dolphinlogo.jpgMIAMI – For seven rounds and for the 73rd time last week, teams scoured the college scene for the best of the best as well as those hidden gems to ready their squad for another run toward championship glory in 2008. The Miami Dolphins franchise continues to rebuild, and is on the mend from recent hard times with a mix of picks to square issues on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins were one of the league’s worst teams in 2007.  New Executive Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells and new head man Tony Sparano made several moves toward righting the ship.

As only the eighth coach in team history, Sparano has a 1-15 record from last season to improve on. Beginning up front, 6-7, 315-pound senior offensive tackle Jake Long was their first pick and first overall in the draft.

As one of the most decorated offensive linemen in the storied history of the Michigan program, the two-year team captain started 40 games during his career, and registered 245 knockdown blocks in his last two years. As an All-American, Long also maintained Big 10 and national attention as one of the best, garnering three offensive linemen of the year awards in the last four seasons.

There were also several other key additions up front. Fourth-round Utah State University senior offensive guard and tackle Shawn Murphy is the son of former Atlanta Braves baseball star, Dale Murphy, and comes in with star pedigree and high expectations. As a senior, the 6-4, 320-pound transfer received All-American honorable mentions and All-Western Athletic Conference second-team recognition.

Offensive guard and center Donald Thomas out of the University of Connecticut will also add depth as a sixth-round choice. The 6-3, 303-pound senior is a true testament to hard work and perseverance. The former walk-on began his career on the defensive side of the ball as a tackle, but moved to the offensive side during his red-shirt season in 2004. He then went on to be an All-Big East Conference first-team selection in 2007.  He comes from the Dallas Cowboys in the trade of defensive tackle Jason Ferguson.

At the skill positions, the Dolphins also made a few moves to sure up uncertainties. The University of Michigan’s Chad Henne opens up the debate even more at the quarterback position. At 6-2, 226 pounds, the senior started every game he played in his career. Durability is also one of his strong suits, setting career marks in 47 games with 828 completions of 1,387 pass attempts for 9,715 yards, 87 touchdowns and 37 interceptions, and setting career-records with 1,567 plays participated. He trails only John Navarre in school history, averaging 207 yards per game in passing. Henne is a second-rounder coming from San Diego in a trade for wide receiver Chris Chambers.

The 6-0, 220 pound senior running back Jalen Parmele out of the University of Toledo was ninth in the country in rushing last year, averaging 126 rushing yards in 12 games with a 6-yard average on the season for the rockets. The 6-0, 240 pound Lex Hilliard hails from the University of Montana.

He had over 1,000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns for the Grizzlies last season. Both were sixth-round selections that should help spare the talented Ronnie Brown.

There were also several moves made on the defensive side of the ball. 

Clemson University’s 6-5, 282-pound senior defensive end Phillip Merling had 146 tackles (99 solos) with twelve sacks for minus 80 yards last year, and was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference, second-team selection. He was a second round selection. Another defensive end taken was Hampton
University’s 6-6, 294-pound third round choice at Kendall Langford. The senior dominated at his position, ranking third in school history with 56.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, and lead the team with a career-high 72 tackles (32 solos), ranking second on the squad with six sacks.

Rounding out picks was seventh-round University of Arizona’s Lionel Dotson. The 6-4, 286-pound defensive end had a breakout year that included 50 tackles and 6.5 sacks to earn second-team All-Pac 10 conference honors.