September 30, 2016

Lonnie Harvey Q&A With PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picWhether in football or in life, everyone needs a break. Lonnie Harvey’s may arrive due to a simple, clever idea: to record his pro day workout and post it on YouTube.

In the video, the 346-pound Morgan State defensive lineman displays eye-opening agility, rumbling around the field like a one-man avalanche. Harvey spent some time with PD and continued to spread the word that he should get a serious look this April.

Who’s idea was it to film you on your pro day?

Actually, me and a friend of mine both came up with the idea. His name is Jason Murphy. We said because of the fact that we don’t have that much exposure, this would help the teams that don’t know anything about me (and) make myself stand out as much as possible.

Now, did (Jason) follow you around with the camera and just watch what you were doing, going through your events?

Actually, no, he wasn’t actually there. He plays for the Tennessee Titans. We sat down and came up with a way together to get me some more exposure, and this was the idea that he came up with.

It seems to be working pretty well. Have you gotten some positive reaction from it?

Yes I have. I’ve gotten many positive reactions. As a matter of fact, I was online yesterday, I just Googled myself, and I came across a Colts fan blog site. I was just, you know, reading the blogs about me, and a lot of people were impressed with the way that I moved. Not only that, a few teams contacted my agent about the Youtube video, and a lot of them were pretty impressed with what they saw, being my size and (moving) the way I move. I think it worked out pretty well.

In terms of the results, were those what you expected on your pro day?

I actually expected to run a little faster, and I was hoping that I could do a little more on my bench press, but that was pretty much it. I expected my short shuttle, (20-yard) shuttle drills and the “L” (3-cone) drill.

Are those results posted anywhere? I haven’t been able to find them online, specifically.

No, the numbers aren’t posted anywhere, but as you can see, the (NFL) scout that was in the video (from the Philadelphia Eagles) has the official numbers.

Do you remember how many bench reps you did of 225?

Yes, sir. I did 19 reps before I had a spasm in my shoulder. I was going through it, I just, you know, just was going straight up until I got to 19, and then when I came up on my 20th, it was like, “No.” So, it was a little tough on me.

What would you expect (to do) in that?

Around 25, 26, because that’s what I had done previously. My pro day was on…Thursday, and I’d actually done 25 on Monday, so I expected to do around the same or one over what I did on Monday.

What’s your weight right now, Lonnie?

I am right now at 342.

Have you always been a big guy, or is this something that you’ve worked on in college?

Actually I just got big when I got to college. Coming out of high school, I weighed in at around 345, and then I actually got up to around 365. My weight was a major issue for me. I had a hard time getting it down and dieting and everything like that. I actually played my senior year around 365, 366, so around there. But right now I’m down to around 342. I’ve just been, you know, working really hard and making every sacrifice necessary to get to this point.

What does it take to lose weight like that?

Oh, discipline, determination. I looked at it as: this is the opportunity of a lifetime, this is the biggest job interview of a lifetime, to be able to showcase the best that I can do. So I said, at all costs, if I had to not eat a whole lot during the day – not “a whole lot,” but just eat three meals a day, I ate two meals. You know, my breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal and for lunch at 4:30 was either a can of tuna fish or a chicken breast, and that will be it for the rest of the day, and I just drink water. So, I mean, it was a very strict, disciplined diet. But the motivation for me was to take care of my mom and take care of my dad, and my brother, and get them – just to be able to take care of them, because they’ve invested so much in me throughout the years, and I just want to be able to give that back to them.

And are you back on a more normal diet now? Do you think it’s something that you can maintain?

Actually, sir, I have a goal to be around 325, 330, so I’m going to try to (keep) this rigorous regimen up until I get to around that weight and then maintain it. But yeah, it’s been very tough.

Your schedule must have changed a lot since the YouTube video came about. Have you been pretty busy talking to teams?

The only teams I’ve spoken with since I posted my video were the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. I have a workout with Carolina (Friday), and I meet with the Baltimore Ravens on the 30th for a private workout. But that’s all…

Speaking of Baltimore, Morgan State is there, and that’s where you’re from. Did you look at schools in other areas?

As far as going to college?

Yes.

Yes, I actually did. I was actually a late qualifier, as far as my SAT scores coming out of high school. I had scholarship offers from Temple, Marshall, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech (and many others)…I can’t tell you all the teams off the top of my head, but yeah, I had the opportunity to go to schools elsewhere, I just was a late qualifier, SAT-score-wise.

So how does that work? Do you apply to a certain school and then they give you some extra time to make up for it?

Well, what actually happened was, because I qualified late, I still had a scholarship available on the table from a Division 1-A school at the time, and that was Temple University. I signed the scholarship – my letter of intent – on national signing day. I don’t know how, but some strange way…the end of June, before I was scheduled to go up to Temple University, I got a phone call telling me that I wasn’t accepted into the school because I didn’t score a 1250 or better on the SAT. So I wasn’t admitted into the school. It was in the end of June, and I didn’t have a school to go to, and, you know, it was about time to get ready for the football season. I called a few coaches from the schools that had interest in me, and the advice that was given to me from one school was to go to Hargrave Military Academy. Now, being young and immature (in this) situation, and being ignorant of what was going on, I chose to just take the route of going to Morgan State University, because it was offering me a full ride. They said they would take care of everything for me. Because that was on the table for me, that right away I could be a big fish in a small pond and I could make things happen out there, I said, “You know what? I’ll just take this route. Football is football. If they’re good, you know, they’ll find me.” So I took that route and ended up playing for Morgan State.

And how do you feel about that now, looking back on it?

How do I feel? You know what, I’ll say this…I feel like I’ve been blessed to be in a situation where I’ve seen what it’s like, the differences between being in a big-school environment, taking trips to Temple and Maryland and Penn State and those things, and going to a school (like) Morgan State that obviously doesn’t have all the funding and facilities and the community support that you would expect going to a university. But it has taught me, you know, in all situations, be humble. Not only that, that you have to fight for everything that you want, because if you really want it, it’s not going to be given to you. You have to earn it, just like respect. It also made me aware of the fact that everybody isn’t going to be looked at the same, no matter how great of a talent you are. If you’re a good talent but you go to a small school, teams may overlook the fact that you’re still a great talent, or…they may look at, okay, the level of competition wasn’t that great, so it kind of makes it a little harder, but the more harder the situation is, I feel like, then when (I) get there, the more I can appreciate reaching my goal.

You know, taking a look back where I came from, it’s the story that a lot of people from where I came from can say they never had, or never heard of. Coming from the inner city, going to college here in the city and then, you know, possibly making it on to the next level, it’s one of those stories that hasn’t been written yet. I just really feel like my story is big, to be in this position. Although I didn’t go to the big school that I aspired to go (to) when I was in (high school), my story can be hope for the youth in my community to say, “It can be done. Even if I don’t have the grades to get into a big school, if I stick with it and try hard and give it my best, I can make it.” I feel like I wouldn’t have that same story if I went to a big school.

