Cats Await NFL Draft

April 20, 2010

A number of University of Arizona football players could be named in the 2010 National Football League Draft starting Thursday, April 22, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The league and the 32 NFL teams will hold the first round at 4:30 p.m. (Tucson time) Thursday, Rounds 2-3 beginning at 3 p.m. (MST) Friday and the fourth through seventh rounds starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 24.

Arizona's best chance for an 11th historical first-round pick lie with junior tight end Rob Gronkowski, who opted out of continued college eligibility to test the waters this year. Despite missing the 2009 season and undergoing back surgery, Gronkowski has tested well in pre-draft sessions at UA and with individual teams and could be chosen in the first round.

Another top UA prospect is defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who also has potential as an offensive power-position player. Others who have been listed on various prospect ratings include cornerback Devin Ross and fullback Chris Gronkowski.

The most recent high selection for Arizona was offensive tackle Eben Britton, who also left school early and was a second-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars last year as the No. 39 overall choice. Receiver Mike Thomas was taken by the Jags in the fourth round.

Cornerback Antoine Cason was UA's last first-round draftee, taken as the 27th overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He joined Walter Nielsen (1939), Bull Lueck (1968), Mike Dawson (1986, Ricky Hunley (1984), Chris Singleton (1990), Anthony Smith (1990), John Fina (1991), Chris McAlister (1999) and Trung Canidate (2000) as Wildcats picked in the opening round.

Arizona coach Mike Stoops has had 10 Arizona players selected in the draft the past three years, testimony to recruiting and the player development program in place under Corey Edmond, UA's director of performance enhancement and the primary leader behind football strength and conditioning.

While the NFL Draft draws attention to UA football this weekend, Edmond and top assistant Brian Odom haven't missed a beat in working with the current football squad, steadily at work on offseason and post-spring workouts. Too, Arizona coaches are mostly out on the road evaluating the Class of 2011 it hopes to sign next February.

2010 Arizona NFL Draft Prospects:

 

Tight End Rob Gronkowski, 6-6, 265, Junior - Amherst, N.Y. (Woodland Hills, Pa., HS)

 

            Gronkowski missed all of his junior year in 2009 after a back injury early in fall camp and subsequent surgery. He was a third-team AP All-American in 2008 and the first-team All-Pac-10 tight end. His demonstrated talents make him one of the most complete players at his position in the nation -- blocking skill, open-field power and speed, route-running and catching ability. His 2008 year could have been more record-setting except he missed the first three games of the year with mononucleosis. In his first two games back, he scored five touchdowns.  Twice he earned John Mackey National Tight End of the Week honors – once with his career-best 12 receptions for 143 yards at Oregon. He is adept lining up inside or outside, and can catch it over the middle or deep. He’s demonstrated strong yards-after-catch ability as a physical player. His touchdown-to-catch ratio of 1:5 shows he is a threat from anywhere on the field. In two years on the field he is the Arizona single-game (12-143), season (47-672) and career (75-924) record-holder for tight end receptions, yards and touchdowns (3 vs. Washington, 10 in 2008, 16 total). He had three career 100-yard games.

 

Gronkowsi Career Totals

Year

G-GS

Rec.

Yards

Avg.

TD

Long

2007

12-9

28

252

18.8

6

57

2008

10-9

47

672

14.3

10

43

Total

22-18

75

924

12.3

16

57

 

Previous University of Arizona Early Entrants in the NFL Draft

Michael Bates, junior RB/WR/KR, 1993 - 6th round (Seattle)

Chuck Levy, junior RB/WR/KR, 1994 - 2nd round (Arizona)

Yusuf Scott, junior OG, 1999 - 5th round (Arizona)

Chris Henry, junior RB, 2007 - 2nd round (Tennessee)

Eben Britton, junior OT,  2009 - 2nd round (Jacksonville)

 

Defensive Tackle/H-Back Earl Mitchell, 6-2, 295, Senior - Houston, Texas (North Shore HS)

 

