Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


The Dean of the undrafted rookies

Posted by: Mark Craig under Rookies, Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Vikings defense, Vikings offense, Anthony Herrera, Heath Farwell, Leslie Frazier Updated: August 30, 2011 - 9:00 AM

The Vikings have a rich tradition of undrafted rookies who go on to have success. One of them, John Randle, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And on this year's team, starting free safety Husain Abdullah (2008), probable starting right guard Anthony Herrera (2004) and long snapper Cullen Loeffler (2004) were undrafted players.

As we near Saturday's final cuts from 80 to 53 players, there are two current undrafted rookies who are making a serious push to make the team. One of them, linebacker Larry Dean of Valdosta State, is a Division II player, just like Randle was coming out of Texas A&I back in 1990.

Here's a look at the two undrafted rookies who have the best chance to stick around:

Dean: One can see now why Dean was last year's Division II Defensive Player of the Year. He's a tackling machine with speed, quickness and instincts. He's only 6-foot, 226 pounds, which explains the Division II and undrafted status.

Dean could be an asset on special teams, which he showed Saturday night when he flashed between two blockers and made a crisp tackle on the game's opening kickoff.

Dean has some of our attention in the media. More importantly, he's got the attention of coach Leslie Frazier.

"Just watching Larry over these weeks that we have been in camp, he has really impressed," Frazier said. "He was a guy who was under the radar in a lot of ways from Valdosta State. He is making a lot of plays for a guy who didn't com in with a lot of fanfare. So we're going to give him a real hard look this Thursday and see how he does. He is a guy who has really gotten our attention."

Dean is a long shot, but don't count him out. He might have to beat out special teams leader Heath Farwell to make the team. Farwell, an undrafted rookie (2005) who made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer two years ago, has been battling a hamstring injury and has a salary of $1.75 million that could work against him.

TE ALLEN REISNER: Every time the 6-3, 255-pounder makes another catch, inevitably someone watching from the sideline will say, "Eighty-nine catches everything." The big kid from Iowa has turned everybody's head. He's got decent speed for a tight end, works hard, runs where he's supposed to and has soft hands. He could end up costing veteran Jeff Dugan a spot on the team as the team's fourth tight end. Dugan, 30, is one of the hardest workers on the team. He's been around since 2004 primarily because of a work ethic that's built him into a reliable special teamer.

 

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