September 28, 2016

Q&A With Citadel WR Andre Roberts

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Citadel WR Andre Roberts

In much the same way he slipped past would-be tacklers, Andre Roberts may have slipped past national media attention this year. Despite playing at a smaller school like The Citadel, however, scouts took notice of the prolific receiver and invited him to the NFL combine being held this weekend.

While talking with PD last week, Roberts discussed his strict schedule off the field and his myriad abilities on it.

I was wondering if you could start out by explaining what The Citadel is. I’m not sure if people really understand how that institution works.

From what aspect?

In terms of its military affiliation.

Okay. It’s a military college in South Carolina. We’ve got to wear uniforms every day to class, wake up early, around six or seven in the morning, have formations. We’ve got to learn how to march, do rifle drills. Pretty much anything a military person would do in the Army, Navy, anything like that. You have to learn all of that, while juggling school and, as a football player, juggling sports.

Now, in terms of after college, are there any military obligations, or is it really, that’s the way that the school is structured, and that’s the real affiliation?

No, there are no military requirements. While you attend the school, you can contract in the military, whatever branch you want to go into. But no, there is no military requirement for every student at the base.

I know you’re from South Carolina. Was that the big draw to The Citadel, or were there other factors?

No, not at all. There were definitely other factors. One – when I went there – the coaches. I liked the coaches when I went on my visit. And I didn’t really want to do a military thing, but I know structure (would help)… Even though both my parents were in the military, they really didn’t have any influence on my decision at all. Like I said, I didn’t even want to be in the military, so that didn’t really attract me to the school. But the coaching staff, and the offense they were running – they were running a spread option offense – you know, every receiver who likes how they throw the ball can fit in that offense. And the education. Being from The Citadel, having a Citadel ring, means a lot to people in the South. You know, in South Carolina, if you have the Citadel ring and you wear it around, if somebody notices it, you can get a job.

What other schools were you looking at?

When it came down to it, me going to college and my recruiting process, it came down to the end, there was just The Citadel and Coastal (Carolina). I had some Division II schools and some other D-I schools like Liberty, but when it came down to it (it was) between Coastal and Citadel. And I knew – I took a visit to both schools – but I knew that, right after I took my visit to Coastal Carolina, I wanted to go to The Citadel.

What set Citadel apart?

One thing was, going to Coastal Carolina, I would have been by the beach, and I don’t know if I would have finished school. I mean, without all the structure and stuff to keep me on track. Coming out of high school, I don’t know if I would have finished. But, pretty much, that’s what set it apart, knowing that I was going to have that structure and a little bit more to help me finish school.

Now, are you still in school, are you still getting that structure, or are you trying to find it outside of school?

No, I’m done with school. I graduated this past December; I graduated three-and-a-half years. I’m done: I graduated in my accounting degree, and I’m ready to move on.

An accounting degree?

Yes.

I have no concept of why you would want to go into accounting, but we don’t have to talk about that if you don’t want to.

(Laughs.) I’m a numbers guy. I wanted to be in accounting.

Well, I’m glad one of us is. In terms of football – you started your freshman year, is that correct?

Yes, I did start my freshman year.

And was it a situation where you felt like you were a big part of the offense right away, or did you have to kind of grow into it?

Oh, I felt like I was a big part of the offense right away. I was actually the leading receiver my freshman year, and midway through the season I started at punt returner as well, so I felt like I was a big part of the team.

Speaking of punt returning, what is the secret to that? I always like to ask punt returners what they think the most important aspect of that skill is.

The most important part is catching the ball, because punt return and kick return, there’s a big difference. On punt return, you have to learn to follow the ball on left-footed or right-footed kickers, and they can come in any way: spiral, ducks, or anything like that. The hardest thing – and the most important thing – is catching the ball first. And your second most important part is making the first man miss.

And do you go into that situation with any specific move in mind, or do you have to adapt to what’s in front of you?

You just have to adapt to what you see in front of you, do it on the fly.

Tell me about running the ball. Most receivers don’t really get to do that much, but you’ve done it several times. What are the situations like that during the game, and how have you found success doing that?

Running the ball is kind of like receiving, it’s just – there are a lot more people before you get to open space. The most I did was running sweeps and running out of the Wildcat formation, getting the direct snap. But there is a bit of difference, because you have to read where the blockers are coming from, and they come a lot quicker. As a receiver, you just run the route. You know exactly what you’re going to do: after the quarterback throws you the ball you’ve got to catch it and get upfield.

For the Senior Bowl, you gained some weight since the fall. Was that something that you wanted to do to impress scouts, or was it something that you felt like you needed to play at the next level?

Oh, I felt like I needed that to play at the next level. Gaining more weight makes you more durable; you can take hits. That’s a big part of why I gained my weight, just to have me be more durable and be able to take shots from the bigger guys.

And how was your Senior Bowl experience overall?

It was fun. I enjoyed it. I got a lot of work in, and had a lot of fun, and I think I impressed some scouts out there.

Yeah, it seems like you got a lot of press during that week, that you fit right in. Was that the type of thing where you felt like you played really well, or you felt like people were just catching on to someone who’s always been at that level?

A little bit of both. I felt like I did real well while I was there, but I felt like I’ve been doing well in college altogether, just with my stats and my ability to play all four years, do receiver and punt return, and do versatile things like coming out of the backfield. So I felt like both, really.

Did you feel like there was a big leap in competition at the Senior Bowl that week, or did you feel comfortable with it from the start?

I felt comfortable with it from the start. It was definitely hard competition, but I’ve played against big-name guys and big teams. I’ve played against Wisconsin, Clemson, Florida, North Carolina in the past few years, so I understood what it was going to be like going in.

And what’s your favorite thing to do? Do you like going out for a long pass? Do you like getting the ball on a bubble screen? Punt return? What do you think is your favorite way to advance the ball?

(Laughs.) Well, I really think I love all of them, but I’ll say this: probably catching a short pass, making a few guys miss and taking it upfield for a nice gain.

What kind of numbers are you thinking about putting up for the combine?

For every event?

Well, let’s just say for the 40 and the shuttles.

For the 40, I plan on putting up a 4.4 (seconds), anywhere from mid to low 4.4s I plan on doing. The 5-10-5 (20-yard shuttle), that’s anywhere between 4.0, 3.9. And the 3-cone drill, around 6.7.

And are these times that you’ve been getting, or you’re just judging by how you’ve been running them in practice?

Yes, I have gotten all of these times before. So, it’s just a matter of doing them at the combine.

That sounds good. I wish you a lot of luck, Andre, and thank you a lot for talking with us today.

Thank you.

All right. Have a good night.

You, too.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A With Rutgers OL Kevin Haslam

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Looking at Kevin Haslam in high school, one had to wonder whether the tall, thin kid from New Jersey would excel in football. State residents were questioning the same thing about Rutgers. Five years later, those questions have been answered, as the offensive lineman has helped the Scarlet Knights become consistent bowl contenders.

Haslam discussed such topics as position versatility, team consistency and sports movies during his in-depth conversation with PD.

(Because you’re) a New Jersey guy, I wanted to start out by talking about Rutgers football, mostly the transformation that you’ve seen happen with the program over the past several years.

When I first got there, it wasn’t really that big of a school to go to, but you know, Coach (Greg) Schiano, I believed in him – that he was a good coach – and he recruited me. And I decided to go to Rutgers. When I first got there, we just got – fans used to rush the field after getting our first bowl-eligible season, after our sixth win, it was like the biggest thing in the world. Now, you know, seeing how we just go to a bowl game every year since then, I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s become lackadaisical where people just expect it, but it’s a good feeling knowing that we built a tradition over the years. Hopefully, it keeps going. It’s just a testament to show what Coach Schiano built up.

In the time that you’ve been there, closer to the beginning of Coach Schiano’s time there, have you seen any changes in the program, just the way he does it?

No, not really. I mean, he’s coached the same since he’s been there. Before, I guess the seasons weren’t as great (compared) to what it is now. Since I’ve been there, in my five-year career, it’s all been the same: he’s got intensity all the time, he’s a very hands-on coach, and, you know, he expects the best out of all his players. And he’s very good.

You’re from Mahwah – you went to Mahwah High School?

Yes.

And were you heavily recruited out of high school?

I wouldn’t say heavily. I mean, I guess I was an under-the-radar person. That’s what they said back in the day. I think I only had about eight scholarship offers coming out of high school.

And what were some of the schools looking at you?

Georgia Tech, UCF, South Florida, Maryland, NC State.

What hooked you to Rutgers?

That was my last visit and, honestly, that was just a good feel. At first, I did commit to South Florida, then I did change at the last second. I just felt more comfortable at Rutgers, you know, the team’s atmosphere was great, and I wanted to be in New Jersey, with a good program there. It was just a really good feel for me at the time. I do not regret it at all.

What kind of improvements do you think you’ve made as a lineman in your time in college?

Oh, I think I’ve made big strides. Coach (Kyle) Flood, he’s a great coach. I think taking me from a smaller lineman – because, you know, high school, I was only 200 pounds my senior year – taking me from more like a finesse, basketball (type and) converting (me) to an actual college lineman, I think that’s the biggest change. Actually hitting, putting on weight, and just being more aggressive and everything like that. And being a student of the game.

So, were you 6-5 coming out of high school?

Yes, same height.

So, you were 6-5, 200 pounds as an offensive lineman?

Yeah, senior year. I played basketball, so every time basketball season came around, I lost weight. So my senior year, I was like 230 during football season, then at basketball I got down to, 195 was the lowest I hit (that) year, in February. I quit basketball my senior year, in February, because I had to gain weight for football.

Yeah, it sounds like you really did have to gain weight. How did you do that?

