Should the Falcons try to reunite Tomlinson and Turner?

How would LaDainian Tomlinson look in Falcons' red?

How would LaDainian Tomlinson look in Falcons' red?

The Burner in his old powder blues.

The Burner in his old powder blues.

GENERAL MANAGER’S VILLE — The San Diego Chargers released running back LaDainian Tomlinson Monday, after nine seasons.

The Falcons plucked away his backup, Michael Turner, two seasons ago in free agency.

Turner is currently backed up by Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling. Both are set to become restricted free agents. Norwood will be one if a labor agreement isn’t reach by March 1.

Snelling, who played strong last season, finshed with a 147-yard rushing effort against Tampa Bay. He’ll be a restricted free agent no matter what.

Tomlinson did not appear to have that same explosion over the last two seasons. He has rushed for 12,490 yards in nine seasons and rushed for 138 touchdowns.

Last season, he rushed for 730 yards and averaged a pedestrian 3.3. yards per carry.

Should the Falcons try to reunite Turner and Tomlinson?

10 small college players to watch at the combine

Birdland — There are10 small school players to watch at the NFL Combine always  some players with interesting backgrounds from smaller schools at the NFL scouting combine each year.

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah starred for the Indiana-Pa. Crimson Hawks. You know he's tough because he's an Omega Man!!!

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah starred for the Indiana-Pa. Crimson Hawks. You know he's tough because he's an Omega Man!!!

There’s usually a decent group of players to track from small schools. Sometimes they are transfers who ran into trouble at their previous big-school stops. Some are just late bloomers, who were over looked by the football powerhouses.

In both of his drafts with the Falcons, general manager Thomas Dimitroff has ventured into the small college ranks for draft picks. In 2008, the Falcons selected defensive end  Kroy Biermann out of Montana. Last season, they selected Lawrence Sidbury out of Richmond and William Middleton from Furman.

Some of the recent small school combine invites were  wide receiver Miles Austin (Monmouth), offensive lineman Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg), tight end Kevin Boss (thanks to an endorsement from Dan Reeves who coached the Western Oregon product in an all-star game), linebacker Justin Durant (Hampton) and wide receiver Jacoby Jones (Lane).

Here’s a look at 10 players from small schools to keep an eye on at the NFL scouting combine which starts on Wednesday and runs through March 2.

1. Chris Bell, WR, Norfolk State: Started his career at Penn State where he played for two years before running  into legal and academic troubles. He resurfaced with the Spartans, who listed him at 6-foot-3, 210-pounds. He was the fifth rated receiver in the nation coming out of Norfolk’s Granby High, according to Scout.com. Had 51 catches for 958 yards (18.8 yards per catch) and 13 touchdowns. Bell could be a good mid-round pick for the Falcons, who are likely to address the position in this draft.

2. Joique Bell, RB, Wayne State: Played in the Senior Bowl. Listed as 6-1, 223 pounds. Rushed for 1,152 yards on 185 carries and scored 15 touchdowns as a junior. Last season rushed for more than 2,000 yards and won the Harlon Hill trophy, which goes to the Division II player of the year.

3. Valdimir Ducasse, OL, Massachusetts: The Haiti native played in the Senior Bowl.

4. Junior Galatte, DE, Stillman: For the second year in a row, Stillman has a draftable defensive lineman. Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill was drafted by Detroit in the fourth round last season. Gallatte transferred from Temple after starting there for three years. He was dismissed from the team. Last season, he had 10 tackles for losses, 9.5 sacks in just eight games before suffering a broken leg.

5. Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho: Some are projecting him as a first round pick. He played in the Senior Bowl

Norfolk State's Chris Bell (a Penn State transferee) terrorized the poor D-backs in the Mid-Eastern Athletice Conference last season. (Stephen M. Katz | The Virginian-Pilot)

Norfolk State's Chris Bell (a Penn State transfer) terrorized the poor D-backs in the Mid-Eastern Athletice Conference last season. (Stephen M. Katz | The Virginian-Pilot)

6. Preston Parker, WR, North Alabama: Started his college career at Florida State before transferring to North Alabama. He’s expected to run a fast time, but will have to explain to teams why he was dismissed from Florida State after alcohol, drug and gun related issues that attracted the attention of law enforcement officials in Tallahassee.

7. Torell Troup, DT, Central Florida: A two-time all-Conference USA pick from Salem High in Conyers. Served as a captain last season for the Knights.

8. Pat Paschall, RB, North Dakota State. The Chattahoochee High product started his career at Georgia Southern before going to junior college and then landing with North Dakota State. Has blazing speed. Ran a 10.6, 100-yard dash in high school. Check on the spin move on this 91-yard touchdown run.

9. Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale: He’s massive at 6-8, 315 and has nice footwork. Has played well in post-season all-star games. NFLDraftScout.com has a third round grade on Veldheer.

10. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, DB, Indiana-Pa.: A huge cornerback at 6-1, 205. The native of Ghana has recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in the team’s season finale. He has broken the 4.4 barrier in the 40-yard dash. He could be a good mid-round pick by the Falcons, but is still considered raw.  Some have compared him to Arizona’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who came out of Tennessee State.

Over in THE BIRDCAGE, they are talking about which  free agent cornerbacks the Falcons should pursue.

You can follow the Falcons Beat and Falcons Fan blogs on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

110 comments Add your comment

Blue Fender

February 22nd, 2010
7:29 am

A good thing about the small school products is that you can get them cheap.

Fish2774

February 22nd, 2010
9:14 am

For the past few years alot of the talented players are coming from the smaller schools. I wonder why?

falcon 71

February 22nd, 2010
9:55 am

UCF is not a small school they are D1.Troup is a beast on the D line

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 22nd, 2010
10:22 am

As a student of Wayne State, I can assure you that Joique Bell is the truth. He is a real blue-collar runner; a real workhorse. Trust me, he will impress at the combine and you will hear his name often. I don’t think he’ll get picked early but I doubt he’ll go un-drafted either. It sounds like Chris Bell is the truth; and so does Junior Gallate (Sammie Lee Hill was excellent as a rookie in for the Lions, until his knee injury). What’s the rundown on Jared Veldheer (nice size; good footwork)? How did he end up at a small school with a large body? I am now, officially, jumping on the Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (AOA) bandwagon. I would take him, no later than the fourth round.

Feed us more, D.O.. Great job!

Brian

February 22nd, 2010
10:40 am

Isn’t character a big issue for the Falcons since the changing of the front office guard? To draft some of these guys they are going to have to impress with interviews in addition to on the field merits.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 22nd, 2010
11:22 am

Stirg: Thanks for the comments. I’m doing some more work on Veldheer. Wonder if he hit a growth spurt? I don’t know. I think folks would have heard of AOA by now if he hadn’t hurt his shoulder. He would have been the talk of the Senior Bowl.

Brian: Yes, character is an issue. But the Falcons are willing to take a calculated risk from time to time. The background search would be key for players like Bell, Parker and Gallatte.

Falcon71
: You are technically correct. But they do play in Conference USA and I wanted to get Troup on the list!!!

Watching ESPN while working. Tebow’s got a new throwing motion. He’s looking pretty good. They are reporting that he won’t throw at the combine. He’ll save his show for the Gators’ pro day.

D3

February 22nd, 2010
11:29 am

Great Blog as Usual DOL – Very enjoying read on the small school studs. TD and the Birds should take a hard look at Chris Bell, Jared Veldheer, and Owusu-Ansah (although the injury scares me away after Jerry and Moore). Joique Bell also looked good in the Senior Bowl. On a totally different note, how did you get your recent tweets to show up on the blog? Thanks and keep up the excellent work.

ATLJBO

February 22nd, 2010
11:50 am

I really like AOA every since his 8 int season last year…. It was looking like he was going 2 have have another big season but he had the shoulder injury (two ints during his first 2 games then the injury happen)….Akwasi Owusu-Ansah definitely has the ball skills Thomas Dnimitroff loves… The guy is also a great KR/PR.

He is raw because of his level of competition but if DRC produced day way its a chance AOA could (not likle tho) …. He could be a big time steal.

DOL… I asked Akwasi Owusu-Ansah has the falcons shown any interest in him and he said this

“I am thinking the Falcons have shown interest but at this point I don’t really know because they have not seen me in person. Some have shown more interest than others but I think I will know more at the combine when they see me in person.”

By the way… DOL….. If you are going to the combine…. Is there any way you could post the list of players the Falcons meet with ?

I saw a cool Chiefs site where they keep up with every player the Chiefs has talk to at the senior bowl, east vs west shrine game, and will post who they met at the combine.

Stirg d'Nahsif

February 22nd, 2010
11:52 am

D3, what’s going on, my man? Stopped by the cage earlier. You got a nice topic going. I would agree with some of the bloggers…I think we can afford to sit on free agent corners, right now. I like starting Owens and I like Grimes at nickel (exclusively). That’ll leave a dogfight with Jackson, Houston, Hill and Williams. If we can nab AOA, we’re bound to find a starting corner opposite Owens.

Lets grab Richard Seymour in free agency; draft Sean ’spoon in the first round; in later rounds, target Dexter McCluster, AOA, Joique Bell, linemen (D- and O-); and we’re done….

