Wildcat coaching staff has three players taken in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft

May 14, 2004

By Mitchell Kapler

Three players taken in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft were tutored by coaches currently on the Arizona football staff. Quarterback Philip Rivers was taken by the New York Giants with the fourth pick of the first round, and was subsequently traded to the San Diego Chargers for the first overall pick, Eli Manning. Mark Stoops coached Sean Taylor who was the fifth pick off the board. Taylor was picked up by the Washington Redskins who look for him to be making a lot of plays on Sundays this fall. The fourteenth pick of the first round belonged to the Chicago Bears who picked up defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Harris was an integral part of Oklahoma's dominating defenses of the last three years. The Wildcat staff plans on taking the team to the next level this upcoming season. The performances of these three players taken in this years draft can shed some insight on what is in store for the future of Arizona football.

Coach Canales taught Rivers to play like a winner

Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers

Wildcats offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Canales tutored Philip Rivers during his sophomore and junior seasons at North Carolina State. Coach Canales was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach while Rivers broke numerous NCAA and ACC records. During Rivers first season (2001) with Coach Canales his completion percentage improved by 12 percentage points (53.7%-65.2%) and his interception total dropped by 3 (10-7). That year Rivers led the Wolfpack to the Tangerine Bowl. Rivers improved in his junior season throwing for over 3,000 yards while leading his team to a Gator Bowl win (28-6) over Notre Dame and had an 11-3 record on the year. The new Charger plans on battling the current starter and one time Heisman candidate Drew Brees for the starting spot. Coach Canales is looking forward to leading an efficient quarterback assault in 2004 and beyond.

Sean Taylor makes a play

Sean Taylor Washington Redskins

Coach Mark Stoops tutored safety Sean Taylor for three years while at Miami. Taylor made his debut as a freshman coming in on nickel and dime packages and proved early that he would be an active player. That year (2001) Miami won the national championship beating fourth ranked Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl. The following season Taylor and the Miami secondary continued where they left off although they lost three starters (All-Pro Safety and former 1st round pick Edward Reed (Ravens), former 1st round pick Cornerback Mike Rumph (49ers) and former 1st round pick Cornerback Phillip Buchanon (Raiders). That season (2002) Taylor was third on team in tackles (85), had four tackles for a loss, fifteen pass break ups and four interceptions. The Hurricanes finished 12-1 that season losing (31-24) in a nail biter to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Taylor's progress continued in 2003 when he finished third in team tackles again (77), had seven tackles for a loss, broke up thirteen passes and had a jaw-dropping ten interceptions (184 yards). The Miami Secondary led the Hurricanes to a victory (16-14) in a defensive battle against Florida State in the 2004 Orange Bowl. Look for Sean Taylor to play a key role with the Redskins 2004 defense. You also want to keep an eye on Coach Mark Stoops, who plans on bringing the attitude and discipline of Miami's secondary to the Arizona Wildcat defense in 2004.

Coach Stoops plans on bringing intensity to the Wildcat defense

Tommie Harris Chicago Bears

Tommie Harris had a glorious career at Oklahoma under the defensive unit coached by Mike Stoops. Harris busted out on the scene as a freshman (2001) leading the team in tackles for a loss with 17, number eight on the schools all-time list. The Sooners finished up that year at 11-2 beating Arkansas 10-3 in the Cotton bowl and ended the season ranked number 6 in the AP poll in 2001. In Harris' sophomore year (2002) he played exceptionally well while being a candidate for the Lombardi Trophy (Best Collegiate Interior Lineman). Harris recorded 25 tackles, six tackles for a loss and had two sacks. The Sooner defense led the team to a 12-2 record, beating Colorado (29-7) in the Big 12 Championship and defeating Washington State in the Rose Bowl 34-14. Last season Harris and the Sooner defense went 12-2 for the second year in a row, falling short of a national title in a tough loss to the LSU Tigers (14-21). The team finished number three in the final AP rankings and Harris had 37 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and five sacks on his way to winning the Lombardi trophy.

In addition to these three first round selections, another three players were drafted who were coached by the Stoops brothers. Cornerback Alfonso Marshall, a Miami starter for the last two years, was taken in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears. All-American and Butkus award winner linebacker Teddy Lehman was taken in the second round (37th pick overall) by the Detroit Lions. and Jets picked All-American and Thorpe award winner cornerback Derrick Strait in the third round (76th) of the draft. Overall the Wildcat coaching staff mentored six players that were taken in the 2004 NFL draft. The exceptional accomplishments of these players are an indicator of what Arizona football will be about in 2004 and beyond.

Teddy Lehman at a Detroit press conference

Alfonso Marshall hopes to find a spot in Chicago

Derrick Strait makes one of his many pass break ups at OU, he hopes to do more of the same in New York

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