            Mitchell has some Sunday potential on both sides of the ball… Second-team All-Pac-10 honors as a DT in 2009… Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for the game at USC that put UA in the Holiday Bowl… East-West Shrine Game invitation for January 2010… Preseason Lombardi Award watch list… 48 tackles from interior position as a senior, including a team-best 12.5 for losses, with 6.5 sacks… Broke up a pass and forced a fumble… Two sacks against USC to earn the weekly conference nod… Career-high nine tackles at California… Mike Stoops knew he was getting a jumbo athlete in Mitchell, but maybe not that it would pan out the way it did… Played first two years as a tight end/H-back, with 14 receptions for 174 yards and two scores, but switched to defense for the ’08 season… Will end up with 50 games played as a Wildcat, tying Cam Nelson for playing in every game since arriving in the same 2006 freshman class (they did not redshirt)… Mitchell had 12 formation starts on offense and will have 26 on defense…  Solid story as a leader in academic awareness and off-the-field comportment… Western region winner of the National Academic Momentum Award from Baller-Scholar and the National Consortium for Academic and Sports…Team co-captain for a number of reasons…

 

Mitchell Career Totals

Year

G-GS

Rec

Yds

Avg.

TD

Lg

2006

12-7

9

136

15.1

1

37

2007

12-5

5

38

7.6

1

14

 

 

UT

AT

TT

TFL

Other

2008

13-13

16

24

40

5.5-14

1.5 SK, PD

2009

13-13

34

14

48

12.5-46

6.5 SK, FF, PD

Total

50-38

50

38

88

18-60

8 SK, FF, 2 PD

 

 

Cornerback Devin Ross, 5-11, 180, Senior - Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (RCHS)

 

            Honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as a senior… Fourth-best passes-defended total (32) in UA history… Athletic clamp-down cover man… Led team with 81 tackles including three for losses… Broke up 12 passes and intercepted one, a key play at Oregon State off Sean Canfield with just minutes left in UA’s 37-32 victory… Recovered a fumble against UCLA… Season- and career-high 12 tackles in game against the Beavers… Had 11 hits against the Ducks and nine against USC in season finale… Five career interceptions and 154 career tackles in two-year starting career… Played as a true freshman and was a physical presence in 49 Arizona games… Second-team All-Pac-10 as a junior… Returned a pair of kickoffs for 63 yards as a frosh…

 

Ross Career Totals

Year

G-GS

UT

AT

TT

TFL

Other

2006

11-0

7

0

7

0

2-63 KOR

2007

12-0

8

8

16

1-3

1 SK, 1-24 INT, 2 PBU

2008

13-12

36

14

50

0

3-35 INT, 13 PBU, FR, 1-16 KOR

2009

13-13

61

20

81

3-4

1-12 INT, 12 PBU, FR

Total

49-25

102

42

154

4-7

5-71 INT, 32 PD, 2FR, 3-76 KOR

 

 

 

TE/Fullback Chris Gronkowski, Senior, 6-2, 235 - Amherst, N.Y. (North HS/Maryland)

 

            The elder Gronkowski had a solid career after transferring to UA from Maryland following his freshman year… Will try to make it as a tight end or fullback/H-back in the league… Utilitarian role in 2009’s H-back position evolved into a more utilitarian role in 2009, not coincidentally due to the back injury that knocked his All-American tight end brother, Rob, out of action and changed the dynamic… Caught four passes for 20 yards, and had two rushes for a yard… Blocking specialist… But, a year ago a pair of his catches including a 24-yard TD reception in the Las Vegas Bowl helped UA beat Brigham Young, so the threat is there… Honorable mention Pac-10 All-Academic his senior and junior seasons… Led team with 24.8 yards per catch on eight receptions as a junior…

 

RB Nick Booth, Senior, 6-2, 220 - Naperville, Ill. (North HS)

 

