May 2, 2011

Monday with Mike: All-undrafted team

There were 254 players selected in this year's NFL draft, and while the requisite big-name players went early, even hard-core college football fans had to have a feeling of puzzlement when they heard the names Mikail Baker, Shane Bannon and Michael Jasper.

That trio -- Baker is cornerback from Baylor, Bannon a fullback from Yale and Jasper a defensive tackle (and a 394-pounder at that) from Bethel (Tenn.) -- will head to an NFL camp as a draftee. But there are numerous big-name players from the past few seasons who are going to have to go the undrafted free-agent route.

Here's a look at what would be a pretty solid starting 24 made up of guys who were not drafted.

OFFENSE
QB Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin
The buzz: He was a two-year starter for the Badgers and guided them to 21 wins in those two seasons. He completed 68.1 percent of his passes as a starter, with 32 TDs and 17 interceptions. The relatively high picks total, along with a lack of arm strength, likely kept him from being drafted.
RB John Clay, Wisconsin
The buzz: Clay is a bruising back who ran for 3,413 yards and 41 TDs in three seasons with the ground-bound Badgers. But his lack of breakaway speed cost him in the eyes of NFL scouts. He also has iffy hands as a receiver.
RB Noel Devine, West Virginia
The buzz: Devine was a speedy playmaker for WVU, but he had his worst season as a senior. He still finished with 4,317 yards and 29 TDs and also was a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, with 98 career catches. He also can be a return man. While he had a checkered high school career, he didn't have any problems at WVU. His lack of size (he's 5 feet 8) hurts, but given his quickness, production and receiving ability, he will get a free-agent opportunity.
WR Armon Binns, Cincinnati
The buzz: He really saw action in just two seasons with the Bearcats, but he was productive in those two seasons, catching a combined 136 passes for 1,989 yards and 21 TDs in 2009 and '10. He has excellent size (6-3/209), good hands and experience in a pass-happy attack. NFL scouts evidently were worried that he wouldn't be anything more than a possession receiver in the NFL.
WR Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
The buzz: Sanzenbacher garnered some All-Big Ten notice in each of the past two seasons. He caught a combined 17 TD passes as a junior and senior, and is a precise route-runner and a tough kid. But he lacks speed and is not a deep threat, and that hurts his NFL stock.
WR Terrence Toliver, LSU
The buzz: Toliver arrived at LSU amid much high school hype, but he never really got to work with a good quarterback. Still, he had 94 catches in his final two seasons at LSU and has excellent size (6-4/212) and good speed. He remains raw as a receiver, though, and lacks consistency.
T Adam Grant, Arizona
The buzz: Grant was an All-Pac-10 honoree in each of the past two seasons for an explosive Arizona attack and has great size (6-6/325). But he also has a long injury history, and there's a question as to whether he can handle speed rushers off the edge. He's not necessarily seen as physical enough to play guard, either.
T Willie Smith, East Carolina
The buzz: Smith is a big-time athlete for his size (6-5/310) and was a two-time All-Conference USA honoree for the Pirates. Worth noting is that ECU was a run-oriented team when he was a junior in 2009 before becoming a pass-happy squad last season, when he was a senior. He's a former defensive lineman, so he has a mean strength, but he must develop some consistency and add bulk.
G Justin Boren, Ohio State
The buzz: Boren was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes after transferring from Michigan and was a second-team All-America selection in 2010. His lack of athleticism cost him in terms of NFL potential.
G Zach Hurd, Connecticut
The buzz: Hurd is huge (6-7/318) and was a three-year starter for the Huskies. He was a road-grader for Connecticut's very productive ground game. NFL scouts evidently question his pass-blocking ability.
C Chase Beeler, Stanford
The buzz: Beeler was a consensus All-American in 2010, but his relative lack of size (he's a tad under 6 feet 3) and bulk (285 pounds) hurt him in the eyes of NFL scouts. Actually, a strong case can be made that all the good college centers in 2010 went undrafted; among the other centers who didn't hear their names called were Missouri's Tim Barnes, Arizona's Colin Baxter, Oregon's Jordan Holmes,TCU's Jake Kirkpatrick, USC's Kris O'Dowd and Auburn's Ryan Pugh.
DEFENSE
L Brandon Bair, Oregon
The buzz: He started as a junior and senior for the Ducks and garnered All-Pac-10 acclaim in each season. He made 92 tackles the past two seasons and had 16 tackles for loss as a senior. He's 6 feet 6 and 277 pounds, but NFL scouts worry about his lack of bulk at tackle. He is a potential end, but his pass-rush ability is a question.
L John Graves, Virginia Tech
