Posted: Thursday April 21, 2005 10:08AM; Updated: Friday April 22, 2005 1:15PM
Chris Gamble led a trio of Buckeye first-round picks in the 2004 draft.
David Maxwell/Getty Images
4. Ohio State: The Buckeyes' draft prowess stretches back to about the midpoint of the John Cooper era. They had at least one player taken in the first round all but one year from '91 to '01, including 11 from '95 to '99 (Eddie George, Robert Smith, Orlando Pace, etc.). Then, after a brief down period, OSU stormed back last year with three first-rounders (Will Smith, Chris Gamble and Michael Jenkins) and a staggering 14 picks overall. No school in the country has better facilities and resources, and the Buckeyes' tradition helps ensure that a continual stream of top-notch athletes will arrive in Columbus each autumn. Once they get there, head coach Jim Tressel and his staff have a sterling reputation for developing players' technique and fundamentals.
5. Tennessee: During his 13-year watch, head coach Phillip Fulmer has had 36 players selected in the first three rounds, including stars Peyton Manning, Jamal Lewis and Charlie Garner. The Vols have gone through their own rough patch recently -- no first-rounders since '02, and possibly none this year, either -- but that should change next year when DT Jesse Mahelona and DB Jason Allen are eligible, and they just reeled in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class. Tennessee has a tremendous indoor facility that allows players to train year-round, and the continuity among its coaching staff can be extremely beneficial to future prospects.
... and five programs that don't
1. Nebraska: The Huskers' old-fashioned, home-bred system produced championship-caliber college players, but they didn't exactly translate into sought-after NFL prospects. Lately they haven't had much of either. It's benn seven years since their last first-round draft picks, Grant Wistrom and Jason Peter (star RB Ahman Green was a third-rounder that same year). New coach Bill Callahan's NFL background and pro-style offense should be more beneficial in that department, but after Callahan produced the school's first losing season in 40 years, it remains to be seen whether he'll last long enough to see the results.
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2. Notre Dame: Hard as it is to believe, the game's most prestigious program has produced just one first-round pick this decade, center Jeff Faine in '03, and hasn't had more than one first-rounder in a single year since '94. While the reasons are up for debate -- Poor coaching? Poor recruiting? Academic restraints? -- it's no secret the Irish aren't producing the same caliber of athlete they were a decade ago. Notre Dame faithful are hoping the arrival of former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and his three Super Bowl rings will bring the same kind of credibility in recruiting as Carroll brought to USC.
3. Penn State: How bad are things in Happy Valley? The last linebacker to be drafted out of "Linebacker U" was LaVar Arrington in '00. And the last tailback from Joe Paterno's run-oriented offense to have any sustained NFL success was Blair Thomas 15 years ago. The Nittany Lions did have four first-round picks just two years ago (Larry Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Haynes), but none have yet to pan out, and besides Arrington, their only other recent No. 1 pick, Courtney Brown, was a colossal bust. Recent recruits Derrick Williams and Justin King will provide an interesting litmus test for Paterno's sytem: As of now, they're projected stars. Will they still be four years from now?
4. Kansas State: For all their success under Bill Snyder over the past decade -- six 11-win seasons, 11 straight bowl berths from '93-'03 -- the Wildcats have made barely a ripple on draft day, with only one first-round pick (CB Terence Newman) since '98, and only two total. Current prospect Darren Sproles, arguably the most accomplished player in school history, may not get drafted. This speaks less to a lack of development in Manhattan, though, than Snyder's reliance on "diamond-in-the-rough" type players such as Sproles, whose dainty size (5-foot-7, 187 pounds) scared off bigger-name programs as a recruit and will likely discourage NFL teams as well.
5. Texas Tech: This is directed solely at the quarterback position. With his innovative passing offense, Red Raiders head coach Mike Leach has produced three straight prolific passers, Kliff Kingsbury (NCAA career-record 1,231 completions), B.J. Symons (NCAA single-season record 5,833 yards) and Sonny Cumbie (national-best 4,742 yards last season). Yet Kingsbury merited just a sixth-round selection, Cumbie went in the seventh round and Cumbie is expected to go undrafted. Clearly, NFL teams view Leach's quarterbacks as "products of the system," which is why, despite the opportunity to throw on nearly every down, the nation's elite QB recruits aren't exactly flocking to Lubbock.