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Class Is In Session For 2012 Rookie Class

Posted May 4, 2012

Class was in session this afternoon for the Miami Dolphins’ 2012 rookie class as new Head Coach Joe Philbin kicked off the three-day rookie mini-camp.

As expected, all eyes – and camera lenses – were on first-round pick Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Easy to spot in his red No. 17 jersey, Tannehill seemed to settle into the offense with ease thanks to his familiarity with the system from Texas A&M.

What could never be accounted for in a playbook or a film room is the warm temperatures in South Florida and the tempo of an NFL practice. Philbin saw what he expected to see early on and will take a closer look at the film tonight before drawing any conclusions.

“I think the first play of team period we had about three guys fall down like we could have predicted,” said Philbin, who is in his first year as a head coach in the NFL. “But I thought overall the guys practiced hard and sometimes it’s hard for guys as much as you work out it’s hard to simulate football practice, so I think a couple of them got gassed a little bit early. I thought overall the tempo was good, the effort was good.”

There were five players from the University of Miami on the field and a total of 10 that played their high school ball in South Florida, so they were able to better adapt to the weather conditions. The only players more comfortable than these ex-Hurricanes were the first-year guys like quarterback Pat Devlin and cornerback Vincent Agnew.

Devlin and Agnew were among a handful of players that got to participate in the voluntary veteran mini-camp 10 days ago and in Devlin and Agnew’s case, had last year’s practice squad experience to fall back on. Other than Tannehill, who completed two perfect deep passes and looked in command throughout, Agnew stood out with an interception and a nicely timed pass breakup. The rest of the rookies left the practice field trying to catch their breath a little and look ahead to tomorrow and Sunday.

“I liked it and I had a lot of fun,” said wide receiver Jeff Fuller, who was Tannehill’s teammate at Texas A&M. “I got out here and competed no special teams, got a few routes in and I’m just looking forward to tomorrow and getting better.”

It didn’t hurt Fuller that he caught some of his passes from Tannehill and also was somewhat familiar with the offense being run by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Of course Sherman was Fuller’s and Tannehill’s head coach with the Aggies.

Philbin liked what he saw out of Tannehill and how he responded to some of the plays that were called and some of the defensive coverages that were presented to him. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound former wide receiver delivered as expected in Philbin’s eyes.

“We threw a couple of double moves, we threw a couple of deep balls and I thought he threw those relatively well,” Philbin said. “It looked like he threw the ball on the move well and I think in general, even with our veterans, our play speed at that position is something that we’re going to need to work on. But given the fact that it’s day one and practice one I thought he did some good things.”

By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around and Philbin bids farewell to these rookies until the first OTA sessions, he has a good idea of what he hopes winds up being accomplished. Not only does he know what he wants the players to walk away with, he has a clear vision for what he and his coaches want to carry into those OTAs.

“We want to have a good evaluation on these guys from an athletic standpoint and a relatively good evaluation from a learning standpoint and how quickly we fell like they can connect to our schemes,” Philbin said. “We want to lay the groundwork from a fundamental and technique standpoint and probably most important, we want to just get them up to speed so when the OTAs start they’re ready.

“Our OTAs have got to be a lot more faster paced than what we had in the voluntary mini-camp. … We’ve got to accelerate the curve now. Time flies by as we all know so the OTAs are a very important timeframe for us. … We’ve got to come together as a football team and we’ve got to integrate these guys with our veterans and get to work.”

IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: Like every preseason, it’s never a certainty what jersey number a player is going to hold onto, but here’s a look at which rookies are wearing which numbers this weekend.

Tannehill, of course, held onto his No. 17 and that is not likely to change. Second-round pick Jonathan Martin from Stanford, who worked at right tackle today, was given No. 71 and third-round defensive end Olivier Vernon out of Miami was given No. 50. Tight end Michael Egnew, the other third-round pick out of Missouri, ran his routes with the No. 84 on the front and back of his jersey.

Fourth-round pick Lamar Miller, the running back out of Miami, is wearing No. 44 and fifth-round linebacker Josh Kaddu sported No. 57. Sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham, the Michigan State wide receiver, had No. 16 and seventh-round wide receiver Rishard Matthews from Nevada wore No. 85. Seventh-round pick Kheeston Randall, the defensive tackle out of Texas, was given No. 97.

EMOTIONAL PRACTICE FOR MANDICH: Southern Connecticut State tight end Nick Mandich carried the legacy of his late father, former Dolphins tight end Jim Mandich, onto the practice field. He even wore the same jersey number, No. 88, and set out to make a name for himself in front of Philbin and his staff.

“It felt really good. I was nervous and that’s a fact,” said Mandich, who was among 17 tryout players invited to participate in the three-day camp. “There were a lot of emotions. At the beginning of the day when I came in and I saw the locker, there were more emotions towards obviously my father. But as the day went on and the time started to dwindle down and get closer to lace up the shoes and get out on the field, my emotions really took a turn.”

After he got over the butterflies and the realization that he was in an NFL camp, Mandich felt he represented himself well but also admitted there were things he could have done better. Philbin caught a few of the good things Mandich accomplished.

“Obviously, his father was a great player here but Nick came down to that same Miami Day and obviously we invited him here because we saw some things there,” he said. “That tight end position is one that’s got a lot of flexibility in this offense, so we’re looking for guys that can show some versatility, have good learning skills, can play multiple positions and line up different ways and go in motion. … So it’s a lot on their plate and he showed some good things when he came the first time so we’ll give him some opportunities out here on the field.”

ROOKIE NUGGETS: One tryout player that stood out during the warm-ups and stretching was Utah linebacker Chaz Walker. Apparently influenced by Clay Matthews, Jr., of the Green Bay Packers and his brother, Casey Matthews, Walker tossed around his long hair that was down past the middle of his back. He’ll learn rather quickly what a detriment that might turn out to be in this heat. … Former Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris was one of three tryout players from Miami and got a chance to show what he could do in the passing game. … The only positions missing on the field were punters and kickers, so those special teams coverage drills were done without them.
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