Overflowing with talent (cont.)
Posted: Monday April 30, 2007 12:47PM; Updated: Monday April 30, 2007 2:17PM
Speaking of which, have you noticed NFL types seem to have a far lower regard for the Trojans than their college accolades would lead you to believe? The latest victims: Receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, both of whom were named to various All-America first teams last season, but both slipped into the second round. (Meanwhile, Michigan cornerback Leon Hall, the same guy Jarrett abused in the Rose Bowl, somehow went 30 picks earlier.)
For a program that's gone 59-6 since 2002 and played for three national titles, you would think the Trojans would be churning out first-round picks the way Miami did earlier this decade. Over a four-year period from 2001-'04, the Hurricanes had 19 such players; USC has had seven in five years. Making the phenomenon all the more puzzling is that the Trojans run their program as close to an NFL franchise as any in the country, and, with one notable and unusual exception (Mike Williams), most high USC draft picks (Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Lofa Tatupu, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush) have earned their paychecks.
By all accounts, Jarrett suffered in part from unfair comparisons to Williams, a player who shared his position and number but also played one less season and sat out an entire year of competition prior to the draft. I also wonder, however, whether NFL-types' skepticism toward some Trojans goes hand in hand with their skepticism toward Pete Carroll who, despite his raging success in college, is still widely scoffed at in pro circles from his stints with the Jets and Patriots.
Last January, still basking in the glow of their beatdown of Ohio State, four national champion Gators decided to bypss their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft. It worked out well for first-round picks Jarvis Moss and Reggie Nelson, but linebacker Brandon Siler and cornerback Ryan Smith must be kicking themselves now. Smith fell all the way to the sixth round; Siler went in the seventh. Florida coach Urban Meyer could have really used Smith (eight interceptions) this fall, as cornerback is by far his team's biggest question mark.
Meanwhile, DeShawn Wynn, the tailback who fell so far in Meyer's doghouse that he practically eliminated the position from his offense, got picked in the seventh round by the Green Bay Packers. Chris Leak, Florida's four-year starting quarterback, went undrafted.
On the one hand, it would seem running backs Antonio Pittman of Ohio State (fourth round) and Notre Dame's Darius Walker (undrafted) made foolish to decisions to come out early, but I'm not sure they would have fared much better next year. The 2008 running-back class could be out of this world if Arkansas' Darren McFadden, West Virginia's Steve Slaton, Rutgers' Ray Rice and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart all come out.
Pittman, constantly overshadowed by Troy Smith and his receivers, was a steal for the Saints, though it's unclear how he's going to get any carries behind Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. Someone will pick up Walker as a free-agent, but he certainly could have used another year with the Irish, particularly since they figure to be more of a running team this year.
I was really surprised to see Michigan DT Alan Branch slip all the way to the 33rd pick. The Wolverines had some over-hyped players on their defense last year -- mainly Hall and LaMarr Woodley -- but Branch was the real deal. Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised to see Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez sneak into the first round.
Ironic, isn't it, that both Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr. merited first-round selections, but the guy who threw them their passes was barely a fifth-rounder.
Here's a mystery for you. How could Texas, with two first-round defensive backs (Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin), a third that got drafted (fifth-rounder Tarrell Brown) and a pair of defensive ends (Tim Crowder and Brian Robison) that went in the second and fourth rounds have fielded the nation's 99th-ranked pass defense last year? You would think opponents wouldn't have been able to complete a pass nevertheless throw for more than 3,000 yards.
Finally, in the wake of last week's controversial decision by the NCAA to ban text-messaging in recruiting -- a decision I made my opinion known about last week -- I couldn't help but chuckle while reading my colleague Arash Markazi's account of JaMarcus Russell's draft weekend. How did Russell find out he would be the No. 1 pick Saturday? Via a text message from Raiders coach Lane Kiffin.