C tha 1

February 22nd, 2010
12:09 pm

I know Safety may not be a position of immediate need for the Falcons, but for the good an organization that can never have enough good PR they need the draft Myron Rolle of Florida State. What are your thoughts on him and the Falcons possibly selecting hime Ledbetter? During his time at Florida State he was actually good.

Marcus

February 22nd, 2010
12:27 pm

@FISH2774
Your question could be answered in a lot of ways, but the NFL has a decent history of getting “small school” players, esp. those from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges) before widespread integration in Southern colleges/universities.

The key things are:
1. Giving a guy a chance – likely many of the recent success stories result from someone catching the eye of a scout, former coach or consultant who relays a tip on a kid who is under the radar due to (lack of) exposure. Right or wrong, the glamour and spotlight goes to a player with BCS school exposure and resume. This could be said for HS recruiting every once in a while, where a kid without the “measurables” can flourish at a small school whereas the “usual suspects of big-time football” won’t given him the time or day or want him to switch positions.
2. The transfer of players from top schools to small schools … even though it happened before, I will coin it the “Randy Moss effect”. A talented player finds issue (academic, legal, cultural) with his current school that plays FBS level football. He decides a change is needed, wheras he becomes a great and/or forgotten prospect at an FCS or D-II school. Going from a program on regional/national TV every week to one that subsists on regional cable access channel or an occasional game covered by ESPU, if that will almost put that guy in a NFL version of a witness protection program until the Pro Day or Senior Bowl.

falcon 71

February 22nd, 2010
12:29 pm

the list!!! is titled 10 small school players ——–. If you want to list a D1 player you are technically incorrect D Led. If you are going to list Troup you might as well list D Morgan

Cowboys

February 22nd, 2010
12:47 pm

It doesn’t matter who the falcons find under the radar they will never beat them Dallas Cowboys

Rev Blake

February 22nd, 2010
12:59 pm

I hope they consider, Ansah. Good size and speed. He definitely has a lot of upside and potential. I think he would be a great project.

I spent my FEMA money on superbowl tickets

February 22nd, 2010
1:14 pm

Falcons will blow another draft

azcat225

February 22nd, 2010
1:17 pm

Regarding Pat Paschall: Did you mean 100 meter dash? 10.6 in one hundred yards doesn’t seem all that great to me.

falcon 71

February 22nd, 2010
1:25 pm

azcat225 lol its not real fast in the 100 yrd dash either. i think D Led must have stayed up too late last night

Marcus

February 22nd, 2010
1:49 pm

@azcat,
for all intents and purposes (and decimal points) … 1 yard = 1 meter.

@Falcon71, 10.6 in 100m is better than decent, but not World Class. Do you expect a guy to have Olympic-qualifying track speed? is that the (unreasonable) expectation you have for a small school guy to justify getting an invite to the Combine over one of his BCS (SEC,ACC, Pac-10, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, ND) counterparts?

falcon 71

February 22nd, 2010
2:03 pm

Marcus 1 yrd=.915 meter I ran 10.6 in high school. 10.6 in 100 yrds = 11.6 in 100 meters. thats not fast Einstein

Unca' Bob

February 22nd, 2010
2:28 pm

D-Led,

I brought AOA into the Cage a while back and labeled him my sleeper. He also averaged 29.7 yards on KO’s and 12.5 on PR. He’s smart and dedicated and should be a good project if still around in round four.

azzhatt

February 22nd, 2010
2:59 pm

Draft the best lineman in the first round every year and you will win the SB.

[...] the article here: 10 small school players to watch at the NFL Combine | Atlanta … Share and [...]

Jeff Weiss

February 22nd, 2010
5:15 pm

The stats listed for Joique Bell are from 2008 — his bio is available at http://wsuathletics.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=1549&path=football. He rushed for 2,084 yards in 2009 to win the D-II Heisman (Harlon Hill Trophy). He had 29 rushing touchdowns, three receiving touchdowns and passed for one in just his senior year.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 22nd, 2010
5:16 pm

Unca’ Bob: Great minds think alike. I just got on to him while preparing for the combine. A few schools recruited him (Cincinnati) was one, but his only other offer was from the Ashland (Ohio) Eagles.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 22nd, 2010
5:21 pm

Jeff Weiss: Thanks. I’ve updated his accomplishments.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

February 22nd, 2010
5:24 pm

ATLJBO: I will be leaving for the combine on Wednesday. The Falcons haven’t not shared that information in the past. I’ll certainly ask for it (like I always do!!!) Usually, I just ask the players if they’ve met with the Falcons. I’ll do that with all of the CBs and DE’s for sure.

