Rodriguez, Whitehead patiently waiting for draft day

Both seniors continue preparations for NFL Draft at Temple’s Pro Day


The Temple News

For seniors Evan Rodriguez and Tahir Whitehead, one word describes what they could offer a National Football League team: versatility.

Rodriguez and Whitehead joined former junior running back Bernard Pierce at the 2012 NFL Combine on Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis, Ind. The North New Jersey natives can give pro clubs many options on offense and defense, respectively.

At 6-foot 1-inch, Rodriguez can be used in many ways as a tight end, whether it is off the line, coming out of the backfield or setting up out wide. The two-time first-team All-Mid-Atlantic Conference selection played in all 13 games with 12 starts at tight end last season leading the Owls with 479 yards and two touchdowns on 35 receptions.

At this point, though, Rodriguez is not worried what position he’ll play, but rather preparing for when that team calls his name. The 2012 NFL Draft is April 26-28 held at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

“Just hard training,” Rodriguez said of his preparation for the NFL Draft. “I was down in Bradenton, [Fla.] training at Athletic Edge with [combine guru] Mike Gough, and they prepared me really well for the NFL Combine and I’m happy with my results.”

Rodriguez had such strong results at the NFL Combine that he opted not to run the 40-yard dash or test his vertical jump at Temple’s Pro Day on Friday, March 16 at Edberg-Olsen Athletic Complex.

With a 40-time of 4.58 and a vertical measure of 36 inches – tied for the lead amongst tight ends – Rodriguez said he thought his performance helped his draft stock.

Scouts have compared Rodriguez to New England tight end Aaron Hernandez with his multi-dimensional abilities. Hernandez played in Temple coach Steve Addazio’s system at Florida when Addazio was offensive coordinator for the Gators.

“He does compare to him,” Addazio said. “A lot of people ask him that question. I like [Rodriguez’s] development and I like his maturity. He’s come a long way in a year or two. You talk about a guy who’s come the furthest – he’s probably come the furthest. He’s put himself in a position to be a middle-round draft pick.”

Whitehead, a 6-foot 1-inch linebacker, is a possible steal late in the draft. The second-team All-MAC honoree has been putting in time getting ready for the NFL Draft.

“I’m constantly in the weight room, constantly working on my technique,” Whitehead said. “It’s not only a track meet when you’re running [the 40-yard dash], you’re a football player. Not only do I work on the 40 and other drills and stuff, I also work on stuff for my toolbox – keeping a better base for striking opponents.”

A captain on the Owls’ defense, Whitehead registered five sacks last season and was a constant disruption in opposition’s backfield, finishing the season with the third-most tackles on the team with 70 and a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss. He played in all 13 games with 12 starts as the strong side linebacker.

Whitehead was also named the Defensive MVP of the 2011 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, in which the Owls defeated the Wyoming Cowboys, 37-15.

“[Whitehead] is very mature,” Addazio said. “You watch the growth he’s had from last year to this year, that’s that year some guys are missing.”

While this was the stage for Whitehead to display his physical attributes, he also sees it as a job interview.

“You’d get a smart player,” Whitehead said. “Not only smart, but physical, versatile. I can do it all. I can be used wherever they need me to be used. I’m a team player.”

Last year, two Owls were drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, then-senior safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and then-junior defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson was drafted as the 30th overall selection in the first round by the New York Jets and Jarrett was picked by the Philadelphia Eagles as the 54th overall selection in the second round.

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Temple’s defense looks to key in on Cowboy QB

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.– Less than 24 hours before the football teams concludes its season against Wyoming in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Owls said they are more prepared for postseason play than they were two years ago when they played the UCLA Bruins in the EagleBank Bowl.

“We’re doing a lot more than what we did last time and we’re basically living in the film room right now and we’re committed to playing a great game,” senior linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “Two years ago was the first time we went to a bowl game in a long time and this year we know how to whether the storm and manage bowl games with practice and get ready for the game.”

Senior linebacker Tahir Whitehead KATE MCCANN TTN

For Whitehead and the rest of the Owls’ defense, the majority of that time spent in the film room has been focused on Cowboys’ freshman quarterback Brett Smith. Smith is a two-way threat for the Cowboys as he averaged 250 passing yards and 50 rushing yards a game.

“I would say he’s similar to [Ohio sophomore quarterback Tyler Tettleton], he’s young but it seems like he knows what he’s doing, he has really good lineman that can really get after our defensive line,” senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said.

Wyoming employs a spread attack that averages nearly 400 yards a game of total and boasts an offensive line that is very stingy when it comes giving up sacks and this season, the Cowboys average less than one sack a game.

“They keep you on your toes, they can come at you in any way possible, they spread you out and they get all their receivers involved the passing game, they use screens, draws and the quarterback runs,” Whitehead said. “It’s going to be a tough game and we have to be locked in and ready to go.”

The Owls will look to win their first bowl game since 1979 tomorrow at 2 p.m.

“A win tomorrow would mean a lot, in the past couple of years, we haven’t finished the season the way we wanted to and a win would change that all around for us because it would send the younger guys into the next season with a good feeling, that’s all it about.” Whitehead said.

“This is a big game for us, this is like our championship, we want our legacy to be that we won our last game,” Robinson said.

Senior defensive end Adrian Robinson KATE MCCANN TTN

Football captains announced

The football team announced its captains for the 2011 season today.  Three of four seniors named to the leadership role start for the Owls’ defense: offensive lineman John Palumbo, linebacker Tahir Whitehead, defensive ends Morkeith Brown and Adrian Robinson.

“I think from spring ball going into camp, we looked very good out there,” Brown said of the team at the media press conference on Monday.  “Everybody’s ready to play.”

The Owls are just three hours from kicking off their season opener at 7 p.m. against Villanova at Lincoln Financial Field.