NCF Nation: Denver Broncos

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4
SALT LAKE CITY -- You can't watch one practice and thereby know a team. But that won't stop me from making a handful of quick observations on the Utes.
  • It was a good practice to watch: full-pads, lots of hitting. Day turned out beautiful after morning snow but practice was still indoors.
  • It seemed like there were more nice moments running the ball than passing the ball, but that should be expected with a pair of inexperienced backups trying to learn coordinator Norm Chow's West Coast offense. One observer noted that the play-action looks particularly needed work.
  • If I were forced to guess, I'd say true freshman quarterback Tyler Shreve is at least even with sophomore Griff Robles in their competition to back up Jordan Wynn.
  • One of my early thoughts was, "Utah passes the eye test. It looks like a Pac-12 team." Then I looked up at banners celebrating a pair of unbeaten seasons capped by BCS bowl wins. But of course Utah passes the eye test.
  • Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was listed at 330 pounds on the November depth chart. He now carries 310 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frames. He's a load and moves well. My guess is more than a few interior Pac-12 offensive linemen are going to wish he stayed in the Mountain West Conference.
  • Been hearing some good things about redshirt freshman tight end Jake Murphy, but the last name didn't register much until it was pointed out to me that the tall man standing near me was his father, Dale Murphy. If you grew up in Atlanta during the '80s, it didn't get much bigger than Murphy, the two-time National League MVP for the Braves. His other son, Shawn, is now playing for the Denver Broncos. It was a bit surreal having a casual conversation with a childhood hero. Really nice guy; just like his longstanding reputation.
It has been hard enough for Illinois to slow down Missouri's offense with a healthy secondary the past few years.

Now the Fighting Illini will try to stop Blaine Gabbert and co. without two projected starters.

Starting cornerback Terry Hawthorne will miss 3-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his foot, Illinois head coach Ron Zook said today. Hawthorne had a screw inserted after dealing with the injury in his fifth metatarsal.
"He had [the injury] as a junior in high school, and he didn't practice for a week," Zook told "He's such a tough kid, he doesn't complain about anything. It bothered him a little bit during camp, but he never said anything, so he kept going. You love him because he doesn't ever complain, but if he would have said anything, maybe we would have been able to get away with just giving him a few days off. But he'll be fine and we'll be fine."

Hawthorne's injury comes just days after Illinois lost junior Supo Sanni, the projected starter at strong safety, for the season with a ruptured right Achilles' tendon.

Hawthorne was one of few bright spots for Illinois in 2009, starting five games as a true freshman and recording an interception and five pass breakups.

The recent losses will put defensive backs like Tavon Wilson, Travon Bellamy, Trulon Henry and Miami Thomas in the spotlight. Justin Green recently moved from running back to defensive back, and receivers Steve Hull and Jack Ramsey also could see some work in the secondary.

"You get concerned in the depth department," Zook said, "but Travon Bellamy's had a great camp and really has done well. We have Tavon Wilson playing at both places, corner and safety. And we're taking a look at Justin Green, who really has a chance to be a special player for us."
Here's a prediction: California defensive end Tyson Alualu is going to surprise some folks and end up a top-10 NFL draft pick.

Little late on that one, eh?

Alualu was the first Pac-10 player drafted Thursday night -- which was projected by no one -- going 10th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Bears teammate Jahvid Best was the only other conference player selected on Day 1. Best went to the Detroit Lions with the 30th pick.

Round 2 begins today at 6 p.m. ET. Expect the second round to include a number of Pac-10 players, including those who slipped during recent weeks, such as USC safety Taylor Mays and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price.

Alualu is the highest Cal selection since Andre Carter was taken seventh overall by San Francisco in 2001. He is the Bears’ ninth top-10 pick in the draft’s history. And his selection was rated the "biggest reach" of the first day by Todd McShay.

Wrote McShay, "Jacksonville used the 10th overall pick to take California DT Tyson Alualu, who we feel is a good player but is only the No. 35 overall on our board. Top-10 money is pretty rich for a player like Alualu, especially when pass-rushers like Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul would have offered much more value at that point."

Another notable pick is the Seattle Seahawks' selection of safety Earl Thomas at No. 14. That means former USC coach Pete Carroll wanted a safety but didn't want Mays.


