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Draft Day 3: Passing help comes down the Pike

Posted Apr 24, 2010

Pike
As was the case with Jimmy Clausen on Friday, the Panthers did not expect Tony Pike to be on the draft board when they made their sixth-round selections. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


CHARLOTTE -- Pass the ball. Defend the pass. Those were the threads that tied together then 10 players comprising the Panthers' 2010 draft class, which they completed Saturday with seven picks.

The two offensive additions -- Baylor wide receiver David Gettis and Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike -- came at positions the Panthers targeted with their three Friday selections. The five new defenders share quickness, either in coverage or the pass rush -- safety Jordan Pugh from Texas A&M, cornerbacks R.J. Stanford (Utah) and Robert McClain (Connecticut) and defensive ends Eric Norwood (South Carolina) and Greg Hardy (Mississippi).

Carolina came into the day with six selections, but added one in a trade with the New York Jets, who moved up 12 slots in the fourth round and gave Carolina an extra sixth-round pick (No. 198 overall).

"We were at a point where we had some options," general manager Hurney said. "We had an opportunity to pick up an extra sixth, and that's what we did."

That additional pick was used on Gettis, which ballooned their complement of drafted widouts to three, joining third-round selections Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards. Six slots after Gettis, the Panthers drafted Pike, and the overhaul of what was the 27th-ranked passing offense last year was complete

"If you look at things we did a season ago and you are trying to improve, that's an area on offense I know we needed to improve," head coach John Fox said. "Our running game and offensive line was pretty good, but (the passing game) needed to improve, and I think we have the skill set to do it."

Carolina didn't have the same issues defending the pass last year, ranking fourth in the league. But with Julius Peppers now in Chicago, the Panthers needed to add punch to their pass rush -- and found it with Hardy and Norwood.

"Defensively, we did pretty well in pass defense a year ago, but you can't have enough of that."

Norwood
South Carolina's Eric Norwood. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


ROUND 4, PICK 124
DE/LB ERIC NORWOOD, SOUTH CAROLINA
6-FOOT-1 - 245 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

The Panthers opened their selections Saturday with one of the draft's most versatile front-seven players. Norwood became the Gamecocks' all-time sack leader by lining up in both down and stand-up positions.

"He's played with his hand in the dirt and (standing up) and been very productive at both," Fox said. "He's been productive both on and off the line of scrimmage, and he's got a great motor and brings that attitude to the field."

Norwood is a prototypical "tweener," but Fox said that he will first look to try him at strongside linebacker, where the Panthers had been expected to let veterans James Anderson and Dan Connor grapple for the job that opened when Na'il Diggs was released in March.

"He can be either one. He'll determine that, not us. Right now, I'd probably start him off at a (strong-side) 'backer and go from there. He'll be more challenged as a linebacker at this minicamp."

Hardy
Mississippi's Greg Hardy. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


ROUND 6, PICK 175
DE GREG HARDY, MISSISSIPPI
6-FOOT-4 - 281 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

After sitting out the fifth round, the Panthers once again looked for pass-rush help, plucking the athletic Hardy, who notched 26.5 sacks and 39.5 tackles for losses with the Rebels but also struggled with foot and wrist injuries the last two years.

Nevertheless, Hardy's combination of size and speed impressed Fox and Hurney.

"He's really an exceptional pass rusher," Hurney said. "He's got the size, the height, weight and athletic ability that is hard to find in 4-3 ends.

"It's hard to find the 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end that has pass-rush skills," Fox said. "We saw that in him. He's had excellent production -- 17 sacks in the SEC, which is a pretty competitive league.

"For a sixth-round value, those guys aren't coming down the pike pretty often. We think he's a good value with good potential."

Gettis
Baylor's David Gettis. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


ROUND 6, PICK 198
WR DAVID GETTIS, BAYLOR
6-FOOT-3 - 217 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

Blessed with similar size as LaFell, Gettis was not as productive as his new teammate, although he did turn some heads with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day in March.

Nevertheless, Gettis was not just a workout wonder; he developed into a solid receiver for the Bears last season, notching career highs in receptions (52), yardage (675) and touchdowns (three). He'd only scored once in the three seasons before that.

"David Gettis is a big, tall receiver who can run and got better as the year went on," Hurney said. "He has a lot of big-play potential. He has speed and improved steadily as the year went on."

Gettis dueled with Pugh in Big 12 play last season and impressed his now-teammate.