Oh, I just ate. I lifted, I ate constantly, all day long, weight gains, protein shakes, whatever it may be. I reported to camp (at) 290. So, yeah, a lot of weight to put on in a matter of months.

What are some of the differences between the kind of workouts and things you were doing in college and what you’re doing now to get ready for your pro day?

High repetition, I guess, is the biggest difference. College, you want to get bigger, stronger, you know – bulk up and everything. Now, it’s more like, make sure you don’t get fatigued after doing 20 reps of bench or something like that, or, you know, running around, because mostly on pro day you’ll be by yourself running around on drills. So everything is high-speed repetition, high repetition, to make sure you don’t fatigue out, (to) make sure you’re in the best shape of your life. I think that’s the biggest difference between college and right now.

And what events do you think you’re going to really excel in?

I won’t say I’ll really excel at anything. I hope to do well in, mostly, agility drills. It all depends on what day it is, how you feel on pro day, but the short shuttle, the L-cone, I think, are really strong for me. I’m pretty confident in those, so we’ll see what happens.

And when is Rutgers’ pro day?

March 10.

March 10. Okay, great. What do you do for downtime now, when you’re not working out? Is it the type of thing where you take a break from football, or is it all football, all the time?

Oh, no, I wouldn’t say all football. I rest, because we wake up in the morning early to run, then we go back, then we go to lift. So, I mean, rest, lay down, read a couple – I’ll go over the tests, the Wonderlic-style tests and stuff like that. But mainly, I guess my main thing to do in down time is play Madden. That’s my one big thing. I guess that does count as football. (Laughs.)

(Laughs.) We can count that. Now, I’ve heard that you’re a bit of a movie buff. What are some of your favorite sports movies?

The Program is one of my favorite sports movies. Any Given Sunday. I loved Any Given Sunday, I’m a very big fan of that movie. Actually, The Express is high on my list. I watched it for the first time a couple of months ago and I loved it, so that’s very high on my list.

Do you think there’s any movie out there – The Program, for example – that accurately reflects any aspect of college football, or is it just way over the top?

Nah, it’s just a good movie. I don’t know anything about any programs like that. Rutgers isn’t like that, I have no idea about any other schools or how they may be. It’s just a good movie to watch. Very entertaining.

Were you a communications major?

Yes, sir.

What were some of your favorite classes?

I took one class this past year, Comm Facilitation. I guess the whole purpose of the class was just to let you come up with business proposals for different companies. You basically act like your own boss, and come up with this elaborate proposal at the end of the year… that you would present to a company on how you can better that company, how you can help them out in whatever way possible. I did one on the Rutgers football program. I did it more on team bonding issues and stuff like that, how you can get your teams closer, different activities that you can do.

I’m sorry, what was the name of that class?

Communications Facilitation?

That’s a mouthful.

(Laughs.) You can just say Comm Facilitation for short.

Okay. You’re not at Rutgers. Did you graduate?

Yes, in December.

Is this the type of thing where, being from New Jersey, going to a New Jersey school, have you gotten a lot of (publicity) back in Mahwah?

I guess. I speak to my high school coach a lot; he calls me and tells me I’m in the paper. But I really wouldn’t know. I’m not really over there a lot.

What kinds of numbers are you hoping to put up at your pro day?

I mean, I really don’t have a general set (of numbers) right now. Just, like I said, as fast as I can possibly go. So, we’ll see what happens then, but I’m not going to jinx myself now by throwing out stats like that.

Were you a tackle in college?

Yes. Actually, I started every position on the line, except center, in my college career.

Any particular position you think you would focus on in the pros, or are you leaving that wide open?

Yeah, I’m leaving that open. Actually, playing for a full week of practice, after that week, that’s when I get comfortable. I’ve been playing right tackle for a very long time now, so that’s where I’m most comfortable. If you put me at guard, I’ll be comfortable there within a week.

All right. Well, for people who don’t know you or haven’t seen you much, what do you think they should know about you first and foremost?

Hard worker. That’s what I try to be. You know, I was like 290, 295 in college, I wasn’t exactly a big, big guy. I would just try to harp on being athletic for an offensive lineman, you know, being a hard worker.

Now you were in the East West Shrine (Game), is that correct?

Yes.

How was that experience?

It was great. I loved it. Going out there, just playing with different players – everybody comes from different backgrounds – just seeing how different kids play and how you can work with people who you never worked with before, to see how you can come together. And we won, so obviously we did a good job gelling and everything like that.

Who do you think were some of the better players offensively on the East squad?

Everyone looked good out there. I can’t tell which ones did better than others because I’m usually with the linemen most of the time, so I have no idea who had a good practice week or who didn’t. I didn’t really go back and look at that. And during the game I was in the moment, so I wouldn’t know which offensive players stood out.

Anybody you went against defensively who you remember?

Yeah, they were all very good. I went against Lindsey Witten from UConn, who obviously I played during the season, and Willie Young from NC State, who I actually played against two years ago. But, yeah, those two are really great players. Fast, athletic, and they’re really good. Those are the (main) players I went against throughout the week.

Did any pro teams, NFL scouts, talk to you during that week?

Oh, yeah. All the teams are there, and you talk to nearly all of them, so I can’t really run down the list. But basically, you talk to all of them at a certain point and time.

And you had a great meeting with the Patriots. Is that correct?

(Laughs.) Yeah.

We’ll just say it went really well.

Okay.

Excellent. Kevin, thanks a lot for your time today.

Thank you very much.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A With Utah DE Koa Misi

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Last year, PD interviewed Paul Kruger, who was looking to make the change to NFL linebacker. This year, we talked with Koa Misi, another Utah defensive end seeking the same change and similar success (Kruger was drafted in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens).

Initial questions of how Misi would take to these challenges were answered during Senior Bowl week, when he weighed in 19 pounds lighter than this past season. We caught up with the Californian on an unusual day for him: one that involved a rest from training.

Today seems like a little break for you. What are you up to today?

Just over here at Disneyland with my fiancée. Taking a little break before I go out to Indy (for the combine).

When do you plan to head out to Indy?

I head out on the 26th or 25th.

Okay. Do you think your experience with Senior Bowl week has prepared you for that?

Oh, yeah. Just training and stuff, for sure. Where I’m training, at API (Athletes’ Performance Institute) in L.A., I just feel like they’ve done a great job getting us prepared and letting us know what we’re going to see over there, so I think it’s really helped out a lot.

I noticed that your weight at the Senior Bowl was 19 or 20 pounds less than what it was listed during the season. Was that something that you started right after the season, or did you lose weight gradually in the fall?

During the season I started losing weight, and then after the season I just kept losing weight. I figured, Ken (Zuckerman), my agent, told me I was going to be playing a different position and I needed to get my weight down, so I did.

So you’ve been told – and I’m sure a lot of people have been asking you – about the switch from defensive lineman to an outside linebacker. How do you feel about that?

I feel good. I love playing linebacker – I actually played linebacker in high school – and it felt good playing linebacker in the Senior Bowl. I just felt like it came naturally to me, and I can’t wait.

What are some of the biggest adjustments that you have to make, making that position change?

I don’t know. I don’t really feel like I have to change anything. I played a little bit in college, but like I said, I felt natural playing linebacker. I just feel like it comes pretty easy to me.

Last year I got the chance to talk to Paul Kruger. He played your position in college, and he had to make the adjustment. Have you watched him at all, and has it been helpful to see what he’s gone through?

Actually, I’ve only watched maybe a couple of games of his and I’ve only seen him in a couple of times, but I guess so. Just watching anybody making that transition helps out, just so you know what to expect when you step up to the next level. Yeah, I guess you could say that I was, a little bit. I was watching other people.

Do you feel faster now, having lost the weight?

Yeah, actually, I do. I just feel like I can move around a lot easier, and then there’s the added speed also, with the weight loss. I feel a lot healthier at a lighter weight, and I think it will help me out when I play.

What do you mean you feel healthier?

Oh, I just feel like my body moves a lot better. Just the way I’m eating now, I’m eating a lot different than I used to, healthy-wise. I don’t know, just movement and my body recovering faster, just how I feel when I work out and run. I guess that’s how I’d explain that.

When you were in college, were you eating to try to keep on weight to keep your defensive line position? Is that one of the bigger changes? What are some of the dietary changes you’ve made?

(Laughs.) In college, I didn’t really have a diet. I just ate whatever I wanted, went out to fast food restaurants. And now, I’m on a special diet where they’ve been measuring out my food, how many calories I’m eating, how many carbs I’m eating. I don’t even make my food, they make my food for me and all I do is stick it in the microwave. I feel like it’s helped me a lot, because in college I never ate this way, and I can see a difference now.

And you’re maintaining your weight? You’re at around 245?

Yup. I’ve kept the same weight since I’ve been here, just eating differently and working out every day. It feels great.

I read somewhere that you have a great weight room ethic. What’s the most weight you’ve put up in the squat?

Oh, I don’t know… I think 565 (pounds) or more, up there somewhere. I’m not sure.

So, at what point – when you have that much weight on your back – do you think, wow, this is a really terrible idea?

(Laughs.) I don’t know, I’ve always loved to squat. Back in high school, my dad kept me to my weight lifting, just being there and pushing me through the squat. I don’t know, I haven’t really ever thought that. I guess you could say that’s one of my things that I like to do when I’m in the weight room.

Do you think that transfers well, in terms of your 40 and vertical jump and some of the other drills you’re going to have at the combine?

Oh, yeah. Just making (your) legs stronger, I think, helps with your explosion and the way you’re pushing off. I think it helps out a lot.

What’s the most difficult exercise or drill that you’ve been doing the last few weeks?

