Free-Agent Back Raw But Productive

An undrafted rookie that the Vikings have agreed to terms with showed impressive production despite a lack of experience playing football and playing running back. His progression will be interesting to watch during camps.

The Vikings worked the Carolina region during the draft, taking South Carolina's Sidney Rice, East Carolina's Aundrae Allison and Coastal Carolina's Tyler Thigpen, but in the undrafted free-agent market they tapped into Southern Illinois. The Vikings agreed to terms with a pair of undrafted rookies from the Saluki school, running back Arkee Whitlock and tight end Braden Jones.

Whitlock comes from the school that produced New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, and Whitlock had a productive career himself despite sharing time with Jacobs during his sophomore season. The Vikings may have picked up on his trail while scouting Coffeyville Community College, where Allison attended before moving on to East Carolina.

Whitlock was late to arrive on the football scene. He didn't play until his junior year in high school, when he played mostly middle linebacker. In his first year at Coffeyville, he didn't play football, then earned conference honorable mention during his only year on the team after rushing for 1,383 yards and 17 touchdowns with a 6.1-yard average.

Upon transferring to Southern Illinois in his sophomore season of eligibility, he shared the load with Jacobs and former University of Minnesota transfer Terry Jackson. Despite the timeshare, Whitlock still managed 959 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 6.2-yard average. He made second-team all-conference that year.

In 2005, he upgraded to first-team all-Gateway Conference, rushing for 1,454 yards and 14 touchdowns with a 5.4-yard average, and he began returning the ball more, bringing back 19 kickoffs for a 24.2-yard average.

His senior season brought more of the same, only better yet. He rushed for 1,828 yards and a whopping 25 touchdowns with a 5.8-yard average. He also averaged 23.1 yards on 19 kickoff returns. It all added up to 2,330 all-purpose yards and consensus All-American and all-conference honors.

All total at Southern Illinois, Whitlock had 4,241 yards and 51 touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 23.7 yards per kickoff return. compares him to Detroit's third-round draft choice from last year, Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun, and former Arizona Cardinals running back Stump Mitchell. says Whitlock is a "quick cutback runner who displays some versatility in his game. Patient, waits for blocks to develop and makes defenders miss. Plays faster than his timed speed and shows a burst through the hole. Solid hands out of the backfield. Gives effort as a blocker. Productive kick returner in the past."

The downside is that he didn't catch many passes out of the backfield and doesn't possess great speed. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at his campus workout. And at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, he likely doesn't have much room to add bulk.

Despite the lack of speed and possible top-end potential, there is no denying Whitlock's past production, making him a low-risk free-agent signing.

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