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Posts Tagged ‘NFL Draft’

Denard to don the winged helmet one last time

Friday, January 25th, 2013


Four years ago, a shy kid that no one wanted to play quarterback arrived in Ann Arbor, hundreds of miles north of anything he knew, eager to get a chance to play the position only one coach gave him a shot to play. Tomorrow, as he prepares to don the winged helmet a final time in the Senior Bowl (4pm EST on NFL Network), Denard Robinson will officially close out one of the most impressive careers the famed helmet has ever seen. And it won’t be at quarterback.

The man everyone calls Shoelace shattered records like they were windows on a driving range and etched his name into more spots in the Michigan annals than anyone can ever dream of. And while he ended his Michigan career fourth in passing attempts, sixth in completions, fourth in yards, and fourth in touchdowns, his future is at another position.

This week in Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., Denard spent his time running pass routes instead of throwing them and fielding punts and kickoffs. He was limited on Monday and Tuesday due to the elbow nerve injury that has plagued him since the Nebraska game, but was given clearance for full contact on Wednesday. The consensus seems to be that he has immense potential, but he’s a work in progress.

“He has a lot of confidence in his ability, but at the same time he understands that he doesn’t know everything that he needs to know about playing the wide receiver position,” said Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen. “But he’s very willing to learn. That’s the biggest thing, is guys understanding and being willing to put forth the effort to try to learn the position.”

Allen, who will be coaching the North team that Denard is a part of tomorrow, has raved about Denard’s athleticism and potential all week. But it’s his work ethic and attitude that will allow him to succeed. Every NFL Draft is full of talented college stars who are character risks, but throughout his career Denard has shown himself to be a hard-working, humble guy who won’t let fame and stardom get to his head. And that’s the type of kid an NFL team will take a chance on.

He’s trying to fit the mold of other college quarterbacks that have made the transition to receiver at the next level, such as Indiana’s Antwaan Randle-El, who had a productive career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins, and Kentucky’s Randall Cobb, who now stars for the Green Bay Packers. But it certainly hasn’t come easy, especially judging punts and kickoffs, which he has struggled at this week.

“I want to be good already,” Denard said. “I want to be great already, so of course I thought I could be better. I’m always striving to be better.”

He’s not slated to return kicks tomorrow, but he will see plenty of snaps at receiver and could drastically improve his draft stock with a head-turning performance. The ideal situation would be to get the ball in space in several different ways, whether on end-arounds or quick screens, but he’s going to have to prove he can run efficient routes and catch the ball when given opportunities in order to earn a high draft slot.

Of course, following the Senior Bowl, Denard will have either a pro day in Ann Arbor or the NFL Combine in mid-February to continue to hone his skills and prove draft-worthy. That means a subpar performance tomorrow won’t destroy his chances, but an impressive performance could really help them.

“Really, it’s the more you can do. That’s the way the NFL is,” said an NFL general manager. “He’s out there trying to return kicks, he’s out there trying to return punts, trying to learn the receiver thing. You’ve got a lot of guys who can kind of do multiple things. If he wants to be in the NFL that’s got to be his approach. And he’s attacking it, he’s trying to show everybody he’s trying to do whatever. That’s what it’s all about. You just want to see him try to get in the game and hopefully have a little bit of success.”

College football all-star games preview (Week 1)

Friday, January 18th, 2013


With the college football season over and next year’s freshmen getting ready to submit their letters of intent, the departing seniors get one last moment to shine in the winged helmet before heading to the NFL. Five Wolverines will take the field over the next two weekends along with the top seniors from around the country to give NFL scouts one more on-field look before February’s NFL Scouting Combine. Some will be looking to simply secure a draft spot. Others will be trying to improve their standing. Still others will be attempting to show they can improve their stock by switching positions. Let’s take a look at the games and the Michigan stars who will be competing in them.

Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 | 3pm EST
Raycom All-Star Classic | Montgomery, Ala. | CBS Sports

This year marks the first Raycom All-Star Classic, which was created to give more college football seniors a chance to participate in an end-of-season all-star game. It will be held at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. and will feature the Stripes team, coached by former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves, and the Stars team, coached by former NFL coach Jim Bates. 

