IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – While most of the attention is on rookie draft picks each year, sometimes it’s the undrafted free agents that really make a rookie class.

Among the current Cowboys starters who went undrafted are quarterback Tony Romo (2003), wide receiver Miles Austin (2006), and center Phil Costa (2010).

So, who are the rookies we need to keep an eye on at this week’s Cowboys Rookie Mini-Camp?  Danny Coale, Matt Johnson, Lance Dunbar, Tim Benford, and Donavon Kemp are my picks to click this weekend:


Nathan Dick – Central Arkansas – (6-3, 215) – Allen HS product is here on a tryout basis and has very little chance of making team.

Larry Smith – Vanderbilt – (6-1 ½, 216) – see above

Running Backs

Lance Dunbar – North Texas – (5-8, 205) – Haltom HS grad is the all-time leading rusher in North Texas football history and after flashing 4.47 speed at his Pro Day workout, Cowboys scouts became intrigued…barring an injury to DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, or Phillip Tanner, he’s probably destined for a practice squad spot at best, but he has a legitimate chance with his hometown team.

Darrell Scott – South Florida – (6-0, 231) – was a much ballyhooed recruit in 2007 who chose Colorado over Texas, then transferred to USF…turned pro after rushing for 814 yards on 153 carries (5.3) and 5 TDs in 2011…ran a 4.59 forty at his Pro Day.

Wide Receivers

Danny Coale – Virginia Tech – (6-0, 201) – 5th round draft pick has a real shot at significant playing time in his rookie season…4-year starter who had 165 career receptions for 2658 yards (16.5) and 8 TDs…ACC’s top scholar-athlete (all sports)…4.37 speed…6.64 cone drill…37 inch vertical.

Tim Benford – Tennessee Tech – (5-11, 205) – Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year had 216 career receptions and 27 TDs…4.54 speed…7.30 cone drill…33 inch vertical.

Cole Beasley – SMU – (5-8, 175) – Little Elm HS product who was a 4-year starter as a slot receiver in June Jones’ offense, totaling 255 receptions and 14 TDs…4.49 speed…7.16 cone drill…38 vertical.

Saalim Hakim – Tarleton State – (6-1, 195) – if you have 4.23 seconds to spare, watch him run the 40 yard dash in this YouTube video…younger brother of former St. Louis Ram Az Hakim…caught 18 passes for 358 yards (19.9) and 2 TDs for Tarleton State in Stephenville in 2010…left college early to play for the UFL Las Vegas Locomotives.

Donavon Kemp – UTEP – (6-1, 194) – DeSoto HS product who was a special teams captain his junior season at UTEP before tearing his ACL after making 18 catches in 7 games…came back as a senior to make 23 receptions, averaging nearly 20 yards a catch…very impressive Pro Day numbers: 4.40 speed…cat quick 1.45 10-yard split…7.09 cone drill…37 ½ vertical…Dez Bryant-like 11-2 broad jump.

Tight Ends

James Hanna – Oklahoma – (6-4, 252) – 6th round draft pick…2nd team All-Big 12 tight end from Flower Mound…a 2-year starter had 45 receptions and 9 TDs his last two seasons at OU…4.49 speed…24 bench reps…6.76 cone drill…36 ½ vertical.

George Bryan – N.C. State – (6-5, 258) – 2-time 1st team All-ACC tight end has some accomplished receiving skills with 126 career receptions and 17 TDs…5.03 speed…13 bench reps…7.53 cone drill…33 vertical.

Andrew Szczerba – Penn State – (6-6 ½, 262) – blocking tight end had 12 catches for 101 yards his senior season after missing 2010 with a back injury…5.12 speed…22 bench reps…7.75 cone drill…29 ½ vertical.

Offensive Linemen

Ronald Leary – Memphis – (6-3, 315) – big, strong interior lineman has a chance to compete for playing time immediately…voted team Offensive MVP…wasn’t drafted probably due to what is believed to be a chronic knee condition that won’t affect his immediate availability but couldn’t keep him from having a lengthy career.

Jeff Adams – Columbia – (6-6, 306) – athletic tackle prospect…5.13 speed (1.72 split)…very quick 7.27 cone drill for a man his size…34 ½ vertical…3-time 1st team All-Ivy Leaguer who has some real potential.