"Having him on the team is good, because now I don't have to go against him," Pugh said. "He's a great receiver and competitor."

Gettis is a native of Cherry Point, N.C. who moved from the state when he was two years old. Much of his family still lives in North Carolina, he said.

Pugh
Texas A&M's Jordan Pugh. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


ROUND 6, PICK 202
CB JORDAN PUGH, TEXAS A&M
5-FOOT-11 - 200 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

Although he was listed on draft literature as a cornerback, Hurney said that Pugh would take his repetitions at safety when he arrives in Charlotte. Pugh started at free safety last year after playing cornerback for the Aggies.

"He is a safety who can run and has good acceleration," Hurney said. "We like him at safety, and he could even have some corner skills."

"Whatever position they want me to play, I'm willing to play," Pugh said. "I just want to play my role and help the team win. ... It really doesn't matter which one I play; as long as I'm out there playing and being an addition to the team, I'll be fine."

He said that the Panthers had not contacted him prior to the draft call Saturday afternoon.

"It was. When I saw Carolina, I was like, 'What?'" Pugh said. "But it's great. I will love to play for this organization."

ROUND 6, PICK 204
QB TONY PIKE, CINCINNATI
6-FOOT-6 - 223 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

Even though the Panthers already had a rookie quarterback and a quiver filled with young passers, Pike was too highly rated on their draft board for them to ignore with their final sixth-round selection.

"To draft well, you have to train yourself to go by the board, and if there's separation, you take the best player, and it's worked for us," Hurney said. "It makes it harder at the quarterback position.

"Matt and Hunter, we can't say strongly enough how we feel about those two guys. It had nothing to do with them. We just got into a draft that surprisingly, in the second and sixth rounds, the board just dictated, 'This is the pick; this is the best player to take.' ... There was a signficant gap."

It was not hard to understand why; he directed Cincinnati to its two best seasons in school annals, throwing for 48 touchdowns against 17 interceptions in the last two seasons, both of which ended in Big East championships and BCS bowl bids. Pike was remarkably consistent last year; he never passed for fewer than two touchdowns in any of his 10 starts.

"We thought he was too good a value," Hurney said. "It's hard when you talk about the quarterback position, because it's just a different spot. We think extremely highly of Matt Moore and Hunter Cantwell; we just had two guys in spots (Clausen and Pike) that we didn't think were going to be there and were the best players on the board, so we took them."

Added Fox: "I'm a firm believer that competition at positions brings out the best in guys. We've got that going on."

The only injury concern surrounding Pike is the broken forearm he suffered last year in his non-throwing arm. That necessitated placement of a stabilizing rod, which would or would not be removed at the discretion of the team that drafted Pike.

Hurney said he had not thought about what choice the Panthers would make.

"We'll get to that. We're still working on (undrafted) free agents," Hurney said. "We haven't gotten to that yet. It's not an issue."

Stanford
Utah's R.J. Stanford prevents an Oregon State reception. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


ROUND 7, PICK 223
CB R.J. STANFORD, UTAH
5-FOOT-11 -- 180 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

Stanford's confidence was encapsulated by his answer to the question, "What are the strengths of your game?"

"How much time (have) you got?" replied the former Utah cornerback, who became a full-time starter as a senior for the Utes and finished with a career-best 46 tackles and seven passes defensed.

Stanford, who according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 and 4.45 seconds at his Pro Day. According to his biography on Utah's athletic website, he has been clocked as quick as 4.3 seconds for the 40.

That speed helped him on kickoff and punt coverage, where he played frequently and might find his first extensive playing time as a pro.

"Wherever they need R.J. Stanford to be, that's where I'm going to be, and that's how I'm going to get used," he said.

McClain
Connecticut's Robert McClain breaks up a pass. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


ROUND 7, PICK 249
CB ROBERT McCLAIN, CONNECTICUT
5-FOOT-9 - 195 POUNDS

CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO

McClain, like Stanford, is a speedy cornerback with plenty of experience on special teams -- and plenty of work against both the quarterbacks selected by the Panthers in this year's draft, as UConn annually faces Cincinnati in Big East play and defeated Notre Dame in South Bend last November.

The Patuzent, Md. product broke into the Huskies' starting lineup late in his junior season and stayed there the following season, recording a career-best four interceptions to finish with 10 for his career -- all in the last three seasons.

"They're both very good corners who can run and have good corner skills," Hurney said. "Any time you can find that in the seventh round, you have to act on it."