Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Three San Diego questions from the NFL draft:

1) We know the Chargers value LSU wide receiver Craig Davis for his versatility as a receiver and punt returner. What don’t we know?

That the Chargers’ first-round draft pick is not only a good downfield blocker, he takes pride in the ability. That’s rare for players with Davis’ kind of speed and athleticism.

“My high school coach was ridiculous at blocking,” said Davis, shaking his head at the memory of the drudgery of performing football’s dirty work.

Davis said he was a 170-pound sophomore on the varsity team at Walker High in New Orleans when his coach, Frank Wilson III, would line him up as a tight end in practice to face bigger linemen and what he said was a talented cast of linebackers.

“Once he put me at tight end for two weeks,” he said. “I learned a lot from that experience that has helped me become a good blocker. I take a lot of pride in it.”

Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson will like hearing that. When Tomlinson scored on a career-high 85-yard touchdown run against Kansas City last year, LT praised wide receiver Vincent Jackson for his blocking.

He noted that Jackson not only picked off one of the two defenders chasing LT, he said Jackson astutely targeted the defender that was further away because he had the angle.

Davis, now a 6-foot-1-inch, 207-pounder, added he’s familiar with Florida linebacker Brandon Siler, the Chargers’ seventh-round draft pick. Florida and LSU are Southeast Conference rivals.

“I had to block him,” Davis said, grinning. “He gave me a headache.”

But, obviously, the Chargers like Davis for more than his blocking. He has speed to play as a vertical wide receiver that can stretch the defense and the ability to get open as a slot receiver and gain yards after the catch underneath the pass coverage.

Most players with Davis’ speed don’t have the patience to learn to run routes as slot receivers, but Davis does. And he has the open-field running ability to take a short pass and turn it into a big gain.

2) Will San Diego fans embrace Utah safety Eric Weddle after what he did last year against San Diego State?

“I hope so, but probably not,” Weddle said after the Chargers drafted him in the second round.

Last year Weddle not only almost single-handedly beat the Aztecs in a 38-7 Utes’ win at Qualcomm Stadium, the demoralizing loss sent SDSU’s season into a downward spiral.

The Utah game was the Aztecs’ Mountain West Conference opener at home following a loss to UTEP that could be blamed on quarterback Kevin O’Connell’s injury and a 14-0 loss at Wisconsin that was otherwise encouraging for the defensive play.

But Weddle intercepted two passes he returned for touchdowns and scored a third touchdown as a running back to turn the game into a rout.

“I love it,” Weddle said of Qualcomm Stadium. “I’ve had some good games there. I think I had four picks there and two victories, so I love the stadium. I love the turf.”

Don’t worry, Eric. Play for the Chargers like you did against the Aztecs and San Diego fans will forgive you.

Since Weddle is from Alta Loma High, which is in the Rancho Cucamonga area about a 90-minute drive down Interstate 15 from San Diego, and he grew up a Chargers fan, I wondered if the Aztecs recruited him.

“They did during my junior year, but not my senior year,” said Weddle.

3) SDSU didn’t have a player drafted. How does that compare to other state schools in the West?

Fresno State had four players drafted, including running back Dwayne Wright, a Lincoln High alumnus taken in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills.

Wright wasn’t recruited by the Aztecs when he came out of Lincoln in 2000 as the San Diego CIF Player of the Year. Another San Diegan from Fresno State who will end up in an NFL camp is center Kyle Young of Fallbrook. SDSU recruited Young hard, but he wanted to get away from home.

Boise State had four players drafted, and that doesn’t include quarterback Jared Zabransky, who will end up in an NFL camp as a free agent. One of the Broncos’ draft picks was wide receiver Legedu Naanee, taken by the Chargers in the fifth round.

San Jose State had two players drafted, including a first-day pick in wide receiver James Jones in the third round by the Green Bay Packers.

Other than Air Force, where players must fulfill a five-year military commitment, SDSU was the only Mountain West Conference school without an NFL draft pick. The others schools were Utah, 2; TCU, 2; BYU, 1; New Mexico, 1; Colorado State, 1; Wyoming, 1; and UNLV, 1.

Other schools in the West that SDSU should be able recruit successfully against and their draft pick numbers were Hawaii, 5; Nevada, 1; Cal Poly, 1; and Portland State, 1.

Cal Poly was that Division I-AA school that beat the Aztecs and Portland State, which beat New Mexico last year, is the Division I-AA school on SDSU’s schedule in 2007.

Maybe it wasn’t so surprising SDSU struggled to a 3-9 record in Chuck Long’s first year as head coach. A team that loses its quarterback in the season opener and has no NFL talent in its senior class was in for a long season.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.