Wiedmer: Draft could help UTC as much as Coleman

Wiedmer: Draft could help UTC as much as Coleman

April 26th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, right, and Tennessee Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman watch drills at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Unless Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson is the most untrustworthy soul this side of Bobby Petrino, the Colts will follow through with their pledge to make former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck the No. 1 overall pick in tonight's NFL draft.

And with apologies to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor, that's probably as it should be.

Or as ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said a couple of weeks of weeks ago, "Luck appears to be a lot like Peyton [Manning]. Very cerebral. Very mature. I've never been around a guy like Luck, who has such an aptitude for the game, for the offensive system he runs, then applies it so well on game day. He's got a chance to be a really special player in this league."

The Colts obviously think so. They couldn't even wait until after the draft to remove Manning's giant banner from the side of Lucas Oil Stadium, despite many crediting Peyton with helping secure the funding necessary to build the stunning facility that opened it 2008.

So even after adding "Thank you, Peyton" to the banner after the organization released the four-time league MVP on March 7, the Colts took it down on Wednesday. Perhaps we should now spell "cold" c-o-l-t.

Not that Gruden thinks RG3 -- as Griffin is often called -- is far behind Luck.

"I think it's like when we were approaching the Heisman vote and people were saying it's Luck-RG3, or it's RG3-Luck," said Gruden. "I think they're both really good. I think they've both got big careers in front of them."

But just because we think we know the Colts are going to take Luck with the first pick followed by the Washington Redskins drafting RG3 with the second overall selection doesn't mean the rest of the draft isn't important.

Or aren't you anxious to see if five members of Alabama's national champs can go in the first round? And if that happens, does Crimson Tide boss Nick Saban become football's answer to Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari?

Yet there's another side to this draft that pertains less to the players chosen than to the colleges from which they come.

Because every time a Bama product -- or LSU, Southern Cal, Oklahoma State, etc. -- is chosen, that program's ability to sell a future recruit on that university goes up.

Even the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Football Championship Subdivision program, assuming former Mocs quarterback B.J. Coleman is drafted at some point this weekend.

"Oh, we definitely let recruits know about Buster [Skrine] and B.J.," said UTC coach Russ Huesman on Wednesday. "You can point to those guys and say, 'You can come here and have an opportunity to play at the next level.'"

That's the obvious advantage of a non-BCS school such as UTC being able to point to NFL draft picks in successive years -- assuming Coleman's drafted -- just as Skrine was chosen in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by Cleveland.

But there's also a second advantage that comes with hosting pro days, which can bring as many as 20 NFL talent scouts to the Mocs' campus to evaluate Huesman's players.

"Hopefully, that motivates our players to get better," he said. "Sometimes a scout can say something to motivate a kid that they don't hear when we tell them."

Five-time NFL Pro Bowler Darren Sharper was one of those kids when he played for William & Mary when Huesman was an assistant there.

"Darren had a ton of talent," said Huesman. "But he needed a little push. When we had a pro scout on campus one day, I asked him if could pull Darren aside and read him the riot act. He did and Darren had better practices after that."

No one, of course, practices harder than Coleman, unless it's Luck. In fact, Luck is Peyton 2.0, having -- just like Peyton -- finished second in the Heisman voting, having a father who once played quarterback for the Houston Oilers, having lost a chance to play for a national championship because he couldn't beat a bitter conference rival (Oregon for Luck, Florida for Manning).

But for UTC's Huesman, simply having the NFL offer critiques of his players is a big plus for Mocs football.

"Because the better [the players] are," he said, "the better we are."