Odrick was a defensive tackle prospect out of Penn State who was taken by the Miami Dolphins with the 28th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. The third-year NFL player has slowly developed into a starter for the Dolphins, starting 12 games for Miami last year after playing in only one game his rookie season. Odrick has shown flashes of his abilities, with 57 tackles and 11 sacks in the past two seasons.
Utah State, Cornerback
6-foot, 186 pounds
The Davis file: Davis had a stellar senior year and was the Aggies' top defensive secondary player during Utah State's program-best 11-win season in 2012. In addition to his 64 tackles, including 4½ for loss, Davis had five interceptions, tied for 17th in the country. He also returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown and was tied for second in the nation in passes defended, averaging 1.69 per game. Davis also helped his cause by intercepting a third-quarter pass in the high-profile Senior Bowl.
What Davis needs to answer at the combine: Davis has been commended for his fearlessness to be physical with receivers, as well as his quickness. When he's at the combine, will Davis be able to display that quickness and prove he can keep up with the top-flight speed receivers in the NFL?
NFL.com prospect grade: 71, which equates to a second- or third-round pick who develops into a starter eventually.
When Davis competes at the NFL combine: Davis will participate in the bench press Monday, Feb. 25 and in on-field workouts Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Bleacher Report comparison: Stanford Routt
Routt was a cornerback prospect out of Houston who was taken by the Oakland Raiders with the 38th overall pick in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. He ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the 2005 combine and is one of the fastest defenders in the NFL. Unfortunately for Routt, his once-promising career has hit hard times. After seven years with the Raiders, which included starting 30 of a possible 32 games in 2010 and 2011, he was released by Oakland last year just one season into a five-year contract. This past year, he struggled while playing for both Kansas City and Houston.
Utah State, Running back
5-foot-8, 189 pounds
The Williams file: Williams shined as Utah State's feature back in his senior year, after sharing the backfield with Robert Turbin and Michael Smith before the 2012 season. Both Turbin (Seattle, fourth round) and Smith (Tampa Bay, seventh) were picked in the 2012 NFL draft. Williams proved to be a dual threat last season, running for a team-high 1,512 yards and 15 touchdowns and catching 45 passes for 697 yards, second best on the team, and five more touchdowns. He finished the year 10th in the nation in all-purpose yardage, with 171.15 yards per game.
What Williams needs to answer at the combine: Williams is seen as a utility player who will struggle between the tackles but can excel outside the tackles and catching passes out of the backfield. NFL.com's profile on him, however, says he struggles with moves and visibility when in the open field. Can Williams show he can improve his open-field game by performing well in drills like the 3-cone drill and the shuttle run?
NFL.com prospect grade: 56.7, which equates to a late-round draftable player who will likely have to make a team as a backup/role player.
When Williams competes at the NFL combine: Williams will participate in the bench press Saturday, Feb. 23 and in on-field workouts Sunday, Feb. 24.
Bleacher Report comparison: Jacquizz Rodgers
Rodgers was a running back prospect out of Oregon State who was taken by the Atlanta Falcons with the 145th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft. In his two seasons with the Falcons, Rodgers has emerged as a solid offensive option, as well as a strong special teams contributor. Last year, he ran for 362 yards and a touchdown, caught 53 passes for 402 yards and a score, and had 23 kickoff returns for 597 yards.
Southern Utah, Quarterback
6-foot-5, 235 pounds
The Sorensen file: Sorensen entered his senior season as one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS, after earning 2011 Great West Player of the Year honors. The transfer from BYU threw for 3,139 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions his senior year, leaving his career totals at Southern Utah at 9,445 passing yards, 61 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. He also had a career completion percentage of 65.6 percent. TonySoftli.com said of Sorensen: "I would not bet against a top 40 selection if he can clean up the two or three major flaws I see in his game this fall. He’s got the big arm, very good mechanics, good feet, and shows the ability to be very accurate."
What Sorensen needs to answer at the combine: Sorensen is known for having NFL size and a strong arm. But his decision-making has been questioned, particularly his propensity to throw interceptions. Can he show his quarterback IQ is better than expected while throwing to other top-flight talent at the combine?
NFL.com prospect grade: 54.9, which equates to a late-round draftable player who will likely have to make a team as a backup/role player.
When Sorensen competes at the NFL combine: Sorensen will participate in the bench press Saturday, Feb. 23 and in on-field workouts Sunday, Feb. 24.
NFL.com comparison: John Skelton
Skelton was a quarterback prospect out of Fordham who was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the 155th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft. Skelton has had a rough three-year NFL career thus far. While he has started 17 games over the past three years for the Cardinals, Skelton has dealt with injuries and ineffective play throughout his pro career. To date, he has thrown 15 touchdowns to 25 interceptions and was a part of an Arizona passing attack that finished 28th in the league last year in passing yards.
BYU, Offensive tackle
6-foot-6, 300 pounds
The Brown file: Of the seven Utah college athletes participating in this year's NFL combine, Brown had the toughest 2012 season. He was a part of a BYU offense that ranked 60th in total offense (400.38 yards per game) and 64th in rushing offense (153.5 ypg). However, Derek Stephens of CBSSports.com said of Brown, "Long, athletic-looking frame with ideal size to play tackle at the next level. Routinely comes off the line with a flat back and consistent pad levels. Displays impressive punch in pass protection when able to get his arms extended."
What Brown needs to answer at the combine: Brown has the build of an NFL offensive linemen and has shown to be strong in pass protection. But his abilities as a run blocker are more questionable, as he's struggled with consistency. Can Brown perform well in the agility drills?
NFL.com prospect grade: 51.0, which equates to a late-round draftable player who will likely have to make a team as a backup/role player.
When Brown competes at the NFL combine: Brown will participate in the bench press Friday, Feb. 22 and in on-field workouts Saturday, Feb. 23.
CBSSports.com comparison: Nate Potter
Potter was an offensive tackle prospect out of Boise State who was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the 221st overall pick in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft. He started last season on the bench, but Potter was moved into a starting position at left tackle later in the year and started six games for the Cardinals.