Hopeful UH seniors prepare for NFL draft

Rheams may be first Cougar picked

James Beltran

Sports Editor

It's a time of worry, anxiety and jubilation for some, but for most it's a time of heartbreak.

It's the NFL draft, and this year should be no different as college football players, including a few at the University of Houston, wait apprehensively for Saturday and the revelation of their futures in professional football.

UH won't have any prolific offensive threats like David Klingler or Antowain Smith to offer the NFL this year, but Cougar seniors Leonta Rheams (defensive end) and Mike Parker (linebacker) can create some options for those NFL teams in need of defensive help.

Parker was an early candidate for the Butkus Award last season ( for the nation's best linebacker). He collected seven tackles for losses and led the team in total tackles with 81. Parker has credit for one forced fumble and one recovered in 11 games.

Coach Kim Helton said Rheams stands the best chance at being the first Cougar picked in the draft. "He had some injuries at the beginning of the season and played through it," Helton said. "Maybe he could have gone higher if he would have been healthy."

In 10 games last season, Rheams collected four sacks for a loss of 25 yards and had 10 tackles for losses.

Rheams said he expects to possibly go in the fourth round.

"I want the paycheck," Rheams said. "Even if I get drafted, I still have to make the team, so I'm trying to continue to work hard and show the scouts my skills."

A Cougar who was a possible high pick at the beginning of the season was Ben Fricke. Holder of many of UH's strength records, Fricke was a preseason pick for top center in the nation.

Entering the draft, however, Fricke isn't expected to be drafted in the later rounds.

"I'm mystified that Fricke isn't going to go higher," Helton said. "The pro people don't like his height, but I know he's a talented player."

Other players Helton considers as possibilities are linebacker Vaughn Washington and defensive end Rusty Foster, who Helton said is being considered as a punt snapper by NFL scouts.

"Vaughn was taken to the combines," Helton said. "It's hard to say whether he'll get drafted. He's another one that had some problems with injury last season. That will probably hurt him."

A player Helton seems more sure of is wide receiver Maurice Bryant, who caught 39 passes for 483 yards last season. He also reeled in one touchdown pass and posted an average of 43.9 yards per reception.

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