I don’t know if there’s any difficult drill… Mostly, the stuff that we do is all technique and body movement. Just the way you move is what they’re concentrating on over here. The workout we have here that’s called a metabolic workout, you’re just burning out when you’re lifting weights. I guess you can say that would probably be the hardest thing here, but even that feels good after you’re done. You’re muscles are all pumped up, and you just feel good.

Have you been tested in anything while you’ve been there?

We tested a week ago maybe, but they haven’t given us our numbers back.

How did you feel about it? How do you think you did?

I felt good. Everything I’ve done out here, I’ve felt good about. I think I’m pretty prepared coming into the combine.

Have any NFL scouts spoken to you?

Not since the Senior Bowl, no.

Who spoke to you there?

Oh, pretty much everybody. I know it was every coach I saw (who was) there.

Were the Patriots there?

Yeah, they were there.

Did you get a chance to talk to them much?

Yeah, I think so. I don’t really remember – there were a lot of meetings.

Well, Koa, just to wrap up, do me a favor and say your full name so I can write it out phonetically for our readers.

All right. It’s Nawa’akoa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi (Na-VAH-ah-KOH-ah Lees-YAH-tay FOH-tee AH-nah-LEE-see-ah-NO-ah MEE-see).

That sounds right to me.

(Laughs.)

Koa, thanks a lot for speaking with us today.

Yeah, no problem.

Okay, take care.

Thanks. You, too.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A With TCU DE Jerry Hughes

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

To some players, the dreaded “tweener” label means they fail to fit at any one position. Jerry Hughes is not one of those players. At Texas Christian, Hughes manned defensive end at an undersized 6-foot-2, 255 pounds. Still, he has few concerns about where he’ll play in the NFL, as long as he gets a chance to chase opposing quarterbacks.

The Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year spoke about switching positions and how the people around him have helped with his development on and off the field.

I know that you’re getting a lot of questions about making a transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, but you’ve already had to deal with a pretty big transition in your career. Why don’t you talk a little bit about going from a high school running back to a college pass-rushing defensive end?

Absolutely. You know, I always thought that the biggest transition right there was switching from a position that likes to, you know, touch the ball, score touchdowns, be a little flashy, to a position that’s all, really, in the trenches. You’ve got to have a lot of heart and soul to play that position, because every snap of the ball, you’re always going against somebody two, three times bigger than you. So, I felt like for the most part the one thing I needed to do to learn that position was to put some weight on. You know, I felt like being 200 pounds going against guys that were 320, I probably wouldn’t win most of those battles, so I felt like putting on some weight would really help me. And then, also, just looking at it from a mental aspect, playing running back in my high school days, I tried to do my best to kind of avoid contact, being the guy making the defensive players miss. So it was a real mental battle for me to – coming from a guy who’d avoid contact – to say, okay, now I’ve got to put my nose in there, bang around with the big boys, and really kind of just make that whole transition from there. Once I was able to get that mind set of a defensive player’s mentality where I’m going out there to hit whoever crosses my face, I felt like the game really changed for me, and I finally got a better understanding for it.

So, I read somewhere that you were calling offensive players prima donnas now. That’s a big switch.

(Laughs.) Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say “prima donnas.” You know, some of those offensive players will come up there and hit you in the mouth, so, you know, you’ve kind of got to watch that statement. But you know, I just say it’s a lot bigger transition than what people can think, playing offense and then coming to the defensive side of the ball.

You’ve already done some standing up from your position at TCU, didn’t you?

Yeah, I did a little bit, depending on the type of coverage that was being called and things like that. It would all depend on the scheme of the defense that we were running at the time.

And isn’t the Horned Frogs’ defense a little unorthodox in terms of most college defenses?

Yeah, you know, it’s out of a 4-2-5 scheme. You really don’t see that a lot in college football or in the NFL for long, but a 4-2-5 is really similar to a 4-3 defense, where you’ve got four down linemen and now, instead of three linebackers, you’ve got two linebackers and a safety who’s kind of like that hybrid mix between a linebacker and a safety.

And how is your rehab going?

Rehab is going well. I just had a minor injury in the bowl game that set me back a couple of weeks where I just couldn’t be as active as I wanted to be. But I was taking care of it, working with the medical staff, and they’ve got me at 100 percent right now.

It certainly was disappointing from a fan’s perspective not to see you at the Senior Bowl. Was it disappointing for you not to participate in that?

Absolutely, because that’s one of those places where I wanted to be at, these things like that, competing against some of the nation’s best. When the trainers and doctors said, “You’re not quite ready,” it really hit me, because being an athlete, you always want to go out there and compete, (but I couldn’t) just knowing that if I was to go out there I’d not be 100 percent. It really hurt me because I had never really suffered any college injuries. I was very fortunate.

Have you gotten a chance to talk to NFL scouts, or do you feel like you might have missed out on that a little bit, missing out on the Senior Bowl?

Oh, no, I haven’t really spoken to any NFL scouts or anything like that.

How are you preparing for the combine? Any specific events, or trying to keep track of all the testing?

Just trying to be sharp all the way around, working on every individual event, so that way, come next weekend, I’ll perform at the best of my ability. I’m doing defensive end drills as well as linebacker drills – that way I’m getting to show my versatile side.

Do you feel like you’ll be at 100 percent?

Absolutely, you know, I’m feeling good right now. The medical staff has done a great job down here… So, I’m feeling 100 percent right now. I’m ready to go.

And how about your weight? Are you keeping it about the same, or are thinking about going up or down?

I’m keeping it the same.

Playing at TCU, you guys have been so successful. What do you think it will take for them to hold onto a top ranking, because it seems like getting wins isn’t a problem, it’s more like getting the respect is?

You’ve got to – those guys have just got to keep winning ball games. You know, the only way you can earn anybody’s respect is to just go out there and win ball games, because wins speak a lot more for themselves than just people talking about it. So, I feel like if they put together another 11-win, 12-win season, it will be hard to not position them into some of the BCS bowl games, things like that.

Being a Texas guy, was TCU always a big choice for you? What other schools were you looking at?

Nah, not really. I really didn’t hear too much about TCU, just because in Texas you always hear about the dominating powerhouses as in the UTs and the A&Ms. But as far as other schools looking at me, I had Texas Tech, North Texas, Arizona State, Iowa State.

What set TCU apart?

Oh, out of those schools, the ones I just named, you know, TCU was winning at the time. They set a mark where winning was accepted, and that’s the kind of tradition they were putting forth at that program. Also, all the coaches that were there from previous schools (I named) are all gone now. I think the coaching staff from Arizona State since they recruited me has been replaced, as well as North Texas, Iowa State and even Texas Tech. It was a great choice by me, you know, just being able to pick a school who’s had a very stable coach in Gary Patterson.

So what was the first thought in your mind when you were approached to play defensive end?

I wasn’t too high on it. Being a running back was something that I really wanted to do. My dad had played running back in high school, and I really just modeled myself after him, so I was not really pleased about the switch. But, you know, just speaking with my dad, he said, “You’re an athlete, not just a person who’s really set on one position. So if you open your mind up and you’re able to make that change, everything will just work (out) for itself.”

Do you think your father’s had a big influence on you and your career?

Absolutely. You know, he’s always been there, cheering for me, always giving me advice, just telling me things I could do better. He’s like a second coach. That’s always great to have, but at the same time it can have its negatives, also. But he’s always been a great father, a great dad. You know, that’s all you can ask for.

In terms of coaching, how do you think they got you into the right mindset as a pass rusher? You had so much success there, what to you think has been the key to your success in that role?

Probably my position coach (Dick Bumpas). Showing me different hand movements, different techniques that I didn’t know about, and really opening me up to being a successful pass rusher. And just, you know, reiterating (that I should) use my speed to my advantage, which can set up a lot of guys off-target by me using my explosive speed. So I feel like he did a great job of kind of molding me into the person, or the player, that I am today.

Well, I just want to tell you good luck next week. I hope it all goes well, and maybe we can hear from you after the combine.

All right, sounds great, man.

Thanks a lot, Jerry. I appreciate your time.

All right.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

PD Roundup – Wilfork, Moss, FieldTurf

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

A few items/thoughts involving the Patriots from recent days:

The news came on Monday that we’ve been expecting – The Patriots designated Vince Wilfork as their franchise player. Obviously the hope is to work out a long term agreement with him. At the very least, doing this keeps his right in their control, and gives the Patriots more time to try and work out a contract with him that works for both sides, or  try and trade him to get something for him, or make the decision just get one more year out of him and see what happens. While there is some optimism out there that a deal might be able to be consummated, it really needs to be team friendly for me to be full on board with a long term investment.

Randy Moss made some comments over the weekend that had the Patriots media buzzing. He expressed his opinion that 2010 would be his last in a Patriots uniform. Moss was not inflammatory in his remarks, but candid and honest – as he usually is on the occasions that he speaks to the media. This shouldn’t really be a surprise – Moss will be 34 next season, and some team out there is going to give him big money because of who he is – more than what the Patriots are likely to give him. I would imagine that the Patriots and Tom Brady would like to keep Moss here, but at what price?

The Patriots announced on Monday that they are resurfacing the playing field at Gillette stadium, going to the new FieldTurf Duraspine PRO surface.

Is it just me, or has the aim of nearly every Patriots reporter/columnist/analyst this offseason been to make fans feel as poorly as possible about the state of the franchise? Every little thing seems to written with a negative slant, or with the tone of lecturing the fans in a condescending manner ( a pair of recent posts from Patriots writers telling fans that Julius Peppers won’t solve all their problems spring to mind), or suggesting that Bill Belichick is devolving back to who he was in Cleveland. In some ways, it’s just par for the course. Ron Borges has been insisting that the whole franchise was a house of cards since 2001, but this year, there seems to be a whole lot less benefit of the doubt being handed out. But hey, it’s understandable – they haven’t won a Super Bowl in five full seasons now!

