By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON -- James Hardy thought Wednesday felt like just another Indiana practice. Except, of course, there were a lot more spectators and the stakes were far higher.
Hardy, 11 of his Hoosiers teammates and Indiana State's Tony West spent about 90 minutes working out on Indiana's annual pro day. The crowd included Indiana players, friends and NFL scouts and coaches from at least 18 teams including Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
Nobody had more to gain, or lose, than Hardy, who is trying to prove he's worthy of a first-round pick in April's draft, and the 6-foot-7 receiver seemed to perform well. He dropped only two passes, improved his vertical leap by nearly six inches and finally got some hands-on training with NFL route-running.
"Yeah, they were coaching me a little more than they were at the combine, and at the same time I was asking questions," Hardy said. "I'm trying to run different routes than I did at Indiana."
For Hardy, it was another chance to showcase his talents after the NFL combine.
It's also a chance to prove how much he can still improve since he didn't start playing high school football until his junior season and considered football a second sport when he was recruited to Indiana as a basketball player. Instead, he gave up basketball, excelled as a record-setting receiver and drew enough attention from the NFL to warrant leaving school a year early.
Some scouting services now have Hardy projected as a late first-round draft pick, and it appeared he did nothing to diminish that prospect Wednesday.
After having a substandard vertical leap of 31 1/2 inches at the combine, Hardy leaped 37 inches Wednesday and he cut well while running the routes he rarely was asked to do in college.
"We don't run a lot of NFL type routes, so it was interesting to watch," coach Bill Lynch said.
Hardy didn't participate in every drill. He skipped the weight lifting portion and, based on the advice of his agent Eugene Parker, decided not to run the 40-yard dash after being clocked in the 4.50-second range in Indianapolis less than two weeks ago.
"I've not been running as fast as I usually do anyway, but I think it was good enough," Hardy said.
It was the highest-profile pro day Indiana has had since Antwaan Randle El was entering the draft.
Among those participating were cornerbacks Tracy Porter, Leslie Majors, long snapper Tim Bugg and quarterback-tight end Blake Powers, who threw some of the passes to Hardy. Porter, also a dangerous punt returner, certainly helped his stock by running unofficial times of 4.29 and 4.32 seconds in the 40 on Wednesday after being clocked at 4.37 in Indianapolis.
He also showed the scouts he has solid hands for a cornerback during the final drills of the day.
"I think it was about the same as the combine except that the coaches came in and were working hands-on with you," Porter said. "It definitely gives you a feel for what it will be like when you make the team."
But Hardy was clearly the focus of most scouts, and while they did not talk about what they saw, Hardy left the Hoosiers' indoor facility confident with what the NFL folks were saying.
"They see great potential and at the same time there's still things I can work on, so that's all the motivation I need to keep going," he said. "At the combine, I felt real stiff and sore, but I felt more comfortable today."