Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Q&A: Taurus Johnson, WR, USF

This is from a "Player Spotlight" interview conducted by Daniel Mogollon on All Access Football Radio. Click to listen to the interview in it's entirety.

Last season you had 38 receptions for 498 yards, and you found the end zone 12 times through the air and another three on the ground. After this month you will be on an NFL team, and you will be a college graduate. How fast do you want these days to come-and-go?

Johnson:
I want them to come like tomorrow…(laughs)…But I know it’s a waiting process. I’m a very patient person, but you know I’m just trying to focus on school and work out a little bit. Like I said, I’m trying to graduate in May. I’m trying to take all my exams early so by the end of the Draft I can go wherever I go and focus on that.

Then it will all be about business at that point… So tell us, the last time we had you on it was before your Pro Day, before your Combine. How was that experience? Especially the Combine, it’s certainly an once-in-a-lifetime experience. What were those three or four days like in Indianapolis?

Johnson:
It was unbelievable, you know, because people that you invite to the Combine are hardcore players. It was a great opportunity to be there and to represent for our school, as well as our family. You know getting to meet the other players like Josh Freeman or Nate Davis, and things like that, it was crazy. It was great going in and talking to the coaches, the scouts, the G.M.’s. It was crazy packed with people. I had a great time. It was definitely an once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was all fun.

You brought up a couple of quarterbacks there in Josh Freeman and Nate Davis. Are those guys you caught balls from? Which quarterback kind of stood out for you?

Johnson:
Nate Davis is the one that I train with down at Saddle Brook. He was here the whole time. He and I were talking and getting together, we were throwing and working at the same time, you know, kind of trying to build a relationship. Who knows, he could be my quarterback at the next level. The people that stood out were Josh Freeman from Kansas State, and Nate Davis, and Pat White, and Brian Hoyer from Michigan State. I mean, those guys did a heck of a job. Like I said, Nate and I got together, that was the first time I’ve met him and then we started throwing together and we worked hard. He was saying, “You know, we could be playing on the same team.” You never know. It was fun, you know, we had a good-old time. We worked hard to get where we are now, and now we just have to wait for Draft day.

Can you let us in on some of the teams that have been talking to you? Which teams do you get a sense are kind of showing the most interest?

Johnson:
Um, May 30th, Dedric Ward, the wide receiver coach from Kansas City, is going to come down here and work me out. (Changed to April 1st) I have a Tampa Bay Buccaneers workout April 15th. I know the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams…um…San Francisco, Pittsburgh… have been showing me a lot of interest. I am going to get myself ready for Coach Ward down at Kansas City because he’s going to work me out. So I’m really excited about that, as well as getting to work out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So I’m getting myself prepared for those two crucial workouts. I’m excited about that.

I know the stock answer is always, ‘I’m happy to go anywhere, whoever takes me’, but would it be cool to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? I mean, you probably already have your favorite spots on that field, right?

Johnson:
Oh yeah, because you know I have played here for the past four years, you know being in the NFL scene and the NFL atmosphere. It’s really fun. It would be nice to stay in Tampa Bay. Being able to be close to my family, everybody could come see me play. But I really don’t have a choice, so whatever team calls I’ll be ready to go, and I’ll be happy with it, too.

Were you a Bucs fan growing up? Who did you root for in football?

Johnson:
I was a Cowboys fan, you know, Emmitt Smith, Deion (Sanders), Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman. You know, I was a Cowboy’s fan growing up.

America’s Team…

Johnson:
Yeah…(laughs)…Yes sir.

Now let’s shift gears a little bit. I know you were a little bit of a baseball player in high school, you played some center field I believe, and did a little pitching. I already know who your favorite team is the Atlanta Braves–unfortunately, considering that I am a big time New York Met fan. Talk about being a baseball fan growing up… Which sport did you like as a fan growing up, and even now?

Johnson:
I played baseball and I played football. But football is definitely my first love, but second was baseball. My mom put me into it, you know, and I kind of just excelled going into high school. But at the same time, I love baseball, I love playing center field, I love pitching too. Growing up I watched the Atlanta Braves, you know, Andruw Jones, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones as well. They had some great guys on that team. My mom wanted me to go to college, because I would be the first in my family to graduate from college, so she told me to stick with that and play football. I miss playing baseball a little bit, but I know I made the right choice by coming to college and playing football.

Taurus, you're a Sociology major, so talk to me my man–I’m sure this topic must have come up a lot in your classes—what are your thoughts on the impact of Barack Obama winning the election?

Johnson:
I mean it was crazy. I remember when he won the race and I was here at my apartment. Next thing you know, I hear everybody from my apartment screaming and people out here running in the streets. Everybody was getting together and hugging. It was very powerful, like, you know, having your first black president, is pretty cool. It’s pretty awesome, just for me, being here to witness that, it was pretty amazing.

Did you vote? Was this your first election?

Johnson:
Yeah...Yes, sir.

Taurus, before we let you go we like to close things out–as you know already–with a segment we call three-and-out where I hit you with three quick questions… so… First down: Who is somebody, it can be from all-time, in a one-on-one match-up, who is a guy you would like to have cover you and you beat him?

Johnson:
I’d probably say Deion Sanders.

How come Deion?

Johnson:
Deion, you know, Deion’s got the make-up speed…(laughs)…to do anything. It definitely would be a good match-up, I would love to go against Deion. You know, Deion is one of the greatest corners, and players of all-time in the NFL, as well as Darrell Green.

Going old school there with Darrell Green, I like that…Second Down: Being that you were a pitcher, if you could face anybody on the mound and strike them out, who would it be?

Johnson:
Oh my god, that’s tough…Ken Griffey.

Ken Griffey…OK …your favorite player and you want to strike him out…I thought you were going to say Jose Reyes since you know I’m a Mets fan.

Johnson:
(Laughs) Yeah…(laughs)

Third Down: Biggie or Tupac?

Johnson:
Tupac.

Photo Credit: USF Athletics Communications, GoUSFBulls.com

Q&A: Clay Matthews, Jr., USC


Linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr. interviewed on the All Access Radio's Football Friday Show with Ralph Mancini, Daniel Mogollon and Rodney Towe on March 20, 2009


Being the guy some people view as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, when you hear the term “hybrid”, what comes to mind?

Matthews:
Versatility. I’ve always played a multitude of positions and for me, personally, playing 3-4/4-3 or playing an outside linebacker or a rush, defensive end, or standup linebacker, however you want to look at it. I'm just someone that can bring more to the table than your one dimensional, traditional player, so I see myself filling a lot of roles.

Conversely, when you hear the term “tweener” thrown around, what goes through your mind?

Matthews:
It depends on how you take that, whether it's a good or bad thing. Certain people call Dwight Freeney a tweener. Obviously, he's a little smaller than your typical defensive end, but he has a lot of speed and a great motor. I think it really works to my advantage, regardless of what position they want to play me at.

I guess a lot of people by now know your story; you came to USC as a walk-on. You had to bite and scratch to become a starter in your senior year. My question to you is, where did you get that competitive nature from? Is it something that your dad instilled in you? Was your father who was an NFL Pro for 19 years? Was your father extremely hard on you growing up as a kid?

Matthews:
I think it was something ingrained in me since day one. I’ve always been out to prove that I’m a battler in anything, in any facet of life. I’m always out to prove that I deserve to be there, and that I deserve respect. It's something I’ve had to do since day one. My dad has never been too hard on me, but he has been hard enough. He was my coach in high school, but he’s not one of those coaches who puts his son in because he’s his son; he’s the guy who benched me in my junior year and didn’t start me in my junior year. It’s just something I developed all of my life and obviously without him and my whole family, and just my background experience in football, I wouldn’t be able to shine today. He’s definitely helped with my attitude, intuitiveness and playing with a chip on my shoulder.

Clay, why did you choose USC? Obviously you have family ties there, but did you get any other scholarship offers from any other schools?

Matthews:
To be honest, I didn’t have any other offers coming out of high school. I didn’t play my junior year and although I was a starter in my senior year. I came on strong, but it was a little late in the recruiting process. I was still under-sized, needed to get faster, stronger and bigger...the whole nine yards. To be honest, I agree, there was a rich family history there at USC, it was close to home, only 45 minutes away. Obviously, what Coach Carroll has been doing is building his program in education. I didn’t know if this was going to be the career path I would take. Academics are very important to me and I think overall, USC was a great fit for me—it’s not your typical career, but it made me who I am today and I’m very fortunate.

Clay, when your dad benched you that junior year, did you let him know, “This may lead to you paying for my tuition rather than me getting a scholarship”?

