While the big news in college football involves Notre Dame, Lane Kiffin, and Pete Carroll, there are other things going on.
The NFL Combine is approaching, making dreams come true for kids everywhere. Among them will be four representatives from the Oregon Ducks. They include:
1. LeGarrette Blount, RB
You have to remember The Thug (as is his nickname, per a few Ducks blogs—and I think it fits) was projected to be a first round pick before his infamous punch. Some people think it's a mistake and we should forgive him. I say BS, he should have been kicked from the team.
But that's besides the point. The powerful runner will most likely be drafted sixth or seventh round the experts are saying. That is of course, assuming he does well at the combine.
He's been suspended twice since being a Duck, as well as having been in trouble at East Miss CC (Junior college) before Oregon. His attitude/character problems may scare scouts away.
His stats for the year include 82 yards on 22 carries, and he also set the rushing touchdowns in a season record for Oregon in 2008 (17). He's being invited "solely based on his junior year," the NFL says.
He'd fit well as a second/third option for any team looking for a bruiser runner. As much as I hate him, he may work his way up the depth chart if there's little competition. If he keeps his attitude/big mouth/temper under control there's hope for Blount.
2. Ed Dickson, TE
Ed Dickson was a workhorse for Oregon. I think he'll get drafted second round, maybe third if no one's willing to take him that early.
He was the second-leading receiver on the team this year, finishing with 42 catches, 551 yards, and six touchdowns. Dickson also stands as the lone representative from Oregon on the all Pac-10 first team.
He was Pac-10 player of the week following his performance against Cal.
Dickson can catch hard passes, jump over defenders, and he blocks like a lineman. Watch out for Dickson, he just might be a starter next year.
Like I said, I honestly think he could start in the NFL, if not his rookie year, then soon. I think he'll get drafted second round by Kansas City, San Diego, Indianapolis, or St. Louis to start of round three. Somewhere in there.
3. Walter Thurmond III, CB
He's a beast. No question. Where there is the question is health—he's been battling injuries since his sophomore year.
Besides that, he managed to start 12 of the 13 games last season and was dominant on both defense and special teams. He's returned multiple interceptions for touchdowns, as well as kick returns—most noticeably against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl last year.
Thurmond also starred in track, setting school and Pac-10 records, and being the second fastest person on the Ducks team.
He's projected to go fifth round according to the "experts" at this point. There's a lot of depth at defense in the 2010 draft. However, any team willing to take the risk could pick him third/fourth round.
I think he'll be drafted fourth round by Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or New Orleans.
If Thurmond can stay healthy, he may progress to starter in a few years. For right now I think he's perfect for a team lacking a number three guy, or a decent kick returner.
4. TJ Ward, S
TJ Ward is another player who's been battling injury all his career. His career started as a walk-on and took off from there.
He was the leading tackler for Oregon in 2008, racking up 101 tackles and averaging eight a game. This year he was fifth, despite only playing six games, with 68.
Ward made a season-high 12 tackles against Stanford, 11 tackles against Boise State (despite leaving in the third quarter), 10 against USC, and ended with a 10 tackle performance in the Rose Bowl.
He's a huge threat at safety, and some compare him to Patrick Chung of the New England Patriots. He's good in coverage and knows how to finish a play.
"Experts" are saying he goes in the third round. Depending on the playoff finish, to Minnesota.
While that's a strong possibility, I'm putting him with the NY Giants in the early third round, or Minnesota/Dallas depending on the playoffs.
He's a great player, fun to be around, and should be a great reserve his rookie year. A starter? Not next year. But a couple years down the road, if paired with the right coaches and players, I think he's got the most potential to be a threat in the NFL next to Dickson.
The Scouting Combine takes place February 24th-March 2nd in Indianapolis. USC has the most players attending from the Pac-10 with eight, followed by ASU with five, and the Ducks, Cardinal, and Golden Bears with four each.