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Small School Spotlight: RB Kerwynn Williams (Utah State)

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 22, 2013 – 10:49 am

The “small school” tag is not the only stigma this nimble, smooth-striding RB will have to overcome to make it in the NFL. He’ll also be characterized as a one-year starter who faced lesser competition. To his defense on those two charges, he played behind a pair of 2012 draft picks – Seattle 4th-rounder Robert Turbin and Tampa Bay 7th-rounder Michael Smith, and when he finally did assume a starting role in 2012 he dominated.

Kerwynn Williams, Keith Smith, James Orth

Here was his senior line as a RB: 218 carries for 1,512 yards (6.9 per carry) and 15 TDs. He also had 45 receptions for 697 yards and 5 TDs as a pass catcher out of the backfield, illustrating his ability to play all 3 downs as a versatile offensive weapon (20 total TDs). During his time at Utah State, Williams was also a talented returner, the type of player the Vikings could be looking to add in this draft. In 4 seasons at Utah State, Williams totaled 91 kickoff returns for 2,272 yards (25.0 per return) with 1 TD, and he was also an occasional punt returner (15 career punt returns). As a freshman, he was the full-time kickoff returner, averaging 27.2 yards per return with a TD.

The production is obviously there, in several facets of the game. The raw ability is there, too, as Williams was a top performer among RBs at the Combine with a 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.15 time in the 20-yard shuttle. He also recorded explosive measurements in the broad jump and vertical leap.

Outside of the small-school, one-year starter and lesser competition tags, Williams will also be docked for his size – he measures in at 5-8, 195 pounds. Maybe that will prevent him from ascending a depth chart and becoming a bell-cow type of RB in the NFL. But maybe it won’t, either. Regardless of that, this small-school prospect who glides swiftly across and down a football field like a hockey player down the ice could be an impact player as a returner and receiver out of the backfield.


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Five Vikings Poised For Breakout Seasons

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 22, 2013 – 5:57 am

Every NFL team has star players who are relied upon year-in and year-out to perform at a premium level. But on a year-in and year-out basis, successful NFL teams also have players who take huge steps in their development to push their team to the next level.

That is what you call a breakout season, and if the Vikings are to follow up last season’s success with another playoff-caliber campaign, they will need breakout seasons from several players. So with the offseason program launching today, what better time to identify candidates for breakout seasons in 2013.

DT Christian Ballard
Career games played/started: 32/2
2012 Role: Reserve DT, part of regular rotation
2013 Outlook: A reserve player as a rookie in 2011, Ballard became part of the rotation in 2012 and saw his production increase – he even registered his first career sack. In 2013, though, Ballard has an opportunity to take an even larger leap than he did from 2011 to 2012. Perhaps Ballard’s best trait is his versatility, as he can line up at DE or DT and he’s also been a special teams contributor for Mike Priefer’s group. It won’t be a surprise to see the Vikings address the DT position in the draft, but it also won’t be a surprise to see Ballard perform at a level that will make it hard for that rookie DT to walk into a starting spot.

RG Brandon Fusco
Career games played/started: 19/16
2012 Role: Starter/split time with Geoff Schwartz
2013 Outlook: A 6th-round pick in the 2011 draft, Fusco came to the Vikings from Division II school Slippery Rock and over a year earned a starting role blocking for the best RB in the NFL. The reason Fusco was able to overcome the small-school stigma and crack the starting lineup in his second season is because of his toughness and determination. Those are the same traits he’s going to need in 2013 to prevent this year’s version of Brandon Fusco (whoever that may be) from supplanting him in the lineup. We talk a lot about unknown commodities coming out of college and becoming house-hold names in the NFL – Fusco has the work ethic and desire to be another example of this.

S Mistral Raymond
Career games played/started: 20/8
2012 Role: Opened season as starter, injured, rotated with Jamarca Sanford
2013 Outlook: The Vikings are poised to once again hold a robust competition for a starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith. In 2012, Raymond won this competition over Sanford and rookie Robert Blanton, but an injury early in the season derailed his season for a bit. Fortunately, Raymond returned to action in 2012 but not as the full-time starter. The same cast of characters will return in 2013 to battle for a starting spot, and there may even be more names added to the mix once the NFL draft begins later this week. As a 6th-round pick who has battled and defeated personal and professional adversity before, expect Raymond to shine this offseason and training camp.

CB Josh Robinson
Career games played/started: 16/6
2012 Role: Rotational CB
2013 Outlook: After making all the dances and starting 6 of them as a rookie and intercepting 2 passes along the way, Robinson, a 3rd-round pick, turned out to be one of the draft’s better value selections for the Vikings. His performance in 2012 will likely land him in a starting position on the depth chart to begin the offseason program. But his development is not done. There are still improvements Robinson can make to his game, and there will also be plenty of competition added to the position before the team heads to Mankato for training camp this summer.

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WR Jarius Wright
Career games played/started: 7/1
2012 Role: Inactive until Week 10, regular contributor over final half of the season
2013 Outlook: The diminutive Arkansas product showed flashes of potential in training camp and the preseason last year, but a high ankle sprain limited him in the first half of the regular season. Wright hit his stride at just the right time, though, as an ankle injury to Percy Harvin opened the door for him to step in. Wright finished the season with 22 receptions for 310 yards and 2 touchdowns, and now he’s poised to earn a spot in the starting lineup and continue in 2013 where he left off in 2012 as a versatile receiver who can play inside or outside but who excels from the slot.


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The Boys Are Back In Town – Vikings Launch Offseason Program

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 22, 2013 – 5:25 am

This is a big week for the crop of prospects hoping to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, with the 1st-round set to begin on Thursday evening and the draft scheduled to conclude by Saturday afternoon. But it’s also a big week for many current NFL players, including members of the Vikings.

The Vikings 9-week voluntary offseason program begins Monday and runs into June, which essentially means many Vikings players will be in and around Winter Park for the next 2 months preparing and training for training camp and ultimately the 2013 season.

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Under provisions and rules set forth by the brand-new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Vikings offseason program will consist of three phases, with each phase governed by a different set of rules that will regulate the players’ interaction with coaches, contact during workouts and drills, and more.

Phase One (April 22-May 3): Limited to strength and conditioning, and physical rehab. No position coaches on field. No footballs, exception being quarterbacks may throw to uncovered receivers. No helmets permitted.
Phase Two (May 6-May 24): All coaches on field. “Perfect Play,” individual player instruction drills, special teams drills on a “separates” basis.  No live contact. No individual or team offense vs. defense. No helmets.
Phase Three (May 27-June 14): All coaches on field. Ten Organized Team Activities (OTAs) during four-week period. One mandatory minicamp during week three or four. No live contact. No individual offense vs. defense. Kicking team vs. return team permitted. Team offense vs. team defense permitted. Helmets permitted.

OTA Dates
OTA #1-3: May 28-30
OTA #4-6: June 4-6
OTA #7-10: June 10-13

Minicamp Dates
Rookie Minicamp: May 3-5
Mandatory Minicamp: June 18-20

As if the NFL draft wasn’t enough this week, the abyss of the NFL offseason is pushed even further into the rear view mirror thanks to the launch of the offseason program. Let the fun begin!


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