Thursday, April 21, 2005

Familiar faces Several Bay Area prospects likely to be picked

Jake Curtis, Chronicle Staff Writer
Until it was mentioned to them, safety Marviel Underwood and linebacker Kirk Morrison had not considered the possibility of being picked by the same team in this weekend's NFL Draft.
They liked the sound of it.
"That would be great," Underwood said.
"That would be great," Morrison said an hour later.
That they had identical responses should not be surprising, because, over the past dozen years, the two East Bay natives probably spent more time together than most married couples.
The two San Diego State players don't know and don't care which one is drafted first, which is a good thing because projections on their draft status vary widely.
Most NFL hopefuls with Bay Area ties have an idea when they'll be picked. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and J. J. Arrington of Cal and tight end Alex Smith and defensive back O. J. Otogwe of Stanford all expect to be taken on Saturday, when the first three rounds are held. Former City College of San Francisco linebacker Lance Mitchell, now at Oklahoma, and Stanford defensive back Stanley Wilson have a shot at being taken on the first day, too.
The rest probably will have to wait until Sunday. That includes Cal wide receivers Geoff McArthur and Chase Lyman, whose draft standings have been going in opposite directions recently. McArthur, the Bears' career leader in receptions with 202, probably will be taken later than Lyman, who played only four games this season and finished with 54 career catches.
Knee injuries are at the center of both players' situations. Although McArthur has a lingering shoulder problem, six screws in his right forearm and four screws in an ankle bone broken in the regular-season finale, it is a troublesome left knee, which required six operations before this season and one after, that has prevented him from working out for any teams. He says it's still not right, and he realizes he might not get drafted.
Lyman, meanwhile, had a speedy recovery from October anterior cruciate ligament surgery, has been running at full speed for a month and has worked out for several NFL teams recently. He's a good bet to get drafted, perhaps early the second day.
Sunday also might be the day for Underwood and Morrison, who have a habit of doing things together.
It started in Pop Warner football, when both were 9 and Underwood played for the Oakland Dynamites and Morrison for the Oakland Saints. It continued through high school when Underwood's San Leandro High played Morrison's Bishop O'Dowd three times in matchups of Bay Area powers. Both participated in track meets between the two schools, too.
They were pursued by many of the same colleges, and when Underwood arrived at San Diego State for his recruiting visit, he found Morrison and O'Dowd teammate Josh Dean there as well.
"I thought, 'Oh no, these guys again?' " Underwood said.
The weekend worked out pretty well, though. Underwood and Morrison ended up living together all five years. They have the same major (criminal justice), and over the past two years they have taken all the same courses. They are in the same defensive huddle on game day and socialize together other days.
"We spend about 17-18 hours a day together," Morrison said. "It's crazy."
Morrison is the more outgoing, and Underwood is faster, although the latter became clear only recently.
Underwood, a running back in high school, ran about 4.45 seconds in the 40 at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, but in a demonstration in San Diego before representatives of about a dozen NFL teams three weeks ago, he ran a 4. 38.
"I just didn't feel comfortable in Indianapolis," he said. "I think it was the time change, and I didn't sleep good the night before."
Whatever the reason, he elevated himself to a player who might be drafted early Sunday. That might be where Morrison lands, too, although opinions on him vary widely. He was the defensive MVP of the Mountain West Conference, but at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, his size and speed are questions. Some analysts have Morrison rated among the top five inside linebackers in the draft, making him a possible third-round pick. Others don't have Morrison in their top 10.
"We don't know which of us is going first," Morrison said. "We don't even care if we get drafted. We just want to get to a camp to show what we can do."

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