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DT Muhammad Wilkerson Makes Temple History, Now a New York Jet

May 2, 2011, 2:16 PM EDT

“With the thirtieth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Tackle, Temple University.” Muhammad-wilkerson1
It’s been twenty-four years since Temple University alumni could relish hearing their alma mater‘s name called in the first round. Not since Paul Palmer was shattering program rushing records and finishing runner-up to Vinny Testeverde in the 1987 Heisman voting has a “][” shown up so high in the draft.

Prior to the big day, Muhammad Wilkerson peaked as high as tenth on Mel Kiper’s constantly fluctuating “Big Board.” Once he was officially announced twenty spots beneath said position, Kiper would take the opportunity to label the 6’5, 305-pound defensive lineman “The Steal of the First Round.”

Predicted by most draft prognosticators to go toward the end of the Thursday night’s draft opener, one of the knocks against “Big Mo’” has been the MAC’s national reputation as an admittedly weak conference. The suggestion that his 70 tackles and team-high 9.5 sacks in 2010 were accordingly inflated is therefore somewhat justified; but, only for those who haven’t actually seen Muhammad in person. Those familiar with the now-former Owl will know that many of his strongest performances came against some Temple’s toughest opponents. Amongst another examples, his sideline-to-sideline, fumble-forcing, offensive-line-obliterating effort against the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley this past season speaks to just such a sentiment. Whether under, over, or appropriately valued, Wilkerson is now more than likely unconcerned. A first round contract for millions of dollars with one of, if not the best defense in football should squash any lingering issues of the sort.

Assuming the players and owners can agree to a new CBA for 2011 and give football fans the benefit of enjoying the product they overwhelmingly finance, Wilkerson is set to bolster an already vaunted New York Jet defensive unit. Led by head coach and unabashed media whore Rex Ryan, the Jets finished the 2010 regular season third in total team defense, a quality follow up to a 2009 campaign in which they led the league in the same statistic. Digging a bit deeper, NYJ finished eighth in the NFL in 2010 with forty sacks, but only twenty-fifth in interceptions nabbed with twelve.

Adding Wilkerson to the D-line only figures to improve their already impressive secondary and potentially boost those INT totals by forcing opposing quarterbacks to think quick and act even quicker when throwing against pro-bowl defensive backs Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, an always dicey proposition. 

Although rooting for the Jets is somewhat of an unappealing prospect, the thought of a Temple grad standing over a grounded Tom Brady is more than enough to overlook the rest of the team’s still unjustified pomposity. Moreover, should the Jets finally live up coach Ryan’s overbearing self-promotion and actually win a Super Bowl, a certainly legitimate possibility, Wilkerson could very well join fellow Owl Raheem Brock as a Temple grad with a very big ring.

Rounds two and three of the NFL Draft kickoff at 6p.m. Friday evening. TU defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett remains available and has been slotted to go anywhere from the second through fourth rounds. With a clear need for help in their own secondary, could we see the Eagles take a chance on a local kid? One thing is for sure, he would at least know his way around the Linc.