This can be a powerful, powerful story in a child’s life, to say that, “I don’t have to succumb to this drug dealing, and this gang and thug life around me. I can take another route, and I can make it. I can make it. I can be somebody.” And I feel like that’s so important to me, just coming up and having everything, when I really take a look back at the (big) picture. Because if my life story can change one person’s life, you know, I feel like I’ve done something. I really do. So, it’s special to me, coming from Morgan State.

I think that’s great, Lonnie. I really appreciate your time today, and I wish you a lot of luck.

Thank you.

Catching Up

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

picSince the initial free agency rush at the first of March, PD has put the big club aside for awhile as we’ve tried to get up to speed on next month’s college draft, now just four weeks away.

Maybe this is a good time to get caught up.

Roll Up, Roll Up, Roll Up…

It’s the magical Belichick tour. Is it just me, or have we seen more of the Pats coach this spring than ever before?

First it was Bon Jovi, then the WEEI Big Show call-in, followed by Sirius Radio and Fox Sports. Then he closed out his month in the Great Wide Open with a hardly concealed scouting cameo at UConn’s pro day.

What’s he up to? This is Bill Belichick we’re talking about – he’s always up to something, isn’t he? Every step taken with a hidden, devious purpose?

Maybe that’s just it. Maybe he’s tired of being thought of as a Lex Luthor-like super villain who controls world events from his secret lair. Maybe at 58 years old, in his 10th season as Patriots coach, it’s now simply easier to disabuse that notion than to propagate it.  

Free Agency Close Out

I was mildly interested in the signing of center Al Johnson, who had a nice little career going (45 career starts in 66 games) until he frigged up his knee with Arizona last August and got released.  He did play a little center and guard with Miami after successfully returning from that injury late in the season. There seems to be at least a reasonable chance he’ll be a reserve contributor.  

Same for Tank Williams, the hybrid safety-linebacker who lasted all of a quarter last August. Even if the Pats upgrade at the safety position through the draft, Williams could stick with his special teams play.

Speaking of things that need to be upgraded.

Throwback Comeback

Another indignity of Tom Brady’s season ending injury last September: his return to the field a year later will force the Patriots’ opening day game to ESPN’s Monday Night Football. When will it end?

On the other hand, last year’s ‘traditional’ Sunday at 1 debut didn’t work out that well either.

The consolation for many Pats fans will be the return of Pat Patriot and his throwback red uniforms, as the league kicks off a celebration of the AFL’s 50th anniversary. It never fails to amuse me the nostalgia these old costumes engender. Every year a thousand message board threads are launched, demanding the permanent return of the snappin’ minuteman. We can’t really miss him because he’s never gone away.

I like that the Pats eschewed the 80’s vintage for a reproduction of their 1963 duds, which really convey the throwback theme much better. Their opponent for the prime-time opener, long-time division rival Buffalo, has already made a similar jump backward with the best throwbacks in any sport.

I hope they will be enough to distract us from overhearing Tony Kornheiser’s opening monologue on Brady, Gisele, Terrell Owens, and inevitably, Brett Favre.

Mock Across America, Pick 34

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

picYou remember the mock draft we’ve been participating in, along with other NFL fan blogs across the country. We’ve recently completed the first round and are plowing forward with a second, where the Pats hold picks 34, 47 and 58. Anyway, here’s the action so far:

First Round

1. Lions: waynefontes.com – MATTHEW STAFFORD, QB, GEORGIA
2. Rams: turfshowtimes.com – EUGENE MONROE, OT, VIRGINIA
3. Chiefs: kcchiefsnews.com – AARON CURRY, LB, WAKE FOREST
4. Seahawks: davekriegsstrikebeard.com – MICHAEL CRABTREE, WR, TEXAS TECH
5. Browns: nologoneeded.com – REY MAUALUGA, LB, USC
6. Bengals: bengalstripes.com – JASON SMITH, OT, BAYLOR
7. Raiders: silverandblackpride.com – JEREMY MACLIN, WR, MISSOURI
8. Jaguars: jaguarsgab.com – B.J. RAJI, DT, BOSTON COLLEGE
9. Packers: lombardiave.com – BRIAN ORAKPO, DE/OLB, TEXAS
10. 49ers: ninersnation.com – EVERETTE BROWN, OLB, FLORIDA STATE
11. Bills: buffalorumblings.com – CLAY MATTHEWS, OLB, USC
12. Broncos: milehighreport.com – MALCOLM JENKINS, CB, OHIO STATE
13. Redskins: curlyr.blogspot.com – ANDRE SMITH, OT, ALABAMA
14. Saints: canalstreetchronicles.com – BRIAN CUSHING, OLB, USC
15. Texans: houstondiehards.com – MICHAEL OHER, OT, OLE MISS
16. Chargers: bolthype.com – EBEN BRITTON, OT, ARIZONA
17. Jets: thejetsblog.com – TYSON JACKSON, DE, LSU
18. Bears: blogdownchicagobears.com – DARRIUS HEYWARD-BEY, WR, MARYLAND
19. Buccaneers: bucem.com – PERCY HARVIN, WR, FLORIDA
20. Lions (from Dallas): waynefontes.com – AARON MAYBIN, DE, PENN STATE
21. Eagles: igglesblog.com – VONTAE DAVIS, CB, ILLINOIS
22. Vikings: vikingsragnarok.blogspot.com – MARK SANCHEZ, QB, USC
23.  Patriots: patriotsdaily.com – KNOWSHON MORENO, RB, GEORGIA
24. Falcons: falcoholic.com – CLINT SINTIM, LB, VIRGINIA
25. Dolphins: thephinsider.com – LARRY ENGLISH, LB, NORTHERN ILLINOIS
26. Ravens: ebonybird.com – KENNY BRITT, WR, RUTGERS
27. Colts: 18to88.com – PERIA JERRY, DT, MISSISSIPPI STATE
28. Eagles (from Carolina): igglesblog.com ALEX MACK, C, CALIFORNIA
29. Giants: bigblue101.com HAKEEM NICKS, WR, NORTH CAROLINA
30. Titans: musiccitymiracles.com – D.J. MOORE, CB, VANDERBILT
31. Cardinals: raisingzona.com – CHRIS WELLS, RB, OHIO STATE
32. Steelers: steelerstoday.com – FILI MOALA, DT, USC

Second Round

33. Lions: waynefontes.com – JAMES LAURINAITIS, LB, OHIO STATE
34.  Patriots: patriotsdaily.com

That’s right. We’re up again, and we’re leaning defense after our offensive first round choice. So with the second selection of the 2nd round, 34th overall, the New England Patriots select:

[Read more…]

Chris Hits The Podcast Circuit

Our own Chris Warner is a guest on this week’s edition of the Pigskin Podcast.

Patriots, Browns and labor trouble
By Joel Hammond
on March 27, 2009

We dissect the offseasons of two of the busiest teams in the NFL — the Patriots and Browns.