Matthews:
Not so much that he benched me, because there was someone better than me, and obviously the best player would get the chance to start. I didn’t deserve it (starting), and in my senior year I did. I think we both didn’t know what the future would be for me in football. He even asked me when I decided to go to SC if I wanted to choose a small school in order to be able to make an impact right away. I was very content on going to SC, and hopefully earning a scholarship, getting on a special teams and becoming a demon on those, but it turned out to be so much more than either of us thought could potentially happen. It’s just something you just keep sticking with and here I am, in a great position.

Being a kid that had that decision to make, you step on the USC campus and you've got Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, all these big names 4/5 star recruits. Do you think your background helped you a lot, in terms of you being a walk-on, you weren’t intimidated and you thought, “I could still play with these guys and if I work hard enough, I could reach that level”?

Matthews:
The only thing my background helped with was getting into the school and just being a walk-on, getting looked at. Everything else I had to earn. I’ve been working myself up into the ranks. And you're right, going to USC and playing against 5-star recruits like Keith, Rey and Cushing, it’s just part of the business. I knew going there, I was going to have to work that much harder than other players to be in the position that I am today. I’m very fortunate to have played with them. It does make us the players we are today, the fact that we had to compete against one other day in and day out. We are really fortunate for that experience. That is why we are in such a great position. I knew I would have to come every day and work my tail off, and that’s what I did.

As we sit here 36 days from the Draft, you're being spoken of as a guy who can go in the first round, with your more celebrated teammates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. How does that make you feel, in terms of the work you’ve done to get to this point?

Matthews:
That was a testament to the hard work that I’ve put in. I’m very appreciative of who I am and the fact that it’s done, it’s been noticed and scouts and coaches understand what type of player I really am. To be able to talk with Cushing and Rey, it does mean a great deal to me. Just to be able to share experiences with them and to be as highly regarded as all the players on the team and be in this situation makes me feel very fortunate and blessed.

Your teammate Brian Cushing was quoted as saying his goal is becoming mentally a better player each and every day. Can you talk about that? Can you talk about the mental preparation that goes into it for you when it comes to an opponent?

Matthews:
It takes a great deal of mental toughness to be in the position where we are right now. It’s only going to get more difficult. I think fortunately for me everyone knows my story now, that I had to work my way up. And that alone takes mental toughness. It’s been a grind going to the senior ball; it’s been a grind going to Indianapolis, and I can honestly say it really hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve been working hard at USC for five years, but it can get much harder. I’m just loving this opportunity and just having a blast with it, and taking it day by day. You know, it’s funny, my brother mentioned before this last season how neat it would be if I was to get drafted, even in the seventh round. Now, here we are talking about first round. It's something that we all dream about, and it requires a great deal of mental toughness and will only get tougher from here on out.

Talk about the influence Pete Carroll and your linebacker coach, Ken Norton, Jr., had on you during your collegiate career at USC.

Matthews:
They had a great influence, obviously just being the people they are. Starting with Coach Carroll and his whole program, you really have to buy into it. Everyone has done a great job and that’s why it’s been so successful. A big part of the program is competing, day in and day out, coming in and working together, and at the same time having a little fight here and there, getting better, and working toward our goal. That’s why we’ve been so fortunate to be Rose Bowl Champions and National Champions—we’ve just been in the spotlight because of this program. Carroll is really a player’s coach, being a coach in the NFL and understanding how it works is more than just coaching; he’s your friend on the side as well. It makes it a lot easier to have a personal relationship. I can say the same for Coach Norton, he’s a player’s coach as well. He’s played in a league, and because he was so successful, he was able to relate it to us and all the linebackers. I think that’s why we’ve had so much success with him at the helm with our linebacker class. It’s really a testament to the coaches and the work we’ve put in. They have both done a good job and all the coaches have done a great job.

Do you had any private workouts with specific NFL teams coming up?

Matthews:
I have a few coming up with the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and I have my Pro Date on April 1st . After that, I have Atlanta coming up on the 4th, and I’m flying out to Cleveland a little later that month, I’m sure it’s going to be more stressful as time goes on. Hopefully after the Draft, I can put my feet up.

Time for three-and-out…first down: It's Saturday night—what is Clay Matthews doing?

Matthews:
Clay Matthews usually stays in and watches a movie, either by himself or with a friend. I’m a big movie buff. I love being my own Siskel & Ebert or (Richard) Roeper.

Second down: Since you are such a movie buff, what is your favorite movie of all time?

Matthews:
Of all time…that’s hard to say, there are some great ones out there. I really like Shawshank Redemption…Forrest Gump is so easy to watch. Those are those classic movies that you can pick up at any point and enjoy. Those are probably my top two favorite movies.

Alright Clay, I was going to ask you who has better hair, you or Rey Maualuga, but I am going to defer from the chat-room for third down. Someone from the chat-room wanted to know how many times do Snoop or Will Ferrell show up at USC practice?

Matthews:
Well, I think your first question is no-brainer…having better hair myself. (Laughs) We do have celebrities come by a lot during practice, obviously being at USC in the middle of Los Angeles with no professional football team. We like to consider ourselves America’s team. We have celebrities coming through here and there. Snoop came by two times during my tenure there and Will Ferrell, he somehow makes a guest appearance usually twice a year. It’s real great, because it gets our mind off the whole business aspect of sports. We can just have a good time and really enjoy ourselves, but at the same time know what’s at stake. That’s what we love about SC, the fact that we can mix fun with business and be successful at doing it.

Photo Credit: Aggie Skirball, John Pyle (USC)

Connor Barwin On Football SPECTacular


What's On Tap?

* Player Spotlight: Is he a defensive end? Is he a linebacker? Or maybe a tight end? One thing is for sure, Connor Barwin is a football player.
* From the Press Box: Joining us to talk some Bucs football is Stephen Holder of the St. Petersburg Times
* On The Clock: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
* Will also talk NFL Draft, Jason Taylor, as well as the Ryan Moats/ Officer Powell Situation as we go around the NFL

Don't be a SPECTator...You're calls will drive the show as well... 347.945.6275.

Click to listen. If you missed it live...show will be available to listen or download 30 minutes after show completion.


Photo Credit: College Press Box (Cincinnati)

All Access: Louisville Pro Day Notes

QB Hunter Cantwell (6-4 3/8, 236 pounds) did position drills but otherwise stood on his numbers from the Combine. RB/FB Brock Bolen (5-11 1/2, 233 pounds) ran the 40 in times of 4.77 and 4.80 with a 31 1/2-inch vertical leap and a 9-foot, 2-inch broad jump. He did the short-shuttle drill in 4.35 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.95 seconds, and did 24 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. DT Adrian Grady (6-1 1/4, 303 pounds) ran the 40 in 5.20 and 5.18 seconds with a 33-inch vertical and an 8-foot, 10-inch broad jump. He put up times of 4.63 in the short shuttle and 7.52 in the three-cone drill, and he didn’t participate in the bench press.

Mandel's Take: I'm not a Cant(play)well believer. He was flat out terrible in his senior season, one which he'd been waiting for seemingly forever behind Brian Brohm. Some may blame his miserable senior season on a lack of weaponry, but it's his lack of accuracy/awareness and awkward mechanics that have me saying "nay". He just doesn't show good judgment out there. His arm strength warrants a late-round pick, but no more than that to me considering his many shortcomings. Bolen suffered through the team's poor offensive season, but he can grind out a tough yard and block effectively. He is on the cusp of the top 10, as far as fullbacks go. Grady is quick but lacks size and his durability is a question mark. Some team will take a chance on him, bulk him up, and see if his quickness can be maintained. He's a big effort player who could end up being a productive player in the right system.

Mancini's Take: Cantwell is your prototypical drop-back passer with a plus arm and ability to make all the throws. Where Brohm's former understudy falls short is in his mechanics and decision making. He takes too many chances by too often forcing the big play. The guy has a little Brett Favre in him---and that's not a good thing. Right now, Cantwell is a developmental passer, who has the tools to become a productive pro if he refines his technique and becomes a more cerebral player. Bolen's 40 times screams fullback to me. He'll be nothing more than a special teams/role player at the next level. Ross said all you need to know about Grady. He's limited, but he's strong and quick off the snap. The former Cardinal can gain penetration into the backfield from time to time, but isn't a massive run stuffer.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Louisville)

All Access: Eric Wood Stock Rising

At the Louisville Pro Day on March 26, C Eric Wood (6-4, 310 pounds) showed that he is generating a lot of buzz from many NFL teams. Wood did position drills at the pro day but otherwise stood on his marks from the NFL combine. He has already visited the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals and has worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos. He also has a workout scheduled with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mandel's Take: Wood is smart, quick, and durable--three traits teams crave in their offensive linemen. He's also got quite a nasty streak and can shift over to guard if need be. Wood needs to work on his run blocking, but the All Big East performer is pretty sound technically and can certainly add some more bulk to his frame if necessary. He was the Cardinals' captain in 2008 and was known for his endless study of film--a leader on and off the field. Rev, this kid seems to have the all around makings of a solid pro and will make someone happy late on day one, or early day two.

