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Measuring up


The months leading up to the NFL Draft can be a frustrating time for young players. Scheduling demands, private workouts and expert prognosticators in every corner of the country can wear on one's psyche.

Perhaps the most trying part is trying to fully understand the evaluation process. This time of the year, NFL teams often push a player's on-the-field accomplishments aside while 40-yard dash times, agility tests and weight room reports are moved to the fore.

Which is all just fine for Santana Moss, the University of Miami's leading receiver in 2000. Moss is accustomed to excelling when his feats are measured by a stopwatch or tape measure.

At the 2000 Big East Indoor Track & Field Championships, Moss set a conference record with a time of 6.77 in the 60-meter dash. In the outdoor championships a few months later, Moss set a school record in the long jump (26'2") and placed first with a personal best in the triple jump (50'8").

"Track was something I could do," Moss said. "My speed on the football field is way different than my track speed. Track you really have to train for. My training in track was mostly jumping.

"That's why I'm able to go out there and jump without practice now. As far as a sprinter in track, I'm not on that level. But on the football field, I can get from point A to B pretty quick."

A claim collegiate defensive backs everywhere would not refute.

Throughout his career at Miami, the 5-foot-9 Moss routinely encountered opponents playing on their heels. Those who tried to cover Moss too aggressively often ended up being burned by his speed or exposed by his leaping ability.

Superior talent isn't Moss' only advantage. He combines refined offensive techniques with a unique understanding of defensive schemes.

"I played defense in my younger years," said Moss, who led the Hurricanes with 45 catches for 748 yards last season. "So when I look at safeties and cornerbacks, I read the coverage. Once I see the coverage, I know whether I'm going to get the ball that play or not."

Whether Moss, a former walk-on, will play a starring role immediately in the NFL doesn't seem to be a point of debate among draft experts. Teams are impressed with his fundamentals, play-making prowess and exceptional times in the 40-yard dash. (He ran 4.39 on a grass surface at Miami on March 1, which is equivalent of a 4.35 time on the RCA Dome turf featured at the scouting combine.)

Moss' stock is also boosted by his ability to return punts. He established a Big East record by returning six punts for touchdowns in his career.

Whether Moss will be the first wideout selected is a debate that will likely continue until draft day. Michigan's David Terrell, N.C. State's Koren Robinson and Oregon State's Chad Johnson are also considered potential first-round picks.

As far as reaching his own potential, Moss believes he has a long way to go.

"I want to be a great blocker; I want to run every route correctly," he said. "I just want to be an all-around player who makes plays in every aspect of the game."

Until he's established in an NFL home, Moss said he isn't thinking about the glamorous aspects of professional football, most notably the size of his first contract. After all, there's enough weighing on his mind right now.

"When I get (money), I'll talk about buying stuff," Moss said. "Right now, I just want to handle my business on the field. But when I get that money, I'll have plenty of time to spend it. I just want to worry about football first."

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