Chris Warner from PatriotsDaily.com and Chris Hutchison of TheClevelandFan.com join us to chat about their respective teams, and in the meantime, Brian, podcast newcomer Bruce Hammond and I talk about the impending labor strife in the NFL.

Don’t miss this week’s show!

Direct download [4.9 MB]

Cameron Morrah Q&A With PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picIntelligence counts in football. Talent doesn’t hurt, either. Cal tight end Cameron Morrah wants to prove that he possesses the right combination of both.

After a junior season in which he had 27 receptions for 326 yards, Morrah decided to declare early for the draft. He boosted his status with a solid combine, testing in the top five for tight ends in four different drills (including a 4.66-second 40 that he cut down to 4.61 on his pro day).

PD got in touch with Morrah this past week to discuss the tight end position and what makes Cal a special place.

Tell me a little bit about going from a high school defensive end to a college tight end.

Well, the story behind that is, in high school I was playing receiver and defensive end. We had an ex-player that went to my high school named Rome Douglas, he ended up playing at (USC from ’96-’98), and he was close friends with a tight end by the name of Billy Miller. He told me that he could definitely see my future playing at tight end. If I wanted to make it, that’s where it would be at instead of receiver. I loved defense, but offense has just been my passion. After he told me that, my senior season I ended up playing tight end and defensive end, and Cal was one of the schools that let me choose offense or defense, so I ended up going to Cal because of that.

What do you like better about offense?

To me, I love being able to make a big play whenever it’s needed. Defense was always fun for me – that’s where I first started out playing, on the defensive side of the ball – but I just love catching the ball. There’s something about that that gets me.

It looks like your numbers improved as your college career went on. What do you think are some reasons behind that?

I think it was just the way I was brought along in the offense. When I was younger in my career, we had a tight end by the name of Craig Stevens – he’s with the Titans now. So I was more of like the “H,” like the second tight end, just motioning around and clearing the seams for D-backs on the outside…After he left, it just gave me a chance to come out more and become a bigger part of the offense.

Were you happy with your senior year? Do you feel like you could have contributed more, that the offense could have been tailored to you more?

I’m happy with it. The thing with our offense – we had a lot going on with our offense. Jahvid Best, he’s a great back. We had Shane Vereen as well, and the way it worked out was, the running game was able to produce more wins for us. But I was happy that my team was able to utilize me in the red zone. I mean, that was big. I was still able to contribute on a major level for us (Note: 8 TDs in 2008).

Do you think you’ve improved as a blocker?

Over time, I think I’ve definitely improved as a blocker. I’ve become a much better pass-protector over time, and then in the run game, just as far as getting up on the next level guy. I’d definitely say I’ve become a better blocker since I’ve been in school.

Do you hear that that might be a knock on you?

I hear it might be a knock, but at the same time, playing the game, you always have things to improve on. That happens to be one of the things I can improve on, and I’m just going to continue to give it my all.

How do you think your combine went, and your pro day?

I think my combine went really well. I was able to show everybody that I could compete with the best of them, or the supposed best in the country. I feel like I put out numbers that were just as good as theirs, and I was able to show that I could be talked about with them.

What do you see as your best talents on the field?

I would say it’s my ability, my athleticism. Just the ability to stretch fields right now, and as long as my blocking keeps progressing, I’ll become a more well-rounded tight end. That’s definitely a plus, because a lot of people are coming from spread offenses and everything, and I think just coming from the type of pro-style offense that I come from at Cal is a big advantage for me because I have to do both.

Do you feel like your speed has improved, or is that something that you’ve always had?

I feel like I’ve always had speed.

And what about your upper-body strength? Do you think that’s coming along?

My upper-body strength has never really been an issue. I’ve always felt like I was strong in the upper body.

What’s the best part about going to Cal?

The best part of going to Cal, for me, was just being close. My family was able to come to all the games. I was able to see them on a regular basis, and they were able to support my brother and I. My brother was able to come here with me, so that’s been the best thing about coming to Cal.

For students in other parts of the country who might be looking to go there, what do you think Cal offers?

I think it’s a great school, and we’re constantly – the football program – is on the rise. And hopefully pretty soon here they’ll have much better facilities around for the players. I mean, the San Francisco Bay area is a great place to relax and just have a lot of fun. You definitely get to become well-cultured because there’s a lot of different kinds of people up here. It’s going to open you up to a lot of new experiences.

Do you think the education there kind of sets your team apart from other schools you play against?

I would say the education – I mean, I can’t say it sets us apart from every team, because Stanford, that’s our rival, and they’re pretty competitive academically out there, too. But I think it does a lot for us, because we’re able to do a lot with our plays and playbook and everything. I would say that you have to be smart to play the game. You just have to know things…It teaches you good study habits that you transfer from the class to the field as far as being there watching film or just going over tapes. Just doing all the extra things that you need to do in order to be successful on and off the field.

Have you been interviewing with any NFL teams?

I’ve had a few interviews and workouts. A lot of teams don’t really want you to discuss it, so I haven’t really told anybody who I’ve worked out with. But I’ve had a few so far and a few coming up, so I’m just trying to stay in shape right now, continue to work out so I’m prepared for whoever else wants to come and work me out.

All right, don’t say anything, but one of those teams – did it rhyme with “Atriots?”

(Laughs and sighs)

Okay, we’ll go on to something new…How are those interviews going?

They’re going really well. I’m able to project my personality, the kind of person I am, and just what my habits are, things I like to do. And the workouts have been going well, too. I’m able to just show what kind of player I am, so that’s always a good thing.

All right, last question: what do you think is one aspect of yourself that people would be surprised to hear?

One aspect of myself that people would be surprised to hear. Hm. That I can actually be an outgoing guy. A lot of people think that I’m kind of quiet and reserved, but it just depends on the setting, I would say, and how close we are. But I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s a good question from you.

All right, maybe I’ll call you back and we’ll work on an answer.

All right.

Cam, I really appreciate your (returning my) call. Thanks a lot, and good luck.

Thank you. Take care.

Bradley Fletcher Q&A With PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picIn the early 1990s, current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz served as an assistant on the Cleveland Browns staff under Bill Belichick. For the past four years, Bradley Fletcher played defensive back for Iowa. New England fans tend to analyze, and sometimes overanalyze, such connections.

It is, after all, a long offseason.

Fletcher finished up as a Hawkeye playing at his peak, nabbing three interceptions and breaking up 10 passes in 2008. After a strong week of practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game and a solid showing at the combine, Fletcher has managed to open the eyes of draftniks. He spent a few minutes with PD on Wednesday.

I was wondering if you could talk about some of the differences between getting ready for the combine and getting ready for pro day, just in terms of your approach to each one.

Well, the difference between getting ready for the combine and the pro day, (with) the combine…it was the first time around doing the drills and doing all the testing, but the pro day, it was the second time around. I had an idea after the first time around about some of my times, and I knew what to improve on – what I wanted to improve on.

