By Eric Wein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The waiting and wondering begins tomorrow morning for several UA football seniors when the NFL draft gets underway.
No Arizona player stands out as a definite first-round pick this year, but a larger amount of Wildcats are expected to begin their NFL careers next fall than in past years.
"There will be a bunch of guys that will go," offensive guard Warner Smith said. "There's just a huge senior class and I think there's a lot of talent in the group."
None of them knows exactly where and when they will go because it all depends on the teams' needs, and those that don't will likely attend camps as free agents in the fall and hope to catch on.
The ratings by BLESTO and National scouting combines, which were printed in Wednesday's USA Today, list four Wildcats as ranking among the top 10 at their respective positions.
Center Hicham El-Mashtoub is ranked second at his position, inside linebacker Sean Harris is third, defensive tackle Jim Hoffman is sixth and Steve McLaughlin is the only kicker listed.
Still, McLaughlin is doubtful he will hear his name called because kickers are seldom drafted.
"I'm not really expected to be taken in the draft. I'll wait around afterwards for the free agent calls," said McLaughlin, last year's Lou Groza Award recipient as the nation's best kicker.
"I'm not really stressed like Sean Harris or the other guys," said McLaughlin. "If I get drafted, I get drafted."
The projections guard Pulu Poumele has heard, put him somewhere between the fifth to seventh rounds.
"You never can tell," Poumele said. "I don't really get too excited. I take it in stride. I've already had offers for free agency, people have said they want me in their camp. I'll be somewhere. I just don't know where."
Tony Bouie, a free safety in football and center fielder in baseball, will watch the first two rounds when ESPN begins broadcasting the draft at 9 a.m. tomorrow. After that, he'll just hear any mid
news when the phone rings.
"The draft is something everybody who plays college football looks forward to their whole career. To be chosen is an honor. But if you're not chosen, it doesn't mean you're not going to make it," said Bouie, who heard he may get chosen in the late rounds. "I expect the worst. On Saturday or Sunday, if somebody calls my name it will be a pleasant surprise."
Smith is in the same boat as Bouie as a likely late round pick.
"My agent heard late rounds and that would be completely awesome, but I don't want to get too excited and have my bubble burst on me and be disappointed," Smith said. "If I don't get drafted, it might be to my benefit because I could go as a free agent and choose the team that I have a chance to make."
Then there's Joe Smigiel who doubts he will be chosen at all. He, too, might try his hand at NFL free agency but has spoken with several Canadian Football League teams and might begin his career north of the border.
"I'm not expecting anything. It's that underdog thing," Smigiel said. "The CFL is looking good. I've got a napkin in my lap in case anything falls off the table."
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