NEW ORLEANS -- Dear Art:
Saw those two great Florida State defensive ends yesterday. Interviewed 'em. Inspected 'em. Tried to get one of 'em to utter the magic words, "Make me a Raven," so The Sun would get a tabloid-style exclusive and the Ravens would get a stud-hoss pass rusher and we'd all live happily after.
But here's the deal:
Neither Reinard Wilson nor Peter Boulware appears the ideal fit.
Oh, they've combined for 32 1/2 sacks -- 2 1/2 more than the Ravens' season total. And they went on such a rampage in their last game against Florida, Gators coach Steve Spurrier started whining about late hits, adding to the frenzy surrounding Thursday night's Sugar Bowl.
The problem is, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said Wilson is too short to project as an early first-round selection. And Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said Boulware would benefit from returning for his senior year.
So, Art, you might not want to use the No. 4 pick on either of them, assuming you intend to keep the sucker. Your salary-cap problems and reported financial problems? That's our little secret. We wouldn't dare mention them to these fine student-athletes, who of course are focused only on the national championship.
Granted, Art, it's a little early for mock drafts, but Kiper already projects the Ravens getting Boulware, with Ohio State offensive lineman Orlando Pace going to the Jets at No. 1, Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning to the Saints at No. 2 and Texas defensive back Bryant Westbrook to the Falcons at No. 3.
Then again, no one knows if Manning and Boulware will even declare for the draft as juniors. And no one knows if Boulware could make the transition to outside linebacker for the Ravens. Even Kiper said: "With juniors, until they work out, you can't go too crazy."
But, Art, listening to Kiper yesterday, it was hard not to get excited. Coach Ted Marchibroda says he is leaning toward a 4-3 defense next season, but if the Ravens could sign free agent Chad Brown to be one outside linebacker and draft Boulware to be the other, they could play the 3-4 preferred by defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.
Now, that's the makings of a defense -- assuming the Ravens could afford both players and fit them under the cap. And, of course, assuming that Boulware is ready. He's 6 feet 5 and 255 pounds, he runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and he leads the free world with 19 sacks.
But Andrews said he should remain at Florida State.
"I'm not making a play for him or anything," Andrew said -- nah, a coach would never do such a thing. "But maturity-wise, strength-wise, from an emotional standpoint, he could really use another year. If he could stay healthy and hungry, he could have an unbelievable year next year."
That's debatable -- with Wilson gone, Boulware would face double-teams the entire season. Heck, even Boulware credits much of his success to his fellow defensive end, who holds the Florida State career record with 35 1/2 sacks.
Not a great sign, Art.
"We feed off each other," Boulware said. "Me, especially, I benefited in the beginning of the year. There was a lot of focus on him. He was drawing a lot of double-teams. The offenses were neglecting me earlier."
Wilson also weighs 255, but he's the stronger of the two -- he bench-presses 530 pounds and has a thicker upper body. FSU " defensive line coach Jim Gladden describes him as a "blue-collar, hard-hat, bring-your-lunch- to-work kind of guy." But listed at 6-2 -- short by NFL standards.
"He doesn't have the physical ability Boulware does," Kiper said. "He's close, but he's not up to that level. Only being 6 feet 1 1/2 , that hurts a little bit. I think he'll end up being a late first-, early second-round pick. Boulware could end up in the top five or top 10."
Still, Art, it's Wilson who seems to be held in greater esteem by the Florida State coaches. Earlier this season, he astonished Gladden by lifting a Maryland tackle off his feet and thrusting him into quarterback Brian Cummings for a sack.
"He took that tackle, had both feet off the ground, and just wadded him up in the quarterback," Gladden said. "He ended up with the quarterback under the tackle, the tackle on top in a pile, and he's sorting through them like a dog trying to hunt a bone."
Said Andrews: "Reinard is an excellent football player. He may not be the package all the guys are looking for as far as height is concerned. But when you put all the intangibles in there with the things he does as a football player, if he stays healthy, he can't miss."
So, there you have it, Art. Two great collegiate pass rushers, one with questions about his size, the other with questions about his strength. Who knows? Boulware might prove worthy of Kiper's evaluation at the NFL scouting combine. Or Wilson might get five sacks Thursday, raising his stock.
That's all for now, Art; Bourbon Street beckons. There'll be no charge for this unofficial scouting report. It's the holiday season. You're getting millions from PSLs. You're getting a new stadium. Consider this one more little gift.
Pub Date: 12/31/96