Mancini's Take: I've always liked Wood, and I would take him over Max Unger and Alex Mack. It's nice that he's "smart," Ross man, but what I love about Wood is his raw strength to move guys off the ball and deliver pancake blocks. This is a guy I could go to battle with. I don't need my interior linemen to be athletic and nimble. I want them to drive people out of the way and create running lanes. That's Eric Wood in a nutshell.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Louisville)

On The Clock: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Roster: 9-7, 2nd In the NFC South
General Manager: Mark Dominik, Head Coach: Raheem Morris (1st Year/7th Year With the Buccaneers), Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Jagodzinski (1st Year), Defensive Coordinator: Jim Bates (1st Year)

Offense Rankings:
No. 14 Overall, No. 19 Scoring, No. 11 Passing, No. 15 Rushing
Defense Rankings: No. 9 Overall, No. 10 Scoring, No. 4 Passing, No. 19 Rushing

Last Five Years: 38-42; Last Playoff Appearance: 2007; Last Playoff Victory: 2002 (48-21 Over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl)

2008 Draft:
(1-20) CB Aqib Talib, (2-58) WR Dexter Jackson, (3-83) OG Jeremy Zuttah, (4-115) DT Dre Moore, (5-160) QB Josh Johnson, (6-175) LB Geno Hayes, (7-238) RB Corey Boyd

Top Picks Last Five Years:

2008 – (1-20) CB Aqib Talib, Kansas
2007 – (1-4) DE Gaines Adams, Clemson
2006 – (1-23) OG Davin Joseph, Oklahoma
2005 – (1-5) RB Cadillac Williams, Auburn
2004 – (1-15) WR Michael Clayton, LSU

Booms: LB Barrett Ruud (2nd Round 2005), OG Davin Joseph (1st Round 2006), OT Jeremy Trueblood (2nd Round 2006), OG Arron Sears (2nd Round 2007), DB Tanard Jackson (4th Round 2007), LB Geno Hayes (6th Round 2008)

Busts:
WR Michael Clayton (1st Round 2004), RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams (1st Round 2005), TE Alex Smith (3rd Round 2005), WR Maurice Stovall, Notre Dame (3rd Round 2006), CB Alan Zemaitis (4th Round 2006)

Additions:
WR Kelly Campbell (Free Agent)
LB Angelo Crowell (Free Agent)
LB Niko Koutouvides (Free Agent)
TE Anthony Mix (Free Agent)
K Mike Nugent (Free Agent)
RB Derrick Ward (Free Agent)
TE Kellen Winslow (Trade)

Subtractions:

K Shane Andrus (Released)
LB Derrick Brooks (Released)
CB Phillip Buchanon (FA-Detroit)
RB Warrick Dunn (Released)
WR Joey Galloway (Released)
DT Jovan Haye (FA-Tennessee)
RB Noah Herron (FA-Cleveland)
WR Ike Hilliard (Released)
OLB Cato June (Released)

Keepers:
S Will Allen
WR Antonio Bryan (Franchised)
WR Michael Clayton
WR Cortez Hankton
QB Luke McCown
SS Jermaine Phillips
DT Ryan Sims
TE Jerramy Stevens
WR Paris Warren

2009 Picks:
Round 1, Selection 19
Round 3, Selection 17
Round 4, Selection 20
Round 5, Selection 19
Round 6, Selection 18
Round 7, Selection 8 (From Jacksonville)
Round 7, Selection 24 (From Baltimore)

Team Needs – Players of Interest (Day One):
1. Quarterback:
Mark Sanchez, USC; Josh Freeman, Kansas St.
2. Defensive Tackle: Peria Jerry, Ole Miss
3. Wide Receiver: Percy Harvin, Florida; Darrius Hayward-Bey, Maryland; Kenny Britt, Rutgers; Hakeem Nicks, UNC
4. Outside Linebacker: Brian Cushing, USC; Clay Matthews Jr., USC
5. Fullback: None.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Kansas, Kansas St.)

Top Questions Heading Into The Draft

Written by Justin Van Fulpen

There are many questions that still need to be answered heading into the 2009 NFL Draft here are just a few.

1. What will the Detroit Lions do at number one?

Many people believe that the Lions will draft quarterback Matthew Stafford from Georgia and other think that offensive tackle Jason Smith of Baylor. The interesting thing that no one has brought up is that both Stafford and Smith are represented by the same agency CAA. So when the rumor came up that the Lions where talking to Smith's agent, no one ever said that this was also Stafford's agency as well, so it is not like the Lions can play Stafford against Smith. The Lions have a personal workout with Stafford on March 31st, they have also schedule to spend more time with quarterback Mark Sanchez of USC at his Pro Day on April 1st. The Lions are not sold on one guy, so nothing has changed since the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The Lions like five guys, Stafford, Sanchez, Smith, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe of Virginia, and linebacker Aaron Curry of Wake Forest. So what will the Lions do at number one, still no one knows.

2. Where does Michael Crabtree go?


Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree was everyone's number one overall prospect going into the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and then it was discovered that he had a stress fracture in his foot. The biggest question on Crabtree was his straight line speed, so he then came out and said he would run the 40 before he had surgery on his foot. When it was all said and done he decided to have the surgery and not run the 40. The question is now where does he end up going in the upcoming NFL Draft. Many thought that he would go number four overall to Seattle, but the Seahawks signed TJ Houshmanzada as a free-agent. He should go between number six and number 10 overall. My guess would be the Oakland Raiders at number seven to pair him up with third year quarterback Jamarcus Russell.

3. Who is the number one overall running back in this year’s class?

Talking with different scouts from different teams you get a lot of different opinions on who teams believe is this year’s number one overall running back. Some teams have Ohio State’s Chris Well number one while other have Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno number one and a few teams have UConn’s Donald Brown as their number one overall running back. It looks as if all three will be first round picks and Pittsburgh’s LeSean McCoy will be a high second round pick. I think you will see Chris Well as the running back that gets drafted first out of all the running backs.

4. How many wide receivers will be drafted in the first round?

After last year where there wasn’t any first round wide receivers. This year I think you can see at most seven, but it looks like their will be four that will be drafted in the first round for sure. Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech, Jeremy Maclin of Missouri, Percy Harvin of Florida, and Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland will all go in the first round. You could also see Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina, Kenny Britt of Rutgers and Brian Robiskie of Ohio State all get drafted in the first round as well.

As we get closer to the NFL Draft we will be looking at more of the questions for this years draft.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, OSU Athletics

Pro Day Rewind: A Look At Who's Doing What

Monday
Wake Forest:
The biggest draws here were of course top linebacker pick, Aaron Curry, and cornerback prospect, Alphonso Smith. Both players stood on their numbers from the Combine but what the 41 scouts, coaches, and various personnel representing all 32 teams wanted to see was position drills. They were not disappointed.
• Reports state that Curry started his drills slowly, but once he got going he showed the athleticism and skills that have analysts slotting him as a top three pick. One of the biggest draws for Curry is his game to game consistency, his ability to play at a high level every down, every week. You can’t see that in a Combine or Pro Day—it’s only on film. But seeing the athleticism and ability on the ground, up close, only confirmed the skills we saw on film.
• Smith looked rock solid in his defensive drills, continuing to show the skills everyone expects from him when he gets on the field. The biggest questions for Smith involve his height (5’9”) and what it might mean against taller wide receivers. Smith had offered to do special teams drills, but was not asked to do any at the workout. Still, I always like to see that willingness in a player, it shows hunger and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get on the team.

Iowa:
Twenty-nine teams were present at the Hawkeyes’ workout. They watched running back Shonn Greene run a 4.59 on his first 40 on an indoor track. That’s better than his Combine time by .06 of a second and could have a positive effect on his draft stock. He also increased his bench press by four reps, to 23. While many athletes have been increasing their numbers from the Combine, it certainly will help Greene that he took such a large stride forward. While scouts were also impressed with his positional workout, Greene isn’t resting on his laurels. He told one reporter that he looks at the guys ranked ahead of him and still feels he’s the top back in the Draft. His desire to prove himself showed in his drills and will serve him well in the NFL.

