Work in Sports
A young Randle
Vikings' pick draws comparisons -- beyond face paint
Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 07:34 PM
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings, desperately in need of help on defense, hope Chris Hovan is the answer.
The Vikings selected Hovan, an All-American defensive tackle from Boston College, with the 25th pick in the NFL draft Saturday.
Hovan, a 6-foot-2, 305-pounder who can also play nose tackle and defensive end, has been compared with a young John Randle -- and not just because Hovan paints black triangles on his face like Randle does before games or talks as much as Randle does on the field.
"We had Hovan rated very high," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "He's a very tenacious player and is very physical. ... He's exactly the kind of guy we need."
Hovan had 11 sacks in 1999 for the Eagles and 20 tackles for a loss. He is known for having perfect technique and is powerfully strong and quick for someone his size.
He gained a reputation in college for spending a lot of time in the weight room and got bigger and stronger in each of his four years in college.
Scouts say Hovan is one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the draft and can beat offensive linemen inside or out.
Minnesota's defense, ranked 27th in the NFL last season, sorely needed a boost. The defensive line took a hit when Duane Clemons left for Kansas City as a free agent and Chris Doleman retired. Those two combined for 17 sacks last year. If that weren't bad enough, the defense suffered again when cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock, the anchor of a mediocre secondary, signed with the Carolina Panthers. John Burrough is the likely starter at left end, with Fernando Smith at right end. Hitchcock's departure left second-year man Kenny Wright and converted wide receiver Robert Tate as the starting cornerbacks. Savvy mainstay Robert Griffith starts at safety. Pressure on Green increased to draft defensive help after selecting quarterback Daunte Culpepper and Dimitrius Underwood, a defensive end who was released before the season, in last year's draft. Last year was the first time Green had complete control of the franchise's player personnel moves.
In the second round, the Vikings also moved to improve their defensive line, selecting Wake Forest defensive tackle Fred Robbins (6-foot-4, 312 pounds) and Miami defensive end Michael Boireau. Minnesota must replace defensive ends Duane Clemons, who left for Kansas City, and Chris Doleman, who retired. The pair had 17 sacks between them.
"These are three guys who want to play," Green said. "Competition is always good."
Green said the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Boireau would have been a hotter commodity in the draft had he played more with the Hurricanes. Boireau played two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Junior College before transferring to Miami, where he started just one season.
"He is a guy that charges very quickly and has a tremendous amount of height," Green said, noting Boireau can play both defensive end spots.
Boireau said he knows he'll have to bulk up for the NFL. 'I don't want to be too light in the behind,' Boireau said.
The only offensive player the Vikings picked among their first seven selections was running back Doug Chapman of Marshall, who was taken in the third round.
On Sunday, the Vikings dipped into the small-school ranks in the fourth round for outside linebacker Antonio Wilson from Texas A&M-Commerce. He's not the first Lions alum named Wilson to join the Vikings -- former Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson played at the school in the late 1970s when it was called East Texas State.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Wilson, a consensus Division II first-team All-American and the Lone Star Conference's Defensive Lineman of the Year, said he didn't think playing at a small college put him at a disadvantage.
"I thought I'd be higher, but it really didn't matter," Wilson said. "I'm going to go in and compete. Football is the same everywhere."
Later in the fourth round, the Vikings stayed close to home by drafting All-American safety Tyrone Carter from the University of Minnesota. The NCAA's leading tackler among defensive backs was passed by many teams because he is only 5-feet-9.
Green said Carter, who returned punts and kickoffs for the Golden Gophers, will compete for playing time at both cornerback and safety but the Vikings liked Carter's potential to contribute on special teams.
"We think he'll be one of the most dynamic special teams players in the league," Green said. "The more things you can do, the better chance you have to be on the field.
In the fifth round, the Vikings took wide receiver Troy Walters, the son of Vikings assistant coach Trent Walters. He's only 5-foot-7.
Minnesota had no selections in the sixth round. In the seventh,
the Vikings took Mike Malano, an offensive lineman who played guard
and center at San Diego State; Giles Cole, a tight end from Texas
A&M-Kingville; and Lewis Kelly, an offensive lineman from South