2008 NFL Draft Preview – Quarterback

The case of the most difficult position to figure out in the draft can go in any number of directions … but if you want to look at the importance of position and where the best players are drafted, one need only look at the quarterbacks.

For every Peyton or Eli Manning going at the top of the draft, you’ll see a Tom Brady of the Patriots or the Seahawks Matt Hasselbeck getting drafted in the sixth round. Joe Montana was a third round pick and Johnny Unitas went in the ninth round. The big quarterback draft was in 1983 draft when there were six quarterbacks taken in the first round – John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino in that order – all of them experiencing varying degrees of success in their careers. More recently, Vince Young, Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart all went in the top 11 in 2006.

Comparatively you look at the 2007 draft. Sure, JaMarcus Russell went first overall to the Oakland Raiders, playing in four games with little success. Highly publicized Brady Quinn stunningly slipped to 22nd in the first round to the Cleveland Browns, and free agent Derek Anderson ended up beating him out. Nobody else went in the first round..

“Quarterback is the hardest position to evaluate of all the positions,” Seahawks vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster said. “We’re lucky we have Matt because they’re so hard to find.”

Clearly, it’s not just the physical tools, but the mental ability to make decisions on the fly while knowing what every player on the both sides of the football are doing on a particular play. That being said, that all has to happen with the full knowledge that a 240-pound linebacker with sprinter’s speed or a 325-pound defensive tackle may be unloading on you just as the ball is released.

In the vernacular, it requires plenty of guts to gain a little bit of glory. Win or lose, the focus is always on the quarterback – most of the time gaining either too much praise or criticism depending on a victory or defeat.

“They’re hard to find because you don’t know what they’ll be like until they’re under fire at this level,” Webster said. “You want them to have enough arm strength and accuracy is a premium, but you also want them to have a little athletic ability. More than ever they need to be able to move well because the rushers are so good now to avoid them is becoming more important.

“And maybe most important is they’ve got to be good decision-makers … they’ve got to be able to go through their progressions and make good decisions. Toughness is also important, just like any other position – it’s hard to play that position if they’re not tough because they will take their share of shots because they are vulnerable. They have to be smart because they’re processing so much information It’s a difficult position to play and that’s why it’s so hard to find the right guy – whether in the first round or as a free agent, they all develop at a different rate.”

This year’s group is comparable to last year. Not only did Russell and Quinn go in the first round, but Kevin Kolb (Eagles), John Beck (Dolphins) and Drew Stanton (Lions) went in the second round. Heisman Trophy-winner Troy Smith didn’t go until the fifth round to Baltimore.

This year’s group is led by Boston College’s Matt Ryan, who could very well go in the top five, while Brian Brohm from Louisville is expected to go late first round or early in the second round, with Michigan’s Chad Henne and Joe Flacco from Delaware likely second round picks with Kentucky’s Andre Woodson. Reflective of the indecision on quarterbacks, however, will be Ryan. He has been projected to go anywhere from first overall to the possibly double-digits – although both are highly unlikely unless trades undo everything.

Either way, Ryan is prepared, and that includes sitting on the bench for a year or two as most have done, or get thrown into the fire right away.

“It’s exciting to be mentioned (as a possible No. 1 overall pick),” Ryan said. “But for me I just hope somebody gives me an opportunity to go in and compete and help try to make an organization a winner. It doesn’t really matter what number pick that is, as long as someone gives me a chance.

“There has been a bunch of different ways for quarterbacks to come into the league and have success. Carson Palmer sat for an entire year. Peyton Manning played the first snap and played the first year. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it. But in my opinion and what I’m going to be trying to do next year is go in and compete and try and win that starting job and make the decision as difficult as possible for the organization. But ultimately you have to respect their decision and do what’s best for the team.”

Brohm has been more interesting to follow, but his stock has been all over the board. His father and two brothers also played football at Louisville, with his brother Jeff playing a couple of years with the 49ers, and now the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Cardinals. Jeff, 13 years old, has prepared him for this since he was 8 years old. So with all that background, he is confident but also realistic as his name goes up and down the board with Henne and Flacco gaining ground.

“There’s nothing really to be worried about,” Brohm said. “I’ve always been about going out there to perform. Wherever that puts me in the draft, that’s where it puts me. So I’m not going to worry about it. I’m not going to get stressed out about it. I’m just going
to go out there and show what I’ve got.”