Greg

February 22nd, 2010
5:37 pm

Orlando, it’s well documented I think that, even putting aside the decline due to age, running backs who have been used a lot, by their 10th year, just don’t have the legs anymore. Who are the still-great hard-used 10th year running backs? I myself can’t name any. Snelling looks very good to me. I don’t put this as an area of real need for the Falcons, at least not for the fairly big bucks Tomlinson would be bid up to.

Bob in SF

February 22nd, 2010
6:00 pm

Tomlinson won’t be worth the money he’ll think he deserves and I doubt he would be thrilled to somewhere he has no chance of starting. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders go for him they don’t need and are pretty deep at RBhim but since Al is nuts and he likes to stick it to his old AFL West rivals you never know.

ATLJBO

February 22nd, 2010
6:04 pm

DOL…. Thats cool… You always have top notch coverage

Listen to Mike Mayock Talk about the Atlanta Falcons and there needs.

http://media.790thezone.com/Podcasts/1346/Mike_Mayock_2-22-10.mp3

jerry

February 22nd, 2010
6:07 pm

That had to be a rhetorical question. Or was it a joke?

itpdude

February 22nd, 2010
7:16 pm

I like Tomlinson a lot. . . . . a few years ago. I think he is now on the tail-end of his career but will demand a high salary. Turner had a great season 2 years ago and the Falcons record showed it. Let him take the number one spot. He showed he can handle the pressure. Maybe draft an RB in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. For now, the Falcons need a secondary first and take a long look at some D-linemen.

Flo-Ri-Duh!

February 22nd, 2010
7:23 pm

First the Falcons will have to eliminate guys that have tested positive for drugs, guys that beat up their girl friends, guys that are really dumb and guys that are quitters. Leaving maybe 2 prospects left at the small college level that can make the team. Good luck.

Flo-Ri-Duh!

February 22nd, 2010
7:25 pm

Don’t need Tomlinson – he should retire.

BobbyPutnam

February 22nd, 2010
7:27 pm

Brian

February 22nd, 2010
7:33 pm

Sign LT! let LT and Turner battle it out in camp for #1. Cut Norwood. We can’t pass up our second chance at LT…. He should have been a Falcon from the start if we hadn’t drafted #7…….

tom

February 22nd, 2010
8:10 pm

Turner does not need to be reunited with his old teammate who is on the downhill slide. Falcons have more serious needs on the Oline and Defense.

tom

February 22nd, 2010
8:18 pm

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

crabapplejoe

February 22nd, 2010
8:25 pm

Yep…he’s exactly what the Falcons need an aged RB who ran for 3.3 YPC on a team that made the playoffs….pleeez. He needs to go to assisted living. Better to draft Toby Gerhart in round two or three and have young, fresh legs.

Jinx (formerly known as woogidy)

February 22nd, 2010
8:33 pm

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

falconfanforever

February 22nd, 2010
8:40 pm

please consider guys from the smaller less known schools… does anyone remember a guy by the name of Jerry Rice?

siskel_god

February 22nd, 2010
9:07 pm

How about trading Turner back to San Diego for Cromartie then signing LT and drafting Spiller?

Matt the Brave

February 22nd, 2010
9:07 pm

I think that LT might be done, but he may not know it yet. I would rather get a fresh set of legs through the draft (i.e.: 5th or 6th round)

Iceman

February 22nd, 2010
9:17 pm

Falcons need a better secondary above all else.

cdog

February 22nd, 2010
9:21 pm

yes, yes without question or hesitation, sign lt now.half of lt is better than any other back the falcons have.lt is an all-pro.done or not, sign him now.

Delbert D.

February 22nd, 2010
9:34 pm

No, I’d say let’s give Turner one more year.

Sarah B

February 22nd, 2010
9:39 pm

Give Snelling more carries. He and Turner will get it done.

DMo

February 22nd, 2010
9:50 pm

Are you kidding me. Used up!!!!

htwo0rider

February 22nd, 2010
9:56 pm

Enter your comments here

West Coast Falcons Fan

February 22nd, 2010
10:09 pm

Yes, reunite LT with Turner. The Chargers line has been horrible for the past two years. Moreover, LT has not been the same since Lorenzo Neal signed with the Ravens. LT could be very effective running behind a good line and big fullback like Mughelli who ironically modeled his game after Lorenzo Neals. LT is a model citizen as far as NFL players go, and will have something to prove. He could probably be signed for $2 mil, with incentives…not much risk considering the possible upside.

michaelgee

February 22nd, 2010
10:14 pm

Cheap unknown signees reminds me of the Uber success we had under Rankin Smith’s ownership. The “Bargain Basement” days, ugh, more mediocrity. We saved lots of money but couldn’t win anything.