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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cason chosen in 1st round

    Former UA cornerback Antoine Cason returns a punt in a 20-17 loss to ASU at Arizona Stadium on Dec. 1. Cason, chosen by San Diego 27th overall, was one of four Wildcats to be selected in this years NFL draft, along with Spencer Larsen, Wilrey Fontenot and Lionel Dotson.
    Former UA cornerback Antoine Cason returns a punt in a 20-17 loss to ASU at Arizona Stadium on Dec. 1. Cason, chosen by San Diego 27th overall, was one of four Wildcats to be selected in this year’s NFL draft, along with Spencer Larsen, Wilrey Fontenot and Lionel Dotson.

    Things weren’t looking good for former Arizona All-American cornerback Antoine Cason late in the opening round of the 2008 NFL draft Saturday.

    With four cornerbacks already off the board, it seemed as if Cason, who was hoping for a first round selection, was on the verge of slipping into the second round, something that would clearly be a disappointment for this year’s Jim Thorpe Award winner.

    But when the San Diego Chargers drafted Cason with the 27th overall pick in the first round, a day that once seemed to be doomed by disappointment turned into pure bliss.

    “”I am going to a great team and a great situation, so that is just exciting,”” Cason said. “”Just getting out (to San Diego) and getting the opportunity to play football again is the ultimate rush for me.

    “”It was just exciting. It was like ‘OK, I have done it.’ I have achieved my goal and now it is time to gear up and play football. … It definitely (worked out in the perfect way).””

    Not only was the pick perfect for Cason from the standpoint that it was in the first round, but also that San Diego is about 100 miles away from his home in Long Beach, Calif.

    Furthermore, with the Chargers’ 2007 starter Drayton Florence signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cason may get the opportunity to have an immediate impact.

    Cason said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to compete for a starting position for a team considered by most to be Super Bowl-ready. Cason’s agent, Ron Slavin of BTI Sports Advisors, was also positive about the situation.

    “”I think it is the perfect place because he will have the chance to play on a team that is Super Bowl-ready and in a situation where he can learn from other good corners,”” Slavin said. “”I think he obviously ended up with a great team. Those teams that drafted corners before Antoine are obviously not as good as San Diego.

    “”Who would you rather play for, the Chargers or the Cardinals?”” Slavin asked. “”I think the Chargers is a pretty simple answer.””

    The 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback was the first Wildcat to be drafted in the first round since Trung Candidate was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the 31st overall pick in 2000. He was the fourth first-rounder from the UA in the last 16 years.

    Cason was the fifth cornerback selected in the draft, as the Buffalo Bills drafted Troy’s Leodis McKelvin with the 11th overall pick and the Arizona Cardinals drafted Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with the 16th overall pick. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Kansas’ Aqib Talib with the 20th overall pick and the Dallas Cowboys traded up to the 25 spot to grab South Florida’s Mike Jenkins.

    Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com said there “”certainly was a run on cornerbacks”” in the first round, but that wasn’t the reason Cason was taken in the first round.

    “”When there is a run, teams get a little nervous and start reaching for players,”” Rang said. “”I think (Chargers general manager A.J. Smith) probably had a pretty good feeling that Antoine Cason was going to be the pick and I don’t know if (a run) had any kind of impact on the Chargers’ decision.””

    Even though Cason was the fifth taken at his position, the Chargers organization seems to be very pleased with the pick.

    “”He has been a very, very productive player,”” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said in a story posted on the team’s Web site. “”He’s been a four-year starter. He’s a very, very competitive player. He’s very physical. He’s matched up in a passing conference against some of the best receivers through the years. He had outstanding games against USC, against some of the bigger receivers. He can play a very physical game.

    “”(He’s) a guy who’s got very good short-area quickness, uses his hands real well,”” Turner added. “”Antoine is an outstanding tackler. Then it’s a bonus because Arizona does it a lot, they used him on the corner blitz stuff. Obviously the way we used Eric (Weddle) some last year coming off the slot, the way Drayton blitzed, we can use Antoine as a blitzer. When you get a complete player, you get a physical player, there’s great carryover in the kicking game. He’s going to come in and compete with our young guys.””

    Other Wildcats selected in draft

    The Arizona football program sent four players to the draft in 2007, a seven-year high, as running back Chris Henry, kicker Nick Folk, safety Michael Johnson and receiver Syndric Steptoe were taken.

    This year, the Wildcats matched that total, as Spencer Larsen was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round (183rd overall), cornerback Wilrey Fontenot was taken in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons (212th overall) and defensive tackle Lionel Dotson was selected in the seventh round by the Miami Dolphins (245th overall).

    Rang said Larsen’s sixth-round selection was around the area he expected him to be drafted, but he has a chance to prove himself at the next level.

    “”He is a terrific football player but at the same time he doesn’t have the intangibles teams in the NFL are looking for,”” Rang said. “”He is a very good collegiate player but he wasn’t necessarily perceived to be a great NFL prospect.

    “”At the same time, he has great instincts, is a reliable open-field tackler and I think he has a very good chance to surprise at the next level.””

    Rang predicted both Fontenot and Dotson to be picked higher than they were, but he wasn’t shocked they fell to the seventh round.

    “”I am higher on both of those players than certainly the teams proved themselves to be,”” Rang said. “”Fontenot is a scrappy player, but again doesn’t have the measurables you would be looking for, but because he has been playing opposite Cason this whole time he has been battle tested and I think that is one of the reasons why he does have a chance to surprise some people even though he was drafted late.

    “”With (Dotson) you are talking about a player who is an ascending talent. … I like the idea of him going to Miami because he is going to be in a 3-4 alignment where he will be able to show off his physicality and be able to show off his quickness.””

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