The no-coordinators thing doesn’t bother me as much as it does some. I wrote a column on the topic for the Boston Metro – explaining why I think the media behaved exactly as expected in this matter.

A couple of features here on PD that you might find useful and that will be updated throughout the offseason:

Keep checking those posts for the latest moves and deadlines going forward.

2010 Notable Patriots Moves/Transactions

This is a list of what the Patriots have done in the 2010 offseason, it will be updated as things happen, so keep checking back here throughout the offseason.

January 14 – It is revealed that Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees will not return in 2010. Shalise Manza Young first to report.

January 29 – Adam Schefter reports that the Patriots have hired Corwin Brown as defensive coach. Patriots confirm via Twitter.

January 29 – Shalise Manza Young reports that Tight Ends coach Shane Waldron will not return in 2010.

February 5 – Erik Scalavino on Patriots.com reports that the Patriots will not name a defensive coordinator for 2010, and the offensive staff will remain in place.

February 22 – The Patriots announce that they have applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to nose tackle Vince Wilfork.

February 22- The Patriots announce that the playing surface at Gillette Stadium is being changed to the new FieldTurf Duraspine PRO.

February 24 - The Patriots announce via Twitter that they have signed veteran WR David Patten. Patten played for the Patriots from 2001-04.

March 4 - Adam Schefter reports first that the Patriots placed first- and third-round tender on guard Logan Mankins. (Restricted Free Agent)

March 4 – Patriots also announce via Twitter that they have place the right of first refusal tag on LB Pierre Woods (Restricted Free Agent) and the second-round tender on K Stephen Gostkowski.

March 4- Patriots release TE Chris Baker.

March 5 - Patriots announce they have signed LB Tully Banta-Cain to a three-year contract.

March 5 - Patriots sign NT Vince Wilfork to a five-year contract.

March 5 – PFW also reports that the Patriots also re-sign G Stephen Neal.

March 8 – Adam Schefter and Michael Lombardi report that CB Leigh Bodden is re-signing with the Patriots. The next day, Jason La Canfora reports it as a five-year contract. Bodden’s agent calls it a 4 year deal.

March 8 - During an interview on WEEI’s Big Show, Patriots owner Robert Kraft states that free agent linebacker Marques Murrell formerly of the New York Jets, has agreed to join the Patriots.

March 10 - The Patriots and Kevin Faulk agree to a one-year contract.

March 24 – The Patriots officially announce the signing of  free agent TE Alge Crumpler. Agreement first reported on March 18.

April 2 – Adam Schefter reports that the Patriots reached an agreement with former Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis

April 14 – The Patriots announce they have signed former Australian Rules Football player David King as a punter.

April 18 - Restricted free agent kicker Stephen Gostkowski signs his one-year tender with the team.

April 19 - Restricted free agent linebacker Pierre Woods signs a one-year contract with the team. (not his tender)

April 20Tom E Curran reports that Patriots sign WR Torry Holt to a one year contract.

April 21 - The Patriots announce the signing of DL Amon Gordon.

April 22 - With the 27th pick in the first round, the Patriots select Rutgers CB Devin McCourty.

April 23 – The Patriots draft TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Jermaine Cunningham and LB Brandon Spikes in the second round and WR Taylor Price in the third round of the NFL draft.

April 24 - The Patriots draft TE Aaron Hernandez, P Zoltan Mesko, C Ted Larsen, OL Thomas Welch, DL Brandon Deaderick, DL Kade Weston and QB Zac Robinson in rounds 4-7 of the NFL draft.

April 24 – The Patriots sign former Oakland defensive lineman Gerald Warren.

April 26  - The Patriots release LB Adalius Thomas.

May 10 – Patriots announce the signing of RB Chris Taylor.

May 14 – Adam Schefter reports that the Patriots re-sign LB Derrick Burgess.

May 18 - Patriots announce the release of CB Shawn Springs.

June 24 – Patriots re-sign LB Gary Guyton to a two-year contract.

Q&A With Clemson WR Jacoby Ford

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Jacoby Ford ran track at Clemson, reaching All-American status in the 100 meters and national championship status in the 60 meters. In prep school he was timed under 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Despite his many accomplishments on the track, Ford will tell you that, first and foremost, he’s a football player. The dynamic receiver/returner/occasional passer took some time between workouts to discuss his skills, his family, and his hopes for a future in the NFL.

So, where are you now? What are you up to?

I’m down in Boca Raton, Florida, just training.

Training for a guy like you seems like it might be different (from) someone who’s trying to improve his 40 time. What are the types of things that you’re doing now?

I’m doing a lot of things, like I’m doing a lot of upper body to get stronger for the 225 (bench rep) test. And then I’m doing a bunch of explosive stuff for my legs, just to be more explosive for when I do end up running the 40. And I’m working on a lot of receiver drills and cone drills, too, for the combine.

Being a track guy, how do you think that helps you? How far ahead do you think you are of others who haven’t done the same kind of speed work you have?

I think it might put me ahead some, but then on the other hand, I think it’s just running. It’s just running to me: it’s just something that I don’t think I have to worry about as far as other people (do), because a lot of people probably stress over the 40. I don’t think (anybody) should ever stress over that. I think they should just relax and go out there and run, because running just should be second nature to them.

Speaking of being second nature, as a track guy, how has that helped you in football? Was it something where you were running first and started football, or did football come first?

No, football always came first. I only started running track my senior year of high school, and then I ran while I was at Clemson. Football’s always been my first love.

Something I’ve always wanted to ask someone who’s done both: there’s a lot of talk about Usain Bolt trying out for the NFL. Do you think that would be a good idea?

I mean, if he can play football, then yeah, it would be a great idea. It’s all in terms of how well he could probably carry his pads and take the physical abuse of football.

In your freshman year, you were more of a return guy. Was it tough to become a receiver over the years, or was that something you were always looking to do?

Oh, it was something I was always looking to do. That’s what I came in for, but I knew my freshman year, going behind Chansi Stuckey – who’s with the Browns now – I knew I would be behind him. So it gave me a year just to watch him mature, just watch him my whole freshman year and then just try to take over the role that he had, and try to become a complete college receiver. I mean, it took a lot of work to do, to adjust to the college level, but I ended up taking on that mission really well.

And what are some of the tougher teams that you faced in your career?

Boston College. Florida State. Alabama. Virginia Tech.

Sounds like the whole ACC. (Note: plus Alabama, of course.)

Yeah, pretty much. It was never just an easy game. Everybody always brought their A-game every time they played us, so that’s how we just took every game. We came prepared and ready to play every time.

I saw that you passed for a touchdown last year, is that right?

Yes, I did.

Is that something – could you talk a little bit about that? Is that something that you always wanted to do?

Yeah, that’s something I always wanted to do, because we always used to have those plays open like that in practice, we just never called them. So we ended up calling it. I guess I’d been throwing the ball pretty well this past year. You know, I used to just mess around, I’d be throwing it pretty good, and we ended up calling it at the right time. I hit Xavier Dye wide open on a go route. Actually I had two pass attempts this year, and both of them were to Xavier.

So if you had to score a touchdown – absolutely had to – would you want to return a kick, return a punt, run for it or catch a pass?

Either way works for me. As long as I get in that end zone somehow and put six points up on the board. That’s a thrill for me any time.

Clemson seems like a crazy football school. Is that true? Is that something where the perception plays out on campus?

Yeah, they definitely take pride in their football program. It’s always a lot of high expectations there. We just have to not let that get to our heads and just try to go out there and focus and play our game. But those people, they definitely do love their Clemson Tigers up there. The fan base is just amazing and I loved every bit of it when I was there.

Could you talk a little bit about going from Florida to Fork Union (Military Academy) and then to Clemson?

When I was at Fork Union, I had to be in uniform and take orders from kids younger than me. We got a chance to play football there, too. They taught a lot of discipline while I was there, and it kind of like honed me in on where I came from and how appreciative I should have been, or need to be. Just for being out instead of being in the school where it’s just all boys and you couldn’t go anywhere. Coming to Clemson, it wasn’t on my mind at all coming out of the prep school. So I took a visit there and I just kind of fell in love with the place and the players and the fan base there. I kind of just felt comfortable and at home. And then my brother was in Atlanta, he was only an hour away, so that played a big part in my decision, too.

What were some of the factors that went into you deciding to go to Fork Union after high school?

I wanted to get my SAT scores up to match my GPA so I could be eligible to be a Division I athlete.

And at what point at Clemson did you start thinking that you could play at the next level?

Oh, it’s always been a dream to get there, but my first thing I wanted to do at Clemson was make sure I get my degree no matter what, and know football will just take care of itself afterwards. Now I just feel blessed with that opportunity to go play at the next level.

I read that you timed under a 4.2 in the 40. Is that true?

Yes, I have.

Is there any way you can describe what that’s like to someone who can’t do that?

Honestly, no. Because, I mean, sometimes I don’t really feel like I’m running that fast. I guess just because of the way my stride is. I mean, everyone else was like, “Man, you (were) moving,” or, “You were really fast,” but to me, I’m out there just running, just enjoying my time every time I do get a chance to go out there and run. When the time comes up, I don’t get too excited or get really emotional. I’m just like, “Okay,” and I just keep going after that.

What are the differences between straight-ahead speed and quickness? What are the different types of things you’re working on? Or do you think you need to work on that?

No, because I’ve had that all my life. I’ve always been quick, I just have the mentality now, when I catch the ball I just want to get north and south instead of going east and west.

So what kind of numbers are you expecting to show this spring in testing?

