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2014 rookie premiere: Jaguars draft class looks to future

Posted May 14, 2014

First-round QB Blake Bortles on first few days around Jaguars: “It’s been awesome to walk into that locker room."


JACKSONVILLE – They’re fresh-faced and wide-eyed.

In a lot of ways, when you’re seeing NFL rookies in the first few days “on campus,” you’re seeing these guys on the first day of the rest of their lives, and certainly the rest of their careers.

That’s what makes this week fascinating.

And it’s what made the jaguars.com second annual rookie premiere show on Wednesday good viewing and good listening: The idea that you’re seeing the future of the franchise raw and sort of uncut.

That’s pretty cool, and while it may not say volumes about how the nine players selected by the Jaguars last weekend in the 2014 NFL Draft will contribute on the field in the coming seasons, it does give you an idea about why General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley liked this group.

They’re enthusiastic. They’re focused.

They’re ready to go to work, which is what the group has been doing the past several days, since arriving at EverBank Field on Monday. The group has been on the field and in meetings, learning the basics of the Jaguars’ offense and defense.

That process will continue later this week, when the Jaguars hold their two-day rookie minicamp at the Florida Blue Practice Fields Friday and Saturday. Practices will begin at 1:10 each day and are free and open to the public after registration at jaguars.com/register.

Highlights from Wednesday’s rookie premiere:

*Quarterback Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the draft from Central Florida, said the first few days working with the Jaguars coaches, “has been awesome. It’s such a welcoming environment … with the message everybody has, it’s been awesome to walk into that locker room.”…

*Bortles said while the NFL Draft experience was memorable, he has been looking forward to this week. Of the high-profile nature of draft weekend he said, “That’s not me, going to New York and doing all that stuff. I enjoy being in the locker room, being in the facility, hanging around a great group of guys, watching football and building camaraderie. Those are the things I enjoy, so I’m glad that process is over.”…

*Wide receiver Allen Robinson, a second-round selection from Penn State, said of the Jaguars moving up nine selections to No. 61 overall to select him, “That’s a great feeling, for a team to trade up means a team has a lot invested in you. That meant a lot to me.”…

*Robinson improved his 40-yard dash time significantly from the NFL Scouting Combine to his Pro Day, dropping from a 4.6-second combine 40 to 4.47 at his Pro Day. He said that speed should translate to the field. “I feel like my speed has increased,” he said. “I thought I played in college with pretty good game speed. I’m just trying to improve that right now.”…

*Offensive guard Brandon Linder, a third-round selection from the University of Miami, on possibly winning the starting right guard job as a rookie: “That’s not up to me. It’s coming in here and getting better every day. That’s what coach Gus is wanting us to do.” …

*Linder on playing for Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, the offensive coordinator at Miami from 2011-2012: “Coach Fisch is a guy who brings a lot of enthusiasm to the room, to the offense.”…

*Cornerback Aaron Colvin, a fourth-round selection from Oklahoma, said he is recovering on schedule after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament on the second day of Senior Bowl practice in January. “The knee is great,” he said. …

*Colvin also discussed a conversation he had with Bradley at the NFL Scouting Combine. Bradley and the Jaguars’ staff, who coached the Senior Bowl, had been impressed enough with Colvin in his one full practice at the event that Bradley told Colvin at the combine the team still wanted to draft him. “It spoke volumes about Coach Gus and the organization,” Colvin said. “You don’t necessarily think too much of it then and there because you have so much going on and you don’t know who’s sincere, but I knew he seemed to be genuine. For him to do that just speaks volumes.”…

*Colvin said he couldn’t confirm or deny reports that his father, Bryant – formerly a Tennessee Titans fan – might hold a burning ceremony for his Titans memorabilia. But Colvin said he didn’t doubt it might happen. “My dad is the type to really burn something,” he said, laughing….

*Colvin, asked to describe himself as a defender when healthy, replied, “I’m lock-down. I feel like I fit in perfect in this environment and I feel like my ball skills and competitiveness are up there as well. When I’m competing and I’m on that field, I’m not backing down from anybody.” …

*Outside linebacker Telvin Smith, a fifth-round selection from Florida State, said “every game is a celebration for me. I’m just happy to be out there.” Smith is expected to add significant speed to the Jaguars’ defense, particularly in pass coverage…

*Smith, who is listed at 6-feet-3, 218 pounds, said of those who question his ability to maintain wait at the NFL, “There are always going to be questions. Even when I do it, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, he’s gotten slower. He’s gotten this.’ People always face adversity in life. I make plays and I’m going to continue to make plays.”…

*Smith said of his experience at the Senior Bowl with Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and the Jaguars’ coaching staff: “They brought the juice every day and I loved it. I said, ‘It’d be great to play for coaches like that.’”…

*Defensive end Chris Smith, a fifth-round selection from Arkansas, said of his NFL opportunity, “They always say, ‘It’s easy to get in (to the NFL), but the hardest part is to stay in.’ I just want to work on that hard part and stay in the NFL.”…

*Smith is listed at 6-1, and though that’s considered short for an NFL defensive end, Smith said this is hardly the first time his height has been questioned. “Everybody says if I had two or three more inches I’d be a first-rounder, but I just play with the cards I’m dealt,” Smith said…

*Center Luke Bowanko, a sixth-round selection from Virginia, said he hasn’t thought much about possibly competing with veteran Mike Brewster for the starting position along with Patrick Lewis and Jacques McClendon. “Competition is great at every level, but really it’s just competing with yourself and getting better every day,” he said. “Hopefully, by the time the results need to start showing then I’m competing with other guys.”

*Bowanko said he was close with Jaguars offensive tackle Austin Pasztor at Virginia, saying the older player “kind of took me under his wing” at the school. “He had been there a couple of years by the time I got there,” Bowanko said. “He kind of taught me how to take care of business and learn my assignments in kind of a professional way.” …

*Bowanko said he wasn’t familiar with Pasztor’s Jaguars nickname, “Frenchy,” but said Pasztor did have many other nicknames in college. He opted against sharing the nicknames. “Frenchy wasn’t one of them,” Bowanko said….

*Marqise Lee, a second-round wide receiver from Southern California, and seventh-round Central Florida running back Storm Johnson were the only rookies not available for the rookie premier. Lee was traveling to Jacksonville Wednesday…

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