Rutgers: For many prospects, a Pro Day might be their one time to shine, their shot to show teams (including Bears OC Ron Turner) what they could do. For wide receiver Kenny Britt, it was just another stop on the world tour. Britt has already worked out for the Dolphins and has scheduled workouts for five other teams. Still, he didn’t lose focus, running the 40-yard dash with times of 4.47 and 4.48 as well as running positional drills. Britt, who could go anywhere between the second and third rounds, looked good in both aspects of his workout and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in any number of uniforms this coming summer.
• Others who stood out: WR Tiquan Underwood, who ran a 4.36 and a 4.40 in the 40, a 4.16 in the shuttle and worked position drills. S Courtney Greene stood on most of his Combine numbers save his broad jump, which he recorded a 9’11” in, as well as running position drills.

Tuesday
Clemson:
Twenty-five scouts attended Clemson’s workout on Tuesday and one of the focal points was defensive tackle Dorrell Scott. Scott is tracking at about a third round pick and while he stood on most of his Combine numbers, he didn’t do anything to hurt–or really improve–his stock. Another player who isn’t being talked about all that much is quarterback Cullen Harper. Harper, coming off a shoulder injury, threw efficiently and accurately in his position workouts and it probably helped him regain some of the ground he lost due to the lackluster season the Tigers had in 2008. After a great junior year, Harper’s stats and production declined, but he showed on Tuesday he could still sling a ball to different players running a ton of different routes. And finally, with no Combine invite, defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson hadn’t had a chance to show scouts anything and is battling back from an injury that took him out for the early part of his 2008 season. While Jackson is unlikely to be a draft day pick, he played well prior to his injury and looked good enough on Pro Day to garner interest as a street free agent.

Hofstra: A total of 18 teams were represented at Hofstra, where players from multiple schools worked out for scouts. The most impressive players were actually athletes from Monmouth (NJ), Maine, and Stony Brook. Monmouth tight end John Nalbone (who then worked out a few days later at Monmouth State’s own Pro Day) ran a 4.75 and a 4.81 40, a 4.22 shuttle, 6.97 three cone, jumped a 9’3” broad jump and lifted 22 in the bench press. He increased all these numbers at Monmouth’s Pro Day. Maine defensive end Jovan Belcher had a 30” vert, a 9’ broad jump and ran a 4.88 and a 4.90 40. Also, James Harris, a defensive end from Stony Brook, ran 5.15 and 519 in the 40, a 4.72 shuttle and a 8.33 three cone.

Wednesday
UCONN: Twenty-one teams sent representatives to see the Huskies' workout, including Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Chargers GM A. J. Smith. Even super-agent Drew Rosenhaus was present, eying up potential clients. Of course, the biggest player of interest was running back Donald Brown. While Brown stayed with most of his numbers from the Combine, he looked lights out in his position drills, doing everything well and looking exceptional while catching the ball. Many teams have expressed interest in Brown and he certainly did nothing to dissuade them on Wednesday.
• Cornerback Darius Butler also put on quite a display by running a 4.38 in the 40, then going out and crushing his position drills. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was quoted as saying Butler is now in the conversation to be among the top corners in the Draft along with guys like Malcolm Jenkins and Vontae Davis. Mayock also said that Butler looked fluid and very quick in his change of direction drills.
• The biggest story to come out of UCONN’s Pro Day was quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, though not in terms of his quarterback potential. Lorenzen worked out as both a wide receiver and a defensive back. Coach Belichick specifically requested that Lorenzen work out as a safety and paid very close attention to the drills once they began. Lorenzen threw for several teams as well, including the Bengals, Chargers, Seahawks and again, the Patriots. But a lot more teams watched him work out as a defensive back and a receiver. Lorenzen might find himself a roster spot somewhere on the strength of his willingness to change positions and do more than one thing, as well as his overall athleticism.

Texas: As expected, defensive end Brian Orakpo knocked it out of the park on Wednesday. Over 50 members of various teams were present, including Miami defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes, and Packers GM Ted Thompson. Orakpo started the day with workout drills, posting a 10’10” broad jump, a 4.45 shuttle and a 7.26 three-cone (he kept the rest of his numbers from the Combine). Orakpo then schooled his positional drills, likely securing a high slot (possibly top ten) in April’s Draft.
• Receiver Quan Cosby also had an outstanding day, dropping his shuttle time down to a 4.2. He also put on a solid display in positional drills, flashing good hands and speed in his workout. Cosby jumped a 34 ½ inch vertical, ran a 4.34 shuttle and lifted the 225 pound bar 28 times. Overall, Cosby had a great day and certainly helped himself quite a bit.
• A few others of note were G Cedric Dockery (who ran a 5.40 in the 40-yard dash before he pulled his hamstring, but still finished the day with a 4.97 shuttle after jumping a 28 vert and a 8’4” broad jump), DB Ryan Palmer (who ran a 4.62 and a 4.58 in the 40, a 4.20 shuttle, a 7.00 three cone and posted a 10’4” broad jump) and DE Henry Melton (4.64/4.66 40, 34 ½ vert, 10’1” broad jump).
• As one might expect in Texas, the day ended with a big BBQ meal—the sort of thing that must make this one of the favorite stops on the tour.

Thursday
Louisville: Twenty representatives of NFL teams came out to see the Louisville athletes put on a display. Quarterback Hunter Cantwell, wide receiver Chris Vaughn, cornerback Woodny Turenne and center Eric Wood were among those who participated. Vaughn (4.35) and Turenne (4.46) had the swiftest 40 times on the day, while Cantwell threw the ball very well in position drills. Wood has been high on many people’s list of the top centers and continued to impress the scouts in his position drills. Overall, the day went well and all of the players performed admirably.

Mississippi: All 32 NFL teams were represented by 65 coaches and staff as offensive tackle Michael Oher improved his 40 time to 5.24 and 5.16, jumped 31” in the vertical and lifted 23 reps on the bench press. He also knocked scouts out with his position drills, showing very good footwork and outstanding athleticism, among other skills.
• While Oher was the main attraction, others stood out at the Ole Miss workout. Fullback Jason Cook ran a 4.72 and a 4.71 in the 40, a 4.38 shuttle, a 7.20 three cone, benched 225 a total of 22 times and then added a 33 ½ vert as well as running positional drills. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry continued to make his case to be the #2 DT prospect behind B. J. Raji, with a 4.98-40, a 4.64 shuttle, a 7.30 three-cone, a 31” vertical, and a 9’6” broad jump. Jerry also looked good in his positional drills.

Friday
Houston: Twelve players worked out for 17 teams. One player who gained some notice was offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, who grew up in Germany. Vollmer missed the 2006 season with a back injury but is very athletic and could very well go late on the second day and still contribute very quickly. Vollmer had 5.13 and 5.16 in the 40, jumped a 36 ½ inch vert, and a 9’3” broad jump and benched 32 reps. He also had a 4.50 short shuttle and a 7.51 three cone. Two other players worth noting were defensive end Phillip Hunt (4.75/4.76 40, good positional drills) and offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers (4.75 shuttle and 7.39 three cone).

Northern Illinois: Defensive end/linebacker Larry English was the one to watch here, running a 4.70 and a 4.74 40 while working out as a defensive end and showing he can drop back into coverage. Among those watching were Panthers GM Marty Hurney and director of player personnel for the 49ers, Trent Baalke.

Other players of note:
On Saturday, Washington State wide receiver Brandon Gibson held a private workout in front of 15 NFL teams including Chargers senior executive Randy Mueller and 49ers director of player personnel Trent Baalke. Gibson, who was unable to run at either the Combine or Washington State’s Pro Day, worked out in less-than-ideal weather including wind and slight rain. Despite that, Gibson ran his 40 three times, scoring a 4.63 against the wind and a 4.58 and a 4.60 with it. He had a 34” vert, jumped a 9’5” broad jump, ran a 4.54 in the shuttle and a 6.94 in the three cone. He also did position drills, catching balls thrown by Jeff Rowe, a former quarterback who has been with the Bengals and Seahawks.

We enter the last week of Pro Days with one of the bigger days still to come. While UCLA, Hawaii, Mississippi State and Kent State still have days coming, all eyes will be focused on Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. Among the closely-watched prospects will be the linebacking trio of Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga, and Brian Cushing, wide receiver Patrick Turner, defensive tackle Fili Moala as well as the less-talked about linebacker, Kevin Ellison. And, oh yeah, some quarterback prospect named Mark Sanchez.

Not only will we review this Pro Day and the others, but I will be down on the ground at USC’s Pro Day on Wednesday giving a firsthand account of how everyone is faring throughout the day.

