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April 30, 2011

Rivera: 'I laid it out' to CB Hogan

Here's what coach Ron Rivera and GM Marty Hurney had to say about fourth-round draft pick Brandon Hogan, who battled injuries and off-the-field issues at West Virginia, where he had 37 tackles, six pass breakup and three interceptions last fall.

"With the research we did on him, some flags do come up," said Rivera. "But I had a very nice conversation with him. I laid it out. There's no three strikes you're out. You're here to do it our way, the right way, the Panthers way. If not, there will be some consequences. He seemed to understand that."

Said Hurney: "It came down to decision making. He admits he made bad decisions. He knows he can't make any more bad decisions."

Top-pick Cam Newton also had off-field issues in college. Newton left Florida after a stolen laptop arrest and allegations of academic cheating. He also was investigated by the NCAA last fall after his father orchestrated a $200,000 pay-for-play scheme with Mississippi State.

Hurney was asked if there was a shift in the Panthers' philosophy of staying away from drafting players with character issues.

"I separate the two," Hurney said of Newton and Hogan's circumstances. "(But) it is a little bit."

Other draft notes

The Panthers had three compensatory picks in this draft. The one they used in the third round (taking Stanford defensive tackle Sione Fua) was awarded Carolina after Julius Peppers left via free agency after the 2009 season. The compensatory pick in the sixth round (guard Zack Williams) came after quarterback A.J. Feeley departed as a free agent in '09.

 Their seventh-rounder (offensive tackle Lee Ziemba) came from an NFL rule that awards additional compensatory picks at the end of the seventh round to bring the total number of compensatory picks to 32 (the number of teams in the NFL).

The Panthers didn't have their own seventh rounder because they traded it conditionally to the Green Bay Packers in 2009 for long snapper J.J. Jansen.

-- Two Panthers' draft selections played in the Meineke Car Care Bowl (now the Belk Bowl) at Bank of America Stadium in college. Defensive tackle Terrell McClain's South Florida team beat Clemson 31-26 last December. Linebacker Lawrence Wilson and Connecticut lost to Wake Forest 24-10 in 2007.

A third, Hogan, didn't play for West Virginia against North Carolina in 2008 bowl because of personal reasons.

-- Ziemba played golf Saturday instead of watching the draft. He shot a personal best 83, but said being drafted by the Panthers was a bigger deal.

"I can play golf any time," Ziemba said.

Ziemba thought the draft was over after he played golf and was driving to his parents' house in Alabama when Carolina coach Rivera called him.

 "It was a good day," said Ziemba.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2011 at 09:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Panthers wrap up draft with Auburn OT

The Panthers wrapped up their draft by taking Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba of Auburn.

Ziemba, a 6-5, 318-pounder, started 52 consecutive games for the Tigers, a school record.

Zembia, of course, played with Panthers first-round draft choice Cam Newton last season when Auburn won the national championship.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2011 at 07:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Panthers take linebacker, offensive lineman in 6th round

The Panthers opened the 6th round by taking Connecticut linebacker Lawrence Wilson, a 6-1, 226-pound senior.

Wilson is a two-time first-team All-Big East pick. He led the conference with 123 total tackles in 2010, including 10.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks.

Guard Zack Williams (6-3, 310), who played center and guard in college at Washington State, was taken by the Panthers with their compensatory pick of the sixth round (203 overall).

Williams played both center and guard at Washington State, but guard is where he's most needed with the Panthers. He started 12 games at center for the Cougars last season.

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2011 at 05:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

5th round: WR Kealoha Pilares to Panthers

The Panthers went with a wide receiver in the fifth round of the draft, taking Hawaii's Kealoha Pilares (5-10, 205) with the 132nd pick.

Pilares, who grew up in Hawaii, caught 88 passes for 1,306 yards and 15 TDs for the Warriors and was a second-team all-WAC player last season.

