|Gators leads nation with 9 picks|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 14:20|
Six Gators were taken on the second day of the NFL draft, giving the national champions nine players selected in the seven rounds, the most of any school. The runner-up with eight picks was Ohio State, which lost to the Gators in the BCS title game in January.
Gators taken Sunday were defensive tackles Marcus Thomas by Denver and Joe Cohen by San Francisco, both in the fourth round; cornerback Ryan Smith by Tennessee, also in the fourth round; and receiver Dallas Baker by Pittsburgh, running back DeShawn Wynn by Green Bay and linebacker Brandon Siler by San Diego, all in the seventh round.
Among the prominent Gators undrafted were quarterback Chris Leak and linebacker Earl Everett.
Three Ohio State players were taken on the first day of the draft - receiver Ted Ginn Jr. was first to go at No. 9 overall to Miami.
The Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts grabbed three Buckeyes - wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock and wide receiver Roy Hall. Gonzalez was taken with the last pick of the first round and Pitcock went in the third round Saturday. Hall was taken Sunday in the fifth.
Also on Sunday, running back Antonio Pittman was taken in the fourth round by New Orleans; defensive end Jay Richardson was a fifth-round selection by Oakland; quarterback Troy Smith was the last pick of the first round by Baltimore; and offensive lineman Doug Datish was Atlanta's sixth-round pick.
SMALL-SCHOOL SAINTS: The New Orleans Saints scored big with draft picks from small schools last season, landing two rookie starters who didn't play major college football.
The Saints went back to the bushes again Sunday, taking tackle Jermon Bushrod of Division I-AA Towson in the fourth round and cornerback David Jones from Division II Wingate in the fifth round.
Last year, New Orleans found guard Jahri Evans from Division II Bloomsburg and receiver Marques Colston from I-AA Hofstra and both were prominent players on one of the NFL's best offenses.
Evans started every game and Colston led the team with 1,038 yards receiving and 11 touchdown catches.
Bushrod, like Evans, has NFL size at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds.
``A lot of people have compared me to him,'' Bushrod said of Evans. ``I'll play wherever needed ... whatever they need on the O-line. I have no background playing guard, but I have no problem adjusting to it at all.''
Bushrod blocked for an offense that gained 4,088 total yards in 2006, 3,161 through the air.
He may not be pressed into service as quickly as Evans, however, because New Orleans has its entire starting offensive line back.
Jones, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, has run the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds during an on-campus workout.
Saints coach Sean Payton said New Orleans' success drafting players from smaller programs last season did not influence him to go that direction again.
``You've got to be careful you're not trying to create or duplicate something. Each case is different,'' Payton said. ``We try to unbiasedly look at these guys and say ... 'Are their work habits what we're looking for and do they have the physical traits at the position and the athleticism at the position?' Whether it's at Michigan or whether it's at Wingate, you're trying to evaluate specifically the player, but the level of competition does have to come in and lean toward the larger-school player because of who he's facing. ... You factor that in.''
JUST FOR KICKS: The Jacksonville Jaguars took Maryland punter Adam Podlesh with the second selection of the fourth round (No. 101 overall) Sunday, making him the first specialist taken in the draft.
In all, seven kickers and punters were drafted.
Podlesh averaged 42.9 yards per kick and will get a shot to replace Chris Hanson, who averaged 40.6 yards per kick.
Eleven picks after Podlesh was taken, the Pittsburgh Steelers took Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda, an All-American who led the nation in punting last year (46.5 ypp).
The first kicker taken was also an All-American. UCLA's Justin Medlock, who led all the nation with 2.15 field goals per game, went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round, 160th overall.
In the sixth round, Dallas took kicker Nick Folk of Arizona with the 178th pick, and Green Bay selected Colorado kicker Mason Crosby with pick No. 193. Crosby might have the strongest leg in college football. His career best field goal was 60 yards and he made several 50-yarders.
Michigan State punter Brandon Fields was picked by Miami in the seventh round with the 225th pick.
FROM CIVIL WAR TO SEATTLE: Seahawks fourth-round draft pick Mansfield Wrotto escaped civil war in his native Liberia as a 6-year-old in 1991 with his parents.
``My parents ... they made plans to export my family out of there, and thank God that we did. It actually got worse and worse throughout the years,'' the 6-foot-3, 310-pound guard from Georgia Tech said.
Back-to-back civil wars from 1989-2003 killed more than 200,000. One of deadliest conflicts in Africa also displaced more than 1.5 million Liberians from their homes.
Wrotto and his family escaped to Sierra Leone - but couldn't stay long because that country was beginning its own civil war that year. The Wrottos moved to London for a time before finally reaching the United States to stay with extended family in New Jersey. Eventually, Mansfield and his parents settled in Atlanta, where his father is a real estate agent and his mother is a nurse.
But he still thinks often of Liberia, where Wrotto said conditions have improved with the aid of the United Nations. His maternal grandmother is still living there, running a church.
``Hopefully, maybe in the future I can have the opportunity to go back and see it,'' he said.
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in New Orleans, Gregg Bell in Kirkland, Wash., and Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed to this report.