Thursday, 05 May 2011 18:38

New Orleans Saints: Two Illinois Linebackers Together; Jenkins Picked

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The Saints drafted two linebackers from Illinois in the recent draft. Five of their six picks were defensive players who will contribute on special teams.

The Saints selected linebacker Nathan Bussey in the seventh round (243rd over-all pick), which marked the team's sixth and final selection.

Starting outside linebacker Scott Shanle is a free agent and Jonathan Cassillas is coming back from an injury that caused him to miss last season.

"Just over-all at linebacker, it was a position that we could address in the draft," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "More than anything, this is an area where we felt like the linebacker position was going to come off the board a little later in the draft."

Bussey joins Martez Wilson as the second linebacker selected by the Saints. He shared his team's Outstanding Special Teams award last season, which is where he'll begin his Saints career.

"It's going to be amazing playing with Martez again,"said Bussey. "We played together side-by-side the last couple of years at Illinois. I consider him one of my brothers. We're really close."

Bussey, who is 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, had 83 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 3 fumble recoveries his senior season.

Bussey watched the draft from his house. When the phone rang, "I told everyone, 'Be quiet, be quiet," said Bussey'. " I knew it was the call I was waiting for. It was overwhelming to see 240 picks go by. It was an amazing feeling when I received the phone call with the 243rd pick. It was the best news of my life."

Bussey and Wilson will be the third and fourth Illini players on the Saints' roster. Linebacker Danny Clark and running back Pierre Thomas also played at Illinois.

Saints strong safety Malcolm Jenkins finished in a tie for 15th place in the voting for the Power Rankings for safeties.

"He's a guy who I think has enormous potential and could end up being a top-five safety in a year or two, said Pat Yasinskas, who covers the NFC South for "I put him on my ballot at No. 9 and would have had him much higher but Jenkins has only one full season as a starter and he needs to go out and do it for another season or two before he can really jump to the top of the list."

Jenkins wasn't completely ignored by the other voters. John Clayton and Tim Graham also had him near the bottom of their top-10 lists.

Apparently, Graham and Clayton also are members of the Roman Harper fan club. They actually ranked him ahead of Jenkins.

"I didn't put Harper on my ballot," said Yasinskas, "although I think he's a quality safety and better than a lot for New Orleans fans give him credit for. I just don't see him as a top-10 safety."

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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