Receiver Roy Rountree will suit up for the Stripes team hoping to prove to NFL scouts that he’s worthy of a draft pick. He put up a productive career at Michigan, finishing sixth in career receiving yards, just six yards behind Mario Manningham and 13 behind David Terrell. He also has some experience in stripes, catching the game-winning pass to beat Notre Dame in the Under the Lights game last season.

NFLDraftScout.com ranks Roundtree the 44th-best receiver in the Draft and the 999th overall prospect, which may not be enough to get drafted. But with a good performance on Saturday and in Michigan’s pro day or the Combine, he could prove capable of being a dependable possession receiver like former Michigan receiver Jason Avant has been for the Philadelphia Eagles. Roundtree will wear No. 89 in the game, rather than his familiar No. 21 (or 12).

Other players of note in the game are: Iowa QB James Vandenberg (Stripes), Purdue QB Robert Marve (Stripes), Alabama DLs Quinton Dial and Damion Square (Stripes), LSU WR Russell Shepard (Stars), and Notre Dame WR Robby Toma (Stars).

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Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 | 4pm EST
East-West Shrine Game | St. Petersburg, Fla. | NFL Network

The East-West Shrine Game has been in existence since 1925, benefiting the Shriners Hospitals for Children. As the longest-running college football all-star game, it typically draws a solid group of players, and 246 former players from the game are currently on NFL rosters. The East team is coached by former NFL and college coach Jerry Glanville, while the West team will be headed by former Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Leeman Bennett. 

Will Campbell never really lived up to the hype he arrived in Ann Arbor with, but became a senior leader this past season and helped solidify Michigan’s defensive line that entered the season full of questions. He earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors from the media and finished his career with 63 tackles, five for loss, and three sacks.

In order to earn a draft spot, he will have to shed the bust label with a solid performance and a good showing in the NFL Combine. By all reports, he has impressed in Shrine Bowl practices. Draftinsider.net’s Tony Pauline described him as dominant and unstoppable. CBSSports.com ranks him as the 18th-best defensive tackle prospect and a late sixth-round pick. He will be wearing his usual No. 73 for the West team in the game.

Other notable players in the game include: Penn State LB Gerald Hodges (East), Purdue CB Josh Johnson (East), Iowa WR Kennan Davis (West), Western Michigan (and former Michigan) OL Dann O’Neill (West), Iowa CB Micah Hyde (West), Notre Dame S Zeke Motta (West), and Ohio State LB Nathan Williams (West).

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Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 | 9pm EST
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl | Carson, Calif. | ESPN2

The third and final bowl this Saturday has been around since 2006 under the name Texas vs. Nation Game and last year moved to California and sponsored by the National Football League Players Association. It’s a chance for some of the lesser-known seniors to perform one last time as a college player and impress NFL scouts. It also allows underclassmen entering the Draft to play. The American team will be coached by former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, while the National team will be headed by former Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil. 

Elliott Mealer earned a starting spot this season as Michigan’s center after serving as a reserve offensive lineman the previous two seasons. One of the most inspirational stories of the last few years, Mealer has been a fan favorite due to the accident that resulted in the loss of his father and girlfriend and the paralyzation (and comeback) of his brother Brock. Oh yeah, and the epic beard he grew this season.

He has a lot of work to do to garner a draft pick, given that he started only one season, but he’s a hard-worker and could wind up on an NFL roster somewhere even if he goes undrafted. NFLDraftScout.com ranks him as the 65th-best guard in the draft. He will wear No. 76 for the National team on Saturday.

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Next week, we will profile the final all-star games that feature Michigan’s most well-known departing seniors, Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs.

The Michigan Medley discusses the importance of Lewan’s return

Thursday, January 10th, 2013


Yesterday afternoon, offensive tackle Taylor Lewan announced in a press conference that he would return to school for his senior season. It came as a surprise to nearly everybody as the 6’8″, 309-pound junior was projected to be a high first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s rare for a player of his caliber to forego what would have certainly been a large paycheck, but it’s very refreshing to see.

During the Lloyd Carr tenure, especially as his career went on, it seemed that making the jump was pretty much the norm, though Jake Long, Chad Henne, and Mike Hart all stayed for their senior season. Long, like Lewan, was a sure-fire high draft pick and parlayed the gamble to come back into the top overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Lewan has the potential to do the same as long as he can avoid the injury bug.