Check in with NFLDraftbible.com all day long—we’ll make sure you’re kept up to date on the latest and greatest at USC, as well as all the rest of the action every week on the Pro Day Rewind.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Louisville, Houston, Clemson, Wake Forest), Steve Slade (UConn Division of Athletics)

Monday, March 30, 2009

On The Clock: Chicago Bears

Record: 9-7, 2nd In the NFC North
General Manager: Jerry Angelo, Head Coach: Lovie Smith (6th Year), Offensive Coordinator: Ron Turner (5th Year), Defensive Coordinator: Bob Babich (3rd Year)

Offense Rankings: No. 26 Overall, No. 16 Scoring, No. 21 Passing, No. 24 Rushing
Defense Rankings: No. 21 Overall, No. 15 Scoring, No. 30 Passing, No. 5 Rushing

Last Five Years: 45-35; Last Playoff Appearance: 2006; Last Playoff Victory: 2006 (39-14 Over the New Orleans Saints in NFC Championship Game)

2008 Draft:
(1-14) OT Chris Williams, (2-44) RB Matt Forte, (3-70) WR Earl Bennett, (3-90) DT Marcus Harrison, (4-120) S Craig Steltz, (5-142) CB Zachary Bowman, (5-158) TE Kellen Davis, (7-208) DE Ervin Baldwin, (7-222) OG Chester Adams, (7-243) LB Joey LaRocque, (7-247) OT Kirk Barton, (7-248) WR Marcus Monk

Top Picks Last Five Years:
2008 – (1-14) OT Chris Williams, Vanderbilt
2007 – (1-31) TE Greg Olson, Miami
2006 – (2-42) DB Danieal Manning, Abilene Christian
2005 – (1-4) RB Cedric Benson, Texas
2004 – (1-14) DT Tommy Harris

Booms: DT Tommie Harris (1st Round 2004), DT Tank Johnson (2nd Round 2004), WR Bernard Berrian (3rd Round 2004), CB Nathan Vasher (4th Round 2004), QB Kyle Orton (4th Round 2005), KR Devin Hester (2nd Round 2006), DE Mark Anderson (5th Round 2006), C Josh Beekman (4th Round 2007), S Kevin Payne (5th Round 2007), DB Corey Graham (5th Round 2007), RB Matt Forte (2nd Round 2008)

Busts: LB Leon Joe (4th Round 2004), DE Claude Harriott (5th Round 2004), RB Cedric Benson (1st Round 2005), WR Mark Bradley (2nd Round 2005), LB Jamar Williams (4th Round 2006), DE Dan Bazuin (2nd Round 2007), RB Garrett Wolfe (3rd Round 2007), LB Michael Okwo (3rd Round 2007)

Additions:
QB Brett Basanez (Free Agent)
FS Josh Bullocks (Free Agent)
S Glenn Earl (Free Agent)
OT Frank Omlyale (Free Agent)
OT Kevin Shaffer (Free Agent)

Subtractions:
WR Marty Booker (Released)
FS Mike Brown (Released)
OG Terrance Metcalf (Released)
OT John St. Clair (FA-Cleveland)
OT John Tait (Retired)

Keepers:
RB Kevin Jones
LB Nick Roach

2009 Picks:
Round 1, Selection 18
Round 2, Selection 17
Round 3, Selection 20
Round 3, Selection 35 (Compensatory)
Round 4, Selection 19
Round 5, Selection 18
Round 6, Selection 17
Round 7, Selection 20
Round 7, Selection 37 (Compensatory)
Round 7, Selection 42 (Compensatory)

Team Needs – Players of Interest (Day One):
1. Wide Receiver:
Percy Harvin, Florida; Darrius Hayward-Bey, Maryland; Kenny Britt, Rutgers; Brian Robiskie, Ohio St.; Hakeem Nicks, UNC, Brian Robiskie, Ohio St.; Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma
2. Defensive End: Tyson Jackson, LSU, Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech; Aaron Maybin, PSU; Robert Ayers, Tennessee; Paul Kruger, Utah; Lawrence Sidbury Jr., Richmond
3. Quarterback: Mark Sanchez, USC; Josh Freeman, Kansas St.; Pat White, West Virginia
4. Offensive Tackle: Michael Oher, Ole Miss; Andre Smith, Alabama; Eben Britton, Arizona; Jamon Meredith, South Carolina; William Beatty, UConn
5. Guard: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma, Herman Johnson, LSU, Andy Levitre, Oregon St.
6. Safety: Louis Delmas, Western Michigan

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, OU Athletics Department

On The Clock: New York Jets

Record: 9-7, 3rd In the AFC East
General Manager: Mike Tannenbaum, Head Coach: Rex Ryan (1st Year), Offensive Coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer (4th Year), Defensive Coordinator: Mike Pettine (1st Year)

Offense Rankings: No. 16 Overall, No. 9 Scoring, No.16 Passing, No. 9 Rushing
Defense Rankings: No. 16 Overall, No. 18 Scoring, No. 29 Passing, No. 7 Rushing

Last Five Years: 37-43; Last Playoff Appearance: 2006; Last Playoff Victory: 2004 (20-17 Over the San Diego Chargers)

2008 Draft: (1-6) DE Vernon Gholston, (1-30) TE Dustin Keller, (4-113) CB Dwight Lowery, (5-162) QB Erik Ainge, (6-171) WR Marcus Henry, (7-211) OT Nate Garner

Top Picks Last Five Years:
2008 – (1-6) DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio St. & (1-30) TE Dustin Keller, Purdue
2007 – (1-14) CB Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh
2006 – (1-19) OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia & (1-29) C Nick Mangold, Ohio St.
2005 – (2-47) K Mike Nugent, Ohio St.
2004 – (1-12) Jonathan Vilma, Miami

Booms: WR Jerricho Cotchery (4th Round 2004), S Erik Coleman (5th Round 2004), S Kerry Rhodes (4th Round 2005), C Nick Mangold (1st Round 2006), RB Leon Washington (4th Round 2006), CB Darrelle Revis (1st Round 2007), LB David Harris (2nd Round 2007)

Busts: CB Derrick Strait (3rd Round 2004), OT Adrian Jones (4th Round 2004), K Mike Nugent (2nd Round 2005), CB Justin Miller (2nd Round 2005), S Andre Maddox (5th Round 2005), QB Kellen Clemens (2nd Round 2006), LB Anthony Schlegel (3rd Round 2006)

Additions:
CB Tyron Brackenridge (Free Agent)
DE Marques Douglas (Free Agent)
NT Howard Green (Free Agent)
LB Larry Izzo (Free Agent)
SS Jim Leonard (Free Agent)
LB Bart Scott (Free Agent)
CB Lito Sheppard (Trade)
CB Donald Strickland (Free Agent)

Subtractions:

TE Chris Baker (Released)
CB David Barrett (Released)
ILB Eric Barton (FA-Cleveland)
ILB David Bowens (FA-Cleveland)
WR Laveranues Coles (FA-Cincinnati)
LB Brad Kassell (Released)
TE Bradley Listorti (FA-New England)
DE C.J. Mosley (FA-Cleveland)
CB Hank Poteat (FA-Cleveland)
LB Cody Spencer (FA-Detroit)

Keepers:
CB Ahmad Carroll
SS Abram Elam
K Jay Feely
OG Brandon Moore
FB Tony Rickardson

2009 Picks:
Round 1, Selection 17
Round 2, Selection 20
Round 3, Selection 12 (From New Orleans)
Round 4, Selection 15 (From Washington)
Round 6, Selection 20
Round 7, Selection 19

Team Needs – Players of Interest (Day One):
1. Wide Receiver:
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri; Percy Harvin, Florida; Darrius Hayward-Bey, Maryland; Kenny Britt, Rutgers; Brian Robiskie, Ohio St.; Hakeem Nicks, UNC
2. Defensive End: Tyson Jackson, LSU, Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St., Sen’Derrick Marks, Auburn, Ziggy Hood, Missouri
3. Quarterback: Mark Sanchez, USC; Josh Freeman, Kansas St.
4. Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma St.
5. Running Back: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia; Donald Brown, UConn; Chris Wells, Ohio St., LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh, Shonn Greene, Iowa; Glen Coffee, Alabama; Andre Brown, NC State
6. Offensive Tackle: Michael Oher, Ole Miss; Andre Smith, Alabama; Eben Britton, Arizona; Jamon Meredith, South Carolina; William Beatty, UConn

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, Purdue University Sports Information

All Access: Pat White QB Or Not QB

As NFL.com senior writer Steve Wyche wrote last week, Pat White drew 25 NFL teams to West Virginia’s pro day workout. White said he would run pass routes and go through receiver drills upon request, but no teams requested. Now it looks like teams were waiting for their own private individual workouts to see White in other capacities. White worked out with the New England Patriots on Wednesday, spending the majority of the workout on wide receiver drills, and worked out with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, according to league sources.

