• PIGSKIN & SHEEPSKIN: An impressive number of players who will be drafted this weekend already have earned their college degrees, with majors ranging from international business to history.
"These guys should be applauded for what they did," says Oregon offensive coordinator CHIP KELLY, who coached quarterback DENNIS DIXON, a sociology graduate. "They're exactly what's right about college football."
A list of 25 draft-eligible players who already boast their college degrees:
TE Cole Bennett
Management Information Systems
QB Colt Brennan
TE John Carlson
T Gosder Cherilus
RB Tashard Choice
History, Technology & Society
QB Dennis Dixon
LB Jo-Lon Dunbar
OL Robert Felton
Criminal Justice & Sociology
DE Wallace Gilberry
LB Tavares Gooden
Liberal Arts and Criminology (Double Major)
S Marcus Griffin
Government Studies (Minor in Liberal Arts)
LB Quentin Groves
CB-S Jonathan Hefney
QB Chad Henne
General Studies (3.5 years)
DT Trevor Laws
Marketing and Sociology
CB Patrick Lee
LB Jeremy Leman
DT Frank Okam
Sports Management (3.5 years)
DT DeMario Pressley
North Carolina State
QB Matt Ryan
S Jamie Silva
WR Limas Sweed
Youth and Community Studies
TE Jacob Tamme
Integrated Strategic Communications (3 years)
C Cody Wallace
• FLACCO TAKES NO FLAK: Division I-AA quarterback JOE FLACCO of Delaware is aware that playing on that level may lead some people to question his ability. Only two Division I-AA players (CB RASHARD ANDERSON by Carolina and WR SYLVESTER MORRIS by Kansas City, both first-round selections out of Jackson State in 2000) have been drafted in the top 30 selections in the past 10 years.
But Flacco doesn't let that hinder his confidence. "I feel like I'm the best quarterback in the draft," he says. "Hands down."
A former Delaware quarterback, SCOTT BRUNNER, who led the Fightin' Blue Hens to the 1979 Division II championship and played six years in the NFL, believes that Flacco has all the tools. "Without a doubt, he'll play at the next level," says Brunner, now a banker in New York City. "He's one of the top five quarterbacks in the country. It'll be fun to have another Blue Hen quarterback to root for."
To back up Flacco's feeling of confidence, look at this stat: three non-BCS quarterbacks finished in the top 10 in passer rating in the NFL in 2007:
SMALL SCHOOL/BIG RATING
2007 PASSER RATING/RANK
Tony Romo, Dallas
Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay
San Jose State
Kurt Warner, Arizona
• GHOLSTON'S GOAL: Ohio State defensive end VERNON GHOLSTON, a sure first-round choice, can be the first this weekend in what the Buckeyes hope will be an onslaught of draft picks that will retain their No. 1 ranking as the school with the most selections over the past 10 years (since 1998):
TOP 10 LAST 10
• UCONN PLANTS A BRANCH: The highest Connecticut has had a player chosen in the draft in the past 10 years was No. 82 overall (LB ALFRED FINCHER by New Orleans in 2005). That could change this weekend, thanks to cornerback-safety TYVON BRANCH, who last year became the only Husky in history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season.
At the NFL Scouting Combine this past February, Branch earned another distinction that only five other players have achieved in the past five years, according to NFL.com draft expert GIL BRANDT. Branch joined the unique quintet comprised of players who weigh at least 200 pounds, ran the 40 in under 4.4 seconds and lifted 225 pounds at least 15 times. Four of the five were starters in 2007:
CLASS OF THE COMBINE
CB DeAngelo Hall
S Bob Sanders
CB Karl Paymah
S Michael Huff
S LaRon Landry
CB-S Tyvon Branch
• TIDBITS: Ten Interesting notes on the draft class of 2008:
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
Hawaii QB COLT BRENNAN ... Backed up Arizona QB MATT LEINART in high school (Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California).
Oregon QB DENNIS DIXON ... Graduated with a 3.27 GPA in sociology.
LSU DT GLENN DORSEY ... Gets himself revved up for a game by listening to PHIL COLLINS' soft-rock classic In the Air Tonight ("I can feel it coming in the air tonight…").
Ohio State DE VERNON GHOLSTON ... His high school football coach thought the 6-2, 205-pound sophomore walking the hallways was a parent. When he realized he wasn't, he cajoled Gholston into coming out for football.
Virginia DE CHRIS LONG ... Could be chosen higher in the draft than his DT Hall of Fame father HOWIE (Second round, 48th overall by Oakland out of Villanova in 1981).
Michigan T JAKE LONG ... Had two penalties his whole college career: a holding penalty as a freshman and a false-start as a senior.
Arkansas RB DARREN MC FADDEN ... Arkansas faculty member JANET FORBESS, who has had McFadden in several classes, says his fame has not changed him: "As he has gotten more and more famous, he doesn't change in the classroom."
Rutgers RB RAY RICE ... Partook in the NFL's High School Player Development program that emphasizes life skills in preparing athletes for college.
Boston College QB MATT RYAN ... Won the 2008 Manning Award, the only QB award that considers a candidate's bowl performances, and is voted upon by ARCHIE, PEYTON and ELI MANNING and the media.
Kansas CB AQIB TALIB ... The youngest of four children, his first name (ah-KEEB tah-LEEB) translates to "last to come."
• MIAMI IS HOT: Miami (Fla.) safety KENNY PHILLIPS is expected to be a first-round selection this Saturday. If he and any other Hurricanes are, they would continue the school's impressive streak.
Miami has had at least one first-round pick in the last 13 NFL Drafts (since 1995, DT WARREN SAPP, No. 12 overall by Tampa Bay), the longest such active streak of a school in the draft.
Schools with the best active streaks of most consecutive years with a first-round pick:
CONSECUTIVE YEARS WITH FIRST-ROUND PICK
13 (Since 1995)
6 (Since 2002)
4 (Since 2004)
4 (Since 2004)
3 (Since 2005)
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