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Combing the Combine: Sunday's notes

INDIANAPOLIS – Sunday marked the final day of the NFL Scouting Combine for the media and it ended with defensive backs and linebackers standing up at the podium answering questions.

One defensive back the Patriots appear to be interested in is Fresno State's Richard Marshall (5'11, 189 pounds). Marshall's agent, Steve Feldman, said on Saturday the Patriots are one of the teams that are intrigued with Marshall and the former Bulldog feels like he would be a good fit in New England.

"Coach Belichick and Coach (Pat) Hill have a similar demeanor and coaching style," Marshall said. "I think the Patriots would be a good fit for me but like I tell everybody, whichever team picks me up I will be ready to go and make an impact as soon as possible."

Marshall led the Bulldogs last season with 78 tackles – something that's rare to see from a cornerback. He also returned three interceptions for touchdowns during his college career. Marshall believes his combination of coverage skills and toughness against the run makes him one of the most complete corners in this year's draft.

"I make plays when it's time to make plays," he said. "When the person had the ball and was past our linebackers and d-line, our secondary was there to make the plays. I'm a physical player and I believe I can play with anybody and do it all."

Last season the Patriots drafted two players from Fresno State: guard Logan Mankins and safety James Sanders. Sanders is a player Marshall has talked to about what to expect at the Combine.

"I talked to James Sanders all season long," Marshall said. "He left as a junior last year and I came out as a junior, so I just talked to him about what the experience was like and what I could look forward to."

Marshall was given a third round grade when he decided to leave school after his junior year but he's been climbing up draft boards of late and he believes that trend will continue after he runs his 40-yard dash.

When asked if he could be drafted in the first round, the confident Marshall replied, "Yeah, but definitely after Tuesday I'll rise with my running."

It's still way too early to tell who the Patriots may select in April but the fact that the team needs help at defensive back and that Marshall played for Fresno State makes him a definite possibility for New England on draft day.

More interesting tidbits from the defensive backs on Sunday:

  • Miami defensive back Devin Hester (5'10, 190 pounds) said the Patriots, Bengals and Browns are the teams that have shown the most interest in him so far. Hester's goal at the combine is to run a 4.28 40-yard dash.
  • Ohio State cornerback Nate Salley (6'1, 216 pounds) had an interesting interview with the Dolphins because Miami used a lot of the same terminology the Buckeyes used.
  • Considered the top cornerback in the draft by most people, Virginia Tech's Jimmy Williams (6'2, 213 pounds) told reporters he was by far the best defensive back in this year's draft. "I love hitting," Williams said. "I put like six guys out this year, so I was happy with that."
  • Miami cornerback Kelly Jennings (5'11, 178 pounds) said he talked with the Patriots at The Senior Bowl.
  • Hard-hitting safety Dwayne Slay (6'3, 217 pounds) from Texas Tech – who has been compared to Rodney Harrison because of the way he plays – thinks that comparison is justified. "I think we're similar kind of players because we're both always going after the ball," Slay said. "I take pride in controlling the middle of the field. I want people to know if they come across the middle, there's someone waiting for them."
  • Alabama's Charlie Peprah(5'10, 192 pounds) talked with the Patriots at The East-West Shrine Game and said that a lot of teams are comparing him to Eugene Wilson because of the way they can move him around. Peprah was excited about the possibility of joining the Patriots. "I think I would fit in good with the Patriots," he said. "The way they scheme, they put their players in position to succeed and do anything to win, so I think I would be a good fit there. Peprah believes his greatest strength is his passion for the game. "I love being part of a team," he said. "You probably won't believe me but I would play even if money wasn't involved. I just love to play the game."
  • Texas safety Michael Huff (6'0, 204 pounds) said Longhorns quarterback Vince Young would try to make him look bad in practice sometimes but there wasn't much he could do about it. "If we hit Vince, we probably wouldn't play that Saturday, so I just stayed away," Huff said.

NotesOhio State defensive lineman Mike Kudla tied the combine record when he did 45 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Kudla shares the record with Isaac Sopoaga who is now a defensive tackle with the 49ers. The former Buckeye said his maximum bench press is 610 pounds and that he and Mike Vrabel have become close friends. "Mike is a good friend of mine," Kudla said. "He's a hard-working guy. He always comes back and tells you something or shows you something in the film room." When asked if Vrabel was his role model, Kudla laughed and said, "I don't know. I always mess around with Mike. If he ever heard that I called him my role model, that would be the end of it."…Another former Buckeye, linebacker Bobby Carpenter, also praised Vrabel for coming back to Ohio State and mentioned him as someone he looks up to. "Mike Vrabel is a player that comes back a lot that I talk to," Carpenter said. "So I try to model myself after him." Carpenter said he can play either inside or outside in the 3-4 defense but he feels he's at his best rushing the passer off the edge…NFL teams are expected to be told on Monday what the exact 2006 salary cap will be. Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson ran a blistering 4.32 40-yard dash on Sunday. Jackson's performance at the Combine has most likely cemented his place in the first round of the draft. Here is the top five 40-times from the groups that ran on Sunday:

Running Backs (Group 4)1. Jerious Norwood, Mississippi State – 4.40
2. Leon Washington, Florida State – 4.42
3. Wendell Mathis, Fresno State – 4.51
4. Derrick Ross, Tarleton State – 4.52
5. Cory Ross, Nebraska – 4.53

Quarterbacks (Group 5)1. Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo – 4.59
2. Ingle Martin, Furman – 4.68
3. Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State – 4.75
4. Brett Basanez, Northwestern – 4.75
5. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt – 4.77

Wide Receivers (Group 5)1. Chad Jackson, Florida – 4.32
2. Devin Aromashoda, Auburn – 4.35
3. Derek Hagan, Arizona State – 4.42
4. Skyler Green, LSU – 4.44
5. Will Blackmon, Boston College – 4.46

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