Joe Santoro: Will Pack get blanked again in NFL draft?
April 21, 2017
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Next week's NFL draft will be further proof of how the Nevada Wolf Pack football program stagnated under coach Brian Polian. Polian has yet to send a player he brought to Nevada to the NFL draft and likely won't again this year. This will likely be the third consecutive season the NFL doesn't draft a Nevada Wolf Pack player. Chris Ault recruit Joel Bitonio, who was picked in the second round by Cleveland in 2014, remains the last Pack player drafted. The last time the Pack went at least three consecutive years without putting a player in the NFL draft was 1999 through 2002 in the Jeff Tisdel-Chris Tormey era. Ault, whose first player drafted was Doug Betters in 1978, never went more than two years in a row without getting a player drafted.
The NFL drafted 16 Wolf Pack players from 2003-14 with 11 of them getting picked from 2009-14. That four-year Pack drought from 1999-02 is the longest without a Pack draft pick since Betters was taken by the Dolphins in 1978. Polian's best chance at putting one of his Nevada recruits into the NFL draft might be defensive backs Asauni Rufus and Dameon Baber, who are both juniors this year. Running back James Butler is a senior this year.
This year's draft, which starts on Thursday, isn't without its Mountain West drama. It will be interesting to see where or if San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey will be picked. Pumphrey, who set the FBS career rushing record last year at 6,405 yards, will likely become nothing more than a third-down pass-catching back in the NFL since he weighs under 170 pounds and stands just 5-foot-8. He makes Darren Sproles look like Shaquille O'Neal. Wyoming running back Brian Hill, who is 6-1, 210 pounds, is a better NFL prospect and likely get picked before Pumphrey. Also entering the draft is Boise State back Jeremy McNichols (5-9, 215), leaving the Wolf Pack's Butler as the best returning back in the Mountain West.
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What should we expect out of the Wolf Pack football team in 2017? Well, first of all, don't expect James Butler to lead the league in rushing despite his status as the best back in the conference. He might only see a dozen or so carries a game this year in the Pack's pass-happy Air Raid attack under offensive coordinator Matt Mumme. Butler, though, might also catch 75 passes so he'll get his 1,500-plus yards one way or another. How many wins will it add up to? Expect the Pack to go 7-5 in the regular season, getting five wins out of six home games against Toledo, Idaho State, Hawaii, Air Force, San Jose State and UNLV with two more wins coming out of six road games at Northwestern, Fresno State, Washington State, Boise State, San Diego State and Colorado State.
Don't be stunned if the Pack goes to Chicago and beats Northwestern to open the season on Sept. 2. The Wildcats were just 7-6 a year ago and lost their first two games of the year, both at home, to Western Michigan and Illinois State. The Wolf Pack will have all of the intangibles on their side on Sept. 2. Northwestern won't know a thing about the Pack. The Pack will head to Chicago with a new offense and defense and will have the element of surprise on their side. The game will mean much more to the Pack than it will mean for Northwestern since it will be the first game of the Jay Norvell era. Also, beating a Big Ten opponent, especially on the road, is a huge motivator for a Mountain West team. Big 10 teams couldn't care less about beating a Mountain West team other than Boise State.
Relax, San Francisco Giants fans. The season is not over. Yes, the Giants are off to a 6-10 start. Madison Bumgarner has yet to win a game and Buster Posey still has fewer homers (1) than Bumgarner (2). Aaron Hill, Jarrett Parker, Conor Gillaspie, Chris Marrero, Gorkys Hernandez and Denard Span are a combined 24-for-162 (.148). But it means nothing. Eight of the 10 losses have been by two runs or less. Posey has just 30 at bats. Brandon Belt is hitting just .220 but he has three homers, has walked 10 times and scored nine runs. Bumgarner's three losses have been by scores of 2-1, 3-1 and 2-0. He should be 4-0 instead of 0-3. Matt Cain has pitched well. The Giants are the best 6-10 team in baseball.
Championship professional sports teams visiting the White House has now become a joke. The only story the media now reports at such affairs is which athletes don't show up. Tom Brady didn't go to the White House this week. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and others didn't go in the past. It's not an anti-Donald Trump thing. It's a spoiled, millionaire athlete thing. They simply don't want to take a single day out of their four or five-month off-season of playing golf, going hunting, sitting on a beach and going to clubs to put on a suit, smile, pose for pictures and shake hands with the president. It's time this tradition goes away.
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