The best that I have. I’m just trying to go out there and make an impression on my coaches and on the whole NFL… Just go out there and try to show my skills so they can hone in on them and see good things from me.

Do you have any specific numbers in mind?

Nah, I don’t want to jinx myself. I’d rather just go out there and make a statement whenever I do get out there and start running around and doing everything. I definitely want to be in the top three in everything.

I think that’s probably a good idea. How is it going now? What’s your schedule like?

Our schedule is – well, now since we’re about to get ready for the combine – our trainer makes sure we wake up about 7 a.m., makes sure we get something to eat, in our system. We work out at about 10 until 11:15, 11:30. Then we take a break and we eat lunch at 1:30 at Duffy’s. Then after lunch we go right back to the facility. We work out again. And, you know, if you want to come in later and do Pilates or extra stretching, you can come back in until probably around 6, between 6 and 7, and get a lot of extra work in. So it’s a full day, every day. Monday is probably the longest day, though. That’s when you have a big group and everybody’s together. All the other days you have little groups, and my group goes at 10 o’clock.

While all this is going on, is it just crazy? Is it what you expected? Are you nervous at all?

No, I’m not nervous right now. I probably might get a little (case of) butterflies at the combine that first day or something. But other than that, you know, I’ve just been down enjoying my time with all the guys that I’ve been working out with, making new friends, just trying to enjoy it as much as I can, especially being back home in Florida.

How far away are you from your hometown?

Oh, I’m only about 20 minutes from home.

Do you get home much?

Yes, sir, I do. I try to get home as much as possible to get a good home-cooked meal from my mom, and see them as much as possible since it’s been very limited my last four years at Clemson.

Jacoby, that’s excellent… I really look forward to seeing what you do at the end of the month.

Thank you.

Okay, take care.

Alright. You, too.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A With Virginia Tech DE Jason Worilds

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

We tend to have mixed emotions when we hear of a college football player declaring early for the draft. Going pro sounds good, but is it the right decision? Did he make it by himself?

For Jason Worilds, the answer to both is yes. The Virginia Tech sack expert could make a switch from defensive end to linebacker next year. In his interview with PD, he discussed his preparation for that position change as well as his decision to declare early.

Where are you now?

Right now I’m in Pensacola, Florida.

Ah. Are you working out?

Yeah, I’m working out at Andrews Institute (Athlete’s Performance).

I wanted to talk to you about your decision to declare early, but I wanted to go at it from a slightly different direction, and that is to ask you, what would have kept you at Virginia Tech? What would have made you stay?

I really can’t say anything would have. You know, I made my decision whole-heartedly. I was just something (where) I felt as though I was ready. I thought that I showed a lot in college, I did a lot. I played my heart out for those guys, and I felt like I was ready to take that next step in my career.

When did you start thinking about it? You had a great year your sophomore year. Did people start whispering in your ear that maybe you should consider it after the following year?

No, no. I came to that decision by myself. I didn’t really take into account too much of what anybody outside of my family was saying. My mom told me all the time, you know, that this decision was mine, and that ultimately it was my life, so that I would have to make that decision. So she left it up to me, and I made my decision.

In the end, was there any one thing that ultimately pushed you to that decision, or was it just a collection of everything?

It wasn’t any one thing. I wouldn’t say that. It was just – I just really felt that I was ready. I really felt as though, another year, my game had matured, and I was just ready for the NFL experience.

In terms of the NFL, you’re getting looked at as 3-4 outside linebacker. How comfortable are you with that?

Extremely. Extremely. You know, I just want to play football. Standing up doesn’t really affect me. I didn’t stand up – I played a little bit of linebacker in high school – I didn’t stand up much in college. We did drop into hook curls and flats, so I did some drops, I did some coverage stuff that can be seen on film. But, I’m comfortable, I’m confident. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.

What do you think is the most important aspect of pass rushing?

I would say your motor. You have to be relentless in your pursuit to the quarterback. The moment that you start slacking – or a lack of effort for whatever reason – is the moment the offensive tackle gets comfortable. And his job isn’t to pancake you on any play, it’s to keep you off of the quarterback. So just always applying pressure by always keeping your motor going.

Does that mean that you have a wide array of pass rush moves, or are you more of a speed rusher kind of guy?

No, I definitely have a wide array of pass rush moves. I think I have some threats on the outside, both outside moves and inside moves… Watching a lot of other pass rushers, I think the thing that separates me from them is that I’m non-stop. I see a lot of guys hit their move, and if their move doesn’t work, they kind of go into a hand battle or arm fight, whereas I feel as though I strive to be relentless on every play.

Who do you think were the toughest teams you guys faced this year?

Alabama. Alabama was a tough team. You know, we lost to them in the season opener. Nebraska was a tough team that we faced. Georgia Tech with their option. That option is a tough thing to face every time we play them. UNC plays us tough; we lost to them.

When you guys played Alabama at the beginning of the year, did you think that they could go on to win the championship?

Yeah, we thought that they would definitely be contenders for it. We didn’t know – well, personally, I didn’t know – how good Florida was at the time. When we played (Alabama) and they beat us, we knew that they were one of the better teams. Definitely one of the better teams I had faced.

Making the transition from college to the pros, have you been watching film or maybe studying different defensive schemes? How do you think you’re preparing for that?

Really just going out there, working on my position drills and watching some film, the little bit of (film) that we get. Just trying to stay open and eager… just trying to stay in the best shape I can, and going out there, making sure my feet are fast and that I’m as explosive as I can be.

Do you think your primary focus right now is getting ready for the combine?

Yeah, definitely.

I’m curious what your height and weight are right now. Have you been told to put on some weight?

No, I’m alright where I’m at. I’m around 253.

And have you been measured in the 40?

No.

You’re confident in your speed and your drills and things like that?

Yeah, sure. Yeah, I’m confident.

What do you think is going to be the biggest adjustment for you next year?

Understanding the game from a coverage perspective. If I do stand up, that is. If I do stand up and play outside linebacker, just being comfortable as far as reading formations and adjusting to formations pre-snap.

Now, are you originally from New Jersey?

I am.

How does a New Jersey guy end up at Virginia Tech?

(Laughs.) Great recruiters. Coach Kevin Rogers recruited me out of Virginia Tech, and he went on and took a job in the NFL (Vikings QB Coach). And, you know, Coach (Charlie) Wiles, my defensive line coach, and Coach (Frank) Beamer came and kind of took over. The trio kind of recruited me, and that’s what lured me down there.

People watching from the outside don’t really know much about Virginia Tech beyond the football team and maybe a little bit about the campus… If you were a recruiter, how would you bring somebody there?

First and foremost, the people here. It’s a college town all the way. It’s just, everyone, they’re very nice people… Just seeing how warm the people are initially, it kind of won me over.

Even though it’s a decent-sized school, did you feel like it was a small campus atmosphere?

Yeah, you could say that, definitely. It’s a close atmosphere. But, you know, there are schools in the area – Radford is about 15 minutes away – so there are other schools in the area where you can go and see other things.

So what is your schedule like?

I wake up in the morning, I eat breakfast around 9:30. My first workout is at 10 o’clock. We lift and we run for about two hours. We break – you eat a snack, you eat lunch. During break I go and, whatever I want to work on (that’s) extra, I do that. And then, we come back and we meet again and we have our second workout. It’ll be basically running and lifting for another hour-and-a-half, two hours.

And you’re going to be down there all the way up until the combine?

Yes.

And then any plans after that, or are you just going to take it as it comes?

I’ll probably just take it as it comes, you know. I have a pro day (March 18), so I’ll just make sure, wherever I am, just to get ready for my pro day.

Well, good luck, Jason. Thanks a lot for talking to us today.

I appreciate that. Thank you.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A With SIU Running Back Deji Karim

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Most draft followers have yet to hear of Deji Karim. The Southern Illinois back scored 20 touchdowns this past season, averaging 7.1 yards per carry for the Salukis. His 2009 efforts earned him AP All-American honors at the FCS level and an appearance in the Texas vs. The Nation Game.

Despite his production, Karim remains on the edges of most draft rankings. While a strong showing at his pro day should boost his status, he has some perceptions to fight through the end of April. In the time he took to speak to us, he showed the enthusiasm and patience to do so. (Watch how he handles a misguided question about his high school background.)

Let’s start talking about being very successful at a lesser-known school. You did really well at Southern Illinois, yet you’re still getting overlooked to some extent. How do you feel about that, and how are you battling that?

Well, first and foremost, I’ve got to thank God for allowing me to go through the process I did. You know, at the same time, I’ve been overlooked all the way up to this. I mean, it’s nothing but another challenge thrown my way, and I’m going to do everything I can at keeping at this once again. But I’ve always been overlooked, since I’ve been in high school.

You’ve always been overlooked? Why is that?

The first time, in high school, was grades. And then once I got to (NE Oklahoma A&M) junior college I fixed that, and I got overlooked by the D-Is because I went to junior college. Then once I went to Southern Illinois, I got overlooked because I guess I, you know, played at a lower level. I haven’t played with the big boys yet.

Tell me about your performance at the Texas vs. The Nation game. What was that week like, and how do you think you did?

Oh, it was a fun week. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about what the running back has to do: the blocking, the routes you run. I felt like I performed very well. The game was a lot of fun. I could tell that the speed was a little faster than what I’m used to, but I still felt like I ran well. It was fun.

Do you think coming out of Texas has helped you throughout your career? It’s such a football-minded state. Do you think that was beneficial?

I came out of Oklahoma.

Oh, I’m sorry. That’s my second mess-up today!

(Laughs.)

So, okay, coming from that area, and – didn’t you play for Texas in the Texas vs. The Nation Game?