The buzz: Graves was a two-year starter at tackle for the Hokies and was an All-ACC honoree in 2010, when he had 37 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack. He also blocked three kicks in his career. He's 6-3 and there were some scouts who thought he could play end in a 3-4 set because of his size. While he is solid against the run, there are questions about his pass-rush ability.
L Kenny Rowe, Oregon
The buzz: There are no questions about Rowe's pass-rush ability. He arrived at Oregon with the reputation as a pass-rush specialist, and he flashed that ability often with the Ducks. He finished his career with 23.5 sacks, including 18.5 the past two seasons, when he was a starting end. But he weighs about 240 pounds and a move to linebacker was needed at that size. But there are questions about his ability to cover and also to hold up against the run at that position.
LB Nick Bellore, Central Michigan
The buzz: Bellore was a four-year starter for the Chippewas -- and an extremely productive one, finishing his career with an incredible 472 tackles. He added 32.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, five interceptions, nine pass breakups and five forced fumbles. He also started all 52 games in his college career. But Bellore is considered limited athletically by NFL scouts.
LB Mark Herzlich, Boston College
The buzz: Herzlich missed the 2009 season because of cancer, but given the way he played in 2008 -- and the way he played after beating cancer in 2010 -- some team should have taken a flyer on him in the sixth or seventh round. His is a phenomenal story, and when he was healthy, he was one of the nation's top two or three linebackers. He's smart, physical and agile. Herzlich will get a free-agent shot -- and if he's healthy, he'll make a general manager look like a genius for signing him as an undrafted free agent.
LB Scott Lutrus, Connecticut
The buzz: He was a four-year starter for the defense-minded Huskies and finished his career with 341 tackles. He also had six interceptions, nine pass breakups and 26 tackles for loss. He battled injuries in 2009 and '10, and that injury history evidently kept him undrafted.
LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland
The buzz: He started for three years for the Terps and always seemed to be around the ball, finishing his career with 381 tackles. He had four career interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and nine pass breakups to go with 17 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick. His lack of athleticism was a problem for NFL scouts.
CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina
The buzz: He was a four-year starter at corner for the Tar Heels -- well, sort of. Burney missed seven games as a senior in 2010 for a violation of team rules. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior in 2009 and a second-team selection as a sophomore. He finished his UNC career with 11 interceptions (for 358 return yards) and 210 tackles. He is considered undersized at 5-9 and 185 pounds and lacks strength; he also lacks top-end speed (he reportedly ran a 4.69 40 at UNC's pro day after running a 4.75 at the Combine).
CB Talmadge Jackson, Oregon
The buzz: He was a two-year starter for the Ducks and earned first-team All-Pac-10 acclaim last season as a senior. He finished his career with eight interceptions, 15 pass breakups and 159 tackles. He is the same height and weight as Burney, and his relative lack of size hurts him when it comes to the NFL. He is better in zone than in man-to-man, and his lack of a physical nature is another knock.
FS Tejay Johnson, TCU
The buzz: He was a consensus All-America selection in 2010, when he had 66 tackles, three interceptions, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles for one of the nation's best defenses. He was a three-year starter for the Horned Frogs, but while he was a productive college player for an excellent defense, he is not an elite athlete and is considered too slow to be an NFL safety.
SS DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
The buzz: McDaniel, who played some linebacker at Clemson, is a fierce hitter who is active in run support. He also had 12 interceptions in the past two seasons and was a two-time first-team All-ACC pick. But he is not an elite athlete and has had some off-field issues.
SPECIALISTS
K Kai Forbath, UCLA
The buzz: He made 85 field goals during his career and connected on 84.1 percent of his attempts. He set an NCAA record by kicking at least two field goals in 31 games; the record had been 27. He was 10-of-13 in his career from beyond 50 yards. He won the Groza Award as the nation's best kicker in 2009, when he was 28-of-31.
P Chas Henry, Florida
The buzz: He won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter in 2010, when he averaged 45.1 yards per punt. For his career, he averaged 43.0 yards, and 68 of his 165 career punts landed inside the 20. He suffered no blocks in his career and doubled as the Gators' kicker in 2010.