The following is an alphabetical list of the best quarterbacks in the draft by a consensus of draft information compiled by the writer, and is not reflective of the Seattle Seahawks personnel department

QUARTERBACKS
1. Erik Ainge, Tennessee, 6-6, 225, 5.02
2. John David Booty, Southern California, 6-3, 218, 4.82
3. Colt Brennan, Hawaii, 6-3, 207, 4.79
4. Brian Brohm, Louisville, 6-3, 230, 4.83
5. Joe Flacco, Delaware, 6-7, 236, 4.79
6. Chad Henne, Michigan, 6-3, 230, 4.92
7. Josh Johnson, San Diego, 6-3, 213, 4.55
8. Kevin O’Connell, San Diego State, 6-5, 225, 4.61
9. Matt Ryan, Boston College, 6-5, 228, 4.89
10. Andre Woodson, Kentucky, 6-4, 229, 4.81

Also considered: Dennis Dixon, Oregon; Matt Flynn, Louisiana State; Sam Keller, Nebraska; Bernard Morris, Marshall; Paul Smith, Tulsa.

Busy time at The Rose Bowl

IT’S been a busy week for everyone at the ground – with pre-season friendlies taking place every day, writes Jimmy Adams in this week’s Hampshire Chronicle.

Adams writes: Players and, probably even more so, ground staff have had their work cut out to get themselves ready for the LV County Championship match against Sussex which started at The Rose Bowl on Wednesday.

To be honest we struggled in our pre-season games – losing the two-day game to Northamptonshire and also two one-day games to Gloucestershire.

Our final practice match against Cardiff UCCE was not ideal either as we lost a significant amount of time to the weather when we were hoping to get some good mileage in our legs.

Chris Benham showed good early signs with a half century against Northants, Michael Brown made a superb 99 in bowler-friendly conditions in the first one-dayer and I managed to chip in with a few myself but unfortunately a number of our batters were unable to get any really valuable time in the middle.

It’s been tough for the bowlers too. The heavy ground makes bowling longer spells hard yet the guys need to get overs under their belts to obtain the necessary bowling fitness to see them through a whole day in the field – Billy Taylor has been his usual reliable self and Dave Griffiths again showed his ability as a genuine wicket-taker.

Talking of strike bowlers, we have been boosted by the arrival of one of the world’s best – Shane Bond has already shown us he will be a fantastic asset in his few days with us.

ROSE BOWL TO SHOWCASE FIRST SO CAL NCAA DIVISION ONE WOMENíS LACROSSE TOURNAMENT

The nation’s top women’s lacrosse teams will take part in the first-ever East West Lacrosse Challenge to be held at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena this Saturday, March 8. Notre Dame, Temple University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Oregon, UCLA and USC will go head-to-head in the largest women’s lacrosse tournament on the west coast.

The East West Challenge will also feature a high-school tournament with 40 all-girl lacrosse teams, comprised of more than 800 players, from all over Southern California. This tournament will be played on the fields outside of Rose Bowl stadium.

WHAT: LACROSSE COMES TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WITH EAST WEST CHALLENGE IN PASADENA

WHEN: Saturday, March 8, 2008

Inside the Rose Bowl:
11:00 a.m. – UCLA vs. USC
1:00 p.m. – Notre Dame vs. UC Berkeley
4:00 p.m. – Temple vs. Oregon

Fields outside the Rose Bowl:
8:00 a.m. – High school tournament begins

WHERE: Rose Bowl Stadium
1001 Rose Bowl Drive
Pasadena, CA 91103

Like nowhere else

I’ll never forget the cheers of the crowd as I ran into that end zone at the Rose Bowl last fall.

Of course, I wasn’t wearing a football uniform, or carrying a ball – I was just trying to get from the crowd of reporters surrounding Charlie Weis to the foot of the stands where the Irish players were celebrating their first win of the season.

But seriously, I ran nearly the length of the field at the Rose Bowl with a cheering crowd in my ears – which is something I never dreamed I’d be able to do.

That wasn’t the only once-in-a-lifetime event that happened to me over the last four years. When I graduated from high school, there’s no way I would have believed what I got to do while at Notre Dame.

I sat courtside at two NCAA tournaments – and, after the first one, a Chicago sportswriter wrote a column speculating that Luke Harangody would take his frustration over losing to Winthrop out on me.

I got carried away during a live nationally televised football debate with a Boston College student – and it earned me two weeks of hate mail and made me infamous to the Notre Dame internet fan community.

Charlie Weis knows my face. Mike Brey knows my name.