Yeah, I don’t know how that worked.

They cheated, Deji!

(Laughs.) Yeah, they did! (Laughs.) I just played for whatever team they told me to.

So how do you think that pedigree helps, coming from a part of the country where football is so important?

I think it helps a lot. Where I came from, I played football with (Oklahoma QB) Sam Bradford. We both played on the same team (Putnam City North) and we all had big dreams as young kids and we were destined to live our dreams, do whatever it took to get them. Now I’m just that close to getting it.

Because of your size – you’re about 5-9, is that correct?

Yeah.

You’re probably projected as a third-down back, a specialty back. Do you think that’s fair, and what do you think you could bring to a team?

I guess that’s fair. I mean, I don’t care as long as I can play football at the next level. What I’m looking to bring to a team is just a spark. Third down back? That’s fine with me, as long as I can light a spark on the team or be that man that, you know, helps the team play and gets the team up and ready after one play.

Now, you’ve returned kicks, too, is that right?

Yes, sir.

That’s something that most of our readers have probably never done, and we watch it all the time. What advice would you give someone who was returning a kick?

Um, don’t drop it? (Laughs.) That’s the most important thing I try to focus on, just to catch it going forward and go.

I think you caught 17 passes this year?

Yes, sir.

Do you see yourself as a pass-catching back, or is that something you think you might need to work on?

Oh, yeah, I feel like I can catch the ball out of the backfield very well. It was just – it was an offense that didn’t allow us to do that, that didn’t allow running backs to do it. But I feel like I do well catching the ball out of the backfield.

What do you think is your strongest point as a running back?

Probably my speed, my vision, and power.

Speaking of those things, what are you doing in terms of working out these days?

Right now, I’m working out with Mike Gough at Athletic Edge down there in Sarasota, Florida. We’re doing a lot of speed work, a lot of lifting weights and working on 40s. We’re doing everything possible for what we’ll do at the combine-slash-pro day.

Have you been timed recently? Do you know around where those times might be for you?

Yes, sir. A 4.4 flat (in the 40). I’ve been timed at 4.4 flat.

A four-point-four-oh?

Yes.

That’s pretty good. That’s better than the one you had at the beginning of last year, is that right?

Yes, sir.

And how about your shuttle runs and things like that? Do you have any times for that, or that’s just something you’re working on day-to-day?

Oh, I’m still working on it. I mean, I’m close to a – I want to say I’m averaging around 4.1 (in the 20-yard shuttle)? But I still have a lot of work to do on that.

As a smaller back, are there certain backs that you look at in the NFL, guys you might look up to?

You know I’m a small back, but I like to watch Adrian Peterson run. But, small backs, I guess if Reggie Bush is a small back. I love what he did in the playoffs, because he’s learning how to run the ball – like, he ran it (well) in college, but he’s learning how to run it better now. So I’m watching him.

Is that something you try to emulate, or do you think naturally that’s kind of the way you want to run the ball? Because it seems like there are times when you know how to run between the tackles.

Oh, no, I was just saying I like to watch him. No, I don’t want to emulate Reggie at all. Really, I just run the ball, I don’t know who I try to run it like. I like watching Adrian Peterson. If I had size and power, I’d try to run the way he does. I just like watching him run the ball.

Did you talk to any scouts during Texas vs. The Nation week?

Yes, sir, I talked to a bunch of them. I talked to the Colts, the Atlanta Falcons, the Jaguars, the Bears, the Chiefs, Seahawks.

Did the Patriots talk to you?

No, I did not see the Patriots.

Have you gotten to watch them at all recently? What do you think about their offense?

I think the offense is one of the best in the National Football League. Tom Brady’s able to throw the ball whenever he wants, and it’s just an effective offense to watch. Even though they lost to the Ravens. They’re still fun to watch, though.

Do you think there’s any particular aspect of your game that you need to work on before you make it to the next level?

Yes, the technique on my blocking. I need to learn better technique in blocking. I’ll put all the effort in to block, I just don’t have the right technique.

Have you been able to work on that down in Florida?

Yes, a little bit with Mike Gough.

Well, Deji, I really appreciate your time today, and I wish you a lot of luck over the next couple of months.

All right, thank you. I appreciate that.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A with BC Linebacker Mike McLaughlin

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

It’s one thing to talk about working hard. It’s another thing to do it and to make sure your teammates do it, too.

Mike McLaughlin helped lead Boston College to yet another bowl season, keeping the defense steady from his spot at middle linebacker (aka “Mike” – go figure). His on-field production and off-field work should get him a close look from the NFL this spring.

McLaughlin took a few minutes to discuss the Eagles and exactly what this “hard work” thing is all about.

Let’s open up talking about BC football!

Yeah! (laughs)

Now, you guys had a late coaching switch, you lost (linebacker) Mark Herzlich for the year and lost you for the first few games. And yet you come back, and just like every year, you end up in a bowl game. What is the secret to Boston College’s consistency?

Yeah, that’s funny, because I was kind of like – that’s been the main question I’ve been asked for the past year or two, just how we plug in the pieces and everything. But I think this year we came together a little bit, made it a point that it’s something that nobody would really understand except us. We would say that in the locker room before the game – you know, whether it was a game against Clemson, or one of the bigger teams, any team we’d face – nobody knows how hard we work except the guys in this room. I think that starts with simple stuff, like being at school all year ’round. We don’t go home like most (schools). A lot of schools get their break after graduation, they get a month off where all the guys get to unwind and go home. But we take it upon ourselves as players, and being a captain for the last two years – and it wasn’t just myself, a lot of other guys did a great job doing it – we were all there, basically every day, working on seven-on-seven drills, getting in the film room. Pass groups, you know, linebackers, DBs, whatever it may be. And I just think that consistent work throughout the year is kind of what separates us from the rest of the pack, so to speak.

So, talking about staying there, is that something that the captains all agree upon, is it something the coaches all try to get you to do? How does that work out?

It’s kind of a mutual thing… You’ve got to give credit to our head strength and conditioning coach, Coach (Jason) Loscalzo, because he came here, and that was a different thing when he came three years ago with the original coaching change. Usually our guys, like everybody else, would go home for a month, a month and a half. You know, I think it was between him and a couple of older guys on the team, myself and two other guys, that just thought it would be best if most of us stuck around and started the summer program a month early. And we were able to get those extra days, the seven-on-seven like I said, and film room, and compile all of it in four or five weeks that normally guys would just be hanging out at home.

Did you notice a difference right away?

I think so. I really did. I don’t know if I should say this, it’s like a cliché, but you could just tell. It breeds a different attitude when you’re working out, when you graduate May 19 and your first summer session is May 20, the day after graduation. I think it puts a different mindset in everybody’s head. You make it fun, but it’s also, “Well, hey, let’s get to work. Let’s start this now, not go home and think about doing it, let’s actually do it. Let’s start this up.”

In terms of working out, what kind of improvements have you seen with yourself over the last couple of years?

Oh, I mean, I’ve made tremendous strides. To be honest, you know, I kind of felt like my ’08 season was when I put myself on the map a little bit, and I owe a lot of it to our strength coach. And also my hard work and the guys around me, too, just pushing each other like I said. I just think that my running, my quickness and my speed got so much better through being at school. And really, just working on conditioning, working out in a group. When you’re around your teammates, the competitiveness just goes up through the roof, whereas if you’re working out by yourself you really cant’ get that. It became like an everyday battle almost, whether it be linebackers seeing if you can beat each other in drills. When you’re doing that, you’re pushing yourself to the max every day, which you’re not going to do by yourself.

So are you working out now by yourself for the combine, for pro day, or do you have other people you’re working out with?

No, I’m working out down in Florida, down in a place called Athletic Edge. Similar situation, great guys. Mike Gough is the one who runs it. There’s about 13 of us. Very similar mentality, just kind of blue collar. You go and work every day. It’s not like stretching, warm up and people telling you how good you are. You have to go and you’re competing every day, and that really is a great atmosphere.

Are you going up against any guys you’ve seen before?

There’s a D-tackle from Maryland that obviously I’ve played against for the last four or five years. I don’t really know him, but it is kind of cool to be working out with him. A couple of tackles from Rutgers… Nobody I really have known (well) through playing is down there, but there’s some real good talent.

Schematically, what do you think you did at Boston College that can help you in the coming years?

Well, the position I played was the Mike linebacker position, in our scheme anyway, in our defense. He’s basically the quarterback to a defense, which I’m sure is pretty common among all teams, as far as making checks and setting the defense every play, and making sure everybody knows what they’re doing. With that being said, knowing what everybody else on defense is doing, not just myself. I think that helped me out as a football player. I think it will help me out here in the next few months, just to show coaches what I know about the game of football.

Do you think the hardest part of your position is mental or physical?

That’s a good question, actually. At BC, I had the hardest time mentally, to be honest with you. We’re in, like I said, the Mike linebacker position because it’s so – it’s very detailed, and if you’re not right, then the whole defense isn’t right. So you really can’t play until you know exactly what you’re doing and, like I said, what everybody else is doing, in and out, like it’s the back of your hand. Mentally, it took me a couple of years. My position coach was, to me, the best coach I could possibly have for that, Coach (Bill) McGovern. It doesn’t get any better than him, I don’t think. I was lucky enough to have a guy like that who was patient with me but also knew when to kind of kick me in the butt and say, “You need to pick it up; you need to learn your stuff.”

Who were the toughest teams you went against in terms of execution and game-planning? Not just athletically, but the ones who seemed to know what to expect from you?