Lewan proved his NFL potential by shutting down Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl

It’s always a risky move to put on hold an NFL contract for one more year of college ball. Just ask USC quarterback Matt Barkley who would have likely been a first round pick last season, but chose to return and suffered through a poor and injury-riddled season that will likely hurt his draft stock this April. On the other hand, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck did the same a year ago and it payed off.

What’s most impressive in my opinion is the reasons Lewan stated for his decision. For one, he loves college, and that was evident more than ever during Wednesday night’s basketball game against Nebraska when Lewan got up in front of the band and led them in The Victors. Secondly, he stated that he has unfinished business, having not achieved a Big Ten title yet in his career. Third, Michigan has a long tradition of great offensive linemen such as Jon Jansen and Steve Hutchinson, in addition to Long, who have stayed through their senior years and still went on to long and productive NFL careers. Lewan realized that and what a special opportunity it is to play for Michigan.

“If you play at the University of Michigan, whether it’s basketball, hockey, football, there’s a tradition here and there’s something you want to be a part of,” Lewan said. “And if I do what I need to do, I’ll be able to play in the NFL for however long, but you only get one more year of college.”

The other reason he gave for returning is the most telling and the most important: he wanted to be a leader the way last year’s senior offensive lineman, David Molk, was for the younger guys on the team. Brady Hoke has brought in a great haul of offensive linemen to fill a void that was left thin by the previous regime. While the young guys such as Kyle Kalis, Blake Bars, Ben Braden, and Erik Magnuson, as well as this year’s incoming class, are extremely talented, perhaps nothing is more valuable than being able to grow and learn alongside an All-American to see what it takes to become one and what it takes to be a lock for the first round of the NFL Draft.

The foundation that was put in place by Janson and Hutchinson and Long and Molk has now transcended three coaching staffs and personifies exactly what it means to be a Michigan Man. Had Lewan chosen to make the leap, no one would have blamed him for doing so, but it would have left next year’s offensive line extremely young and inexperienced. That’s not a recipe for success in college football. His return provides leadership in addition to talent and it sets an example for the talented young guys.

“Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson, I want to be a part of their lives for one more year and help them develop into something where they can possibly be in my position in a couple years,” Lewan said.

Lewan’s return is probably the best news Michigan could have received this offseason – better than any recruit Hoke will sign on Feb. 6 – because it will have both an instant impact next season and a residual impact on the future of the offensive line. Bravo to Lewan for embodying what college football is supposed to be about rather than simply using it as a stepping stone to the riches of the NFL.

Mike Martin to Don Winged Helmet for Last Time in Senior Bowl

Saturday, January 28th, 2012


This afternoon, Michigan fans get one final chance to see Mike Martin in a winged helmet when he takes the field for the North team in the Senior Bowl.

The beloved Michigan senior defensive tackle who persevered through three different head coaches, multiple coordinators, and two losing seasons, had a great 2011 campaign but it has been his efforts in Senior Bowl practices that have the NFL scouts raving.

He has been going up against Ohio State center Mike Brewster in practice and from all accounts has gotten the better of the matchup.

ESPN’s Todd McShay has been impressed: “If Michigan DT Mike Martin took a play off I haven’t seen it,” McShay tweeted. “Only 6-1 but 207 lbs and violent hands. There’s a place in (the) NFL for this guy.”

Scout’s Scott Kennedy agrees. “Once they went 11v11, every time I checked the offensive backfield, Michigan DT Mike Martin was in it disrupting things,” he tweeted.

Martin has been working with former Michigan strength coach Mike Barwis since the season ended in preparation for Aprils NFL Draft. Analyst Mel Kiper projects Martin a second or third round pick, but his performance in the Senior Bowl and in the upcoming NFL combine could help his stock rise.

“Mike Martin is a freak, no question,” said Barwis. “His body is amazing, his physical attributes are incredible. He’s going to turn the senior bowl and combine upside down, and people are going to be shocked what he’s able to do at 300 pounds. He’s gotten a lot stronger, a lot more explosive.”

Tune in to the NFL Network today at 4pm Eastern time to watch Martin compete against the top seniors from the south.