For some reason, I never really feel like the football season is over until after the NFL Draft.
And for reasons that are obvious, I feel especially bad this morning for Damien Berry, Graig Cooper and Ryan Hill.
OK, I know that former knee issues (Berry and Cooper) come into play with the draft, but Damien led the Canes in rushing this past season with 899 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games, a 4.7-yard-per-carry average. He also caught 10 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Now the bad part. He led the team with five fumbles -- all of which were recovered by the opponents. This young man, all heart, was 101 yards shy of 1,000 yards and he still wasn't drafted.
Coop was handed a raw deal in that bowl game in Orlando when he slipped on that AWFUL field and tore up his knee. It was pretty amazing he was able to return this season. He rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown in 10 games this season and had the same per-carry average as Damien (4.7 yards). He caught 6 passes for 28 yards, returned 8 punts for 32 yards and 12 kickoffs for a 16.8-yard kickoff-return average. He wasn't the same for sure, but it's still a shame, after his previous numbers before the injury, that some team wouldn't take a chance. Cooper fumbled twice -- one of which was recovered by the opponent.
Ryan Hill, who played receiver, safety and cornerback during his UM career, played in all 13 games this season and was sixth on the team in tackles with 51 behind Colin McCarthy, Sean Spence, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Vaughn Telemaque and Ramon Buchanan. Ryan had a team-leading (tied with Armstrong) 3 interceptions this past season and 8 pass breakups. I thought he played well enough to get drafted.
I expected Berry to be drafted (I'm an optimist), wasn't so sure about Cooper and sadly, figured Hill was destined for free agency -- like some of the others, such as speedster and great special-team player Cory Nelms.
I know it's all business in the NFL, and a lot has to do with size and speed and "physicality,'' and I'm expecting the other guys to sign as free agents once the lockout ends, but still, I'm feeling bad for them.
As for the eight young men who did get drafted (Orlando Franklin, Brandon Harris, Leonard Hankerson, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Allen Bailey, Colin McCarthy, Richard Gordon and Matt Bosher) congrats to every one of them.
Some tidbits from Saturday:
COLIN McCARTHY NOW A TITAN (fourth round)
Linebacker McCarthy, who went first Saturday, was frustrated when he went to sleep Friday night after the second and third rounds had concluded.
“It is what it is. Just another obstacle to overcome. I hope I go to a team that drafted a linebacker,’’ McCarthy tweeted.
By early Saturday afternoon, McCarthy was a new man – with a new team.
“TENNESSEE TITANS BABY!!!!’’ he tweeted.
McCarthy became UM’s sixth player drafted when the Titans selected him 109th overall – the 12th pick in the fourth round. And wouldn’t you know it, the Titans selected a linebacker early in the second round at 39th overall: 6-3, 254-pound Akeem Ayers out of UCLA.
“They sure did,’’ McCarthy said Saturday by phone. “I met Akeem Ayers at the combine. There’s no better way to go into the NFL than to compete against another linebacker doing the same thing.’’
McCarthy, 6-1 and 238 pounds, started 11 of his 12 games last season at middle linebacker (team-leading 119 tackles), but believes the opportunity is there for him in Tennessee’s 4-3 scheme to play all three linebacker positions. “I played them all in college,’’ he said.
TIGHT END RICHARD GORDON NOW A RAIDER (sixth round)
"Big Rich,'' as he is affectionately and accurately called by his teammates, surprised everyone by being drafted 181st overall (the 16th pick in the sixth round) by the Oakland Raiders.
I don't know one person who ever even mentioned that Gordon would be drafted. But he is extremely powerful, very fast and has a 6-4, 266-pound frame.
He had a career-high six catches this past season. He had 10 catches for 60 yards in his career. No touchdowns. I wish him well.
MATT BOSHER (K/P) NOW A FALCON
Now there's a pick that must have thrilled all Canes fans who ever gave thanks that Bosh was there to make the tackle! He was selected 192nd overall -- the 27th pick of the sixth round.
He said he will be used as a punter, and the kid has a great leg. Despite missing three extra points this past season, Bosher will also be big-time beneficial in that he can place-kick and kick off if need be. He's an exceptional athlete, extremely strong and in extraordinary shape.
"Nerveracking,'' is how Bosher described Saturday's draft to me. "I knew what to expect because I'm a kicker but at the same time you work so hard leading up to this point. To be given this opportunity in Atlanta is a dream come true. I'm so excited.''
Bosher's dad, Carl, told me the situation was "frickin' awesome!''
Matt had seven private workouts with different teams -- including with the Redskins as late as this past Tuesday. He talked to 21 teams.
"He was nervous,'' Carl said of his son. "He had so many good workouts and did so many good things that you felt it could happen, and it did. He deserves it. He did a great job.''
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
P.S. Please follow me on Twitter @smillerdegnan
(I want to get to 1,000 -- then work on the next 1,000!) Have a wonderful Sunday.