I was so close to two straight undefeated home basketball schedules that my computer has a crack from where a ball hit it.

In the chaos after the 2005 USC game, Pete Carroll almost tripped over me. I got to stay dry in the press box while storms drenched Notre Dame’s 2006 comeback against Michigan State. Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley called me on my cell phone once. I called Digger Phelps at home for a story and I’m sure I woke him up from a nap.

What did I do to deserve all this? Why did I get to go places and talk to people that I previously thought were out of reach?

I was in the right place at the right time – and by that, I don’t mean the basement of South Dining Hall during The Observer’s Frosh-O open house in 2004.

I mean I was at Notre Dame – period.

Long before “What are you Fighting for?” and the ill-fated “candle ad,” the University marketed itself with the slogan “Nowhere but Notre Dame.”

When I was applying to college, I thought that slogan meant the obvious things that set Notre Dame apart – community, spirituality, work-ethic, football, etc.

Four years later, those attributes are certainly true, but they’re not unique. Other schools have community, other schools are religious, other schools pursue excellence and far too many schools are currently better than us at football.

What’s unique about Notre Dame is that it’s small – but its reach is large.

This school only has 8,000 undergrads, but the 8,000 of us that go here have access to some of the country’s best academic programs, best professors and best extracurriculars. When we graduate, we lucky few become “Notre Dame alumni,” a group that stretches around the world.

And that is how I – basically by coming to this school and deciding to write for the newspaper – ended up on the field at the Rose Bowl, courtside at the NCAAs, and interviewed on ESPN. Because at this school, you can’t leave your dorm room without tripping over an opportunity to do something special, to be someone important, to change the world.

There are very few other schools that have that combination. Some schools have a large reach, impressive programs and a far-reaching alumni base. Others are small and have easy access to professors and extracurriculars. This school has both, and that – in addition to all the cliché stuff – is why there is Nowhere like Notre Dame.

USC could be Fiesta Bowl-bound

Pete Carroll has the best answer.

“I keep postponing the thoughts about it because I don’t know where it’s going,” Carroll said this week of the BCS shakeout, and USC’s bowl picture.

If there’s any sort of official take from Trojanland, it’s this: If Oregon State beats Oregon Saturday to nail down a Rose Bowl berth and USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA, the Trojans will likely play in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., against either Texas or Oklahoma.

Fifth-ranked USC would lose the Rose Bowl tiebreaker to the Beavers, becoming an at-large team, and the Fiesta Bowl has the first choice over the Sugar and Orange bowls. That’s as simple as it gets.

The SEC title game loser, Florida or Alabama, goes to the Sugar Bowl, where it will likely play Utah. And it looks as if Cincinnati (Big East) and Georgia Tech (ACC) will meet in the Orange Bowl with the SEC-Big 12 winners facing off in Miami for the BCS championship.

But, as Carroll said, of course it’s not that simple. Which is why USC’s players roll their eyes when asked about any of this.

“No way,” said cornerback Cary Harris. “We’ve got two games to play.”

And what’s the point? What if Oklahoma State upsets visiting Oklahoma Saturday, eliminating both the Sooners and Texas from the Big 12 title game in one fell swoop? And what if Missouri, on a bad-weather day in Kansas City in two weeks, beats Texas Tech for the title?

Or what if Florida loses at Florida State this Saturday, or Alabama loses to Auburn?

Where does USC go if one, two, three or maybe four of those “what ifs” should happen?

Certainly the Trojans would move up. But would a matchup featuring USC’s top-ranked defense against one of those high-flying offenses from Texas, Florida or Oklahoma, sway the voters and computers to elevate USC to the championship game after all the smoke has cleared?

“We’ll see if we have the best defense,” Harris said, “after we see how we do the next two games.”

Injury Report

Just 10 minutes into Wednesday’s practice, senior safety Kevin Ellison grabbed his right knee and informed coaches it “didn’t feel right,” Carroll said. Carroll said he didn’t know what effect that would have on Ellison’s status for Notre Dame. Tight end Blake Ayles’ is doubtful with a knee contusion. Joe McKnight suffered a stinger when he was hit while trying to pick up a fumbled punt. He should be OK. Freshman defensive tackle Armond Armistead, in a hard cast for his fractured right hand, was held out of practice but has been cleared to play.

Minnesota could end up in Rose Bowl

Minnesota going to the Rose Bowl? It could happen, under Big Ten Conference tiebreaking procedures.

