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Dream day arrives for former Gator center Mike Pouncey



When Mike Pouncey decided to return for his senior season with the Gators last year, he was hoping to improve his skills enough to become a first round NFL draft choice.

Tonight, that decision should pay off for the former Gator center.

Pouncey is expected to be selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, which will be held tonight in New York.

The first round will be broadcast tonight on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m.

In the latest, and final mock draft by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., Pouncey is predicted to be taken at No. 15 by the Miami Dolphins.

"Right now, I'm making this pick almost as a placeholder,'' Kiper wrote on "I think this team will trade down. We've talked about the Dolphins taking a shot at Mark Ingram with this pick, but they are one of the true wild-card teams in this process. I can see them moving down for a quarterback (Ryan Mallett?) or going several other directions. If they do go with Pouncey, they will get the top interior lineman on the board, a guy who can help any team. Versatile and solid, with obvious bloodlines.''

If that happens, Mike will get his wish to be drafted higher than his twin brother, Maurkice who was taken at No. 18 by the Pitttsburgh Steelers last season.

But after a banner season last year in the NFL Draft, Florida isn't expected to have a dominant showing with this year's class. Nine Florida players were selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. This year, Pouncey is the only Gator expected to be selected in the first round, and it's possible no other Florida player will be selected in the first two rounds.

"It's an unusual class for Florida in that there's not a ton of talent,'' said Todd McShay,  Director of Scouting for Scouts, Inc. "We've gotten so spoiled the last few years. Marcus Gilbert would be probably the next highest guy (after Pouncey). I have a high third-round grade on him. It won't shock me if he  winds up getting drafted in the second round because of the need for tackles and because of his size - 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds. ''

Several Gators are expected to be selected sometime over the next four days when rounds 1-7 are completed. Among them is All-SEC safety Ahmad Black.

Obviously the size for Ahmad Black is an issue, as is his speed,'' McShay said. "You're talking about 5-foot-9 1/2, 185 pounds - ran in the 4.7's. It's concerning. It doesn't stack up with what the averages are in the NFL. The average NFL safety last year in a study that was done is 6 feet, 205, and runs a 4.55. That's not just starters. That's every safety in the league. It concerns you but then you watch him on tape and he's durable, he's there every game, his instincts and recognition skills I gave him as high a grade as I gave any safety in this year's class in terms of instincts and recognition. He has very good ball skills. He's a playmaker when he's around the ball. You see the one interception in 2009 but he had seven in 2008. He's always around the ball making plays. He's tough for his size. He'll come up in (run)support. I still think he comes off the board in the third round but if he was a couple inches taller, 10-15 pounds heavier, and ran a tenth of a second faster in his 40-yard dash we could be talking about him in the late first round. And that's the difference.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a former assistant with the Miami Dolphins, said he believes Black is worth taking a chance on despite his size.

"Some team is going to look past height and all the measurables, and they are going to look at his heart and all the intangibles, and he's going to play a long time in the National Football League,'' Muschamp said.

McShay also believes former Gator Justin Trattou could be a surprise in this year's draft.

"I know he didn't get invited to the combine, but he plays hard,'' McShay said. "He's versatile. He doesn't have great speed obviously. He's in the high 4.7's, 255 pounds. He played a lot of defensive tackle at Florida but projects as an end in the NFL. When you're looking at this class in the late rounds he probably has the best chance to become a late-round pick and come in and surprise people in the NFL.''

While the Gators may not have a banner year, the SEC is still poised to have an impressive showing. According to Kiper's final mock draft, nine of the 32 selections in the first round will be former SEC players - six projected in the Top 10: 1) QB Cam Newton, Auburn (Carolina Panthers); 3) DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama (Buffalo); 4) WR A.J. Green, Georgia (Cincinnati); 5) CB Patrick Peterson, LSU (Arizona); 6) WR Julio Jones, Alabama (Cleveland); 9) DT Nick Fairley, Auburn (Tennessee); 15) Mike Pouncey, Florida (Miami); 28) RB Mark Ingram, Alabama (New England); 29) OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State (Chicago).

 If you're looking for additional NFL Draft coverage tonight, former Florida coach Urban Meyer and former UF quarterback Jesse Palmer will offer analysis and insight, and interview college coaches of the drafted players from 10:30 p.m. until midnight on ESPNU. 

[Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 10:50am]


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