He tore his PCL playing in the Hawaii Bowl, but recovered enough to go to the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2011 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

Fourth-round pick has checkered past

The Panthers started the third day of the draft the same way the started the first day: By taking a high-risk, high-reward player.

With starting corner Richard Marshall expected to leave in free agency, the Panthers took troubled West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan with the first pick in the fourth round.

Hogan battled injuries and off-the-field issues at West Virginia, where he had 37 tackles, six pass breakup and three interceptions last fall.

But Hogan said he would not be able to run full-speed until August after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the regular-season finale Dec. 4 against Rutgers. Hogan, 5-10 and 195 pounds, missed the Champs Sports Bowl against N.C. State with the injury and did not participate in the combine.

He also played last season with a biceps injury.

Hogan had several suspensions in Morgantown. He missed most of spring practice last year for academic reasons, and pleaded guilty last June for public urination.

Hogan was arrested in October for DUI after being stopped for driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Hogan said he had learned from off-the-field issues.

“I feel like I've grown up from it, and it can't be a problem,” he said.

When healthy, Hogan said he has the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-second range.

Draft experts praised Hogan for his quickness and aggressive playing style.

"I think I can tackle really well and my cover skills are pretty good," Hogan said.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 30, 2011 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

April 29, 2011

Panthers take two defensive tackles in third round

TmcClain The Panthers moved to address their interior defensive line Friday by drafting South Florida defensive tackle Terrell McClain and Stanford defensive tackle Sione Fua with the first and last picks of the third round.

Panthers first-year coach Ron Rivera said when he evaluated tapes from last season the defensive tackles were the weak link. Specifically, Rivera said the Panthers' linebackers were going backward and sideways too often because the tackles couldn't keep blockers off them.

In Fua and McClain, Rivera said the Panthers got a pair of "space-eaters." He said McClain is the stronger pass-rusher of the two.

McClain, 6-2 and 297 pounds, was an all-Big East selection last season when he finished with 24 tackles, three sacks and five QB hurries.

He was invited to the Senior Bowl, but could not participate due to a pulled hamstring he sustained in the East-West Shrine Game.

ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, the former Tampa Bay Bucs coach who taped his "QB Camp" series on South Florida's campus, said during ESPN's telecast that McClain needed to get in better shape. But McClain said he's been working out hard and didn't know where Gruden's comment came from.

McClain is from a military family in Pensacola, Fla. His mother retired from the Navy on Thursday; his father is retired from the Marines.

Fua, 6-1 and 307 pounds, had 23 tackles, including six for loss, and 4 1/2 sacks as a senior at Stanford. He also caused two fumbles.

Fua, a native of Encino, Calif., started 31 games for the Cardinal -- 18 at strong-side defensive tackle and 13 at nose tackle.

"I'm all about the power game," Fua said. "I bring that power game every play and just try to knock back those O-linemen into the backfield and disrupt the plays."

The Panthers waited about 24 1/2 hours to pick again after taking Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday. GM Marty Hurney traded the second-round pick to New England last year in order to take Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards in the third round in the 2010 draft.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2011 at 08:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (98)

Patriots use Panthers' 'Armanti' pick for CB

The New England Patriots selected Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling with the first pick of the NFL draft's second round.

That's the pick the Panthers traded to the Patriots last season for a third-round selection in 2009, which Carolina used to draft Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards.

With cornerback a need for the Panthers, they might have taken Dowling if they still had the pick.

-- David Scott

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2011 at 06:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Newton: "I strive to be great"

During his visit to Charlotte three weeks ago, Cam Newton met with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson at his house.

Richardson read Newton a letter he'd received from someone asking Richardson whether Newton wanted to be great.

The Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion told Richardson he did. Newton said the same thing today at his introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium.

I'm saying it right now – I'm trying to be the best,” Newton said. “I strive to be great. That also comes with knowing my role and staying in my lane.