Minnesota’s only loss so far came at Ohio State. If the Gophers win out and the Buckeyes lose Saturday to Penn State then the Nittany Lions are upset by Iowa or Indiana, Minnesota would be the big winner.

According to the Big Ten tiebreaker, Ohio State would drop out because it had the worst overall record with two losses (it fell early in the season to Southern California). Because Minnesota and Penn State did not meet, and no other tiebreaker applies, the conference’s Bowl Championship Series representative would be determined by which team had last won the conference’s automatic BCS berth. Penn State represented the conference in 2005.

Minnesota currently is 6-1, Penn State 8-0.

TEXAS — Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy, the current frontrunner in the Heisman Trophy race, told Sporting News that he plans to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft pool.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to play here,”he told the magazine. “Not very many people get to (start) here for four years, so what an opportunity. And if the NFL is there for me, then I hope that I’ll get to keep playing, because I love to play this game. Hopefully, it will work out.”

He has thrown for 1,894 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, with only three interceptions, to help Texas stand at 7-0.

BOWL BIDS: The Pacific 10 Conference’s struggles this season could end up helping the Western Athletic Conference.

The Pac-10 added a seventh bowl tie-in this season, with a deal to send a team to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.

But just past the midway point of the season it looks as if the league will not have seven teams finish with the required six victories to become bowl-eligible.

Sensing that possibility, Poinsettia Bowl officials announced an agreement this week to give the Pac-10’s spot in the bowl to a team from the WAC if it remains open. That would give the WAC a fourth bowl tie-in.

SOUTH CAROLINA — Not even coach Steve Spurrier knows who is the team’s No. 1 quarterback these days.

“We might put (reserve) Zac Brindise out there first,” he said.

That would be a surprise because walk-on Brindise never has taken a snap for the Gamecocks. But with few other options left to spark an offense that’s yet to live up to Spurrier’s standards under starters Chris Smelley, Stephen Garcia and Tommy Beecher, the coach just might be serious.

“Stephen and Chris do better coming off the bench. Maybe if somebody else is the starter, they’d play better,” he said.

The team next plays on Nov. 1, at Tennessee.

Rose Bowl matchup odds makes diehard fans happy

The only College Football fans happy with the Rose Bowl matchup are diehard traditionalists, but since it’s the oldest and most prestigious of all the bowl games, that is all that matters.

Organizers opted to stick with the historical Pac-10-Big Ten matchup for The Granddaddy of Them All,” picking 13th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini to face the No. 6 USC Trojans in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

Bet the Rose Bowl Game at betED.com, which has USC favored by 13 and the total at 50.

Illinois gained its berth after the Ohio State Buckeyes got upgraded to play the LSU Tigers in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 7 in at the Louisiana SuperDome.

It is the first trip to Pasadena for the Illini (9-3) since 1983, and their first bowl game since the 2001 Sugar Bowl season. For the sixth-ranked Trojans (10-2), it is their third straight trip, fourth in the past five seasons and 32nd overall.

The main reason Illinois, which finished strong with four straight wins, is headed to the Rose Bowl is it was the only team in the nation to beat Ohio State this season.

The Rose Bowl appearance represents a dramatic turnaround for the Illini. After going 2-10 last season, they beat two top-five teams – the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers and then the Buckeyes on the road.

USC entered the season ranked No. 1 and aiming for the BCS Championship, but that goal was gone as soon as the then-No. 2 Trojans lost 24-23 to the 41-point underdog Stanford Cardinal on Oct. 6, and then lost three games later to the Oregon Ducks, which was a seven-point underdog.

Trojan QB lost quarterback John David Booty missed three games, including the Oregon loss, before returning to lead the Trojans to wins in their last four games.

The Trojans won their sixth-straight Pac-10 championship and the Rose Bowl berth with a 24-7 win over cross-town rival UCLA Bruins on Dec. 1.

In their last game, the Illini rushed for 341 yards in a 41-22 win over Northwestern.
Quarterback Juice Williams was 15-for-23 for 220 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while running for 136 yards and two scores.

USC and Illinois have met once in their history, on Sept. 7, 1996, when the Trojans bombed the Illini 55-3 on the road.

First played in 1902, the Rose Bowl has taken place annually since 1916.

The game takes place Tuesday, Jan. 1 at 4:30 pm ET.

Defense crucial for Saturday game

The UCLA defense knows Oregon State tailback Jacquizz Rodgers can be hard to tackle.

Sometimes he’s even hard to find.

“He’s really little,” defensive tackle Brian Price said. “He can hide behind that big line.”