I saw that you improved on your 40 (time), is that right?

Yes, sir.

Now, what does it take to do that?

 The start is very important, getting out, and the running phase, (keeping your hands) “chin-to-hip.” I mean, it’s just important to drive through the whole way.

Does getting ready for those drills help you be a better football player, or are they too specific?

Well, they are defensive back drills, so they can be used on the field in a game situation. I know it’s something that scouts look at, as far as a guy’s footwork. That’s what they want to see.

Playing for Iowa, what kind of a coach is Coach Ferentz?

Oh, he’s a good coach. My past five years here, I’ve learned a lot from him, and I think that’s helped me be the player I am today.

Have you ever heard Coach Belichick’s name mentioned?

No, I have not.

Being Patriots Daily, you know, we’ve got to try to get that in there somewhere.

(Laughs) Coach Belichick, I’ve been told he’s a good coach over there, but I haven’t heard his name brought up in conversation over here.

Have you been talking to NFL teams at all?

I’ve been speaking to some teams, but we’ll see what happens as next month comes around.

What do you think (has been) most helpful to you in terms of your draft stock? Do you think it was your performance in the East-West Shrine Game or your combine and pro day?

I think it’s a combination of everything. Everything that I’ve done over that time period, I think it all goes into my progress and how far I will go in the draft.

What kind of a system do you think you’re suited for as a defensive back?

As far as coverages, or – ?

Yeah, as far as coverage and defensive fronts…things like that.

Well, here at Iowa I’m used to playing against pro-style offenses. I know I’m ready to play different coverages, Cover 2, Cover 3, or any coverage. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different coverages, and I’m ready to play them all at the next level.

What do you think was the toughest team to play against (this past season)?

I would say Penn State. They had three really good receivers (Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood), and they could be anywhere on the field, so it was a challenge. It was a good game.

Do you think that was one of your better games?

I thought I had a good game that game (seven total tackles and a half tackle for loss vs. PSU). There were other games during the season I thought were good, also.

So what is your regular schedule like these days? Are you mostly working out and getting ready for the draft?

I’m going to continue to work out. I’m heading into the weight room tomorrow and doing some drills, hitting the weights, speed training. I’m still preparing because I want to have myself ready for camp, wherever I get a chance.

Have you heard anything about where you may get drafted?

I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen. I’m just going into it with an open mind, and we’ll see what happens from there.

As an Ohio guy, what brought you to Iowa?

When I made my trip here as a (high school) junior, I just really liked the time I spent here. I liked the style of football they were playing here, and I thought the coaching staff and players were good people (with) a really solid family base, and I decided to come here.

What other schools were you looking at?

I was getting interest from Michigan, some late interest from Ohio State. Syracuse. Those were some of the schools that were looking at me, but I made the choice to come here to Iowa.

Do you think Iowa’s given you the best chance to go to the next level?

Yes, especially under Coach Ferentz and the way that he runs his program here. I think that’s really helped me to be ready for the next level.

How do you think Iowa’s going to do without you?

Oh, they’ll be just fine. They have a lot of young guys. They’re going to be looking strong for (the next) couple seasons.

I read that you played basketball in high school. Is that true?

Yes, I was a basketball player in high school.

What position did you play?

Anywhere from point guard to small forward, just depending on the game and who we were playing.

Do you miss that?

Basketball’s a game that I like, but I like football also, and football is what I do. I’m a football player.

It sounds like it.

Yeah. (Laughs)

One last question:* What were some of your favorite experiences coming out of the East-West Shrine Game?

To be able to play at a level with a lot of other players that were good players. It was a good experience to be involved in that situation and to go and compete on a day-to-day basis during practice week and in the game.

Who were some of the toughest guys that you went against that week?

Butler from Penn State. I think he’s a fast receiver. Guarding him throughout the practice week, I thought that was a challenge, but it was good to be in it.

That’s great. Thanks a lot, Bradley. I really appreciate your time today.

Okay. Thanks for the call.

 

*(Not quite.)

 

Paul Kruger Q&A With PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picAt the NFL combine, Paul Kruger measured 6-foot-4, 263 pounds, the size of a prototypical outside linebacker in a 3-4 system like New England’s. While the former Utah defensive end wants to show that he can adapt to a new position, a brief look at his career proves that he already has.

In 2004, he entered college as a top-ranked quarterback. After watching the Utes go undefeated while waiting out his redshirt freshman season, he embarked on his Mormon mission for two years. Kruger returned to the team in 2007 and made the switch to defensive end, starting the last 11 games and tallying 63 total tackles. He wrapped up his sophomore year with 7.5 sacks to help the Utes go 13-0 this past season.

Kruger has been a busy man of late, preparing for and traveling to meetings with various NFL teams. In the midst of the pre-draft madness, he spent a few minutes on the phone with PD.

So, with all your travels and everything you’re up to…where are you right now?

I’m in Utah. Salt Lake. Just working out, hanging out with the family and getting prepared for a few more of these (team) workouts.

Do you have a bunch lined up for the next couple weeks?

Yeah, I’ve got a few. I mean, I’m not busy every day, but I’ve got Denver, Miami, Kansas City.

Is there anything you think you want to demonstrate in your workouts that you weren’t able to show (previously)?

I think I’ve basically shown, you know, the gist of who I am, but I want coaches to be very confident with my abilities at outside linebacker or defensive end. I feel like I have very good skills at both positions. Any team that’s willing to take a risk with me is definitely not going to be disappointed, so I’m just prepared for whatever team decides to go with me.

Could you talk about that a little bit, about the…potential transition from defensive end to outside linebacker?

The transition wouldn’t be too much. I mean, I stood up a lot in college. I think you’ve just got to get more used to playing on two feet instead of in a three-point stance, and every once in a while dropping back and covering a running back or two, and a tight end. It’s just a matter of practice…but, you know, it’s nothing too dramatic. It’s going to be easy to transition, and I’m a very coachable guy, so I think it will be fine either way.

In terms of being coachable, what do you think in your college experience has helped you reach that point?

When you grow up playing football, and you play in college, you know, I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’m very familiar with what coaches want to see, and I know how people want players to react, so it’s just a matter of being willing to do it. A lot of guys struggle with that, (but) that’s just not one of the areas I struggle with. I think it’s just accepting (that) you’re all on a team and doing it the best you can.

Now you’re coming out as a sophomore but you’ve had kind of an unusual path there. Could you talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I mean, the mission was the biggest thing (in regards to) that. I’m 23 right now, so I’m ahead of everybody in my class as far as my age goes. I’m the same age as the seniors coming out, and that’s the main contributing factor as to why I came out. There’s a few other reasons, but that’s the big one. Just the fact that I’m two years older, and I want to be successful. I want to be very good in the NFL, and I think the timing of that is crucial…

In terms of timing, do you think it’s better to get on this sooner rather than later?