Got to admit: I thought at least one team would jump on Mays just because of his athleticism, much like it took only one team to make Tim Tebow a No. 1 pick (Denver).

Another observation: Former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford going No. 1 overall is a good thing for college football. It shows players who want to come back for their senior season that even a major injury won't automatically ruin your draft prospects.

Of course, Mays right now is probably questioning his decision to return, considering he likely would have been a top-15 pick in 2009.

Posted by's Ted Miller

Jeremy Bates only turns 33 on Aug. 27 but he's already driving a Lamborghini.

A "Lamborghini" being a reasonable metaphor for a USC offense that welcomes back nine starters from a crew that averaged 38 points and 455 yards per game in 2008.

That said, Bates' job, to beat this automotive analogy to death, is to replace the transmission, because the old one, Mark Sanchez, is presently competing to be the New York Jets' starting quarterback.

  Jeff Golden/Getty Images
  Jeremy Bates is making the transition from the NFL to coaching at the college level.

Bates was hired as USC's quarterback coach and offensive play-caller when Steve Sarkisian became Washington's head coach (actually, Bates replaced Carl Smith, who only was with the Trojans for two weeks before bolting back to the NFL).

What made Bates, son of longtime NFL assistant Jim Bates, look like a savvy hire was his work with Jake Cutler as the Denver Broncos' quarterbacks coach.

Now he's charged with transforming Aaron Corp or Matt Barkley -- both? -- into the next great USC quarterback.

He's new to the college game and there's a lot on his plate, but Bates stopped by for a chat.

Sure you've been asked this a bunch: You're an NFL lifer, what's the biggest difference between coaching in the NFL and college?

Jeremy Bates: The biggest difference is the kids' passion for the game. Every kid that we're coaching just loves the game. They're hungry. They're only playing for one reason -- they love the game of football. It's fun. It's been a great experience. The college kids get better every day.

How about recruiting -- has that grind been an adjustment?

JB: Yeah, it's the first time I went off on the road in the offseason. In the past, I've always used that month to study opponents. But this year I went out recruiting and it was a good experience. The No. 1 impression I've had is how advanced these high school football programs are becoming. It was neat to go out and meet coaches and see how these teams have grown offensively. You've got guys in four wides and doing audibles and all that. It's neat to see where the game of football is going and it all starts in high school. They're doing a great job making sure the game is just going to get better in the future.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Spring practice felt more like spring training for Minnesota junior quarterback Adam Weber.

To loosen his arm before each Gophers workout, Weber warmed up by throwing a baseball. To get his hips more into each pass, Weber swung a baseball bat and hit soft toss into a fence. About the only thing Weber didn't do was field grounders, though he might want to bring his mitt to preseason camp.

  Scott Boehm/Getty Images
  New Gophers offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch is working to speed up QB Adam Weber's release.

You never know what Minnesota's new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will ask for next.

The baseball drills are part of Fisch's effort to create a more natural and efficient throwing motion for Minnesota's quarterbacks. He's not overly concerned with rigid throwing mechanics. He wants the quarterbacks to be comfortable and quick with the ball.

"My belief is you've got to throw it naturally, like you've been brought up when you were a kid," Fisch said. "And the first ball you ever throw in your life is a round one. I've always thought that your best quarterbacks are your shortstops, not your pitchers. They're the most natural throwers.

"I'm going to see who can play shortstop."

Weber admits he has never prepared for football by throwing a baseball, but he rolled with it. Together, they adjusted Weber's throwing motion to speed up his release.

"It's holding the ball in a comfortable position and just making comfortable throws, using my full body and not trying to be very mechanical," Weber said.

Weber, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree last fall, was held out of contact this spring following surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. But he made good use of the 15 workouts, spending time with Fisch and trying to grasp the many changes on offense.

Minnesota has scrapped the spread offense and Fisch, who previously served as the Denver Broncos' wide receivers coach, is installing a pro-style system that will feature more power run. The terminology is completely new, and the complex scheme demands a lot of each player, particularly Weber and backup MarQueis Gray.

But Weber has seen encouraging signs this spring, especially from younger players like Gray, Troy Stoudermire, Brandon Green and Da'Jon McKnight.

"We have a lot of time before our first game, and we know that," said Weber, a two-year starter who recorded 2,761 pass yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. "It's all about really pushing ourselves. If we can grow together and not use any excuses like it's a new offense or anything, I believe we can do something truly special."