Rodgers, a 5-foot-6-inch freshman, has torched Pac-10 competition this season. He has 945 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He averaged over 10 yards per carry against USC and Arizona State. He leads the conference in rushing yards and attempts.

And the UCLA defense knows that if they want to beat Oregon State on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, they must find a way to stop him.

“You have to be aware of where he is at all times, whether it’s a run or a pass,” defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. “His thing is running the football. We have to do a great job of stopping him, but he has caught some passes too.”

Walker said that defensive coaches dedicated an unusually long session to game-planning their run defense on Monday, and that they planned to meet after practice Tuesday to re-evaluate the scheme.

The Beavers, however, have yet to name a starting quarterback. Lyle Moevao has played most of the season, but he injured his shoulder last week against Arizona State. Sean Canfield relieved him and led Oregon State to a 27-25 win.

But for UCLA the focus is still on Rodgers. Walker said that he doesn’t expect the Beavers’ game plan to change dramatically if there is a quarterback change.

Run defense is usually the basis for the entire UCLA defensive plan. The Bruins figure they can defend the pass if they force their opponent to stop running.

“If you stop the run first you can force them to be one-dimensional,” Price said. “And we have pretty good run defense.”

Walker said that this week’s defensive focus is a compliment to Rodgers’ talent. He compared Rodgers to a young Maurice Jones-Drew, a former UCLA star who now plays in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Price also said that Rodgers is really good and that the Bruins have to limit him to under 100 yards rushing.

“We know we have a task at hand,” Price said.

SUSPENSIONS ANNOUNCED: UCLA announced the suspensions of three players after Tuesday’s practice.

Offensive linemen Scott Glicksberg and Micah Reed and defensive lineman Jess Ward were suspended one game for breaking athletic department rules, coach Rick Neuheisel said.

“It is never fun, never good news, but (it is) important that discipline be administered,” Neuheisel said.

The loss of Glicksberg and Reed will hurt the Bruins most. The team has already dealt with inexperience and a series of injuries to its offensive line.

“It hurts the depth, there’s no question that it does, but we’ve been dealing with that for quite some time,” Neuheisel said.

Reed, Ward and Glicksberg were not available for comment. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that the players had failed a drug test.

INJURY REPORT: Offensive tackle Jeff Baca returned to practice on Tuesday, and Neuheisel said he did fine. Baca had been recovering from an injured hamstring.

Defensive linemen Chase Moline and Reggie Stokes also practiced. Defensive end Chinonso Anyanwu did not practice. Anyanwu is still undergoing tests after suffering stomach problems over the weekend.

For Oregon State, center Alex Linnenkohl and cornerback Keenan Lewis are both expected to return from injuries suffered last week against Arizona State.

Around Pasadena

The San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross will host a “Super CPR” event at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10a.m July 12 at the Rose Bowl.

English, Spanish and Mandarin speakers can be certified in adult CPR for a reduced rate of $5 per person.

“Every one of us should know how to assist someone in a time of need,” said

Chapter CEO Ben Green.

“The Super CPR event is an affordable way for our diverse community to learn valuable skills.”

Pre-enrollment is required and space is limited to 250 people.

ABC7 and the American Red Cross have teamed up this year for the ABCs of a Safe Summer. In order to make life-saving information more accessible, ABCs of a Safe Summer partners have developed “At a Glance”

summaries of CPR, first aid, water, fire, electrical and heat safety.

Adams and Cork give Hampshire the edge

Jimmy Adams weathered a Worcestershire storm as Hampshire closed on 76 for four after day one at the Rose Bowl.

The left-handed opener (33 not out) steered his side within 56 runs of their visitors, after Dominic Cork had bagged debut figures of four for 10 with the ball.

The former Lancashire and England swing bowler announced himself as a Hampshire player by trapping Kabir Ali, Gareth Batty and Chris Whelan lbw, before Matt Mason was caught behind by Nic Pothas.

And after Cork’s devastating burst, Jimmy Tomlinson removed Moen Ali to leave Worcestershire bowled out for just 132 after electing to bat.

In reply, the hosts slumped to 10 for three with Michael Carberry (4), John Crawley (2) and Michael Lumb (0) all back in the pavilion.

However, Adams and Sean Ervine (28) rescued Giles White’s men before the latter was dismissed by Whelan as the close approached.

David Balcombe, who earlier took the first two wickets of the day for Hampshire, joined Adams as nightwatchman and was unbeaten on three at stumps.