I think so. For me, at least, that was the better option. I felt a lot more comfortable coming out 23 years old versus 25. If I were a coach, that would be a factor as well, because you’ve got to look at a player’s life in terms of (an NFL) life span. Guys are only going to play football for so many years. When you’re already 25 years old, in the league you’re kind of in a down slope already coming in, just because of how common it is that players are done by that time if not just a few years after. So I felt being 22, 23, was a big deal for me.

What teams have you spoken with so far?

At the combine, I spoke with 25 teams, so I’ve pretty much talked with every team in the NFL. After the combine, I talked with Seattle, the Colts and a few other teams. It’s been an exciting process. I’m just looking forward to seeing what happens in April.

Have you been speaking to the Patriots at all?

I’ve met with the staff, but I would love to have more contact. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get a trip or work out, but it definitely would be a place I would love to go.

It seems like a lot of 3-4 (defensive) teams are looking at you and players like you for this draft.

Right. Looking for that hybrid-type player.

Exactly. What are some of the interview questions like? What is that process like?

It’s as in-depth as you can imagine. They want to know everything about your history, your family, your high school. You know, I’ve had coaches call my high school coaches, so it’s definitely something (where) they take a lot of time and energy (and) invest it into the player. They ask you any question you can imagine, and every one’s got different things that they’d like you to be more specific on. But generally it’s just football questions and more psychological-type questions, like what do you feel your weaknesses are, strengths are? Are you a leader, are you a good teammate? All that kind of stuff.

When you keep answering questions like that, do you ever feel your answers get a little too rote or a little too practiced?

Yeah, I think that’s true for most players. I mean, you answer a lot of similar questions. If you answer the same, you know you’re answering a lot, so you’re pretty much saying the same thing 20 times.

You ever try to throw a curveball in there, or have a curveball thrown at you?

(Laughs) Yeah, for sure. Coaches always come up with stuff that they want to know about. You want to have personality and show diversity…so you’re definitely trying to be yourself and have fun with the interviews and all that stuff. You’re not a robot or anything, but a lot of the questions are the same.

Well, one thing that’s kind of different was Utah’s record…This past year and your redshirt freshman year, the team went undefeated. What do you think is special about them, and why do you think Utah doesn’t get as much love as it should?

I don’t think we get as much love, even here, at any given time. Our conference is supposedly weaker, our preseason games generally aren’t as competitive as other teams’ are. There’s a couple of reasons in general why we aren’t given as much love. You know, I think we proved to everyone this year and in 2004 that we shouldn’t be underestimated and that we deserve as much respect as anybody else is getting, if not more. Our record proves what kind of team we are. We beat the supposed number two, number one team in the nation in our (Sugar Bowl) game. We didn’t just beat them, we crushed them (Note: Utah 31, Alabama 17). That proved who we were. So, I don’t know why it is that we don’t get as much respect, but that’s just how it is. We’ve dealt with it thus far and done well, and I think we’ll continue to do well. Coach (Kyle) Whittingham’s put together a great team again, so I have no doubt that Utah will continue to succeed and be in those types of situations.

Could you talk about the Sugar Bowl? What was the basic game plan? It just seemed like you guys had them from the start.

You know, going in we felt like we had some things that we could throw at them. I don’t know exactly what the (Ute) offense was doing, but on the defensive side of the ball we wanted to get in the backfield as much as humanly possible, create turnovers, and all the stuff that defenses like to do. We had a good day with it. It worked and everyone was happy. It was a good day.

As a defensive end, what do you think are your strengths? What is your best move, for example?

I think just getting in the backfield. I think I create a lot of havoc for an offense because I can do a number of things. I’m good at defending the run, I can get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think my strength is just being athletic and creating disturbances in an offensive scheme.

Well, Paul, I want to thank you very much.

Thanks a lot.

Thanks to Paul’s agent David Canter for his help in setting up this interview.

Devin Moore Q&A With PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picSince before David took a shot at Goliath, we have always tended to root for the little guy. As a 5-foot-9 running back out of Wyoming, Devin Moore understands the kinds of odds he’s facing, and he’s taking every shot he can.

As he mentions below, his workout with the Patriots scheduled for Monday morning was postponed, giving Devin some time to talk to PD about his ongoing quest to nab scouts’ attention.

I was curious if you could tell me who came up with the idea for you to have your pro day the same day and in the same city as the combine.

Well, a couple people weighed in on that option. My agent, Brad Cicala from Terrafirma, and a scout that I had spoken with had mentioned it to me and said that maybe I should actually think about doing something like that. He didn’t necessarily say on that day or around that time or anything…but he was saying since I’m from Indianapolis, you know, maybe hold your own separate pro day or workout. I just put it together: why not just do it during the time when the kickers and punters (are) actually weighing in, when scouts aren’t going to be so much in tune to that?

I give a lot of credit to my agent, though. He’s been working hard for me, kind of hustling, and he got it out there to the scouts, and I think it turned out well.

Were you disappointed when you found out you weren’t invited to the combine?

Disappointed? I wouldn’t say disappointed. I got down. I will say it brought me down just a tad bit, but at the same time, I can’t say “disappointed,” you know what I mean? That would make it sound like, you know, the scouts made a mistake, or whoever’s on the board made a mistake. I don’t want to sound like the angry guy with a chip on his shoulder, but at the same time, yeah, it kind of hit me in the wrong way…I really wish I would have been invited, but things are how they are. It turned out that I didn’t. Like I said, I had my own little personal workout, and it seemed to work out better for me.

It seemed to work out really well. Were you surprised at your numbers, or were they about where you thought they would be?

I’m not so much surprised at my numbers. I was a little down, actually, because I had been running a lot faster. I spoke with a couple of the scouts, and they said what I ran was actually real good (Note: 4.41-second 40). I was expecting to run maybe low 4.3s, high 4.2s. It didn’t actually happen that way. It was still a low number, but it wasn’t actually as (low) as I wanted it. Things weren’t as good as they have been in the past. I think it was enough to get me in the door, so to speak, and when it came time for my pro day here, a couple scouts came up. I kind of showed them that…if they felt those numbers weren’t good enough, they could see (I) always work hard and improve when I have time to. I improved on those numbers, got my 40 time into the 4.3 range, the official time afterwards (4.35). My vertical was a couple inches higher, bench press was a couple reps higher. Everything just went up, so I was happy about that.

How much has your track workout, your membership on the track team, helped you in the last few years?

Just technique-wise, there’s certain things in track that help you so much when it comes to running on the field – I know it sounds crazy – and especially when it comes to doing combine workouts. I consider the combine workouts and football workouts as two different things. But as far as the combine workout and training for the 40, just having a track background…knowing how to actually come out of your stance when you’re in a three-point stance, it allows you to (know) when to stay low and when to come up, your drive, and so on and so forth. The track background has helped me a whole lot. You know, the Wyoming track staff here, they’re a great help. They’ve helped me all throughout my career, so I want to say thanks to them, and I suggest to a lot of people, if you have a chance to go to Wyoming (for track and football), for sure, come.