I’d definitely have to say, we played Virginia Tech, and they’ve been so tough through the past three or four years. In the ’07, ’08 seasons we played them a combined four times. Then we played them last year, of course. They have tremendous athletes, but at the same time they combine that with some schemes that just will drive you crazy. Like in the ’08 ACC Championship game, they kind of had our defense down pat. They knew exactly what our checks were going to be, to simple stuff like trading the tight end, motioning, just getting us out of our comfort (zone), what we were used to doing. They knew exactly what they were doing, and it kind of got us off-balance, and obviously it ended up working out for them. (Note: Tech won, 30-12.)

Do you think that’s the type of thing that can help you in the future?

Well, knowing that helps a little bit, but it’s kind of tough, because I knew what they were doing the whole time. And as a coach, you knew what Virginia Tech was doing to you, but like I said, they’re getting you off your game, and if all 11 guys don’t know exactly what’s going on, it’s going to be hard to stop. I think learning that and just knowing how teams are attacking you is huge, especially for preparation of the games. So I think that will definitely help, especially the linebacker position where you have to know your enemy.

Now, being a Massachusetts guy, do you watch the Patriots much?

Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, I grew up a die-hard Patriots fan. That would be like a dream come true to play – it would be a dream to play in the NFL, never mind getting a chance to play for the Patriots.

Have you talked to any NFL scouts?

Yeah, I played at the East West Shrine Game so there were a ton of scouts there. I talked to a good amount of them, but I don’t think I’ve spoken with the Patriots.

What teams have you spoken with?

Oh, I don’t know. I mean: Chiefs, Steelers, Jets, Panthers. I don’t even remember them (all), to be honest with you. Those are just a handful.

Sounds like a lot. In terms of your testing, what kind of numbers are you looking at right now, and what do you hope to do?

Well, obviously the 40 is the big one. I’d like to run in the 4.7s for that. I’ve never been an unbelievable straight-line guy, but I think my strength is going to be my quickness. I think scouts and teams underestimate my athletic ability a little bit, so hopefully doing the position drills at the combine, I’ll show them that I’m a pretty good athlete and I’m a try-hard guy, that I actually have some talent. But as far as numbers, like I said, in the low 4.7s would be ideal. The other stuff, I’m not really sure what I’m going to put up, but hopefully it will be at the top numbers for the inside backers.

That sounds good. Mike, thanks a lot for talking to us today.

Yeah, I appreciate it.

All right. Good luck.

All right. Thanks a lot.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Q&A With UCLA Linebacker Reggie Carter

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Many New Englanders see Los Angeles as glitzy, even fake. But then we meet someone like Reggie Carter.

The UCLA all-conference linebacker first caught PD’s eye with his early-season performance at Tennessee (14 tackles). He further intrigued us with his play at the East West Shrine Game.

Though snubbed from the NFL combine, Carter doesn’t mind working with a chip on his shoulder. He took some time between workouts to talk to PD this past week.

Why don’t you take us through your typical day now?

Okay, so I get up around 6:30, 7 o’clock, eat breakfast. I go to the gym and do a yoga class from around 8 to 9, and after that yoga class I lift from about 9, 9:15 to about 10:45, 11. Then at 11 I go to a little private field where I do drills, football-related work until about 12:30. Then I get to go home, take a nap, eat lunch. Then I come back and work with my speed guy around 3 o’clock, 3 to 5. And then after that, I go home and eat dinner. I try to stay up long enough to eat my snack before I go to sleep, but most nights I’m kind of asleep before I make it to the snack.

That’s a really full day. Are you doing that just about every day?

Yeah, about every day. Except for Saturday and Sunday.

How long have you been doing yoga? That seems a little unusual.

Yeah, I know, right? As soon as I started training when we got back from that (Eaglebank) Bowl game, we were playing in D.C…. It’s good for flexibility.

(On to) the East West Shrine Bowl. I was really impressed with how well you played. How did you feel, and what was the general feedback you were getting from it?

I think I did pretty good. I had fun. They voted me defensive captain so I think I did a good job of trying to lead the defense that happened to be a group of my peers who I hadn’t been playing with for the past four or five years. My best feedback was from our coaches, Coach (Marty) Schottenheimer and his staff. There were a few NFL guys, NFL scouts, but not too many. I didn’t get to talk to too many, not too many talked to me. But I think I did pretty good. Nobody told me I played bad. I mean, I enjoyed the experience overall.

And how was that on a day-to-day basis? Do you think you picked up some things during that week of practice that will help you?

Oh, definitely. I mean, as far as how the coaches work and how football – I mean, football is the same, regardless. You know: cover three is cover three, cover one is cover one, cover two is cover two. It just changes a little bit how each coach may scheme it up. So it’s really just being coached for it and taking coaching well, being able to adjust on the run. That’s all it is. Football changes. Every day you add stuff, you’re taking stuff out. Man, if you know how to play football, then you can play, because you’re going to be able to mentally adjust and make the changes that you need to make to continue to play at a high level.

How involved were you in terms of defensive play-calling at UCLA?

Oh, I did everything. I made the calls, I made the adjustments, I made the checks. I made sure that the defensive line was where they were supposed to be, that the linebackers were where they needed to be, and the defensive backs were where they should be. So I was basically like a coach on the field. I knew the defense probably just as well as the coaches did.

In terms of writing for a Patriots blog, I’m always looking for players who might fit into a 3-4 defense. At UCLA you (ran) a 4-3, is that right?

Yeah, that’s what we ran at UCLA.

And what do you think would be the transition from that to a 3-4?

Well, we ran something like a 3-4 in high school, so it’s not really that big of a difference to me. I think, just because the guards aren’t covered, I can get reads better, but I don’t think it would be that hard of an adjustment. Linebacker is linebacker. You get the same keys, the same reads, and things like that. It’s just one less defensive lineman.

Do you think you’re prepared to take on linemen one-on-one?

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I’m strong. They may not think so because I’m not tall, but I never knew there was a size requirement to play football. I think that probably would have stopped a lot of people from playing a long time ago. But regardless, 6-5, 6-6, I’ll hit anybody and anything in the mouth as hard as I can, so that doesn’t bother me at all.

I believe you.

I’m not worried about that part at all. I’m pretty strong myself.

Speaking of that, what kind of numbers are you thinking about putting up at the combine? What are you looking at?

Actually, you know, I didn’t get invited to the combine.

Oh, you didn’t? I’m sorry, I thought I saw your name on the list. That surprises me. How do you feel about that?

Yeah, that surprises me, too. But you know, I always tell them, I say, they can’t love everybody. You know, they talked bad about Jesus, too, so what can I expect? So I didn’t get an invite so I’ve got to wait for my pro day. I don’t understand why. If I could figure out why, I’d like to know why. Maybe they don’t think I performed well enough during the year or in the bowl game, but you know, regardless, if I get a pro day, people are going to come watch me and I’m going to try and perform at my highest level, regardless if it’s in Indianapolis or back at UCLA.

Do you know when the UCLA pro day is?

March 30.

March 30. And how are you going to prepare for it until then? Is it going to be stacked, in terms of working out hard and then taking a break at a certain point, or are you going to be working out all the way through?

That’s probably up to the trainer. He’s the professional. But the way we are, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be running all the way through. Just keep going ’til they tell us to stop. That’s the plan.

You’re an L.A. guy, is that right?

Yeah, born and raised. I’m actually on my way to my high school (Crenshaw) right now, to talk to some of the guys that are going to college, just to work out with them real quick. I’m born and raised in South Central, and home is where my heart is.

So what teams did you follow growing up?

When I was younger, the Forty-niners. My mom had me: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice. But as I got older and started playing football and watching football, I became a Ray Lewis junkie. I would follow the Baltimore Ravens since maybe 2000, 2001, the year before they won the Super Bowl. I’ve been talking about Ray Lewis ever since then.

What is it about Ray Lewis that attracts you?

His passion. I mean, if you listen to him talk about the game and the way he plays it, he talks about it like he’s married to it. He’s just truly in love and committed, and he just shows that every time he plays. I mean, he plays it and he gets paid, but you can just tell it’s not all about the money. He enjoys it, he loves football and has fun doing it. I play it that exact same way. I would love to get out there and try to match his intensity at one point and time, or just pick his brain and learn from him.

What do you think has been the most important thing that you’ve learned from playing in college?

Just the mental aspect of the game. Because when we went to this All-Star game, the East West Shrine, they were running offensive plays, and I was calling out the plays and things like that. And guys on our defense (were asking), “How do you know that?” I was like, it’s crazy, because it’s just formation tendencies: you can only do so much out of certain formations. Once you get the grasp of what teams usually do in certain formations, you can really understand the game, and it slows down for you. So really studying and mentally understanding football. Because I’ve seen plenty of guys with plenty of ability at the wrong place at the wrong time, and other guys that aren’t that athletic standing and waiting for the play to come to them. So I definitely realized that if you’re a great athlete, if you study you really end up on top where you want to be, so I try to make sure I always continue to stay positive when it comes to studying, and stay hungry.

In terms of your speed, what are you looking at now (for) 40 times?

I’m not even sure. I’m actually trying to get down to a 4.5-something. I’m not sure. I think I’m projected to run a 4.7 or 4.8. So, okay, I’ll let them keep that for now and I’m going to shock the world when I step out there on that deck.

I think you will. I believe you.

Yeah. I like being the underdog. I hope they talk bad about me so I can shock everybody, and then maybe they’ll talk good about me.

You said a couple people talked to you at the East West Shrine Game. Any scouts from NFL teams?

Yeah, I talked to the Baltimore scout, Green Bay and Carolina. Those are the guys I had in-depth conversations with. I spoke and got introduced to a few other people.

Sounds good. Well, Reggie, thanks a lot for talking to us today.

