Do these rookies have an edge?


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Bill Belichick counts Greg Schiano (Rutgers), Urban Meyer (Florida), Nick Saban (Alabama) and Tom O’Brien (NC State) among his coaching confidants.

So it makes sense that half the Patriots’ 2010 draft class comes from the under the collective wings of those coaches.

That class of new rookies arrived today in Foxborough. And those guys will have an advantage, to be sure.

“Bill likes players who come from hard-working programs,” said Patriots safety James Sanders, who was coached by Pat Hill, an assistant of Belichick’s in Cleveland, at Fresno State. “We had a hard-working program, an NFL-type of program, and it’s the same thing with him drafting a lot of the Florida guys.

“With a lot of those guys in college, he tries to bring that same attitude to the Patriots.”

Among the Gainesville Traveling Party to New England this weekend are ILB Brandon Spikes, OLB Jermaine Cunningham and TE Aaron Hernandez. And this whole dynamic is something I spoke with Florida coach Urban Meyer about. He said the “alignment” in the programs is the key similarity — and that means everyone pulling the same direction.

“That’s an advantage,” Meyer told me. “There are a bunch of high school programs that I think are models of New England and I hope people say Florida’s like that, obviously Alabama’s very good. Texas. Those are all very good programs. …

“When I get a player from a high school that I feel is aligned – Understands work ethic, understands unselfish play – they usually play right away. It doesn’t take two years to get the nonsense out of them. When you get a guy from a really bad program, it takes a while, and that’s why when a (Florida) player goes to a New England, or Percy Harvin goes to the Vikings, or goes to places that are winning, it’s all good.”


Meyer said, on the flip side, that “There’s some not-very-good places. When they get picked up and they go there, that’s hard. I get phone call after phone call after phone call about what’s going on.”

Saban seconded that. And with players from his program — like Patriots seventh-round pick Brandon Deaderick — you take it up another notch.

“We run the same systems here that we ran in the NFL,” Saban told me. I’m not going to sit here and profess that it’s really simple, but they learn more. They learn more football, they know more, and it’s compatible. I don’t change when I’m the defensive coordinator for Bill or the I go back to college at Michigan State or I go to the Miami Dolphins or I come here.

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“I don’t change, like, ‘OK, we got this college defense or college offense and when we’re in this league we play this, but when we’re in this league we play that.’ We did the same things. I think the exposure that the players have had to the same kind of system they’ll play in at the next level, they’ll have an advantage.”

Really, though, with all these kids, it seems to come down to understanding expectations, moreso than grasping a scheme. Since Belichick knows what’s expected in those college programs, he’d probably expect that Spikes, Cunningham, Hernandez, Deaderick, Devin McCourty and Ted Larsen will be ready for what’s thrown at them.

“It’s just real straight-forward, strict, you know what you have to do to be successful,” Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram said, in explaining those expectations. “The goals around here are laid out. I’m not sure how an NFL team is run, but hearing from players I’ve played with from here like Rashad (Johnson) and Antoine (Caldwell) and Glen (Coffee), they say they were ready for it when they stepped in because of the program they went through here.”