And how did that happen? How does a kid from Indianapolis get all the way out to Wyoming?

Well, I’m one of those guys, I live and breathe football. Most definitely, I wanted to go to college and play ball. That was the first thing. Education is big to me also, don’t get me wrong, now. I’m not like a dumb jock or anything like that, but I just love football, and I wanted to play running back. Wyoming offered me a scholarship to play running back. A lot of other schools wanted me to play DB or receiver, so I was kind of leery of that. I actually chose Wyoming, and Coach (Joe) Glenn, he convinced my mom that I would get a great education and everything, and he convinced me that if I had something to show for the NFL scouts as far as football, Wyoming would be able to broadcast it for me.

Does it help having the same coach all your time there, all that stability?

It did. It did in a way, just because they grew comfortable with me, even though, you know, I’m not the biggest guy. I’m smaller than some but faster than most, and the thing is that when I first came up, they weren’t so much used to my speed. They were used to having maybe a smaller guy who was pretty quick or something like that, but didn’t have the top-end speed. And then, you know, as time went on they kind of grew into it. I believe the only coaching change we had was the offensive coordinator. He came my senior year, but at the same time it worked out well for myself personally, but not so good for the team (Note: Wyoming went 4-8 in 2008)…But, I mean, what can you say? That’s just the job there, as far as coaching goes. But it helped a lot, just having Coach Glenn here and the rest of the staff for the final four years.

Speaking of your size and speed, where do you think you fit on an NFL team?

I know right now a lot of teams are looking at me as a scatback-type guy, a third-down back, and most definitely (for) returns. If I sat down with an NFL GM – or whoever, just one of the coaches – my first thing is I want to let them know that I am eager to play special teams right now. Just however I can get on the field, I’m ready to do it, ready to come in, learn, play my part. You know, whatever you need me to do, I’m up for it. I know that they’re going to look to put me in on third downs and things of that nature, just to catch out of the backfield or maybe get a toss sweep here or there, anything, even line up at slot. I know that they want to do things like that, and scheme like that. I just want to let them know that I’m up for it and I’m ready to come in and work. I know it’s a job and I will be there 100 percent, every day.

Have you talked to any NFL teams yet?

Yes, I have. I was actually talking to (Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations) Tim Harkins, I was telling him I didn’t know if we wanted to do the interview today or tomorrow: I was actually supposed to work out with the Patriots (Monday). But that being said, there’s kind of some bad weather up here right now, here and in Denver, there’s actually a blizzard…So we pushed it back until (Tuesday), and hopefully the weather kind of dies down a little bit and we can get that taken care of. I would love to perform in front of the Patriots and everything, and show them what I have, my catching ability, my running ability, and just my skills in general. That’s one team I’ve spoken with. There’s a couple others, but as of right now we’re scheduling visits to other teams and just trying to get things going, get the ball rolling.

How optimistic are you about the next few weeks leading up to the draft?

It’s scary, man. I’ll tell you that much. I have to believe in myself, though, for sure. I do have confidence in myself that I’ve done enough to get drafted. I look at things that my agent has pointed out to me as far as, like I was saying, my bench press, I’ve only seen maybe one guy who’s benched more than me, and it was pretty impressive, what he’s done. He was also a non-combine invite guy. But just bench press, the 40 time, you put it all together. The vertical. I hear they look at your 10-yard start, your (20-yard) shuttles, and all your other shuttles, your three-cone. Just putting everything together, my numbers match up well. From my season, I feel that my numbers match up well, so as far as my resumé, I think it’s coming out pretty well. At the same time, I think it’s going to be a knock on me that I went to a small school, so to speak, seeing that it’s Wyoming, and our record. I do, however, believe that I will get drafted, and I’m looking to try and go a little higher than people are expecting. Whatever (round) you may think…I’m hoping (one round higher). That’s how I’m looking at it.

I was wondering if you could tell people on the coasts, people who haven’t had the pleasure of getting out to Wyoming…what it’s like, and what some of the best aspects are of going to a school like that?

First, I would say the fans. I mean, the fans here are great. People in the town, they support you, they love you. They look out for you, so to speak, make sure that you stay out of trouble and everything. It’s one of those things, you know? When you come to college, you’re still in that growing-up stage, sort of, and they kind of help you with that. Secondly, Wyoming, it’s a beautiful state. I hope this doesn’t make me sound soft, because I’m a football player, but it’s just, I mean, it’s beautiful out here. Then, at such high altitude, when you’re training and everything, I believe that helps you so much. (It) helps you as far as when it comes to in-game situations when you’re down at a lower, sea level. Your performance, I think, shoots up the charts…Lastly, I think (about) the coaching staff here. I know we have a new coaching staff now. A lot of people may have heard of the coach now, Dave Christensen from Missouri. He (was) an offensive coordinator. These guys, what they’re bringing to the table right now, it looks good. I actually wish I would have had another year to perform in this offense. I think he’s going to turn this program around, put some wins on the board, and I think things are going to (get on) course as far as Wyoming. People will hear about us sooner (rather) than later, that’s for sure.

That sounds good. Devin, I really appreciate your time today.

I appreciate it, too.

All right. Good luck (Tuesday).

All right. Thank you.

Phillip Hunt Q&A with PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picIn order to avoid getting bypassed by NFL teams on draft day, players tagged with the dreaded “tweener” label need to excel. Houston’s Phillip Hunt continues to do just that.

Hunt, an undersized defensive end, turned the heads of as many pro scouts as he did offensive tackles in 2008 on his way to becoming the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. He fit in an interview with PD between workouts as he prepared for his pro day later this month.

I’m curious if you can tell me how a guy who has 14 sacks in 2008 and 10.5 sacks in 2007 doesn’t get the kind of national attention he might deserve. Do you think it’s something where Conference USA gets overlooked a little bit?

Yeah, I think that’s part of the problem. A lot of people speculate that the opponents in Conference USA are not as talented as the players in other conferences such as SEC and ACC, but there’s some pretty good players in that conference. You got guys like (current NFL running back) DeAngelo Williams coming out, and guys like myself and a lot of other guys that have a lot of potential and just are overlooked by a lot of scouts. Just because of the conference.

What do you think it’s going to take to convince scouts that you’re someone they should take a good look at?

Well, my pro day is on the 27th of this month. So, I think (if) I put up good numbers at the pro day, some of the best in the nation, that will show that I’m athletic, or more athletic than guys in other conferences that are being ranked higher than me right now. I think my pro day will play a huge role at draft time.

What do you think your numbers are going to be? How often have you been working out?

I’ve been working out pretty good. I should have a 40-inch vertical. I should run a 4.6 in the 40, and the shuttle drill should be like a 4.68. I’ve put up some pretty good numbers, and I’m competing with the best in the country, so it should look pretty good.

Now, you’re about 6-1, 260, is that right?

Yes.

So how does that guy get to a quarterback 14 times over a season from the defensive end spot?

