Riley Dixon may have been the most entertaining player on the field for the Orange last season. It paid off in a big way, as Dixon snuck into the back-end of the draft and was ultimately picked by the Denver Broncos in the final round. While Dixon was the only player drafted, a handful of other SU alumni have already found themselves on rosters just hours after draft weekend concluded.
Dixon, drafted 228th overall, broke a streak of almost two full drafts without a single Orange player’s name being called. He was named to the first-team All-ACC last season in his senior year, averaging 43.7 yards per punt. While Dixon was reliable on fourth and long, what he did on fourth and short was more impressive. Renown for his trick-play ability, Dixon converted on trick plays nearly once a game, it seemed like. Last season, his highlight came versus LSU where he jumped over a defender to convert on a fake field goal.
While Dixon was the only player to hear his name called, three other SU players have signed on with teams as undrafted free agents. Ron Thompson, who was easily the best defender on the field this year for the Orange, signed on with the Colts. Although he wasn’t drafted, he was called by Indianapolis within the hour. He tallied four forced fumbles and seven sacks last year, despite being double teamed game-in and game-out. SU really needs some help on the D-line for next year. Thompson made headlines when he spoke about leaving SU due to a third head coaching staff being brought in during his time at SU. Thompson played for Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer, and was unwilling to learn another new system under Dino Babers.
Cornerback Julian Whigham signed with the Buffalo Bills as an UDFA after putting up 22 tackles and three pass break ups. While Thompson was expected to be drafted or sign on with a team, this move is much more surprising, as Whigham struggled to find playing time on the field as a senior. As of Sunday morning, offensive lineman Rob Trudo is the only other SU player to have an NFL lead. He announced on Twitter that he would be attending the Buccaneers mini-camp after starting on the offensive line for four seasons on the Hill. As a team captain last season, Trudo played both center and guard on the line.
All in all, it was a pretty unimpressive showing for a crop of SU players that underachieved over the last two seasons under Scott Shafer. Hopefully with a new coach, SU players can find their way into the first and second day of the draft come next May.