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pakowitz 01-18-2003 10:54 PM

TCU's McDonald is standout LB despite his low height, weight
By Darrell Williams
Staff writer

MOBILE, ALA. -- When Mike Pinkard glided through the secondary for a catch during North team practices, he caught more than the ball.

Pinkard, a tight end from Arizona State, received attention after replacing L.J. Smith of Rutgers, who pulled a hamstring Tuesday and cannot continue practicing. When Pinkard received a call from his agent Tuesday to get on a flight to Mobile, he said he couldn't believe it.

"I was a little disappointed I wasn't invited initially," he said. "But I just continued to work out to get ready for the NFL Scouting Combine. I look at this as a good opportunity to get noticed. If I do well here, then follow that up with a good combine, things might turn out well."

Things turned out well on his first day. Pinkard, 6 feet 4, 261 pounds, held his own in the blocking drills as well. But it was his work in the passing drills that were most impressive. After practice, Saints tight ends coach Bob Palcic and Kansas City Chiefs tight ends coach Keith Rowen approached Pinkard.

"They said I did well grasping things the first day," Pinkard said. "I didn't make mistakes. I flew in last night, and the (Houston Texans) coaches gave me a crash course. Fortunately, this is an all-star type game and they kept things fairly simple."

LITTLE DYNAMITE: Perhaps the best middle linebacker in Senior Bowl practices is smaller than most outside linebackers. However, most scouts agree, TCU's LaMarcus McDonald is "a player."

After McDonald shed a block and made a tackle that stopped running back Justin Griffith of Mississippi State in his tracks, one scout turned to another and asked, "Did I read his weight wrong?"

During Monday's weigh-in, eyebrows raised when McDonald's height and weight were announced: 6-1, 209 pounds. He had been listed at 224. Saints director of personnel Rick Mueller, said it doesn't matter.

"He stands out," Mueller said. "He runs around and makes a lot of tackles. He'll wind up playing outside linebacker, where he can make tackles in space. But he's got good speed and quickness and outstanding instincts and toughness."

McDonald, the Conference USA defensive player of the year, made 118 tackles as a senior, including 78 solo and 30 for losses.

BY THE NUMBERS: 21: SEC players in the Senior Bowl, including five from the University of Florida. 16: Big Ten players in the Senior Bowl, including five from Penn State.

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