Harrison Smith ready to handle top tight ends

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2012 - 7:40 AM
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Notre Dame defensive back Harrison Smith runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.

Photo: Dave Martin, Associated Press

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When new Vikings safety Harrison Smith was introduced to the local media Friday at Winter Park, he said versatility was a big part of his game. The No. 29 overall pick in this year's draft expressed confidence in his ability to cover the big and athletic tight ends that have been surfacing all across the NFL.

Smith also said that all throughout the pre-draft process he was continually asked about his confidence on that front.

Coincidentally, Smith said, his ability to cover athletic, pass-catching tight ends was sharpened during his time at Notre Dame, where in practice he used to face John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, both now with the Vikings.

"Going against those guys at a younger age got me excited to keep going against guys like that," Smith said.

Between Smith, Carlson, Rudolph and center John Sullivan, the Vikings have created a small chapter of the Fighting Irish alumni club.

"We're almost reaching our quota with the amount of Notre Dame players you can have out on the field at one time," General Manager Rick Spielman joked.

Saturday synopsis

The Vikings have nine picks lined up Saturday, beginning with a trio of fourth-rounders. Having yet to address the receiving corps in the draft, it seems logical to believe the team will emerge from Rounds 4 and 5 with multiple receivers.

As Rueben Randle was falling down the draft board Friday, Spielman said he was considering the Louisiana State standout, who was later taken by the Giants. But the Vikings have also taken note of the depth of the draft's receiver pool.

Said Spielman: "There are going to be some quality receivers I think coming up [Saturday]. We'll look and see how they stack up. There are some other quality defensive linemen out there, some quality linebackers out there. We'll see how it stacks up."

A little extra

Just how good is new offensive lineman Matt Kalil? So good, the Vikings believe, that his arrival will immediately upgrade three positions.

Coach Leslie Frazier announced Kalil on Friday as "our starting left tackle for many, many years to come." The ripple effect? The Vikings believe they will also get a boost at left guard as Charlie Johnson slides inside. A boost in Christian Ponder's play is also expected with Kalil's presence up front.

Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson said he fell in love with Kalil's athleticism and agility on film but came to admire Kalil's obvious zeal when he talked with him at the combine.

"It's hard to put your finger on it and describe exactly what you see," Davidson said. "But you can tell when a guy has a true passion for what he does. In my opinion, if we can get ourselves a room full of guys with a passion for the game, we've done our job. The vision here is to get smart, tough guys who have a passion for the game. Matt fits that bill."

Full speed ahead

All reports are that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is still doing great in his ongoing knee rehabilitation. Peterson, under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, took time earlier this week to run in the Vikings' field house as most of his teammates were partaking in offseason conditioning activities.

Said Frazier: "Adrian looked out and saw the guys doing wind sprints and he says, 'Ya know, I don't think they're running hard enough.' And Eric allowed him to go out and run with them. He passed them four different times; he finished first four different times. I remember Joe Webb saying, 'I can't believe it. I just can't believe it.' "

Frazier said the next step for Peterson is getting to a point where he can begin cutting.

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