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Patriots Sign 9 Undrafted Free Agents on 1st Day After Lockout

Defensive End/Outside Clay Nurse is just one of the many fresh signings facing an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster (Photo Courtesy of FightingIllini.com

The biggest news around Boston Tuesday concerning undrafted free agents was Boston College alumnus Mark Herzlich’s signing with the New York Giants. While Patriots and Eagles fans alike may have hoped to see Herzlich moving his locker from Chestnut Hill to Foxboro, Bill Belichick and company were still active in the undrafted free agent market, bringing nine new faces into the fold by day’s end, with more expected in the coming days.

Although it will be a long shot for these players to make the Week 1 active roster, the Patriots have had notable success with undrafted players in the past — on last season’s roster there were 22 players who had been passed over through seven rounds in the draft and signed by the Pats, including 1,000-yard rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis, recently retired Stephen Neal, and linebackers Gary Guyton and Dane FletcherWes Welker, Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates, James Harrison, Tony Romo, Jeff Saturday, Josh Cribbs, and Bart Scott are just a few of the many undrafted players who have gone on to have highly successful NFL careers.

Thus, any fan can get excited at signings like these, and hold out hope that one may be the next greatest steal.

Here’s a look at the new faces Patriots fans can expect to see at training camp after Day 1 of the post-lockout era:

Jeff Tarpinian, Linebacker (Iowa) -

Tarpinian was a standout special teamer and academic All-Big Ten at Iowa, but was limited in his senior season by injuries. He’s an imposing 6’3″, 236 lb. player who projects to inside linebacker in the 3-4, but he will likely be fighting to make the team on kickoff and punt coverage thanks to hits like this

Jeremy Ross, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner (Cal) -

Ross‘s 15.2 yards-per-return on punts is the second best in school history at Cal behind DeSean Jackson. He failed to breakthrough as a consistent offensive threat, catching only 43 balls over four years, but with his athleticism (4.39 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical leap), he certainly is an electric playmaker who could contribute to the return game.

Ryan Coulson, Defensive End (Nevada) -

At only 6’2″, the 252-pound Coulson may be too small to play defensive end in the NFL, and likely projects as a pass rushing outside linebacker. In his senior season with the Wolfpack, he tallied 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for a loss.

Will Yeatman, Tight End (Maryland) -

An interesting prospect, Yeatman is a raw talent who also played lacrosse at Maryland after transferring from Notre Dame, where he played three seasons under a Charlie Weiss offense. Yeatman has battled injury and run into some off the field issues (a 2008 DUI and underage drinking arrests), but he is a beast physically at 6’6″, 268 lbs. With his size and athleticism, it will be interesting to see what Belichick’s plans for him may be. 

Clay Nurse, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End (Illinois) -

Nurse is another hybrid defensive player who has likely been brought in to see what he can contribute in blitz packages or on special teams. Nurse started every game for the Illini last season, and was only introduced to football when he immigrated to the United States from Guyana when he was 15.

Anthony Leonard, Inside Linebacker (West Virginia) -

Leonard was a central figure to the Mountaineer defense last fall, finishing third on the team with 70 tackles, 6.5 of which were for a loss. He has experience on both the outside and inside, and was a fan favorite for his hard hitting.

Alex Silvestro, Defensive End (Rutgers) -

Silvestro is another hybrid defender, but at 6’4″, 260 lbs., his size makes him an appealing NFL prospect. Silvestro is a physical pass rusher who can get into the backfield, as evidenced by his 12 tackles for a loss last season.

Corey Woods, Offensive Tackle (Akron) -

Woods started all four years at Akron, and also saw playing time on the other side of the ball on defense. An experienced, mature, and versatile player, he is the type of lineman that fans should not be surprised to see the Patriots bring in to camp.

Kyle Hix, Offensive Tackle (Texas) -

Hix is a big Texan at 6’7″, 325 lbs, in the mold of fellow tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. He played both left and right tackle, but has been critiqued for his lack of athleticism and quickness.

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