The baseball drills are only part of Fisch's innovative teaching approach. He also puts together PowerPoint presentations and elaborate video cut-ups for the Gophers, just like he did with Broncos players last year.

It might border on sensory overload, but players typically respond well.

"We're all visual learners," Fisch said. "The most important thing is 3-D and color and all those things. They're not just black-and-white sheets of paper any longer. We try to be Y2K-compliant. We try to play to their strengths."

Fisch expects some growing pains and acknowledges his system is "very different" than what the Gophers have done in the past. Weber enjoyed success his first two seasons as the starter, but he doesn't resist change or Fisch, whose background helps.

"When he was in the NFL, he'd go to pro [scouting] days," Weber said. "He knows what he's looking for in somebody or what teams are looking for at the next level. It's nice to have that guy who's been there and done it.

"He's got a good feel for what needs to be done and how things need to look."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Decker looks for a place to sit down and chat, so he enters Minnesota's football offices and pokes his head in the team meeting room.

  Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire
  Eric Decker led the Big Ten with 84 receptions in 2008.

Hearing the booming voice of a coach going over film with a group of players, Decker quickly ducks out.

"We shouldn't go in there," he said.

If Decker were like most Big Ten football players, he'd be in there, going over routes and formations.

After all, he's Minnesota's best player, a team captain and one of the top wide receivers in America. An hour earlier, Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster sat in the same meeting room and told reporters that Decker, a senior this fall, should be on the short list for the 2009 Biletnikoff Award. Decker was a finalist last fall, when he led the Big Ten with 84 receptions -- 15 more than any other player -- and also topped the list in receiving yards (1,074).

At this moment, however, Decker is an outsider in the Gopher football offices. For the second straight spring, he's playing for Minnesota's nationally ranked baseball team, which is off to a 13-6 start after a solid road trip through Texas.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Decker is more concerned with tracking down fly balls in center field than footballs thrown by Minnesota starting quarterback Adam Weber. The Gophers football team opens spring practice Tuesday afternoon, but Decker will work out with the baseball squad later that night.

"I'll probably come in early, catch the end of [football] practice, see how guys are doing, see how the offense is going," Decker said.

His focus is on baseball, but Decker tries to stay involved with football as much as he can, especially since the Gophers are installing a new offense with new coordinator Jedd Fisch. He still serves as a football captain, and when Minnesota votes on its 2009 captains after spring ball, he hopes to retain the position.

It's a heavy burden, but Decker wouldn't have things any other way.

"It's been hard to balance it, but it's been good," he said. "It's been everything I've wanted."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Tim Griffin

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops tried to diffuse any controversy linking him with the Denver Broncos job by taking some unusual steps.

Stoops originally was not slated to meet with the media before deciding late Friday that he would meet with them after the Sooners' practice Saturday at Barry University. He had to know that questions about the vacant NFL job would be asked  -- and they did, barely three minutes into the press conference. 

But by firmly discounting any stories of interest for the job, Stoops has done what he could to extinguish any controversy through the BCS title game on Thursday night.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the Broncos move on the job. If they do not hire somebody by the time the Oklahoma game is over Thurday night against Florida, look for Stoops' name to heat up again.

But at this point in his career, it would be hard to think that Stoops would be interested in coaching in the NFL -- despite his previous association with Denver owner Patrick Bowlen, an Oklahoma graduate as an undergrad and from law school.

The Broncos are one of the model franchises in the NFL. Bowlen isn't considered a meddling owner. He's fired only three coaches in his 24-season tenure as owner and cried when he let Mike Shanahan go last week.

But Stoops might have a better job with the Sooners. He's close with athletic director Joe Castiglione and school president David Boren and is assuredly bigger than the Oklahoma program. It wouldn't be that way in Denver.  

Stoops has maintained that the NFL could interest him one day and I think it would. But I think he would like to see his three children complete high school before taking the challenge.

And additionally, he's pretty well compensated at Oklahoma, which has to be considered one of the top 10 college jobs in the country. He will collect $6 million in 2008, thanks to cashing in a $3 million bonus for finishing 10 years on his job.

I don't think the Sooners were going to be distracted by talk about him and the Broncos.

But Stoops took steps to assure his team it didn't become a problem -- just to make sure.