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Monday, April 27, 2009

NFL Draft Notebook

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NFL Draft Notebook
Posted by John Antonik on Monday, April 27, 2009
4:09 pm

I once heard a basketball coach say that in order to win the national championship a team must have at least two NBA-caliber players on its roster.

Cornerback Alton "Dee" McCann was the only senior drafted off of West Virginia's Sugar Bowl championship team in 2006.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo

I am not sure how that translates to college football, but with the exception of Miami, most of the outstanding football teams the Big East Conference has produced since 1994 didn’t have a lot of top-shelf professional talent.

Take for instance Virginia Tech, which defeated Texas 28-10 in the 1995 Sugar Bowl with only two NFL draft picks the following spring (second-rounder Bryan Still and third-rounder J.C. Price).

In 2006, West Virginia beat Georgia 38-35 in the Nokia Sugar Bowl with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.

The only player drafted off that Mountaineer team in 2006? That would be defensive back Dee McCann in the sixth round.

Louisville defeated Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl with just four players drafted the following spring: first-rounder Amobi Okoye, fourth-rounder Michael Bush and fifth-rounders Kolby Smith and William Gay.

And two years ago, West Virginia beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with only three players drafted the following spring: third-rounder Steve Slaton, fifth-rounder Owen Schmitt and sixth-rounder Ryan Mundy.

By the same token, it sure is nice having a roster full of pros. Consider some of these powerhouse Miami teams that fared particularly well before the Hurricanes slipped into oblivion:

2001 Sugar Bowl championship (seven players drafted)
Dan Morgan (first round)
Damione Lewis (first round)
Santana Moss (first round)
Reggie Wayne (first round)

2002 Rose Bowl championship (11 players drafted)
Bryant McKinnie (first round)
Jeremy Shockey (first round)
Phillip Buchanon (first round)
Ed Reed (first round)
Mike Rumph (first round)
* Clinton Portis went in the second round

2003 Fiesta Bowl championship (eight players drafted)
Andre Johnson (first round)
Jerome McDougle (first round)
Willis McGahee (first round)
William Joseph (first round)

2004 Orange Bowl championship (nine players drafted)
Sean Taylor (first round)
Kellen Winslow (first round)
Joanthan Vilma (first round)
D.J. Williams (first round)
Vernon Carey (first round)
Vince Wilfork (first round)

I seem to recall some wise guys attempting to make comparisons between Bill Stewart and Larry Coker when Stewart was hired a day after West Virginia’s victory over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. It doesn’t look to me like Stewart is going to inherit one first-round NFL player, let alone the 19 that Coker had from 2001-04.

Think about that: 19 first-round NFL draft picks in a four-year period! That’s either absurd or its USC.


I would guess there was a lot more explaining than celebrating going on in Storrs, Conn., and Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2004 when Rivals put out its recruiting rankings that winter. Wake Forest had the 95th-rated recruiting class in the country that year with a bunch of two-star prospects (I assume having a pulse gets you the first star). Five years later, however, four players from that class wound up being taken in the first four rounds of the NFL draft, including No. 4 overall pick Aaron Curry.

Curry was a two-star linebacker from Fayetteville, N.C. (FYI: West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen was on Jim Grobe’s Wake Forest staff when all those pros were being recruited and developed)

The circumstances were similar at Connecticut.

Two members of Randy Edsall’s 87th-rated recruiting class in 2004 wound up as second round picks in two-stars William Beatty and Darius Butler, while running back Donald Brown (first round) and Cody Brown (second round) came from Edsall’s 79th-rated recruiting haul in 2005.

On the flip side, David Bruton was one of 11 three-stars signed by Notre Dame in its No. 21-rated recruiting class of 2005. Bruton was the only Irish player from that group taken in the 2009 draft.

Michigan had two players drafted this year: four-star defensive tackle Terrance Taylor from the No. 6-ranked class of 2005, and four-star wide receiver Morgan Trent from the No. 5-rated class of 2004.

That's interesting.