Mancini's Take:
It looks as though, White is finally coming around to running routes. The college quarterback can say all he wants about wanting to play his original position, but, at some point, economics have to enter the equation. White will be drafted higher as a receiver than he will as a signal caller, and therefore stands to make more money that way. The problem with the former Mountaineer as a quarterback has never been his arm, but his lack of size. White is about 6' tall...maybe, and rail thin. Why doesn't he throw on some weight, you ask? Well, that might be counterproductive in that more bulk might compromise his speed. I don't know about about you, great oracle, but I don't want to see a muscle-bound Pat White bouncing around out there like Donovan McNabb. I'd rather see him be a sleek, multi-purpose speedster.

Mandel's Take:
I'm with you, Reverend. In my mind, White is going to be Slash 2.0. Remember that scene in Trading Places when people start to notice the Duke brothers are trying to corner the orange juice market? Then all of the other traders pile on, thinking that if the Dukes are investing, there must be something to it? Well, the Patriots are the Duke brothers. They do everything within the law--and sometimes outside the law--to ensure their own success and are envied and loathed by everyone else. If they think Pat White can be a useful player, the rest of the league is going to come around to that line of thinking, and they should. White can be a wildcat/WR at the very least and until he proves he can't play some QB in certain situations, he should be given a shot there too. When his name is announced, it should sound something like this, "The New England Patriots select...Pat White...Football player...West Virginia." I'd take him on my team any day. The game is evolving. Teams that recognize it will corner the orange juice market.

Photo Credit: WVU Sports Communication

All Access: Jamon Meredith Pro Day Results

New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was on hand at South Carolina’s March 25 pro day to personally work out tackle Jamon Meredith, who was among 18 players to workout indoors on FieldTurf in front of representatives from 25 NFL teams. Meredith measured in at 6-foot-5, 304 pounds, with 34 3/4-inch arms. He kept all of his numbers from the combine, but looked very good in position drills.

Mancini's Take: It's good to see Dante Scarnecchia still at it after all these years. The jack of all trades has served New England in just about every capacity from water boy to parking attendant to special teams coach, and now being the man in charge of the offensive line. As far as Meredith is concerned, is see him as a developmental player with tremendous length and quick feet. His technique needs to improve, however. As a pro, he would need to work on his tendency to drop back too far and playing too tall. Does this guy sound like a poor man's Michael Oher to you, Rosstradamus?

Mandel's Take: Meredith is a bit lighter, but yeah. He needs to put on some weight to avoid being pushed around at the next level, but I love this guy's athleticism and the fact that he has logged a lot of game time. He's also a very intelligent player, both on the field and off it. He reads plays extremely well and his smarts will give him the ability to quickly pick up the system of whichever team drafts him. His tendency to play too high in his stance can be fixed. A Day One pick and yes, a poor man's Oher. If he bulks up, he could be more.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

All Access: South Carolina Pro Day

LB Jasper Brinkley (6-1 5/8, 249) looked very quick and fluid in all positional drills. Brinkley ran a 4.39 short shuttle, a 6.92 three-cone drill and stood on the rest of his numbers from the Combine. TE Jared Cook (6-4 5/8, 249) ran a 4.56 short shuttle and a 7.25 three-cone drill. Cook has drawn a lot of interest and has a pair of upcoming workouts scheduled. CB Captain Munnerlyn (5-8 5/8, 186) posted a 4.44 and 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.04 in the short shuttle and a 7.05 in the three-cone drill as well as a 36.5-inch vertical jump. S Emanuel Cook (5-9 3/4, 201) ran a 4.57 and 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.42 short shuttle, 7.11 three-cone drill and posted a 32-inch vertical jump.

Mancini's Take: You have to love the size on Brinkley, who's actually dropped a few pounds. He's an inside thumper in the mold of Levon Kirkland. I think everybody knows about Cook by now. The kid is an ultra-athletic playmaker at tight end, and Munnerlyn is an NFL corner. He has the loose hips to stay with receivers and is quick at getting in and out of his cuts. He also has some good mitts and can return kicks. What's the skinny on E. Cook, Ross? Do you think his physical play will be enough to overcome his lack of size. He's listed at 5'10", but is probably a inch or so shorter than that.

Mandel's Take:
I am more worried about Cook's mental makeup than his size. His hard-hitting ability and all aound physical style of play is all fine and well, but I'd be worried that Cook flamed out academically and ended his season ineligible. It's not that I need him to be an "A" student, it's that he knew what he needed to do in the classroom and failed to do it. He proved to be irresponsible and unwilling to sacrifice for the team. Not good. Brinkley's size is definitely impressive and he has some speed to go along with it. If he can stay healthy--and it's a big "if"--he is going to have an impact at the next level. Munnerlyn, to me, needs to prove he is big enough to play corner at the next level. At 5' 9", he doesn't lay the smackdown like the similarly sized E. Cook and might be pushed around a bit in the League. He will, however, be able to use his quickness to contribute as a return man if nothing else.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Player Spotlight: RB Javon Ringer, Michigan St.

The former Michigan St. Spartan rushed for over 3,000 yards in his final two seasons in the Big Ten, crossing the goal line 22 times as a senior. The workhorse toted the pigskin an amazing 390 times in 2009 proving many doubters wrong who questioned his durability and whether he could be an “every-down” back. His college numbers are very similar to that of NFL greats Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas, as well as current NFL stars Brian Westbrook and Frank Gore. Javon Ringer joins us in this Player Spotlight to talk about his college career, the draft process and what the future holds.

Hosted by Player Spotlight host and Big Ten Insider John Sears. 24 Min. Click to Listen.

Photo Credit: Michigan State Athletic Communications

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Player Profile: Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin

Pros: Maclin is a game-changer and is much faster than his 4.4 forty shows. He has great acceleration and with his straight line speed, he won’t be caught in the open field. He is a threat receiving, rushing, and returning. When cutting, he loses no speed and can shoot through small creases for big gains. He breaks tackles with a nice spin move and a good stiff arm. He showed nice hands over the middle and often makes catches that look out of his range. Maclin is strong and won’t be brought down by weak arm tackles. He is a team first guy and is dedicated to making plays when his team needs a boost. In a very strong receiver class, Maclin stands out due to his mix of speed, and knack for making big plays. The former Tiger calls himself a playmaker and is as dangerous as any prospect in the 2009 Draft with the pigskin in his hands.

Cons:
Maclin is not a polished route runner. He did most of his damage when left alone on drags, screens, and quick slants. He is fast but doesn’t create a lot of separation without the ball in his hands. He will struggle in the NFL against physical corners in man and press coverage early on. He is still raw due to only playing two college seasons. He is not extremely physical and looks to jump out of bounds instead of turning up field for the extra yards. Maclin will need to get stronger. He was not able to show his ability on the deep ball very much due to the offense Mizzou ran and Chase Daniel's inability to throw the deep ball. Ball security and durability are also issues. He missed the entire 2006 season with a torn ACL and injured his knee at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Scouts take: Maclin was the definition of a game-breaker at Mizzou. Time and time again he turned what looked to be a short gain into a huge play or a touchdown. He could be a top ten pick due to his college production and blazing open field speed. Don’t be surprised if he is selected before Michael Crabtree. He is a reliable receiver with big play potential each time he touches the ball. He is the type of guy that will need the ball at the next level, and one whom opposing defenses must be aware of. Since he can run the long routes, short routes, screens, reverses and handle punts and kicks, he should touch the ball six to ten times a game. There are two areas Maclin must improve on can and will be addressed by his NFL coaches. First, he will need to learn to run routes against man coverage. He needs to take advantage of his speed against corners that try to jam him at the line. Also, he needs to learn to protect the ball before the hit. Despite those two weaknesses, he should still be a big contributor on offense and in the return game in his rookie season. He should have a long, exciting, and productive career in the NFL. Think of DeSean Jackson or Ted Ginn with more strength.

Photo Credit:

Q&A: Mike Leach, Head Coach, Texas Tech

Last season, did you ever want to pull a “Network” and open the window and say, “Hey, what about us?” when it came to all the hype of Oklahoma and Texas vying to play Florida in the National Championship?

Leach: We had as much of a claim to play Florida as anyone else. I look at it this way—the rules were set up before the season started and so there’s really nothing to be done about that. I think a good tie breaker would be graduation rate. I think that when you have a tie like that, I think a good blending of athletics and academics would be fantastic. Of course our graduation rate is 79 percent, Texas’ is 50 percent, and Oklahoma’s is 40 percent so we would have gone to the big game and that would have suited me tremendously. I think it would be wise if that change took place immediately, but I don’t look for that to happen. The thing is, ultimately, you had three great teams who really had good years and I think all of them deserved a lot of distinction and things like that. But I think all three had really great seasons.

Do you get into the NCAA Basketball Tournament or are you too busy preparing for spring football to really get involved?

Leach: I guess a little of both. Of course Pat Knight does a great job and we have a young team and they are fighting through some hard times and building up right now, but I thought they did a great job of coaching so I've always rooted for them to win. Right now I'm pretty well focused on spring football I guess, that’s really the priority, it’s the second most exciting part of the year and I’m really thrilled about that.