Levy Adcock – Oklahoma State- (6-5 ½, 320) – possesses enough athleticism to make a run at a practice squad spot, if not a 53-man roster spot his rookie year…2-time 1st team All-Big 12 selection from Claremore, Oklahoma.

Taylor Dever – Notre Dame – (6-5, 298) – will need to add strength (19 bench reps) to make bid for roster spot but could contend for practice squad if he shows enough in camp…was Cowboys former 6th round draft pick Sam Young’s backup for 3 years prior to becoming the Irish starting right tackle the past two seasons.

Harland Gunn – Miami, Fla – (6-2, 320) – made 30 starts at offensive guard in his college career…will probably get a shot at center at this camp.

Tyrone Novikoff – Idaho – (6-7, 316) – big, strong (33 bench reps) tackle prospect…made 12 starts at right tackle as a senior after starting 13 games at left tackle as a junior.

Defensive Ends

Tyrone Crawford – Boise State – (6-4, 275) – 3rd round draft pick…played 2 seasons at Boise and had 27 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks… 4.78 speed (1.69 split)…28 bench reps…33 vertical…9-5 broad jump…4.44 shuttle…7.09 cone drill.


Kyle Wilber – Wake Forest – (6-4, 249) – 4th round draft pick…3rd team All-ACC…33 career starts…13.5 career sacks…4.64 speed (1.65 split)…25 bench reps…33 ½ vertical…10-0 broad jump…4.31 shuttle…7.11 cone drill.

Adrian Hamilton – Prairie View A&M – (6-2 ½, 250) – Dallas Carter grad amassed 20 ½ sacks in 2011…4.81 speed with a 1.67 10-yard split compares with Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, who was criticized by some for having sub-par measurables even though Upshaw posted his 4.79 (1.67 split) carrying 279 pounds at his Pro Day.

Aston Whiteside – Abilene Christian – (6-2, 260) – 4.88 speed with a 1.65 split…just as a point of reference when comparing these numbers to the top edge rusher in the game:  Demarcus Ware posted a 4.56 forty at the 2005 combine…so we might tap the brakes on these sleeper edge rusher prospects until we see them in training camp.

Caleb McSurdy – Montana – (6-1, 245) – inside linebacker candidate who was drafted in the 7th round, one pick ahead of higher profile ILB prospect Travis Lewis of Oklahoma…after a sluggish 4.97 forty time at the combine, McSurdy came to back to post a 4.75 time at his Pro Day…26 bench reps…appears to be a run stuffing inside backer.


Morris Claiborne – LSU – (5-11, 188) – 1st round draft pick (#6 overall)…won’t participate in on-field workouts due to recent wrist surgery…4.43 speed…35 vertical…9-10 broad jump…4.12 shuttle…7.01 cone drill.

Isaac Madison – Arkansas – (5-10, 180) – Dallas Carter grad who started 31 games for Razorbacks but only had one career interception…4.47 speed…11 bench reps…37 ½ vertical…10-1 broad jump…4.64 shuttle…7.09 cone drill.

Troy Woolfolk – Michigan – (5-11, 195) – son of former NFL RB Butch Woolfolk…Sugar Land Dulles-ex who made 12 starts at cornerback and 10 starts at safety as a 5th year in his college career…member of Michigan track team as a freshman, finishing 6th in 100 meters (10.56) at the Big Ten meet…4.57 speed…31 ½ vertical…6.77 cone drill.

Lionel Smith – Texas A&M – (6-0, 192) – Houston Bellaire product started 7 games as a senior with 1 career interception…a primary special teams contributor, returned kicks as a junior…4.44 speed…38 vertical…10-7 broad jump…4.28 shuttle…7.06 cone drill.


Matt Johnson – Eastern Washington – (6-1, 212) – 4th round draft pick (#135 overall)…instinctive, solid tackler, with playmaking ability…17 career interceptions for a team that won the FCS National Championship in Frisco in 2010…4 year starter…341 career tackles…4.52 speed…18 bench reps…38 vertical…10-1 broad jump…4.07 shuttle…6.84 cone drill.

Eddie Whitley – Virginia Tech – (6-0, 191) – 2nd team All-ACC free safety wo started 28 games in his career…4 interceptions…4.39 speed…15 bench reps…34 vertical…10-2 broad jump…4.36 shuttle…7.03 cone drill.

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