[Note by River City Rage, 06/08/08 2:52 PM EDT ]Oops, Brandon Breazell was not there, Bennie Brazell was number 5. My apologies.
One of the surprises of Friday's minicamp was the presence of four players who were not identified on the Jaguars roster. These four "mystery players" were an enigma, as the wire services did not show any recent signings. It turns out that these four players were tryouts for the roster, not signed to any sort of contracts. It's a hodgepodge group of guys, some with NFL experience, others just trying to extend the dream just a little while longer.
Jack Del Rio had this to say about the tryouts:
"I know that there are a lot talented players out there who for whatever reason don't fit, don't catch on, don't work out," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We're more concerned with giving him an opportunity, giving him a chance to come in here and compete in this environment. This is a tryout weekend for him. If we feel there is enough there, where we want to continue, we'll offer him a contract and bring him to camp."
Considering that their careers with Jacksonville may be short, let's take a quick look at the four guys and see where they might fit in the overall roster picture.
Ciatrick Fason RB #30 University of Florida
Fason played running back for the University of Florida and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 in the 4th round. He is a Jacksonville native, as he attended Fletcher High School. His career with the Vikings was short and relatively indistinguished, with most of his carries serving as a goal line back. His best year saw him score four touchdowns, though it was not enough to keep him with the Vikings after 2006. The Jaguars have considerable depth at running back, even at the backup's backup position, so it's very unlikely that Fason sniffs the roster.
Guys like Fason are playing for a reputation boost. A good word from the tight fraternity of NFL coaches could see him picked up by another team. He's playing for the cameras, and the far-off hope that he'll make it to training camp or a preseason game so that other teams can see him perform. It's a long shot, but it's something that drives a player.
Fason himself has this to say:
"I think my fate was sealed once Tice left," Fason said. "My second year was kind of rocky. They played me on and off. I had a good game versus the Bears, then the next week, they sat me down. ... I now know not to take anything for granted. There are great backs everywhere, and I'm just going to give it my all."
Lavarius Giles RB #?? Jackson State University
Jackson State University running back Lavarus Giles might be the fastest player you've never heard of. In fact, there's a strong likelyhood that we'll hear his name in the Olympics in a few years, as his straight-line speed is nearly unbeatable. Why then, is he an undrafted prospect hoping that a tryout on a team stacked at running back is his only shot at the NFL?
His 4.41 40-yard dash was impressive at the JSU Pro-day, but his change of direction drills and footwork leave something to be desired. Frankly, while his speed is fantastic for running in a straight line, there is very little track style running in the NFL. His speed is unquestioned though: JSU Track Coach Ernest Tche (a two-time Olympian himself) has this to say:
"If he would train for track on a day-to-day basis, he could be an Olympic runner. Without a doubt. As far as size and speed and if he would just concentrate on track, (he compares) almost like a Maurice Greene type athlete."
His shot at the roster is slim, but he's hoping to show a team that his speed can translate into on the field performance. His backup plan isn't so bad though.
Ryan Hoag WR #6, Gustavus Adolphus College
Ryan is a man of many titles: 2003's Mr. Irrelevant, contestant on the Bachelorette, and training camp wide receiver. He has participated in training camps and practice squads for four teams, not including Jacksonville. His college career had him with 144 receptions, 2,322 yards, and 29 touchdowns (15.5 ypc). Of course, this is in the MIAC conference, which isn't quite NFL level competition. He initially attended Wake Forest as a walk-on soccer player, and transitioned to football while at Gustavus Adolphus College.
That's a pretty good story, actually. He played intermural football at Wake Forest, did well, and convinced the GAC head coach (a Division Three school) to give him a shot. From there he would eventually be drafted by the Oakland Raiders and be a perennial training camp fixture. He's not particulary strong, fast, or outstanding as a receiver, but he's working hard enough to find a team to land with year in and year out. Unfortunately for Ryan, he's got too much time in the league to be on the practice squad anymore, so he's playing for a contract or bust at this point. The Jaguars have so many players fighting for so few spots that it would take an unmitigated disaster at wide receiver for him to even sniff the roster. Guys who have practice squad eligibility will take precedence over Hoag.