All In The Patriots Family

With New England currently owning a mere five picks in the 2013 draft, that means they’ll have to fill spring camp with rookie free agents.  Let’s preview some potential undrafted newbies who could get a second look from the Foxboro front office.

These fresh-faced free agent decisions often come down to connections. Last year, for example, New England brought in Markus Zusevics from Iowa and Justin Francis from Rutgers. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz coached with Bill Belichick back in the Iron Age, while the coach’s son Stephen Belichick befriended Francis on the banks of the old Raritan.

Coincidences? Nope. Connections? Yup.

Sometimes, however, these ties result in less successful transactions. We’re thinking of 2007 sixth-rounder Justise Hairston from Central Connecticut State, alma mater of then-Pats VP of player personnel Scott Pioli. Hairston never played a down for the Patriots and, according to his NFL.com page, never garnered any statistics in the league.

We should expect more productive choices from Gillette this spring.

Below, some connections worth noting and some players who may get a second look because of them.

Matt McGloin, Penn State QB (6-1, 207) McGloin spent his senior season under the tutelage of Coach Bill O’Brien, former New England offensive coordinator. Initially joining the Nittany Lions as a walk-on, McGloin gained All-Big Ten Honorable Mention status in 2012 after hitting 61 percent of his passes for 24 touchdowns against a mere five interceptions.

James Ferentz, Iowa C (6-1, 289) An All-Big Ten selection as voted by both coaches and the media, Ferentz started every game for the Hawkeyes over the past three seasons and earned team co-MVP honors in 2012. And, yes, he is the head coach’s son.

Joseph Fauria, UCLA TE (6-7, 259) Had 46 catches and 12 receiving touchdowns as a senior. Transferred from Notre Dame, where he had been recruited by former Irish coach (and past New England offensive coordinator) Charlie Weis. Also the nephew of past Patriots tight end Christian Fauria.

Omarius Hines, Florida RB (6-0, 215) Hines gets mentioned here due to his former coach at Florida (and Belichick’s current buddy) Urban Meyer, as well as former Gator offensive coordinator Weis. Hines did a little of everything last year, catching 23 passes for 243 yards and averaging almost eight yards per carry (20 for 159). He got a mention in Part II of BSMW’s Combine Snubs series after posting a 6.45-second 3-cone drill at his pro day, the fastest time we could find this year.

Toben Opurum, Kansas FB (6-1, 249) Playing mostly linebacker throughout his college career, Opurum was actually recruited by Weis at Notre Dame as a running back. He led Kansas in rushing his freshman year (133 carries, 554 yards, nine touchdowns) before moving to defense. In Weis’ first year as Jayhawks coach last season, Opurum supplemented his linebacking chores with occasional appearances on offense as a blocker (he caught one pass last year for 12 yards). Opurum reportedly worked out with Patriots scouts during Kansas’ pro day.

We had considered including Kansas QB Dayne Crist here, but three things got in the way: one, Crist completed under 48 percent of his passes; two, he had nine interceptions against four TDs; and three, Weis benched him mid-season in favor of a freshman.

So, we’ll, ah, just stick with the versatile special teams candidate, thanks.

Damion Square, Alabama DL (6-2, 293) Coach Nick Saban of Alabama remains a noted Friend of Belichick. Before Square injured his knee in January, he had 33 tackles for the Tide, including 3.5 sacks. He led the team with nine quarterback hurries. Much like an Alabama predecessor, Patriots seventh-rounder Brandon Deaderick, Square played all along the defensive line and could bring the same type of versatility to New England.

Orhian Johnson, Ohio State S (6-3, 213) Under Buckeye coach Meyer (and assistant coach Mike Vrabel), Johnson had 39 tackles, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups. The strong safety candidate tested well at OSU’s pro day, running a 4.52-second 40 and a 6.92-second 3-cone drill to go along with a 10-foot-10 broad jump and a 38.5-inch vertical.

Mark Harrison, Rutgers WR (6-3, 231) Not only can Belichick the Elder talk to his son about getting a long look at Harrison, he also has his buddy, former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, as someone who thought enough of Harrison to recruit him. The large receiver caught 14 passes for 274 yards in 2011 for a 19.6-yard average. Last year, Harrison led the Scarlet Knights with 44 receptions for 583 yards (13.2 avg) and six TDs. Combine numbers that stand out include a 4.37-second 40 and a 38.5-inch vertical, along with 17 reps bench pressing 225 pounds.

Gee Gee Greene, Navy RB (5-7, 183) As most New Englanders know, Coach Belichick has a soft spot for Annapolis, growing up with his father coaching at the Naval Academy. Now that former Midshipman Shun White has been released after years on the Pats’ roster as a military exemption, Greene – or Triple G, as he’s called – could get a visit to Foxboro. He had the highest production on one of the nation’s best running teams, gaining 877 yards on 120 carries (7.3-yard avg) and three touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for 309 yards (17.2 avg) and two TDs.

Though Greene’s 4.55-second 40 at his pro day won’t turn a lot of heads, his 39.5-inch vertical jump and 10-foot broad jump should, as well as his positive quickness numbers (4.19-second 20-yard shuttle and 6.80-second 3-cone drill).

So, dear readers, your turn. Any players that come to mind regarding Foxboro connections, please let us know below.

Chris Warner can be reached via email at [email protected] or twitter @cwarn89

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