MAY 29, 2009 -- Brooks Foster turns up field with the ball during an organized team activity training session at Rams Park in Earth City. (David Carson/P-D)

By Bill Coats

Far better known for producing top-shelf basketball players than NFL-caliber wide receivers, the University of North Carolina nonetheless provided an impressive bounty of pass-catchers for this year's draft.

Hakeem Nicks went to the New York Giants in the first round (No. 29 overall), Brandon Tate was selected by New England in the third (No. 83), and Brooks Foster was the Rams' fifth-round pick (No. 160).

That threesome piled up career totals of 324 receptions, 5,004 and 35 touchdowns for the Tar Heels. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Foster, who contributed 97 catches for 1,237 yards and six TDs, described himself as the trio's de facto leader. "A lot of the players looked up to me," he said. "We helped each other out."

Getting the ball thrown his way could be a challenge at times, he acknowledged. "It was tough, but I never worried about getting lost in the shuffle," he said. "We three receivers, we knew how good we were. We had a good time competing, and we just got better off each other."

With veterans Torry Holt, Drew Bennett, Dane Looker and Dante Hall no longer with the club, the Rams are banking on a gaggle of young wideouts. Second-year pros Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton figure to be the starters, with three-year vet Laurent Robinson in the No. 3 spot.

The rest of the jobs the Rams probably will keep six wide receivers are up for grabs. Foster is the only wideout the team drafted this year.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo likes Foster's potential. "We need a little bit of time with him, but he's been good," Spagnuolo said.


Although both are expected to land starting jobs, the team's top two draft choices, tackle Jason Smith and linebacker James Laurinaitis, remain with the second units for now.

"That's probably a philosophy thing," Spagnuolo said. "I guess what I believe in is, you earn anything that you should get. These guys haven't even played in a game yet. We have a lot to find out. We still haven't put the pads on."


Defensive tackle Kirston Pittman (heel) remains sidelined. Wideouts Burton (hamstring) and Derek Stanley (knee) were limited. ... Two more practices are scheduled for today, with minicamp wrapping up with a single workout Saturday morning.