Small-school prospects stand out at combine

Joshua Portis (Getty)

The Cardinals have plenty of areas to address in this year's draft and might turn to a handful of small-school prospects for help.

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QB – Joshua Portis, California (PA)

There's no question that Portis is a developmental project at quarterback, but the well traveled signal caller isn't your typical small-school prospect. Portis began his college career at Florida, playing in five games with the Gators in 2005. Portis then headed up north to Maryland before transferring a second time to California (PA). In 2006, Portis was the Terrapins'' offensive scout team player of the year and was a regional finalist for the Division II College Football Player of the Year award in 2010.

After finally settling at California (PA), Portis dominated the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Portis threw for over 6,000 yards during his two years, completing 58 percent of his passes along with 69 touchdowns in the process. There's some ability here – as well as concerns off the field – but the right offensive staff could make the most of Portis' raw talents.

Tale of the Tape

Portis (6-foot-3, 211 pounds)
Arm Length: 34 1/8 inches
Hand Size: 9 3/8 inches
40-yard Dash: 4.62 seconds
Vertical Jump: 40 inches
Broad Jump: 10-foot-6

RB – Vailala Taua, Nevada

Considering Nevada as a small school is a stretch, but this year's group of running backs at the combine were dominated by larger schools. Taua didn't test off the charts – particularly his 40-yard dash of 4.7 seconds – but the former Wolf Pack star plays faster in pads. In addition, Taua will benefit from more looks on tape thanks to QB Colin Kaepernick. Taua is a powerful runner who could develop into a complementary player in a two-back system.

Another quality working in Taua's favor is his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. Taua has exceptional hands for a running back and appears to be a prime candidate to be a situational contributor in the NFL. His pass protection skills are adequate, allowing him to see the field on third down. Taua rushed for over 1,300 yards in each of his final three seasons at Nevada, so his ability to produce can't be questioned.

Tale of the Tape

Taua (5-foot-10, 213 pounds)
Arm Length: 31 1/8 inches
Hand Size: 9 1/4 inches
40-yard Dash: 4.71 seconds
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP

WR – Edmond Gates, Abilene Christian

Gates was the fastest wide receiver at the combine, immediately catapulting him into the spotlight. Then, Gates followed up a 40-yard dash time of 4.37 seconds with a tremendous presence during field drills. Gates features the athleticism to make it in the NFL and his display of reliable hands, body control and ball skills will only help his draft stock. The emergence of WR Johnny Knox, an Abilene Christian alum, will also help his cause going forward.

Gates is another prospect that's testing well in the draft process but also has the college production to back it up. Gates reeled in 66 passes for 1,182 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010. Gates is an all-around threat at wide receiver, demonstrating the ability to stretch the field with his speed and run after the catch on short passes. Gates presents added value as a potential contributor on special teams.

Tale of the Tape

Gates (6-foot, 192 pounds)
Arm Length: 30 3/4 inches
Hand Size: 9 3/8 inches
40-yard Dash: 4.37 seconds
Vertical Jump: 40 inches
Broad Jump: 10-foot-11

TE – Schuylar Oordt, Northern Iowa

This year's crop of tight ends is very underwhelming and Oordt's stock with hold added value because of that. Oordt possesses the versatility to line-up at tight end and as an H-back out of the backfield. He could be a poor man's Dallas Clark, who's thrived in a similar role with the Indianapolis Colts. His blocking needs work but that's not uncommon for a tight end coming from the college ranks.

With specialty packages becoming a normal part of the NFL game plans, Oordt's knack for making plays in the red zone will also boost his value. In 2010, Oordt caught 24 passes for 405 yards and tied for the team lead with five touchdown grabs. Oordt will need to continue refining his craft but the foundation is there to grow into a productive player.

Could Oordt develop into a
Dallas Clark type of TE?

Tale of the Tape

Oordt (6-foot-6, 261 pounds)
Arm Length: 33 3/4 inches
Hand Size: 9 7/8 inches
40-yard Dash: 4.67 seconds
Vertical Jump: 36 inches
Broad Jump: 9-foot-11

OL - Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock

Fusco was the Division II Lineman of the Year and immediately grabs the attention because of his ability to play multiple positions along the offensive line. Fusco started his college career as a tackle before eventually moving inside to guard. If in a pinch, his experience on the perimeter could come in handy for a prospective NFL team.

Stepping up in competition, Fusco held his own at the Senior Bowl against some of the top pass rushers in the nation. Fusco's lack of true athleticism will limit his potential at the next level but he's a hard worker who has no problem doing the dirty work in the trenches. With some technique improvements Fusco could develop into a serviceable reserve.

Tale of the Tape

Fusco (6-foot-4, 316 pounds)
Arm Length: 33 3/4 inches
Hand Size: 10 inches
40-yard Dash: 5.21 seconds
Vertical Jump: 28 1/2 inches
Broad Jump: 9-foot

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at

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