Small school, but big hope for Armstead

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Updated: 4/26/2013 10:20 pm

(Sports Network) - Playing under Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive line coach Damon Nivens was one of the better things to happen to offensive tackle Terron Armstead on the way to the NFL.

"He's pretty critical about everything, so we work on technique quite a bit," Armstead said. "I work on every part of it."

The skills of players from the FCS level face considerable scrutiny from NFL teams, and all of Armstead's hard work - and Nivens' as well - has paid off with the fast-rising tackle's selection in the third round by the New Orleans Saints Friday night. He was chosen with the 75th overall selection.

Nivens had a brief professional career after, like Armstead, he came out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. He knows what it's like for Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff's first draft selection since Courtney Van Buren went to San Diego in 2003, to refuse to be denied as a small-school player.

Armstead's stock soared after his senior season. He turned heads at the East- West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl in January and then clocked 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine - a record for offensive linemen - in February.

"I'm an agile offensive lineman," said the 6-foot-5, 306-pounder, an All- SWAC first-team selection as a senior when Arkansas-Pine Bluff won the conference championship.

"I like to move, get up to the second level. I understand angles, I like to get out in an open field on screens or sweeps or tosses, but I also can get down in the pile game. I like to call myself a well-balanced, well-rounded player."

Coming from a lower-tier FCS conference would seem to indicate the workout wonder will need time to develop and reach the level of an NFL starter. has compared Armstead to Houston Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown, while likens him to Joe Staley of the San Francisco 49ers.

"#WHODATTTTTTT," Armstead wrote on Twitter after being selected by the Saints.

Unlike Armstead, the majority of the FCS selections come from the larger conferences. Also selected Friday night were Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford to the Atlanta Falcons (second round, 60th overall) and Georgia Southern strong safety J.J. Wilcox to the Dallas Cowboys (third, 80th).

Alford is Southeastern Louisiana's first NFL Draft pick since the Southland Conference university reinstated football in 2003. The 5-10, 188-pounder has sub-4.4-second speed in the 40 and is physical in coverage. The younger brother of former NFL player Fred Booker also has potential return ability.

There was concern he would drop lower than the second round after NFL teams learned at the NFL Combine in February that he has Crohn's disease. Crohn's occurs primarily when the body's immune system attacks the digestive tract and causes inflammation in the walls of the large or small intestines. An episode causes extreme abdominal pain, and there's no telling how long the attack will last.

Wilcox watched his stock rise after he switched from offense to defense as a senior last season at Southern Conference power Georgia Southern. The 6-foot, 213-pound strong safety flashes terrific athleticism as a former wide receiver and slot back. He will factor into special teams immediately as a pro.

Most FCS draft selections occur on the third day of the draft - Saturday - during rounds 4 to 7.

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