I understand that it's not going to be something that's going to be instant, like instant grits. I would call it collard greens. You've got to let it just sit and wait. But at the same time it's going to be a fun process.”

Wearing a gray suit with a blue tie, Newton was accompanied to Charlotte by his mother and father. Cecil Newton was responsible for bringing NCAA investigators to Auburn after shopping his son to schools for as much as $200,000 when he left Blinn Junior College.

Newton said he would be moving to Charlotte on his own; his parents will remain in College Park, Ga.

Newton said he's confident he can make the transition from Auburn's spread offense to an NFL system.

Newton also said:

--He felt comfortable with Panthers QB coach Mike Shula and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, whose offense he said is designed to pick up yards in “chunks and bunches.”

--He received a congratulatory text message from Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen shortly after the Panthers drafted him Thursday night.

--He would like to keep the No. 2 jersey he wore at Auburn – the one that currently belongs to Clausen. “I understand right now that there's some things that are going to have to be taken care of so we'll see what we can do,” Newton said.

--He planned to jump into the playbook immediately – “as soon as possible, with all caps and exclamation point.”

After the press conference, Newton was escorted upstairs for a meeting with the team's corporate sponsors and a Q&A with radio play-by-play announcer Mick Mixon.

Then he was going to sit down with Ron Rivera and the other coaches and get that playbook that had been distributed to several veterans earlier in the day.

--Joseph Person


Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2011 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (81)

Panthers go back to work

As team employees took down the tents and barriers from Thursday night's draft party, Panthers players walked through the Bank of America Stadium parking lot this morning returning to work.

Quarterback Matt Moore said it was “a little weird” to be back following a seven-week lockout and several days of limbo while players and owners squared off in federal court.

Moore is Exhibit A in the weirdness of the labor situation. He came to the stadium without a contract as one of the Panthers' 28 free agents.

“I don't know what's going to happen when I walk in the door,” Moore said. “But I'm happy to be here.”

While the NFL waits for the Eighth Circuit Court to rule on its stay request, players are allowed to work out at team facilities, meet with coaches and pick up playbooks.

The league has yet to announce a schedule for when trades and free-agent signings can begin, though it is expected to be after the draft ends Saturday.

About a dozen players showed up at the Panthers' stadium Friday. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen was one of the first ones in the building the morning after the Panthers took Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick.

Center Ryan Kalil said players seemed excited about Newton, who is expected to be in Charlotte by midday.

“Obviously, any way we can get some guys to come in and help us win more than two games I'm all about it,” Kalil said.

 --Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on April 29, 2011 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

April 28, 2011

What becomes of Clausen?

Minutes after Cam Newton was announced as the top pick, the quarterback he hopes to replace sent a note of congratulations into cyberspace.

“Congrats to Cam Newton!” Jimmy Clausen wrote on his Twitter feed. “Welcome to the Panthers.”

Clausen was in Newton's shoes a year ago – the first player drafted by the Panthers (second round, 48th overall) and the assumed quarterback of the future.

Now Clausen's future is a lot murkier.

But general manager Marty Hurney is still a Clausen believer.

“I've said this time and time again, Jimmy's going to be a good football player and I believe he's going to play in this league,” Hurney said. “It's a critical position. All you have to do is look back to our recent seasons to know you need depth at that position.

“I know this – Jimmy's going to come in and compete, and he's going to practice as well and hard as he can, and play as well and hard as he can. And we're going to get everything he's got.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Panthers became only the third team since 1970 to take quarterbacks in the first 50 picks in consecutive drafts.

The others were in 1982 and '83. The Bills drafted Matt Kofler 48th overall in '82, then took Jim Kelly 14th the following year.

Baltimore took Art Schlichter at No. 4 in '82 before snagging John Elway first in '83.

Kelly played in the USFL before going to Buffalo three years later. Elway never played for Baltimore.

--Joseph Person




Posted by Observer Sports on April 28, 2011 at 11:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)