Speaking of Pat Knight, Bobby Knight was the former basketball coach there. While he was there, did you get a chance to talk to him or learn anything from him? As a coach are you always trying to learn from other coaches, regardless of the sport?

Leach: Well, Bobby Knight is a huge presence in athletics without question. He is the most successful and has the most wins of any basketball coach and I think that speaks for itself. The thing with coach Knight is, he is a great observer of people and his experiences and things like that. Just listening to him talk is fascinating. Don’t worry about the direction the conversation is going to go, just get him talking on a subject, hold on and listen, and it’s all worthwhile. Every time I ever had the opportunity to listen to him talk, I thought it was fascinating. He’s been out of town more than he’s been in town so I haven’t had the opportunity to do any of that lately, but he’s a fascinating individual.

Is it fair to call Graham Harrell a “system quarterback” considering that other quarterbacks that have come from Texas Tech have not been great NFL quarterbacks? And do you think any of those quarterbacks should be mentioned when talking about Graham Harrell?

Leach: Well, Kingsbury hasn’t done much except play every season at some different level of professional football since he left (Texas Tech). Sonny Cumbie was the franchise guy of LA’s Arena team. I think the other thing about it, in regards to quarterbacks, is that there’s only 30-some teams who are going to have a starting quarterback, so the notion that they’re not successful I think is false. Anybody that uses the word “system” right off the top, you know you’re talking to a bad football coach. Because anybody who says anything like that doesn’t understand the point of coaching. Anybody who calls plays has a system, so I assume their team calls plays, if they don’t they probably ought to start. I can’t think of any team that doesn’t call plays, so right there you have a system. This system quarterback stuff, all the guy is doing is acknowledging that he’s not a very good football coach because his quarterback doesn’t have the success that maybe (Cody) Hodges does or Graham Harrell or whoever; they want to call him a system quarterback and actually what they’re saying is they’re a bad football coach. The other thing that amazes me about it is in the NFL, most of the quarterbacks are playing in an offense that's similar to ours. They spread out, they throw it most of the time, and they operate from the shotgun, which is similar to what we do. So that immediately fits with the NFL model better than most of the quarterbacks from other systems. My favorite cop-out is those coaches that say, “Well, I don’t know if he can take a snap or drop back”. First of all, he’s (Harrell) done plenty of that. Second of all, how big of an insecurity that is as a coach, to feel like you don’t have the ability to teach somebody to take a snap and step backwards three, five, seven steps. We’re talking about a coach who is 30-50 years old dealing with a skill he can do himself and yet he doesn’t think he can teach it to a world class athlete?

So you’re saying you can’t be a college professor and say you can’t teach elementary school?

Leach: I would think. Send me a pile of nine-year olds and I'll have them taking drops and taking snaps from under center and I'll get it done in a couple of hours.

Your point of being in the shotgun formation seems to be trickling down to the NFL more and more. Even looking at the Patriots putting up record setting numbers, they were in shotgun more often than not.

Leach: Well Peyton Manning, how often is he under center? How about Denver? How about Seattle? How about Green Bay? How about Philadelphia? You can go on and on. It’s a bunch of foolishness. It's people afraid to think for themselves is what it is, and so what they do is they sit around and parrot what’s been infused in their head. I think just by definition, if you’re going to coach something you’re required to think, you’re required to teach. I think that failure to do that, how can you possibly call yourself a very good coach or a very good organization if you can't understand things that fundamental?

Another one of your players, Michael Crabtree is being scrutinized and you’re hearing things like, “He isn’t fast enough” or “He isn’t as tall as we thought”. Is that more foolishness to you?

Leach: Of course it's foolishness. The leading receiver in the NFL last year was Wes Welker, who came from our quote/unquote system. Two years in a row he’s led the league in receiving. He runs around a 4.8 and just had a happy experience at the Pro Bowl. And the fact that Michael Crabtree is only five or six inches taller and faster that means somehow he’s magically going to be a failure? I guess I’m not buying that either. And if our system is so flawed, you tell me how it is that simultaneously, for two years in a row, we had the leading receiver in the NFL and the leading receiver in college football.

Louis Vasquez, a guard, is starting to make a name for himself. Talk about him playing with those wide splits and do you think that will help him go into the next level?

Leach: Well, I think he’s got great technique, he’s real strong and he led the Combine in bench press. The thing is, he’s a great pass protector and that’s what’s required in the NFL. So yeah, I think he’ll do very well.

What are your thoughts on Brandon Williams' potential as a pass rusher at the next level?

Leach: Well we wish him the very best even though I think it was a mistake for him to leave early. I think he had more work to do and he could have improved his viability, but I think he’s a good player and has a lot of skills and I think if he continues to improve, he has the opportunity to do well.

Do your players normally come to you when they are in the process of deciding to leave early for the Draft or stay in college, or is that usually something they discuss with their agent or their family?

Leach: It varies a great deal. We never advised Brandon to leave and we stand behind that. As a matter of fact, I think the longer a guy stays the better off he is because I think that your chance of making the team is higher the more experience you have. A long story short, I think with rare exception you’re better off staying in school and then, certainly, the education aspect of school factors in there as well.

Would that apply to somebody like a Crabtree, who could be a potential top ten pick, or is he in fact that rare exception?

Leach: I think he’s somewhere around there. There’s personal choice in the matter too because everybody is going to be pressuring the kids and they have to decide which route they want to go and which way they want their life to proceed. Do they want to improve their chance of sticking in the NFL by staying put, or are they ready to roll the dice? The other thing is, with rare exception, players like the achievement of going to the NFL; they like the money in the NFL. Most of them cherish their college memories a little more than their NFL memories because the NFL has a business quality to it. So if you’re good enough, you’re going to eventually get to the NFL, so I don’t think there’s any real hurry. Sometimes the parents get stuff in their head and jump to silly conclusions and sometimes that’s aided by agents or friends or relatives or whoever, and I just think that people need to try to be smart and think first about the player that’s involved. There’s a certain amount of people out there that are thinking about themselves before the guy that’s doing the playing; all they want is the golden eggs, they don’t care about the goose.

Crabtree seemed to do such a great job at fighting to come back to the football and not letting the defender get through him to get to the ball. Is that something that was coached or is it just a natural instinct that he has?

Leach: I think all the above. Crabtree is one of the most competitive people I have ever dealt with. He believes he can get the ball and wants the ball virtually every play and we teach and encourage those types of things. The amazing knack that Crabtree had was continuing to finish plays and when they appeared to be over, making something happen.

What can you tell us about Taylor Potts, the expected successor to Graham Harrell? Is this his job to lose and how important is this spring for him being that he doesn’t have that much experience?

Leach: Well he’s got a little more than you think, he’s thrown a lot of balls. When he went in against Oklahoma State, he went 12-for-12 and had some very impressive throws and threw for over 100 yards in that stint. So I think he’s really good, I think he just needs to continue to improve like everybody. I think it’s important that he goes out and has a good spring, but I have a lot of confidence in him, too.

So does he have to earn the job in the spring?

Leach: You always have to earn the job and we will compare him with the others and obviously the guy that’s the best is going to start, but when we left the fall, he was ahead.

As far as recruiting, do you look for quarterbacks who run a similar offense you guys run at Tech or do you just go out and try and get the best football players you can get, regardless?

Leach: Well, I can’t talk about any commitments, but when it comes to recruiting quarterbacks in general, we look for guys who have some experience throwing the football.

Photo Credit: Texas Tech Athletics

2009 Preview: Brandon Spikes

Three months ago Brandon Spikes turned down potentially millions of dollars to return to Florida for his senior season. Spikes said he and the rest of the Gators are driven by the chance to win three national championships in four years. The word is, Spikes has been the main guy riding players in workouts and drills, saying he won't have anyone loafing around when the Gators are on a championship mission. "It's definitely a dream,'' he said. "You feel like (you've gotten) two out of four already. And all our guys were coming back, we weren't losing anybody. I'm real close with the guys on defense. And then guys like Tim Tebow coming back for their senior year, that kind of helped me with my decision. Absolutely, that's the drive for us right now.''

Mancini's Take: They're all drinking the Tim Tebow Kool-Aid down in the Sunshine State. I never heard of a player foregoing the draft just to have one more chance to play alongside his college quarterback. It's a bit weird, but refreshing at the same time. Spikes has nothing to prove as a collegiate athlete. He could've easily been a first-round pick, but he loves being a winner and Florida has all the ingredients to make another another championship run. Much like Tebow on offense, Spikes is the unquestioned captain of the defense, who sets the tone with his toughness and ability to always putting himself in the best position to make plays. Will you be cheering on the Gators with your Blue and Orange Percy Harvin jersey on, Ross man?