No problem, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

2010 Patriots Daily Senior Bowl Review

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

The Senior Bowl was played this past weekend in a sloppy showing that saw the North prevail over the South (what is this, 1865?), 31-13. There was no surrender at the Appomottox Court House, but there were plenty of first impressions of Senior prospects who’ll be in this year’s NFL Draft. Its important to note, sometimes players who had good weeks of practice have bad games. And sometimes players who aren’t all that good happen to have good games. This is just the first step in the evaluation process. The Combine will follow at the end of the month. There will be many school Pro Days and private workouts between now and then. Impressions will change. Players will race up and down “the charts” without playing much football. But still, the Senior Bowl is a fun tool for those of us who love the draft and love to see new players come into the NFL.

So what did we learn? Lets take a look, position by position, at the good, the bad and the ugly.

Quarterbacks:

Of course the story here was Tim Tebow, Florida’s legendary quarterback who’ll, no matter what you think of his NFL prospects, will go down as one of the great college players of all time. His day was uneven at best. He made some decent throws and actually completed 8 of 12 with at least one perfect throw being dropped. But still, the hitch in his delivery was present, the slow release and all the other technique issues that make him a project. I have always been a Tebow believer. I feel strongly the talent is there, the size, the smarts, the mobility, the arm, the accuracy even and with some good, NFL coaching for a year or two, he will be productive in the league. But its evident he has a long way to go. He did dispel the somewhat over-the-top criticism he can’t take a snap under center as he did so at least half the time Saturday. But he is a work in progress and it’ll take many, many more practices and much hard work before he is ready to successfully step on an NFL field as a starting quarterback. The best quarterback in the game right now was Tony Pike from Cincinnati. He displayed good field presence, accuracy and touch. Of all the guys on the field at QB Saturday, Pike was the one who looked most NFL ready.

Running back:

Dexter McCluster from Mississippi had an uneven day. He looked a bit sluggish as a receiver running routes and fumbled once when hit head on. He didn’t show his usual explosiveness in the return game either. But one late burst on a screen play late in the game was impressive and shows once he gets an offense down, the speed and elusiveness is there and can open up an offense. Joique Bell was a small school kid from Wayne State who got a chance to play with the big boys and had his moments. Early in the game he showed both power and speed running the ball. He has a good 220+ frame and good quickness. But he struggled later and did put a ball on the ground though the offense recovered. He has a ways to go but has some obvious talent and size. LeGarrette Blount from Oregon made a nice showing with power and hard running. He’ll need to answer character questions as he missed most of 2009 due to a suspension. And his speed is only adequate. He’s never been used much in the passing game. But he has power and size and runs hard. It was a good day for him and a good first step.

Wide Receiver:

Jacoby Ford from Clemson showed off his world class speed a number of times on a reverse early in the game and an electrifying punt return. For the Patriots, Ford would solve a lot of problems. He has the kind of rare speed to stretch the field while also being able to play effectively inside in the slot. He has great kick return potential as well. He may even last to the second round, where the Patriots have three choices. Jeremy Williams from Tulane had a generally good day with six catches and a long run on a reverse. He has good size at 6’1″ 201 and looked to be a solid route runner. But he did drop one easy perfect throw from Tebow that would have converted a first down. Mardy Gilyard from Cincinnati was probably the best receiver in the game, topping the 100 yard mark and scoring a touchdown. He also showed return ability. With more positive displays before the scouts such as this one, it would be no surprise if Gillyard ended up in the first round of the draft.

Tight End:

Alabama tight end Colin Peek had a workmanlike day where he displayed good wheels and nice hands down the seam. He is somewhat of an under the radar player who wasn’t featured too much by the Crimson Tide, but has good ability and nice height at 6’6″. The Patriots will likely be in the market for a tight end. Peek is the type of mid-round guy they just might love. He scored the South’s only touchdown of the day. Garrett Graham from Wisconsin also displayed good foot speed and hands and the ability to get down field and create match up problems for linebackers. The Patriots likely need a pass catching tight end type, unless they feel Rob Myers is a sleeper in that regard. And Graham was the on guy in this game who looked like he could fit that bill.

Offensive Line:

The best lineman of the day for me was LSU’s Cirion Black who showed a combination of strength, good footwork and relentlessness in playing the game. Much talked about guard Mike Iupati from Idaho struggled mightily early in the game at right guard and appeared uncomfortable there. Later, when he switched to his more natural left guard spot, he performed much better. Yet, he appeared more of a mauler type and not a particularly good athlete. The Patriots prefer better athlete on their line and Iupati did not appear to be their style of player. Boston College’s Matt Tennant struggled some at center and it appears he will need to gets stronger before he is ready to play in the league. Pencil him in as a mid-round choice who’ll have to undergo serious NFL strength and conditioning coaching and improvement. Arizona State’s Shawn Lauvao caught my eye holding his own against Alabama’s massive tackle Terrence Cody in the second half. Lauvao played mostly tackle this year for the Sun Devils, but played guard for them in the past. He played guard Saturday. The Patriots may like his tenaciousness and versatility, though it appears he may need to bulk up a bit as well.

Defensive Line:

There were two extremely impressive lineman for me during the game, those being Dan Williams from Tennessee and Cam Thomas from North Carolina. Williams has all the tools and could be a top 15 pick. He can play inside and outside in a 3-4 and would fit the Patriots perfectly, though they may have to move up to get him. He is polished, stout at the point of attack, plays hard and is very disruptive versus the pass. He seemed skilled at diagnosing screens as well. Thomas looked like a prototypical nose tackle who caused a ton of problems for opposing linemen. He had a sack, which isn’t his forte, but also was very stout against the run. At 330 lbs., he’d fit perfectly on the nose for a 3-4 team and improved his stock immensely on Saturday. Somewhat unheralded, he may now have moved up into the second round of the draft. Another player who really caught my eye was Georgia’s Geno Atkins who made a ton of plays and was very active. He may be a bit undersized for the Patriots, though he looks capable of being an end and could possibly fit with them there. A pure hustle player who looked like a 3-4 end to me and a more talented version of Mike Wright was Penn State’s Jared Odrick. The team that drafts Odrick will get their money’s worth as he can play all 3 downs and his motor never stops. He has solid talent as well and is equally good against both the run and pass. He is just a good football player, not spectacular at anything, but very good and hard working at all aspects.

Linebacker:

I included Michigan’s Brandon Graham here, though he played pretty much straight 4-3 defensive end in the game. Graham was easily the game’s MVP, racking up 2 sacks, causing a fumble and generally terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Reportedly, the Patriots worked him out earlier this week and spent a lot of time with him. Mike Mayock compared Graham favorably to former Michigan end Lamarr Woodley, now a starting linebacker for the Steelers. To me, he reminded me somewhat of former Patriots Willie McGinest, albeit a bit shorter at 6’2″. In any event, his pass rush skills are beyond dispute after the display he put on Saturday. He is good against the run. The question is, can he play standing up at all? He didn’t Saturday. Can he be an outside linebacker? Should the Patriots even care anymore? What is wrong with having a designated third down rusher if he is superior at it? It says here Graham can convert to OLB, but it may take some time. He clearly is a good, physical and relentless football player. If he is merely a situational pass rusher his first year, so be it. But if you add him, he will make plays for you in 2010. One of the other two players who stuck out to me at linebacker was TCU’s Daryl Washington who was an inside linebacker in college but played outside Saturday. He was good, showing solid instincts in the passing game and good tackling ability. He has a 6’3″ frame but only checks in at 228 right now, a bit small for Patriots linebackers. But perhaps its time the Patriots not be so beholden at linebacker to “the mold.” Washington can play football. Its obvious. He is smart, he is physical, he’s quick, he’s a good tackler. At one time Tedy Bruschi was undersized for a 3-4 as well. That turned out all right. Washington can put on weight. And the Patriots should consider him even if he doesn’t fit their traditional requirements. San Jose State’s Justin Cole also looked to have a good day to me. He has more of the Patriots prototypical size and he’s played outside before. He has a little bit of everything, good size, movement, pass rush ability and long arms. He’s probably a mid-round choice but may make a good outside linebacker project for a 3-4 team. On the other side of the spectrum, Miami’s Darryl Sharpton I thought looked like he lacked instincts and didn’t pack a punch when he did make a tackle. I was unimpressed. South Florida’s George Selvie is a player I liked during the college year, but he is a college defensive end who is trying to convert to linebacker as well. He looked completely lost out there, as much as anyone on the field at any position, and did not make any plays. Though he has great size and talent, its apparent its going to take time with Selvie. While I’m not completely down on him and think there is plenty to work with to turn him into an NFL linebacker, that it will probably take him at least a year, maybe two, probably removes him from any first and possibly even second round consideration.

Defensive Back:

Probably the defensive back who had the best day was Florida State’s Patrick Robinson, a cornerback. Robinson looked comfortable and quick, providing good coverage and good run support. Solidly built he is another player who perhaps won’t flash the amazing athletic ability of other corners, but is solid in every way, tough, physical, smart and will be a good corner in the NFL for many years. Alabama’s Javier Arenas had an uneven day, displaying good instincts at time and making a nice return on special teams, but getting beat for a long touchdown by Gillyard. Arenas is a good player and reportedly a leader, but not talented enough to be a great corner in the NFL and is probably a mid-round choice. He’ll help some team with his excellent kick return ability, however. Two safeties who had good days include USC’s Taylor Mays, who had an interception and was active in run support and Nebraska’s Larry Asante. Mays at one time was considered a sure-fire top 5 pick. Then he had a mediocre year this year and its even a question whether he’ll go in the first round now. He did a lot to rehabilitate himself Saturday with a very strong day in which he looked like a leader on the field and played with intensity. Asante is a tough, physical, smart safety who’ll probably start in the NFL for ten years.