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Six locals get invite to NFL combine

02.05.10 at 12:07 am ET
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Boston College linebacker Mike McLaughlin is one of the six New England collegians headed to Indianapolis. (AP)

Boston College linebacker Mike McLaughlin is one of the six New England collegians headed to Indianapolis. (AP)

Six New England college football players are among those who have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, scheduled for Feb. 24 through March 2 in Indianapolis. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of each of the local invitees. (Click here for the complete list of invitees.)

Running back Andre Dixon, UConn
A 6-foot-1, 210-pounder out of New Jersey, the 23-year-old Dixon rushed for 1,093 yards and 14 touchdowns (averaging 4.6 yards per carry) this season with the Huskies. There are some questions about his off-the-field activities (he was arrested for drunken driving, and briefly suspended in December 2008), but Dixon finished his college career on an up note with 126 yards and a touchdown in the Papajohns.com Bowl.

After the game, UConn coach Randy Edsall gave an impassioned defense of Dixon.

“To go through his career and to have seen some of the ups and downs Andre’s had, but then watch him come through this year and have the kind of year that he had … I’m just so proud of him to see how far he’s come,” said Edsall, with Dixon sitting next to him. “That’s why in coaching when you know you’ve got somebody that’s got a good heart and is a good person, you don’t turn your back on him. And I’ll do anything for Andre. This guy here is somebody who’s very, very special to me.”

Offensive tackle Vladimir Ducasse, UMass
The 6-foot-5, 326-pound native of Haiti was a 2009 Associated Press FCS First Team All-American. The 22-year-old, a left tackle in college, could transition to guard when he reached the NFL, and has started to garner more and more ink as the offseason has continued.

He was reportedly outclassed at the Senior Bowl by elite level pass-rushers like Michigan’s Brandon Graham, but held his own against much of the competition and could eventually be drafted higher than any player from that Football Championship Series school since 1968, when quarterback Greg Landry was chosen in the first round by the Detroit Lions.

Ducasse has had to go through this offseason with the tragedy in Haiti in his mind, but after finding out his family is safe and his childhood home only suffered minor damage, football is his focus once again.

“That’s the only way I can help like I want to help,” Ducasse told the Associated Press last month. “I’m going to the Senior Bowl, combine, NFL draft. Now people are not going to see just me, they’re going to see the whole country. I’m representing the whole country.”

Wideout Marcus Easley, UConn
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wide receiver was a walk-on when he arrived in Storrs, but he advanced his game enough to lead the team in catches as a senior last season, when he had 48 receptions for 893 yards and eight touchdowns, an impressive 18.6 yards per catch. A late bloomer, he has come out of almost nowhere to become an NFL prospect.

“We told [the pro scouts] last year there’s a guy you’ve got to keep your eye on,” Edsall told reporters after Easley ran a 4.39 40 at the Huskies Pro Bay last year. “Now they’ve really got their eye on him. He’s put himself in a great position.”

Inisde linebacker Mike McLaughlin, Boston College
The Woburn native is coming off a torn Achilles he suffered in the spring of his senior season, but the 6-foot, 236-pounder finished strong, starting nine games at middle linebacker as a senior and finishing the season second on the team in assisted tackles (29) and third in total tackles (56).

A two-time Boston College captain, McLaughlin certainly has the pedrigree to make it to the next level: his father (Mike McLaughlin) and uncle (Joe McLaughlin) both started their football careers at UMass before going to play professionally; his Dad was a member of the USFL’s Boston Breakers for five years, while his uncle played with Green Bay and the New York Giants.

“At the combine, I’ll just be another piece of meat competing against all the others and trying to put my best foot forward,” McLaughlin recently told The Boston Globe. “One of the knocks on me is that I might not be fast enough to play linebacker in the NFL. I want to show the scouts just how athletic I am, that the football skills are there. I want to show them I have quickness, too.”

Center Matthew Tennant, Boston College
The 22-year-old out of Cincinnati could be the latest in a long line of talented offensive linemen to come out of the Heights — o-line luminaries like Pete Kendall, Dan Koppen, Tom Nalen, Ron Stone Chris Snee and Damien Woody are all BC products, and some believe Tennant could be next in line.

The 6-foot-4, 291-pounder has been a mainstay at the center spot for Boston College the last three seasons — he’s started all 40 games there since winning the job prior to the 2007 season. A three-year starter at Boston College, he was an honorable mention All-ACC performer as a senior, and he earned second team All-America honors by the Walter Camp Foundation.

Defensive end Lindsey Witten, UConn
A 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end/outside linebacker out of Cleveland, he is the younger brother of Buffalo safety Donte Whitner, and is one of the better pass rushers available in the draft. He finished last season with 11.5 sacks, and was a First Team All-Big East selection in 2009.

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