All draft signs go for Terps' Wilson

Cornerback viewed as 2nd-round pick

April 23, 2007|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

COLLGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK --Domonique Foxworth stood in an end zone of the practice field at the University of Maryland one afternoon last month, chatting with old friends and keeping a watchful eye on one of his proteges, Josh Wilson, as Wilson and other Terrapins seniors worked out for some NFL assistant coaches.

Two years ago, Foxworth was in the same place as Wilson - confident he was going to be drafted, but unsure of when or where he would wind up.

"It's different for everybody," said Foxworth, who was a third-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos and has started 12 games at cornerback in his first two seasons. "It's kind of hard to feel relaxed, but it's different than for someone who's on the bubble."

Wilson, a 5-foot-9, 189-pound cornerback, is clearly not on the bubble. According to scouts and others familiar with the selection process, Wilson will likely be a second-round pick when the NFL draft is held Saturday and Sunday in New York.

"Just because of what I bring to the table, I compare closely to those guys who may be in that first [-round] line," Wilson said earlier this month. "Maybe they play just corner or one side of corner. I've played five out of six positions in the secondary as well as special teams.

"I think I have a lot more upside than a lot of these guys."

After starting during his last 2 1/2 seasons with the Terps and being named All-Atlantic Coast Conference and an honorable mention All-American as a senior, Wilson improved his draft status in February at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. He impressed the scouts by running the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and by bench-pressing 225 pounds 20 times.

Among defensive backs at the combine, Wilson's bench press ranked second only to that of Chris Wilson of Arkansas, and his 40 time was tied for third behind those of Chris Wilson and Tennessee's Jonathan Wade. Of the three, only Chris Wilson is expected to be a first-round pick.

Josh Wilson, who received his degree in marketing in December and won the Jim Tatum Award as the ACC's top student-athlete in football, said he answered 29 questions correctly and missed three of the 50 asked on the Wonderlic test, which NFL teams use to gauge players' intelligence.

"I think it's all pieces of the puzzle," said Kevin Coyle, defensive backs coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. "I think he did a really good job [at the combine]. Everyone knows that he's got great speed. That's a definite prerequisite to play cornerback in the NFL. He's a rare guy [for a cornerback] in terms of that kind of speed."

What also will help Wilson is the legacy of Maryland defensive backs who have gone to the NFL in the past 10 years. From veterans such as Chad Scott and Lewis Sanders to Foxworth, Madieu Williams and Curome Cox more recently, Maryland is starting to get a rep as DB-U.

`Well-schooled'

Scott, now with the New England Patriots, was a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997 and Williams was the Bengals' second-round pick in 2004, but Sanders, who signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons this year, was a fourth-round choice of the Cleveland Browns in 2000 and Cox, who could start at safety with the Broncos next season, went undrafted in 2005 before winding up in Denver.

Coyle, a former Maryland assistant (1994-1996) under Mark Duffner, agrees that Wilson will benefit from what his predecessors in College Park have done in the NFL.

"When you watch the Maryland DBs on tape, they're a well-schooled group of players," said Coyle, who coaches Williams in Cincinnati. "I think that does get people interested and maybe give that second look to those kind of guys knowing the kind of history."

If his speed is Wilson's biggest asset, his hands and overall size might be the biggest question marks.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen recalled former defensive coordinator Gary Blackney questioning Wilson's ability to hold on to the ball when they were recruiting him out of DeMatha High School. Coyle and Cleveland assistant Mel Tucker, who also came to Maryland's Pro Day, quietly discussed it on the field while assessing Wilson.

Wilson has heard the same rap for a long time.

"The biggest thing isn't that people have actually seen that I can't catch or anything. The thing they're basically saying is that my hands are suspect because of my low ratio of interceptions to breakups," said Wilson, who had two picks to 25 pass breakups while at Maryland.

Ready with answers

Wilson tries to be proactive when it comes to the issue.

"Every time I go into a meeting, the first thing they ask me about are my interceptions," said Wilson, who has visited the Browns, New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams and talked with representatives of other teams. "Most of the time, I answer before they ask it."

Said Friedgen: "I think the biggest thing he's going to have to overcome is his size. His speed, he's probably faster than the other kids [who played defensive back at Maryland]. He's very aggressive."

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