One final item on this year’s draft: The most successful Big East football program after 2001, without question, has been West Virginia. The Mountaineers claimed an outright league title in 2005 and shared championships in 2003, 2004 and 2007.

After a seventh-place finish during Rich Rodriguez’s first season in 2001, WVU has been either first or second in league play each year since.

From 2002 on, West Virginia has a 38-10 Big East record.

Yet what makes West Virginia’s Big East run so impressive is the fact that the Mountaineers have produced the sixth fewest number of drafted players of any Big East program since 2001 – or less than twice the amount Louisville has procured during the same period of time.

Big East NFL Draft Picks Since 2001
1. Louisville (27)
2. Pitt (26)
3. Syracuse (20)
4. Cincinnati (18)
5. Rutgers (14)
6. West Virginia (13)
7. USF (11)
8. Connecticut (9)

Of the two teams below WVU on this list, keep in mind that Connecticut made the jump to BCS status in 2004 and South Florida has only been playing football since 1997.

Can anyone come up with an intelligent reason why?

The guess here is that college teams operating exclusively in the spread offense have made it more difficult for pro organizations to project NFL talent.

I was listening to Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher on NFL Radio Sunday evening talking about the fact that Rutgers wide receiver Kenny Britt was so appealing to the Titans because he spent his entire college career running NFL-style routes down the field - instead of the bubble screens that have become so prevalent in the college game today.

At the same time, a predominantly spread-offensive school like Florida is already recruiting NFL-ready talent, which probably eliminates some of the guesswork.

That’s my guess.


A couple of West Virginia football players signed free agent deals following the conclusion of Sunday’s NFL draft. Offensive guard Greg Isdaner signed with the Dallas Cowboys, offensive tackle Ryan Stanchek signed with the Atlanta Falcons and linebacker Mortty Ivy signed with the Carolina Panthers.


Hot Rod Hundley casually mentioned to the Daily Mail’s Jack Bogaczyk last week what the Utah Jazz confirmed Sunday: Hot Rod is taking off the headsets for good after this season.

West Virginians know Hundley as one of the school’s all-time athletic greats who recently had his No. 33 WVU basketball jersey retired. NBA fans know Hundley as one of the game’s great play-by-play announcers who was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003 as a broadcaster.

Hundley has called every single game (more than 3,000) during the 35-year existence of the Utah Jazz franchise. Hundley, 74, has cited a desire to spend more time with his two grandsons and a difficult travel schedule as the primary reasons for retiring. He also recently built a second home in Peoria, Ariz.

Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement, Hot Rod. You have earned it.


Recently, the Athletic Council voted to retire the jersey numbers of Hot Rod Hundley and Ira Errett Rodgers.

Hundley, of course, wore the famed No. 33 that once was also offered to Jerry West when he arrived at WVU as a freshman in 1956. West politely declined, choosing instead to begin the tradition of No. 44 that was later carried on by Rod Thorn and has since been sent to the WVU Coliseum rafters.

Ira Errett Rodgers presented a much more difficult challenge. Rodgers is the greatest athlete in the history of West Virginia University and none of the school’s most knowledgeable observers/historians could come up with a number for The Rodg.

Rodgers played during a period when uniform numbers were not always required and with the exception of 114-year-old Californian Gertrude Baines, believed to be the oldest living person on Earth, there is no one around to verify what jersey Rodgers wore.

Well, last fall WVU Sports Publications Director Joe Swan was doing some photography research for a book on the history of Mountaineer football when he came across two faded programs from 1919 hidden underneath a pile old clips and photos. One of those programs happened to be from the Marietta game when Rodgers scored a school-record 37 points in a 61-0 WVU victory.

The jersey the great Ira Errett Rodgers was wearing that day: No. 21.

Many years later, No. 21 became so common that two players wore it at the same time in 2007 - Dorrell Jalloh and Ryan Mundy. Now, 89 years after Rodgers last played for WVU in 1920, no other West Virginia University football player will ever again wear the number 21.

And now you know the rest of the story!

Have a great week!

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