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More and more, BCS schools suit NFL
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
On the last weekend of April, the Rams did something they hadn't done in 10 years: Each player they drafted came from one of the 65 colleges that are members of the six conferences, plus Notre Dame, that make up the Bowl Championship Series lineup.
Here's how the Rams' selections broke down, by conference:
Big Ten (3): defensive end Victor Adeyanju of Indiana, linebacker Tim McGarigle of Northwestern and guard Mark Setterstrom of Minnesota.
Atlantic Coast (2): cornerback Tye Hill of Clemson and wide receiver Marques Hagans of Virginia.
Big 12 (2): tight end Joe Klopfenstein of Colorado and guard Tony Palmer of Missouri.
Pacific 10 (2): linebacker Jon Alston of Stanford and tight end Dominique Byrd of Southern California.
Southeastern (1): defensive tackle Claude Wroten of Louisiana State.
The only BCS conference the team skipped was the Big East.
The Rams' Scott Linehan, who participated in his first draft as a head coach, played down the significance of the team's reliance on picks from the so-called "power conferences."
"It just basically fell that way this year," Linehan said. "There have been some great players that have come from smaller colleges."
Granted, that list is long. It includes such Pro Football Hall of Famers as Walter Payton (Jackson State), Terry Bradshaw (Louisiana Tech), Jackie Smith (Northwestern Louisiana), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), Andy Robustelli (Arnold College), Larry Little (Bethune-Cookman), Sid Luckman (Columbia), Rayfield Wright (Fort Valley State), Clyde "Bulldog" Turner (Hardin-Simmons), Roosevelt Brown (Morgan State) and "Mean" Joe Greene (North Texas State), plus future Hall of Famers such as Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State).
But with college football's growing emphasis on the BCS, and the intention of establishing a clear-cut national champion each year, is the balance tilting even more toward the products of the top conferences?
Evidence exists to suggest that's the case: This year, 80 percent of the players drafted (204 of 255) came from schools in BCS conferences. Five years ago, that number was 72.3 percent (175 of 242 in the 2001 draft).
"Success begets success," longtime Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I think if (NFL scouts) see kids that know how to play and know how to win, they're probably leaning toward drafting them as opposed maybe to some other kids who might be just as good athletes but haven't had the success that the teams and players in the BCS have had."
Some 621 NCAA schools field football teams: 117 in Division I-A, 118 in Division I-AA, 155 in Division II and 231 in Division III.
The 204 BCS players taken this year represented a total of 57 schools. The only BCS schools without a draftee were Cincinnati, Connecticut, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Rutgers, South Florida and Texas Tech.
A total of 51 selections - 20 percent of all the players drafted - came from the eight teams that played in the four BCS bowl games: Southern California , Ohio State , Florida State , Georgia , Penn State (6), Texas (6), Notre Dame (3) and West Virginia (1).
That's just common sense, according to veteran Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose Seminoles dropped a 26-23, three-overtime contest to Paterno's Nittany Lions in the Orange Bowl. "The schools that play in the BCS games must have had more excellent players," Bowden said, "or they wouldn't have gotten there."
Of the 51 non-BCS draft picks, only 16 came from NCAA Division I-AA schools and a mere five from Division II schools; no Division III players were taken.
In the first round, 31 of the 32 players selected came from BCS schools: The exception was Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams, taken by the Carolina Panthers in the 27th spot. The first non-Division I-A player picked was safety Danieal Manning of Division II Abilene-Christian; he went to Chicago in the second round, No. 42 overall.
Since the start of the millennium and preceding the '06 draft, the Kansas City Chiefs had drafted the lowest percentage - 65.2 percent (30 of 46 draftees) - of players from schools that compose the current BCS conferences. The New Orleans Saints were at the other end, having selected 88.6 percent (39 of 44) of their players from BCS schools.
The Rams' ratio of BCS draftees during that period was 66.0 percent (35 of 53). Of those 53 players, 22 remain with the team - 14 from BCS schools and eight from non-BCS schools.
In 2001, the Rams drafted eight players from BCS programs - including first-round picks Adam Archuleta of Arizona State, Damione Lewis of Miami (Fla.) and Ryan Pickett of Ohio State - and just one from a non-BCS outfit. Of that group, only cornerback Jerametrius Butler of Kansas State is still with the team.
Before this year, the last time the Rams had completed a draft without a selectee from the current BCS teams was in 1996, following the team's first season in St. Louis after moving from Los Angeles.
In 2005 - Mike Martz's final year as head coach - five of the Rams' 11 draft picks were from lesser leagues, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick of Harvard and defensive back Ron Bartell of Howard, both Division I-AA outfits.
The BCS schools have an edge in producing future pros for several reasons: They attract the most talented high school players; their players' development is enhanced by their competition with other top-level players; their programs are more sophisticated; and they get more exposure, through television and other media.
Players from the best conferences often have an edge, Rams general manager Charley Armey explained, because they've been coached better. "We're looking for guys that have the least obstacles to overcome," he said. "The kids from the smaller schools aren't as well-coached because (those schools) just don't have the resources."
Bill Kuharich, the Chiefs' vice president of player personnel, agreed, telling the New Orleans Times-Picayune that products of BCS systems generally are "going to come in more refined. They've probably ... benefited from better nutrition, better equipment and better weight training. Especially when you go outside of I-A, there's more development involved."
Players from non-BCS conferences and smaller schools must be scrutinzed more carefully. "He has to dominate his competition on that level in order for us to even have him on the draft board," Armey said.
"If you . . . see the traits you're looking for - the size, the athleticism, the feet and, depending on the position, whether he can catch the ball or not, and he absolutely dominates at that particular level of competition - then you're probably going to be OK," Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese said. "But if he doesn't, then you have to worry a little bit.
"That's why some guys stick with the big schools. They're a lot safer, from that standpoint."
The number of players from BCS and non-BCS schools selected in the 2006 NFL draft, round by round:
Rd. 1... 311... Rd. 2... 248
Rd. 3... 285... Rd. 4... 288
Rd. 5... 297... Rd. 6... 2910
Rd. 7... 3512
Totals BCS: 204; Non-BCS: 51
Re: More and more, BCS schools suit NFL
And don't forget Phill Simms (Moorehead State) Neil Lomax (Portland) and Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa)