CAMP BODIES PART 1 by Jerry Gilbert 5/25/07
As we bid farewell to the NFL Draft and wait impatiently for the season to start, one of the primary subjects for sports columnists is the long shot player, the non-drafted free agent in his first, second or even fourth training camp, who just may defy the odds and make the final roster. Of course, the long odds exist for a reason. The vast majority of these players will fill a back up position for the preseason and then go back to brake jobs or offering "fries with that", while the real players perform on Sunday. On the other hand, there is the occasional player who breaks through. Assuming that most of you who read this website will not be scouting all these players in person, this series of articles will provide a little background about these camp bodies as a starting point to judge the breathless commentary as some nobody makes a few plays at practice and is the favored "maybe he has a chance" news subject of the day. We begin with those camp bodies brought in for tryouts during the first mini-camp.
If you checked the Green Bay and other mainstream Wisconsin news outlets, you know by now that University of Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco was one of the tryout players who was not offered a contract. You may perhaps also have read a sentence or two about the UW Lacrosse basketball player, and theoretical tight end prospect, Joe Werner who also was not offered a contract. Three tryout players were signed for training camp, and each has his own story.
One of my favorite camp bodies to watch will be defensive end DaVon Hicks 6-2 260 from Northwest Mississippi Community College. This is a player with one year of junior college football experience after high school because an injury caused him to miss most of his freshman year. Apparently because his high school class has reached junior status, Hicks was eligible for the draft. You have to be excited for a player who learned about his good fortune while eating at Beef o Brady's in Wesley Chapel, Florida. If Hicks stays with the team for a while, that establishment could become as famous the "Broke Spoke" in Kiln, Mississippi.
Hicks was an excellent high school player in Pasco Florida, but problems with the SAT and ACT kept him out of major college football. Accepted at Northwest Mississippi, Hicks became a one man wrecking crew. In a college season shorter than would be played by a Division I school, Hicks registered 86 tackles including 17 for a loss together with 10 quarterback sacks, while forcing 5 fumbles. He also ran back one interception for a 42 yard touchdown. Selected to play in the Mississippi All Star game, Hicks was the defensive MVP based on 9 tackles and two sacks. Since arriving in Green Bay, Hicks continued his heroics at the first mini-camp by recovering a fumble and plucking an interception out of the air. He clearly has some ability to make plays, at least in shorts and a jersey.
In contrast to Hicks, offensive lineman Pete Bier was a good student in High School who earned an appointment to West Point. A four year starter at Army, Bier played 2 years at guard and two at center, which suggests that the 6-3 295 athlete has some versatility. He was also the team captain for two seasons, and made all the calls on the offensive line. Bier was disciplined by the NCAA and had to sit out one game. His sin was to attend an unauthorized practice. Any football player disciplined for wanting am extra practice has the potential to be "Packer People". It has been reported that someone at Navy turned in the Army miscreants to the NCAA. Scouts describe Bier's play at Army as mistake free aggressive football. In the past, the Packers have taken a chance on military academy players, and Bier could be the next one.
The third player could be have the best chance to stay with the team because he can play blocking fullback and possibly fill the role of short yardage ball carrier. The Packers need improvement in both areas and there are not many competitors. For that reason, Corey White 6-1 239 UAB is being touted by some observers as more than a camp body.
White was part of a group at running back, at Birmingham, but he was by far the best in the red zone in that he totaled 25 rushing touchdowns, second all time at UAB. He added two more as a receiver. For his career, White averaged 4.7 yards per carry and rushed for almost 2000 in his career. He also caught 40 passes for 287 yards. If White can stand up as a lead blocker, he otherwise has the power and hands that the position requires. Only holdover Brandon Miree 6-0 236 appears to be set at fullback. The second spot is wide open. It is a tribute to the Packer scouts that three players with some ability were scrounged up after the Draft and rookie free agency rush were over. The odds are that all three will be cut before the season begins. For now they are in Green Bay, and we can watch how they develop. As noted, my man DaVon Hicks has made some plays already.