May 25, 2009

Carroll searches for first-round picks

With the May evaluation period wrapping up, USC coaches have been looking up and down California for the best possible players to don cardinal and gold in the future.

And while California is flush with talent, the Trojans aren't afraid to go out of state looking for a very specific kind of player - future first-round draft picks.

USC head coach Pete Carroll has long made it a point to search the nation for players he thinks could get selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That means Carroll thought Manti Te'o could be a first-round pick; it also means Carroll has the same expectations for Frankie Telfort and Jarvis Jones.

With that in mind, here's a look at the former out-of-state recruits on the Trojan roster who look like they're on the path to the first round.

Taylor Mays

Not really going out on a limb here by predicting Mays, a Seattle native, will be on one team's wish list in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. A super athlete with a NFL pedigree, Mays will have a big chance this season to shine on a defense without a lot of marquee names (yet). He'll have an expanded role and be in position to make even more plays. He's already a big hitter, but this is the year that Mays continues to take big steps as a football player. His stock will only soar once scouts get a chance to work him out, and he's a legitimate threat to be the top pick overall in 2009. He'd have to have a pretty big meltdown to fall out of the first round.

Everson Griffen

Another super athlete, Griffen's time at USC since coming from the Phoenix area could be defined by one word - potential. After seeing Griffen dominate throughout the spring, this could be the year where that potential gets realized. Griffen's a devastating pass rusher with a sincere desire to be a leader among Jethro Franklin's defensive line. Griffen could join Mays in the first round of the 2009 Draft if he draws upon half of the potential he's shown.

Kristofer O'Dowd

Another Arizona product, O'Dowd has been a constant on the USC offensive line pretty much since he arrived. Projecting a center for the first round isn't an easy task, but if the right team is picking, O'Dowd has a great chance of hearing his name called. In addition to being a very tough football player, O'Dowd plays with great instincts and smarts.

Damian Williams

Williams has become one of the most complete receivers of the Pete Carroll era in just two years since transferring from his home-state school, Arkansas. He was very productive last season, and without Patrick Turner around, Williams will become an even bigger part of the offense this season. Williams is on track to graduate on time and could also be a candidate to leave after this season. If he builds on his Rose Bowl performance, he could be one of the first receivers selected next year.

On the fringe

Maybe the best tackle in the Pac-10, Charles Brown's got everything you could want in offensive lineman, but consistent play could be an issue. Ronald Johnson has the kind of speed NFL teams love, but he's not very big. He also needs to continue becoming more than just a deep threat. Michael Morgan might be one of the fastest linebackers around, and NFL teams value that on the outside, but he's still not a sold enough of a tackler for a team to spend a first-round pick.

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