            Booth ran a solid 40 time on UA’s pro day to earn some attention… Played in 23 games as a Wildcat after transferring from junior college (College of DuPage), rushing 15 times for 62 yards as a junior, and 36 times for 150 yards and three scores as a senior… Caught 3 passes for 31 yards in his career, plus returned 12 kickoffs for 197 yards (16.4) mostly from wing or up positions…

 

LB Sterling Lewis,  Senior, 5-11, 225 - Copperas Cove, Texas

 

            Arizona’s strongside linebacker, Lewis recorded 38 tackles, two sacks among four tackles for loss, intercepted a pass, broke up another and recovered a fumble as a senior… Shared some duty with nickel back Corey Hall… 10 starts in 2009, five in 2008… Had season-high eight tackles at Iowa and six at Cal in 2009… Swift player who burst on the scene with a career-high 12 tackles against Toledo in his second game… Junior college transfer who joined the program in December 2007… 97 tackles in his two year tour in Tucson…

 

DB Cam Nelson, Senior, 6-1, 202 - Dallas, Texas

 

            Nelson played in 50 games as a Wildcat without benefit of a redshirt year, improving each step of the way… 38 career starts…  Second-team All-Pacific-10 Conference honors as a senior…2009 team co-captain… Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his work in the UCLA game with six tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass defended… Season-high 10 tackles at Iowa, with nine against Stanford… Career high was a pair of 12-hitters against Stanford and USC his junior year… Finished year with 74 tackles, six for losses, three sacks, three forced fumbles, three PBUs and a pass interception (vs. Cal)… Career total of 208 tackles and the one pick, with 12 passes defended… Earned his spurs on special teams as a true freshman backup safety…

 

LB Vuna Tuihalamaka, Senior, 6-2, 230 - Inglewood, Calif.

 

            Honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors to cap his two-year career… Fly-to-the-ball pursuit type… Finished year with 72 tackles, third-most on squad… Had 5.5 tackles for loss… Intercepted a pass against Central Michigan in season opener… broke up two passes at Oregon State and one vs. UCLA… Season- and career-high 12 tackles at Corvallis to help Cats win on the road in ‘09… Also had double-digit hits with 10 against Chippewas… All-America junior college player who joined Arizona for fall camp 2008, playing in 26 games and starting the last 13…

 

Receiver Terrell Turner, Senior, 6-2, 190 - Garland, Texas

 

            Team co-captain in 2009… Top receiver on the club with 48 receptions for 458 yards… Among top receivers in Arizona history (No. 5) with 142 catches and 1,619 yards (No. 11)… Season-high nine receptions and 101 yards in Stanford victory… Had six grabs apiece in opener against Central Michigan and at Washington… Rushed six times for 25 yards and returned a kickoff 49 yards against NAU… Four career 100-yard games… Played in 45 games, with 34 starts… Caught at least one pass in 36 games and in all but two of his last 36 played… Career-high of 10 grabs for 175 yards at Stanford in 2008…

 

OT Mike Diaz, Senior, 6-5, 320 - Montbello, Calif. (Schurr HS/Cerritos CC)

 

            20-game starter at tackle and guard after superior junior college career… Started at left tackle four of first five games and last seven in 2009… 25 games played, with nine starts at right guard and the ’09 duty at LT… Played at Cerritos College in 2007 and 2008 earning all-conference nods both years…

 

LB Xavier Kelley, Graduate, 5-11, 215 - Denton, Texas

 

            Kelley posted 78 tackles in 2009, best among UA linebackers… Career total of 149 hits as four-year letterman… Started 21 games in 49 played…. Had 51 hits as junior when he took over starting role outside… Career-high 15 tackles against BYU in 2008 Las Vegas B owl…

 

DB Corey Hall, Graduate, 5-10, 200 - DeSoto, Texas

 

            Twenty-one game starter, primarily at nickel back position he helped define in final two years…. Had 38 tackles his senior year, plus, four for losses and two sacks… Smart student who graduated in December ’09, honorable mention Academic-All-Pac-10 his senior year, second-team honors his junior year… Career total of 113 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defended…

 

 

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