I’m way more agile than the average offensive lineman, and I have a good burst off the ball…Combined with my athleticism, that just (helps) me get more sacks than a lot of guys. Just the determination and will to want to pass rush is another key to it, too.

Do you have an array of pass (rush) moves, or are you mostly a speed rusher?

I have an array of pass rush moves. Most of the time I just use my hands, and whatever position that gets me in, I just go from there.

Have you talked to anybody about moving to a different position in the NFL?

I talked to a lot of scouts, and they just asked me what I think about it. I’m going to try and work a little bit at outside linebacker, too, as well as D-end. I tell you, I could play a little outside linebacker in the NFL.

What teams have you talked to about that?

Only teams that were down (in Houston) for the East-West Shrine Game, like Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington and Minnesota. I talked to all those different teams, and a lot more, too. They just asked me how I’d feel moving to outside linebacker, or do I like playing with my hand in the dirt as a defensive end.

Did you talk to the Patriots at all?

The Patriots? No, I never talked to the Patriots.

How do you think that transition would be, moving to outside linebacker? Have you ever played that position before?

No, I never played it, but I’m pretty sure just practicing on it, and my athleticism, I think I can transfer (to it well).

Do you think it helps having played a different defense your senior year than in previous years?

Yeah, I think that helps a lot, too, and just knowing where I am on the field when I have to spot-drop, knowing how to read the receivers and the quarterback when I drop back. I think it helped a lot my senior year.

Could you talk a little bit about that, about (assistant defensive line) Coach Jim Jeffcoat and what he brought to the Cougars?

Coach Jim Jeffcoat, he was a great coach. He came in and he taught us hands-on how to use our hands well. Just having his appreciation for the game, and a lot of players looked up to him because he won so many Super Bowls and he was a great player for the Cowboys. A lot of people didn’t want to let him down, so we’d go all-out for him. He coached us well, and he brought a lot of enthusiasm to the team. He helped us win a lot of games.

Do you think he’s going to help Houston get noticed a little more in the future?

Well, I’m not sure about that, because I know Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and his staff. Coach Sumlin, he’s an awesome coach as well, and then the players that he has down there, like (QB) Case Keenum, (RB) Bryce Beall, (WR) Tyron Carrier and all those guys, they’re high-character, great athletes. I think they’ll bring U of H up as well as Coach Jeffcoat will bring them up.

Now that you’re working out for your pro day and getting ready for the draft, what’s your schedule like day-to-day?

I work out twice a day: once in the morning at 9:15, and then once at two o’clock. After that, I just wind down and watch film of games that I’ve played, and watch films on my technique, on how to run the 40 and different techniques on how to vertical jump. Just different aspects of pro day.

When you watch game film, what are you looking for?

I’m looking for what I need to improve on…as a player, try to find out what are my strengths and what are my weaknesses as a player, and just work on that.

Do you think it would be a big adjustment for the pro game in terms of defensive schemes?

Well, I don’t know…I figure I can play the run and the pass as a defensive lineman, and if they want to move me to outside linebacker, I’m pretty sure I can adjust well to dropping back sometimes as an outside linebacker. It shouldn’t be too hard. It doesn’t look hard, but I mean, you never can tell until you go and play in the NFL.

Do you have any specific area, any specific teams you’d like to go to?

No. Whoever drafts me, I just want them to know I’m a hard worker, I’m determined, and I have a passion for the game. I just love playing the game. I just want to go anywhere I can make the team better.

Sounds good. Phil, thanks very much for your time today. I appreciate it.

All right. Appreciate you, too.

With the 23rd pick….

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

pickWell, we’re finally on the clock for that nationwide mock draft I’ve been telling you about, and we’re ready to make our pick for the Patriots.

Before I get to that, let me just say that I am going to get killed for this. And it’s not my fault, honest. I mean, you see how this pretend draft has gone for me, the pretend GM of the pretend Pats. Let’s just say Rey Maualugua wasn’t going to be sliding in this particular selection process. Neither was Clay Matthews or Brian Cushing, the other USC linebackers we also liked, or even Eben Britton, the versatile Arizona tackle who would have been a nice building block for the future of the Pats offensive line.

So what do I do now? I’m too slow witted to try a trade with the very same people who suckered me into this draft in the first place, so that’s out. Do I go BPA (best player available) regardless of position, or CYA with a ‘need’ pick?

Here’s how I figured it. If I’m going to be pretend paying someone pretend first round money for a pretend four years, I’m going to give it to the best football player I can find, and not some linebacker I don’t really like, some DE-OLB tweener that I’m not sure about, or some defensive back I can probably get eleven pretend pay slots later.

So, with the 23rd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select…..

***RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia***

Yeah, I know. The Patriots don’t need a running back at the moment, not with a full rotation in place for 2009. Not with Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney tied up through 2010. Not with other needs – in the secondary or the front seven, for example – that will more immediately impact their ability to compete this fall.

I don’t care. Moreno is, by most measurements, a top 15 player in this draft. I’m supposed to ignore that? And did I mention that this draft couldn’t have gone any worse for me?

The strange thing is that this could end up working. Kevin Faulk, the Pats utility knife who is about to turn 33, is entering the final year of his contract. Maroney is teetering on the edge of full-on bust status after a disappointing 2008 season that was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. As great as he’s been in New England, Morris is 32, and if the Pats advance deep into next year’s playoffs, they’ll probably have cake in the break room one afternoon to celebrate Taylor’s 34th birthday.

Best of all, by all accounts, Moreno is a well rounded, consistently productive player. He’s not a burner, but a quick, elusive and tough runner who is well suited to be a focal point, yet does the little things (like blitz pickup) right. He’s a smooth receiver who can get down the field from the backfield, or split wide. He’s got the right classroom and weight room make-up. He’s probably the most Patriot-like running back in the draft.

So despite the fact that I’ll get killed for this, he’s my pick. The Atlanta Falcons are now on the clock. Hopefully, I’ll find out later that they wanted Moreno.

After all, misery loves company.

Patriots Draft Needs, Part 3

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

picSo far in this three-part assessment of the Patriots’ draft needs, we’ve set our early priorities, followed up with the next level, and today, we wrap it up with the rest of our pre-draft wish list.

Third Priorities

Center – four players under contract

The Patriots have starter Dan Koppen and backup Ryan Wendell signed through 2011 and backups Al Johnson and Dan Connelly signed through next season.

Koppen’s in for three more at a nearly three million a season, and between Russ Hochstein and veteran free agent Al Johnson, they have passable depth in the short-term. Just so happens, though, that this draft includes a few centers among the top line prospects. The Pats may look for a versatile type to push over to the higher priority guard position.

Running Back – five players under contract

The Patriots have starters Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Lawrence Maroney signed through 2010, and backups Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis through next season.

The Pats have developed a nice rotation approach that produces results regardless of who’s on the field at a given moment. Though Faulk is approaching his mid-thirties, he’s still a vital cog that will likely be retained once his current deal expires. Still, Maroney could go either way upon his return, and Morris and Taylor are both in their thirties as well. On the surface it’s a pretty stable situation, but with a couple of bad breaks the Pats may find themselves wishing they had more.

