Corey Lynch, Appalachian State
In his career with the Mountaineers, Lynch was a three-time Division I-AA First-Team All-American and a four-time all-conference performer, and was a leader on defense since entering the starting lineup after the second game of his freshman year. The 6-foot, 205-pound safety almost added more hardware to his trophy case after a stellar senior year, where he recorded 111 tackles (71 solo), six interceptions and forcing two fumbles on his way to being named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the nation's top defensive player. He also blocked three kicks in 2007, most notably one against Michigan that sealed an Appalachian State victory in the season opener. As one of the biggest playmakers in school history, Lynch left ASU as the Southern Conference all-time record holder in interceptions with 24 career picks, and was second in the Mountaineer's record books with a total of six blocked kicks.
Marino says: "Has excellent ball skills and instincts for the game. Very Bright. Very physical tackler who will fill the lane. Has good playing range and anticipation. Limited only by his lack of top end speed, but runs well in pads. Gets into passing lanes and makes plays on the ball. The kind of individual you want on your football club."
Thomas DeCoud, Cal
Cal safety Thomas DeCoud makes a tackle
Marino says: "Showed a lot of playing range and impressive ball skills. Will fill the alley when called upon (not a big hitter), but was more effective in coverage. Has a chance to play out on a wing in nickel. Solid backup with a chance to factor in time. Round 4-5 consideration."
Ryan Mundy, West Virginia
Mundy actually spent most of his collegiate career playing for the Michigan Wolverines, but took advantage of an NCAA rule and played for the Mountaineers after enrolling at WVU to get his masters degree in Sports Administration. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Mundy played in Ann Arbor for four years (one red-shirt season) and was a solid contributor at free safety, starting 18 out of 35 games and recording 86 tackles and three interceptions. In one season at West Virginia where he stepped in as a starter, Mundy had 62 tackles, picked off three passes, and forced two fumbles. Although he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, he put up some impressive numbers at West Virginia's Pro Day, running the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, doing 21 reps on the bench press and recording a 36-inch vertical leap. A very serious student, Mundy was selected to the National Football Foundation's Hampshire Honor Society for his academic achievements as a scholar-athlete.
Marino says: "Is a very mature, smart, and instinctive player. Makes all the back end calls and adjustments. Reads the run quickly, comes up under control, and makes plays (not a head hunter, but more than an adequate tackler). Marginal man-cover skills. If medically sound, has a chance to factor. Round 6-7 potential."
Tony Hills, Texas
Hills was originally a recruited as a tight end prospect coming out of high school, but he suffered a serious knee injury during his senior season and was granted a medical hardship in 2003 at Texas. After a strenuous rehabilitation program, Hills returned a year later and shifted positions, moving to left tackle as a red-shirt freshman where he saw action in seven games. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Hills made a name for himself during the 2006 season, when he stepped into the starting line up and was recognized as an All-Big 12 Conference honorable mention, a member of ESPN's All-Mayday Team as one of college football's "toughest of the tough", and as one of the Longhorn's most improved players. In his final season at Texas, he started 11 games before breaking a bone in his left leg, but still showed enough dominance on the line to be named an All-Big 12 first-team selection, as well as being a 2007 Walter Camp first-team All-American. In his career, Hills allowed just four sacks on 743 pass plays.
Marino says: "Has overcome a great deal physically over the last five years, and broke his ankle vs. Texas Tech this past season. Has left tackle feet, but also showed a tendency to overset and had a difficult time redirecting in space. A team is going to have to be patient with this player, but he has athletic ability, long arms, and the ability to bend his knees. Could well in time be a high rewards second day surprise. Round 5-7 consideration."
Barry Richardson, Clemson
Clemson tackle Barry Richardson
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Marino says: "Athletic big man who flashed excellent body control. Nimble and light on his feet with good blocking range. On pass protection, has the athletic ability to counter and mirror defensive movement. Has been a regular since his freshman season, but I felt his mechanics were not particularly advanced. Round 4-5 based on his natural gifts."
Brandon Keith, Northern Iowa
Keith enrolled at Oklahoma University out of high school in 2003, but left the school before the season even started. He played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College in 2004, and played well enough to return to the Sooners the following year, but he quit the team again after he wasn't seeing any playing time. The 6-foot-5, 343-pound Keith transferred to Northern Iowa in 2006 and started two games at right tackle, but it wasn't until last year that he got to display his on-field talents. As a senior, Keith started 11-of-13 games at right tackle and received All-Gateway Conference first-team and Associated Press third-team All-American honors. Keith put his athletic ability on display for NFL scouts in the off-season, putting up 31 reps on the bench press at the Scouting Combine, and recording a time of 4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash and a 32-inch vertical leap at Northern Iowa's pro day.
Marino says: "Outstanding physical skills and a pro body (long arms and thick all over), but is just not very tough nor was he physical in his play. Very talented athlete with every conceivable physical gift, but should have been far more dominant in his overall play. Loved his feet, can pull, lead, and adjust on the move, just wasn't a consistent finisher. Needs to drop some body weight and improve stamina. Round 4-5 consideration."
Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
KSU receiver Jordy Nelson
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Marino says: "Top nickel and inside receiving prospect. Good zone awareness and has ability to catch on and off his person. Is sneaky fast, but lacks the juice to run away from the top defenders in the NFL. Can make the difficult catch and showed good sideline awareness. Is going to surprise a lot of people at the pro level. Round 3-4 selection."
Steve Johnson, Kentucky
Out of high school, Johnson played two years at Chabot College in California before coming to Kentucky in 2006. He had a tough first year with the Wildcats because the coaching staff felt he had a poor work ethic, and he caught just 12 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. After rededicating himself in the off-season, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Johnson got to start 10-of-13 games as a senior and had a banner year in 2007, recording 60 catches for 1,041 yards and 13 touchdowns, one shy of the school single-season record. He earned All-Southeastern Conference first-team honors as a senior and was also named the team's most improved player by the Kentucky coaching staff.
Marino says: "Late bloomer. Much improved hands, confidence and playing toughness. Wouldn't work inside the numbers in the past, and although he isn't a sure thing in this area, has improved a good deal. Don't think he is a natural catcher, but my gut tells me we haven't seen the best from this player yet. His size and speed are a hard combination to beat.Has strong early second-day consideration"
Marcus Monk, Arkansas
A knee injury severely limited Monk's production during the 2007 season, but he had enough big plays earlier in his career to give him resume that is worthy of the NFL. As a freshman in 2004, Monk started six games and set a school freshman-record with 37 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns, while also playing for the basketball team later that year. He started every game the following year as a sophomore, recording 35 catches for 476 yards and scored seven touchdowns. After putting serious thought into it, the 6-foot-4, 222-pound Monk decided not to declare for the draft after a successful junior season, where he led the team with 50 catches for 962 yards and set a Razorbacks record with 11 receiving touchdowns. Although he only had 16 catches as a senior, three of them were for touchdowns, and he left Arkansas as the school record holder in touchdowns with 27 in his career. Monk also had at least one reception in 42-of-43 games played.
Marino says: "Big slot receiver who gives a club a huge mismatch advantage, particularly in the red zone or on crossing routes. Needs a pre-release to consistently get into his routes. Can reach and extend away form the body. Wasn't sudden in and out of a break and lack the top speed to separate vertically, but in the right offensive system could contribute significantly in the under zones."
Andrew Pluta can be reached at email@example.com