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Panthers fill needs in final rounds

Posted Apr 28, 2012

CHARLOTTE – The 2012 NFL Draft went exactly as scripted from the Carolina Panthers' perspective.

Now all they can do is wait expectantly to see if their picks performed as planned.

"We got the players we wanted and had no surprises happen in front of us that left us real disappointed about somebody getting taken," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said moments after the team secured its seventh and final draft pick. "But we'll see. You can't judge a draft as a whole until two or three years down the road."

Hurney said the Panthers' trade to secure a second pick in the fourth round was key to their draft plan falling into place. After selecting Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander with the additional choice and taking Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams a pick later, the Panthers went back to work and made their final three selections.

They were pleased to find Coastal Carolina cornerback Josh Norman still on the board when they went on the clock in the fifth round, and they followed by securing more special teams help with the selection of Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman in the sixth and California safety D.J. Campbell in the seventh.

Saturday's five picks, along with Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly (first round) and Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu (second round) soon will descend on Charlotte to attend a rookie mini-camp.

"We'll get our first look at them, and we're excited about seeing them," Hurney said. "We feel like we helped our defense, helped our offensive line and our special teams. We feel good."

Here's a more detailed look about the finishing touches the Panthers put on the draft.

Round 5 (No. 143 overall): CB Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina

Growing up in Greenwood, S.C., and attending the same high school as Panthers wide receiver Armanti Edwards, Norman often found himself trying to get the best of his equally athletic brothers.

After being picked in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, he certainly has something to brag about.

"This is so unreal to me to be here close to home," Norman said. "It's so great, absolutely great."

Norman learned a lot of lessons on the homefront that helped make him the player he is today. His three older brothers are all athletes who played sports in college or beyond, and he has a younger brother who plans to play at Coastal Carolina.

Older brother Marrio was an All-American defensive back for the Chanticleers in 2007, one of the reasons that Josh decided to walk on at Coastal a year after the University of Georgia rescinded a scholarship offer.

Norman earned a starting spot as a true freshman and then went on to earn Football Championship Subdivision All-America honors in 2009 and 2011. In 2009, he ranked second in the FCS and set the Big South Conference record with eight interceptions. Norman finished his career with 13 interceptions and wowed scouts with six picks during practices leading up to East-West Shrine Game.

Now he's poised to help a Panthers defense that ranked 24th against the pass last season and allowed the seventh-most passing touchdowns.

"I feel like I fit very well with what they have set up and what they want to do as far as game plan and scheme," Norman said. "I'm coming in with a chip on my shoulder, so I'm going to go out and do what I'm asked to and try to go above and beyond."


Round 6 (No. 207 overall): P Brad Nortman, Wisconsin

The Panthers, having already shored up special teams through free agency and with the selection of punt return extraordinaire Joe Adams, capped it by investing a draft pick in a punter for the first time in franchise history.

"It's a position that is sometimes overlooked, but I think it can have a great impact on a game and help you be successful," Nortman said. "The field position battle is an important battle, and it needs to be won.

"Just to have an opportunity to go in there and win the job and help out the team is a dream come true. I can't wait to do my part."

The Panthers didn't have a punter on the roster before drafting Nortman. They released Jason Baker, their punter each of the previous seven seasons, last month.

Nortman was Wisconsin's starting punter for four years and averaged 42.1 yards per punt over his career, third best in school history. He impressed Panthers personnel with his consistency at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine and did the same in a private workout for special teams coordinator Brian Murphy in his hometown of Brookfield, Wis., earlier this month.

"There were a handful of opportunities, and Carolina is an absolutely great opportunity," Nortman said. "When I got the call just before they picked me, it was an absolute dream come true."


Round 7 (No. 216 overall): S D.J. Campbell, California

Campbell views himself as a student of the game, but he's got some brawn to go with his brain power.

"I'm more an intellectual, cerebral type of player," the 6-foot, 205-pounder said. "I'm not the biggest, strongest guy, but I know the game of football. I know how to react in different situations and against different formations.

"I think about plays before they happen, which gives me an advantage."

Maybe so, but Campbell had 22 bench-press reps of 225 pounds, ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash and recorded a 38-inch vertical jump at his pro day.

The bench press would have tied for tops at the combine among safeties, and the 40 time and vertical would have tied for second. Campbell, however, wasn't invited to the combine.

He only became a regular starter as a fifth-year senior last season after standing out for three seasons on special teams, an area that undoubtedly will be key to his hopes for pro success.

"Special teams are very important," Campbell said. "It really gets overlooked. People only want to see the guys who score touchdowns, but without field position, you can't be in position to score. If special teams can get you to the 50 as opposed to the 20, your offense can open up the playbook and have more opportunities to score."