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NFL scouts eye Cats' raw talent


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J. Ryan Casey
By J. Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
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Yesterday, in the first of a two-part series, we examined former Wildcats in the NFL. Today we turn our focus to the current Wildcats roster and potential NFL prospects further on down the road.

Who can fans look to as being the next Bruschi or Northcutt? Of those eligible for this year's draft, only Steve Fleming is catching scouts' eyes as far as the 2005 draft is concerned, namely those of Green Bay. Rated as the fourth-best tight end available by some, if he's drafted, it won't be until late (think second day, most likely sixth or seventh round).

Of course, being drafted isn't a necessity when it comes to making an NFL roster. Looking at the other seniors from last year's roster, center Keoki Fraser, and tackles Chris Johnson and Brandon Phillips all have a legitimate shot at being on an NFL roster come July via undrafted free agency. That being said, there are a few teams that may take a stab at Fraser, Johnson or Phillips during Sunday's late rounds.

As far as prospects returning to the Wildcats next year, Richard Kovalcheck is obviously a name that will surface, but he really needs to have a big year for scouts to even consider looking at him his senior year.

A 47 percent completion rate does not spell NFL, but he definitely has the potential to improve upon that mark. And now, with his back injury, the red-shirt sophomore Kovalcheck will definitely need the next three years to develop and grow into a NFL prospect-type player.

Mike Bell is another name that will get whispered around campus, and he is one who could have a shot at getting drafted in 2006. He just missed 1,000 yards last year, and Bell needs to perform better against the bigger teams in order for the NFL to notice this shifty runner. Expect his production this year to increase over last year's numbers, thanks in large part to the Wildcats improved receiving corps, headed by junior college transfer B.J. Vickers.

Speaking of Vickers, the receiver who has yet to play a snap for the Wildcats, if he can live up to the hype that surrounds him, then scouts will definitely be roaming Arizona's press box over the next two seasons.

Another receiver, Syndric Steptoe, could be a Bobby Wade-type player, especially because he emerged as Kovalcheck's favorite target last year, but in order to be the Wade type, he needs to be Wade-like. Unfortunately, 500 yards is not very Wade-esque, so he most likely will have to have an amazing season to be considered.

The defensive side of the ball is where most of the scouts will have their eyes on Wildcats.

Strong safety Lamon Means will have a legitimate shot at getting picked in the 2006 draft, being a ferocious hitter and a good defender against the pass, as will free safety Darrell Brooks, who has a great nose for the ball.

Then there's always the super-freshmen who will be sophomores next season. Watch out, NFL draft 2008.

Cornerbacks Wilrey Fontenot and Antoine Cason both started for head coach Mike Stoops in the 2004-05 campaign, and they earned it. Both were the Pacific 10 Conference's Player of the Week at one point during the season and both have a great potential to build on what they started this year. Cason had four interceptions this year, while Fontenot had two, as well as a 33-yard fumble return at Washington for a touchdown.

The bottom line? If you're looking for future NFLers, look no further than our own secondary - it's bound to be second to none (OK, maybe Southern California).



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