MORE DRAFT STUFF

Some facts and figures from the draft:

The SEC had the most draftees, with 38. The ACC was second with 35, followed by the Pac-10 with 31, the Big 12 with 30, the Big Ten with 29, the Big East with 22, the Western Athletic with 16, the Mountain West with 10, Conference USA with seven, the Sun Belt with five and the Mid-American with three.

The SEC led the way with 10 first-rounders, including five of the first six selections. The Big 12 had eight picks, including three of the top 10. Next came the Big Ten with six, the ACC and Pac-10 with three each and the Big East and MAC with one each. Two of the Pac-10's were taken among the first 10.

North Carolina and USC each had nine players drafted, tied for the most of any school. Miami had eight, Nebraska seven, and Clemson, Georgia, Iowa and LSU had six each. None of those eight schools played in a BCS bowl, and Clemson and Georgia finished with losing records.

At this time last year, some draft observers were saying North Carolina could have six first-round picks off its defense alone. It had one -- DE Robert Quinn. Just five UNC defenders were drafted.

Oregon, which lost in the national championship game, had one player drafted. Auburn, which won the national title, had four. That means the BCS title game had five draftees -- the fewest of any of the BCS bowls. The Fiesta, which matched Connecticut and Oklahoma, had eight. The Orange, which matched Stanford and Virginia Tech, had seven. The Rose, which matched TCU and Wisconsin, had 10. And the Sugar, which matched Arkansas and Ohio State, also had eight. The Music City Bowl, which matched North Carolina and Tennessee, had the most draftees with 11.

Big Six schools with zero draftees were Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.

Jasper, who was mentioned earlier in the story, is the first player drafted from Bethel (Tenn.), an NAIA school located in McKenzie, Tenn., a town of about 5,300 in northwest Tennessee. Jasper, from the Nashville suburb of Mt. Juliet, was drafted as a defensive tackle by Buffalo after playing guard (at 440 pounds!) for Bethel last fall. He began his career at FCS member UT Martin, starting for two years at defensive tackle before transferring to Middle Tennessee. But he had eligibility issues at MTSU and ended up at Bethel. As a high school senior in 2004, Jasper -- then a svelte 355 pounds -- received recruiting interest from Ole Miss. But when David Cutcliffe was fired as coach, that interest ended and Jasper instead signed with UT Martin in February 2005.

There were 56 underclassmen -- a record high -- who declared for the draft. Suffice to say, a lot of them are having second thoughts right about now. Thirteen weren't drafted at all -- Auburn WR Darvin Adams, Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown, Wisconsin RB John Clay, Georgia Tech OT Nick Claytor, Virginia Tech RB Darren Evans, South Carolina WR Tori Gurley, Florida FS Will Hill, Pitt FB Henry Hynoski, Stanford LB Thomas Keiser, Oregon DB Javes Lewis, Virginia DE Zane Parr, Utah DT Sealver Siliga and Georgia Tech S Jerrard Tarrant. In addition, a few went relatively late in the draft, among them Utah CB Brandon Burton (fifth round), Arizona State DT Lawrence Guy (seventh), Iowa SS Tyler Sash (sixth) and UConn RB Jordan Todman (sixth).

ONE MORE THING

In 2003, then-Vanderbilt chancellor Gordon Gee famously declared, "There is a wrong culture in athletics, and I'm declaring war on it."

In his "war," Gee did away with Vandy's athletic department and instead folded into the University Affairs office, where athletics is overseen by a vice chancellor.

We bring this up not to make fun of Vandy's athletics (actually, outside of football, Vandy has a solid program) but to instead wonder where Gee -- now the president of Ohio State -- has been during this whole Jim Tressel controversy.

To be fair, Gee did weigh in once, back in March. At a news conference that announced NCAA violations committed by Tressel, Gee was asked if he was going to fire Tressel. No way, Gee said. He laughingly added, "I hope he doesn't fire me."

Gee later apologized for the line, but where is the action from the man who vowed to change college athletics? Last week, when the NCAA officially announced it was investigating Tressel, Gee wasn't heard from.

Indeed, Gee (the highest-paid university president in the nation, by the way) has been strangely silent during the whole Tressel brouhaha. You'd think a guy who declared "war" on big-time athletics surely would have waded into the fray and jettisoned Tressel.

Instead ... crickets.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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