Mandel's Take: All of these Gators coming back...it makes sense to me. Why not return when you're campus Gods? There's plenty of time to be an adult, plenty of time to make those NFL dollars, but you're only a college kid once. These guys are National Champions and Cap'n Timmy and the entire defense are coming back--they're rock stars who may even become more popular, if that's possible. However, once they leave the comfort of Gainesville, real life begins and they go from celebrities to the grunts who have to bring in the donuts to NFL vets. I have no love for the Gators, but also have no problem with anyone staying in school...

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

Friday, March 27, 2009

On The Clock: San Diego Chargers

Record: 8-8, 3rd In the AFC South
General Manager: A.J. Smith, Head Coach: Norv Turner (3rd Year), Offensive Coordinator: Clarence Shelmon (3rd Year/8th Year With the Chargers), Defensive Coordinator: Ron Rivera (2nd Year/3rd With the Chargers)

Offense Rankings: No. 11 Overall, No. 2 Scoring, No. 7 Passing, No. 20 Rushing
Defense Rankings: No. 25 Overall, No. 15 Scoring, No. 31 Passing, No. 11 Rushing

Last Five Years: 54-26; Last Playoff Appearance: 2008; Last Playoff Victory: 2008 (23-17 Over the Indianapolis Colts)

2008 Draft: (1-27) CB Antoine Cason, (3-69) FB Jacob Hester, (5-166) RB Marcus Thomas, (6-192) CB DeJuan Tribble, (7-234) OT Corey Clark

Top Picks Last Five Years:
2008 – (1-27) CB Antoine Cason, Arizona
2007 – (1-30) WR Craig Davis, LSU
2006 – (1-19) CB Antonio Cromartie, FSU
2005 – (1-12) LB Shawne Merriman, Maryland & (1-28) DE Luis Castillo, Northwestern
2004 – (1-1) QB Eli Manning, Ole Miss (Traded for Phillip Rivers)

Booms: QB Phillip Rivers (1st Round 2004), DE Igor Olshansky (2nd Round 2004), K Nate Kaeding (3rd Round 2004), C Nick Hardwick (3rd Round 2004), DE Shaun Phillips (4th Round 2004), RB Michael Turner (5th Round 2004), OT Shane Olivea (1st Round 2004), LB Shawne Merriman (1st Round 2005), DT Luis Castillo (2nd Round), RB Darren Sproles (4th Round 2005), CB Antonio Cromartie (1st Round 2006), OT Marcus McNeil (2nd Round 2006), LB Brandon Siler (7th Round 2007)

Busts: QB Charlie Whitehurst (3rd Round 2006), WR Craig "Buster" Davis (1st Round 2007), LB Anthony Waters (3rd Round 2007), TE Scott Chandler (4th Round 2007)

Additions:
LB Kevin Burnett (Free Agent)

Subtractions:
RB Eldra Buckley (Released)
OG Michael Goff (Kansas City)
DE Igor Olshansky (Dallas)

Keepers:
OT Jeromey Clary
OG Kynan Forney
RB Darren Sproles (Franchised)

2009 Picks:
Round 1, Selection 16
Round 3, Selection 14
Round 4, Selection 13
Round 4, Selection 33 (Compensatory)
Round 4, Selection 34 (Compensatory)
Round 5, Selection 12
Round 6, Selection 16
Round 7, Selection 15

Team Needs – Players of Interest (Day One):
1. Right Tackle:
Michael Oher, Ole Miss; Andre Smith, Alabama
2. Defensive End: Tyson Jackson, LSU
3. Safety: None.
4. Guard: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
5. Fullback: None.
6. Running Back: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia; Donald Brown, UConn; Chris Wells, Ohio St.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

Pro Day Impact & Analysis: Peria Jerry

Mississippi DL Peria Jerry measured a height of 6-foot1 7/8 and a weight of 290 pounds at his Pro Day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.64 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.30 seconds. He measured a 31-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-6 broad jump and completed 28 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press.

Mancini's Take: Jerry has amazing burst off the snap, which helps him knife through the line of scrimmage and wreak havoc in the offensive backfield. In addition to his quickness, the d-tackle can really hammer ballcarriers and force turnovers. The only question with Jerry is whether he can fight through double teams. He's not B.J. Raji when it comes to stopping the run, but he's certainly a playmaker. Did this guy blow you away during Senior Bowl week, Rosstradamus?

Mandel's Take: He is indeed impressive, Rev, but I wonder about his durability--he missed several games early in his college career, had surgery less than a year ago, and during his Pro Day, he was bothered by a slight hamstring pull. However, even with that nagging injury, he managed to post some very solid numbers for a man of his size. His athleticism and non-stop motor will be attractive to any team and if he was 21, and hadn't been banged up in college, he'd be a top-10 pick. But he's 25 and has a history of injury...so he'll probably go late in round one. He will no doubt produce...when he's on the field.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

On The Clock: Houston Texans

Record: 8-8, 3rd In the AFC South
General Manager: Rick Smith, Head Coach: Gary Kubiak (4th Year), Offensive Coordinator: Kyle Shanahan (2nd Year/4th Year With the Texans), Defensive Coordinator: Frank Bush (1st Year/3rd With the Texans)

Offense Rankings: No. 3 Overall, No. 17 Scoring, No. 4 Passing, No. 13 Rushing
Defense Rankings: No. 22 Overall, No. 27 Scoring, No. 17 Passing, No. 23 Rushing

Last Five Years: 31-49; Last Playoff Appearance: Never; Last Playoff Victory: Never

2008 Draft: (1-26) OT Duane Brown, (3-79) CB Antwaun Molden, (3-89) RB Steve Slaton, (4-118) LB Xavier Adibi, (5-151) DT Frank Okam, (6-173) S Dominique Barber, (7-223) QB Alex Brink

Top Picks Last Five Years:
2008 – (1-26) OT Duane Brown, Virginia Tech
2007 – (1-10) DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville
2006 – (1-1) DE Mario Williams, NC State
2005 – (1-16) DT Travis Johnson, Florida St.
2004 – (1-10) CB Dunta Robinson, South Carolina & (1-27) LB Jason Babin

Boom: CB Dunta Robinson (1st Round 2004), DE Mario Williams (1st Round 2006), LB DeMeco Ryans (2nd Round 2006), OT Eric Winston (3rd Round 2006), TE Owen Daniels (4th Round 2006), WR David Anderson (7th Round 2006), DB Fred Bennett (4th Round 2007), LB Zachary Diles (7th Round 2007), RB Steve Slaton (3rd Round 2008)

Bust: LB Jason Babin (1st Round 2004), RB Vernand Morency (3rd Round 2005), WR Jerome Mathis (4th Round 2005), OG Charles Spencer (3rd Round 2006), WR Jacoby Jones (2nd Round 2007)

Additions:
QB Dan Orlovsky (Free Agent)
DE Antonio Smith (Free Agent)

Subtractions:
SS C.C. Brown (FA-New York/NFC)
FS Will Demps (Released)
RB Ahman Green (Released)
LB Morlon Greenwood (Released)
QB Sage Rosenfels (Trade)
OT Ephraim Salaam (Released)
DE Anthony Weaver (Released)

Keepers:
WR David Anderson
TE Joel Dreessen
SS Nick Ferguson
DE Stanley McClover
CB Dunta Robinson (Franchised)
C Chris White
FS Eugene Wilson

2009 Picks:
Round 1, Selection 15
Round 2, Selection 14
Round 3, Selection 13
Round 4, Selection 12
Round 4, Selection 22 (From Minnesota)
Round 5, Selection 16
Round 6, Selection 15
Round 7, Selection 14

Team Needs – Players of Interest (Day One):
1. Outside Linebacker:
Brian Cushing, USC; Clay Matthews Jr., USC; Clint Sintim, Virginia; Marcus Freeman, Ohio St.
2. Safety: Louis Delmas, Western Michigan
3. Defensive Tackle: Peria Jerry, Ole Miss; Evander Hood, Missouri; Jarron Gilbert, San Jose St.; Sen’Derrick Marks, Auburn
4. Running Back: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia; Donald Brown, UConn; Chris Wells, Ohio St.; Andre Brown, North Carolina St.; Shonn Greene, Iowa; Glenn Coffee, Alabama; Rashad Jennings, Liberty
5. Offensive Guard: Herman Johnson, LSU; Andre Levitre, Oregon St.
6. Defensive End: Robert Ayers, Tennessee; Tyson Jackson, LSU; Lawrence Sidbury Jr., Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech; Paul Kruger, Utah

Photo Credit: College Press Box (West Virginia), SEC Sports Media