Westbrook, Perine, Evans Picked on Day Three

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Mike Houck
By Mike Houck
Assistant A.D. / Strategic Communications
APRIL 29, 2017

NORMAN — Three University of Oklahoma players were selected ono the final day of the NFL Draft on Saturday. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook was taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third pick in the fourth round (110th overall), running back Samaje Perine went to the Washington Redskins with the seventh pick in the fourth round (114th overall) and linebacker Jordan Evans was chosen by the Bengals with the ninth pick in the sixth round (193rd overall).

With running back Joe Mixon going to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 16th pick in the second round (48th overall) Friday, 83 Sooners have been drafted during the 18-year Bob Stoops era. That's 21 more players than the next closest Big 12 program during the time period (Texas, 62) and 40 more than the second-closest program (Kansas State, 43).

Oklahoma and LSU are the only two programs in the country that have had at least four players picked in the NFL Draft each of the last 10 years.

Westbrook Selected by Jacksonville

Westbrook is coming off one of the most productive seasons at any position in OU history. The Sooners' first winner of the Biletnikoff Award, Westbrook was all-world after overcoming a slow start due to a hamstring injury. The senior, who finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, set the OU single-season record with 17 receiving TDs, led all Power 5 players with 1,524 receiving yards and 1.31 receiving TDs per game, and had more receiving TDs (17) over the season's final 10 outings than 43 teams had on the entire season.

Westbrook's touchdowns covered an average of 46.3 yards, the highest average in the last seven years among FBS players with at least 12 TDs in a season, and his 12 offensive TDs of at least 40 yards were the most in a season by an FBS player since at least 1996.

Thanks to his effectiveness in the return game, the 6-0, 180-pound Westbrook was also one of four finalists in 2016 for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the most versatile player in major college football. The Cameron, Texas, product averaged 16.2 yards on his five punt returns (had a 71-yarder for a TD against Kansas) and 27.1 yards on his nine kickoff returns.

Westbrook was driving from Dallas to Norman on Saturday when he got a call from Jacksonville Executive Vice President of Player Operations Tom Coughlin, who coached the New York Giants to two Super Bowl wins, to tell him of the selection. The receiver said he wasn't completely surprised.

"I didn't know exactly that it was going to be (the Jaguars)," started Westbrook, "but I knew whenever I was there they liked me a lot and liked what I bring to the table as far as helping the team, and that we could go far together if they were to draft me.

"It's an honor. Of course it's been my dream, as it for every player who plays at the Division I level, to go on to play in the National Football League. For me to have that honor and to play with an organization like the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's a blessing. I feel like I can help them a lot. I can help quarterback Blake Bortles, I can help open up the running game with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. With those guys, I feel like I'll fit in great."

Stoops gave his take on the type of player the Jaguars are getting in Westbrook.

"Dede had one of the all-time great seasons last year and is about as explosive a playmaker as they come," said Stoops. "You can say the same thing about how sure-handed he is. He's almost always the fastest guy on the field, and his route running gets him open all over the place. He's got the ability to take the short routes all the way to the end zone once he makes the catch. And with his speed and ability to create in the open field, he's also a great asset in the return game."

Westbrook is the 13th OU wide receiver in the Stoops era to be selected in the NFL Draft and the sixth in the last six years.

Perine Goes to Washington

One of the most accomplished running backs in Oklahoma history, Perine became the sixth OU running back under head coach Bob Stoops and second in two days to be drafted into the NFL (Joe Mixon was picked by Cincinnati in Friday's second round).

Perine opted for the NFL following his junior season and after he set a pair extremely significant records. As a freshman in 2014, the 5-10, 235-pound bruiser rushed for an FBS single-game record of 427 yards against Kansas (he exited the game with 12:16 remaining). Then, to top off his stellar career, Perine ran for 86 yards in a Sugar Bowl win over Auburn in January, passing Billy Sims to give him the OU all-time rushing record with 4,122 yards.

Perine, from Pflugerville, Texas, ranks fourth in OU history with 49 rushing TDs, fifth with 685 carries and sixth with 4,443 all-purpose yards. A two-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection, he finished his career with a 6.0 yards-per-rush average. He ran for 1,713 yards as a freshman, 1,349 as a sophomore and 1,060 as a junior when he missed three full games and three-fourths of another due to injury.

One of four OU team captains in 2016, Perine topped the 100-yard rushing mark 15 times in his career (seventh most in school history) and ran for at least 200 yards on six occasions (tied for second most).

Said Stoops, "What can you say about a guy who is your all-time leading rusher in only three years? And to do it at a place like Oklahoma with the history and tradition we have at that position is really special. With his strength and power, no one is taking Samaje down with arm tackles, and plenty have failed even with form tackles. He's very good at finding the right crease and he really punishes defenders. He's very powerful in his lower body and he has enough speed to break off big runs like he did for us for three years. He's as tough a guy as you can have."

Evans Joins Mixon in Cincinnati

The son of former Sooner and All-Big Eight defensive tackle Scott Evans, Jordan Evans etched his own name in Oklahoma lore as a dependable three-year starter at inside linebacker who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior when he served as a team captain.

A starter in 36 of his 37 games the last three seasons, the 6-2, 233-pound Evans led OU in tackles as a senior and ranked second on the squad as a sophomore and junior. He finished with 22.0 tackles for loss in his career and picked off five passes, including four in 2016 alone that he returned 145 yards, two of them for scores. He is also tied for second in school history among linebackers with 16 career pass breakups.

Evans, who said he watched Saturday's draft with his dad in Norman, indicated he had a good sense he and Mixon would both wind up in Cincinnati. That inclination was confirmed when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called Evans just before the pick.

"Coach Lewis called and asked me if I was ready to be a Bengal," Evans started to explain. "I said, 'Yes sir, thank you!' I can't really explain the feeling. It's surreal. It's crazy. I'm filled with so much excitement and joy. I'm just ready to see what's next for me.

"During the process, they basically told me they wanted Joe, and I knew the linebackers coach liked me a lot and was pulling for me. So I was talking to Joe because I knew the Bengals were going to take him. I was like, 'It's going to be crazy when I go up there with you. We'll be there together, working hard together and pushing each other.' I'm glad I'll have a familiar face there in Joe. I feel like it's destiny almost."

Evans also shared Saturday that NFL personnel told him his pro day performance in Norman last month boosted his draft stock.

"Most of the scouts and coaches I've talked to said how significant and great my pro day was, that it really did help me out," he said. "Pro days matter a lot, I guess."

Stoops' comments on Evans centered around everything he was able to accomplish in his four years in Norman.

"Jordan was excellent for us and probably hasn't gotten the attention he deserves," said Stoops. "He was very productive for us the last four years and has the ability to make big-time plays, even in the passing game. You look at his athleticism and his productivity — I'm not sure there's much else you could want from a linebacker."

Evans is the 13th OU linebacker drafted under Stoops.

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