Quarterback – three players under contract

The Patriots have backup Kevin O’Connell signed through 2011, starter Tom Brady through 2010, and backup Matt Gutierrez through next season.

We’ve seen nothing yet to indicate the Pats aren’t planning on O’Connell as their developmental quarterback. A recent visit from vet Patrick Ramsey indicated New England may simply be looking to add an experienced player to pitch in on O’Connell’s development while battling Gutierrez for the third slot. Having just committed a third rounder last year, it doesn’t seem like the Pats will be in the quarterback business early on in this draft.

Specialists – four players under contract

The Patriots have kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punters Chris Hanson and Tom Malone and long snapper Nathan Hodel signed through next season.

I’d be shocked if the Patriots didn’t tie down pro bowler Gostkowski one way or the other. Fans will continue to crave a Ray Guy-like draft choice at punter, ignoring Belichick’s penchant for hang time and direction over distance. There may be noise for a returner type, but the Pats already have two of the finest in Hobbs and Welker and a prospect in Slater, who struggled with confidence as a returner last year.

Jasper Brinkley Q&A With PD

by Chris Warner
[email protected]

picIf you try to envision a middle linebacker suited for the Patriots’ 3-4 defensive scheme, you might think of Jasper Brinkley. At 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, Brinkley has the size. Over the past two seasons, he’s proven he has the tenacity.

Having compiled 107 tackles in 2006, Brinkley considered leaving school to enter the NFL draft but returned to the University of South Carolina for his senior year. Four games in, he suffered a devastating knee injury and missed the rest of the 2007 season.

Brinkley came back to play in 2008 to tally 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception. He talked to PD about getting back to doing what he likes best: banging helmets on the football field.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your junior year, the success you had there, and your decision to stay at SC for another year.

My junior year, coming in my first year out of (Georgia Military) junior college, was a big challenge for me because of the simple fact that I had to be able to come in and be able to contribute to the team right away. Coaches expect players coming out of junior college to be able to step on the field right away. That was one of the things that made me come to South Carolina, because they said there was great opportunities to come in and try to help the team win, at least to get the top ranking in the SEC. In South Carolina, that hadn’t been done in a long time, being able to compete with those top dogs…The thing that made me come back in 2007 was just how loyal the fans (were). I feel like we have the top fans in the country at the University of South Carolina. They’re behind the players – no matter what we do, they’re always behind us, through the ups and the downs. That goes a long way with players, such as alumni and things of that nature. I will always be a part of South Carolina and definitely (will) come back and show my face around campus.

So in terms of dealing with the injury, you don’t have any regrets?

Oh, no. No regrets. The only regret I have, you know, I wish I’d never (gotten hurt) because it was kind of hard getting back to where I am now. But things happen for a reason in life, and it’s not where you start, it’s how you end. I think that was a big challenge. You’re going to have roadblocks in life.

In terms of where you are now, how confident are you in your knee?

Oh, I’m very confident. I could tell towards the second half of the season how confident I was. The first half stats and things of that nature weren’t really that impressive, but towards the end of the season I started to rebound and get the stats back to where they were back in 2007.

So, if someone looks at your statistics overall, they’re way down from the previous playing year, but you feel that if you look at each individual game, there’s a real increase?

Oh, yeah. There definitely is. Definitely. (Note: Brinkley compiled 11 total tackles vs. Iowa in the Outback Bowl.)

Now, where do you think you fit in an NFL defense?

I think I can play the middle: the inside ‘backer in a 3-4 is what a lot of people have been telling me; I feel pretty confident about that, and definitely the middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. But the ultimate goal is getting a team to give me a shot to play that. I feel like I won’t let them down because I’m going to go in and work my tail off. I’m a hard worker, that’s just one of the things I pride myself on.

Do you see any weakness in your game?

I think everybody has a weakness in their game, but mine would have to be zone coverage, because I tend to drift sometimes…In the zone that we played, we didn’t play match-up zone, we played a spot zone, and you can easily be looked off in it…The quarterback can look you off from time to time, make you get out of your zone.

Have you been talking with NFL teams?

I talked with the coach from Kansas City this morning, the linebacker coach.

Any others?

That’s it.

How do you think your workouts have gone?

I think I did pretty good at the combine. All they really thought (about), of course, was am I at 100 percent? I think I really did help myself there. You know, everything is just a steppingstone. (You) keep stacking bricks on top of each other. I’ve been through all my issues at the combine, and I just want to keep continuing, keep stacking…I’m ready to help a team win, if they give me the opportunity.

Do you think you could move to outside, or maybe play a little defensive end?

Oh, I definitely can. Whatever a team needs me to do, I feel I can do the job and be really productive at it.

Are you down to about 252 (pounds) now?

Uh-huh.

And was that to help you increase your speed?

No, it was just – after the injury, I was in a wheelchair for eight weeks. Once I got out of the wheelchair, I had to jump right into spring football practice. I was always behind on getting my weight down, because we had a new defensive coordinator come in, and I was trying to run the scheme. You know, I really couldn’t find time to focus more on my nutrition and get my weight back down. I carried it fairly decent, but I felt like if I could have been 250, somewhere in that area, I could have been faster and quicker. Right now, I’m impressed – (now that) I got the weight off – with how I feel, and I feel like it’s going to help me a lot. I’m going to keep it here, keep my weight here.

Who were some of the guys you played who you really had a tough time against in the SEC?

(Florida WR) Percy Harvin. (Florida QB) Tim Tebow. (Georgia RB) Knowshon Moreno. (LSU RB) Charles Scott. (LSU FB) Quinn Johnson. That’s about it.

Did you have to take Quinn Johnson on one-on-one?

Oh, yeah, I definitely did.

Was that a lot of fun?

Oh, yeah. It definitely was, because I know he’s a bruiser just like I am. Every play was a challenge to see who was going to gain contact, who was going to win as far as the most force when we hit. Whoever gets the head start, that’s who’s always going to win that battle.

Are there any NFL teams or NFL players that you watch and admire?

I really admire Ray Lewis, the Ravens. Tough guy. Physical, real physical. Team leader, you know, high-character guy.

Any particular team that you’d like to go to, or is that just too far in the future right now?

I don’t have any particular team. The plan for me, and the ultimate goal for me, is just to have the opportunity to continue playing football, something which I love to do.

Now your (twin) brother (Casper) graduated a year ahead of you because of the redshirt, right?

Uh-huh.

Has he been able to give you any advice in terms of how to deal with this part of the process?

Oh, yeah, he definitely has. He told me, you know, go in there with an open mind. Don’t be nervous, don’t be scared, because every day is a work day. No time to relax. No time to go out. Get your head in your playbook. Learn everything you can learn.

That sounds good. Jasper, good luck this spring.

Okay. I appreciate it.