The talk is that the Vikings need help for the offensive line, with the odds in favor of them drafting a tackle in the first round Saturday if one ranking high on their board is available with the 22nd overall pick.

The Vikings' desire for an offensive lineman recalls the fact that in 1968, when they had the first pick in the draft, they passed up all other talented offensive players, including some good quarterbacks, and drafted Ron Yary of Southern California.

Even though the Giants went 7-7 in 1967, they had acquired the first pick in the '68 draft after they voted in favor of the AFL-NFL merger; they could have held up the merger because they didn't want competition from the Jets in New York.

When the Vikings traded Fran Tarkenton to the Giants in March 1967, the agreement was for a first- and second-round pick in 1967, a first-round pick in '68 and a second-round pick in '69. The first-round pick in '68 ended up being the No. 1 pick overall.

The 6-5, 255-pound Yary paid off for the Vikings, playing 14 years for Bud Grant and one year for the Rams before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. Yary missed only two games during those 15 seasons.

Yary was the first tackle ever taken by the Vikings in the first round. Since then, they have taken six more: John Ward of Oklahoma State in 1970 (25th overall), Steve Riley of USC in 1974 (25th), Todd Steussie of California in 1994 (19th), Korey Stringer of Ohio State in 1995 (24th) and Bryant McKinnie of Miami (Fla.) in 2002 (seventh). All six picks turned out pretty well. The Vikings have drafted only one guard in the first round in their history: Randall McDaniel in 1988, and he is going into the Hall of Fame this year.

Those in the know now say that there are five tackles who will go in the first round Saturday. No doubt the Vikings need a right tackle. But there might not be one they want by the time they pick.

Then, of course, they will take the best player on the board as usual. But what they are going to do for center and right tackle is the big question. And they need help at both spots if Adrian Peterson is going to be as successful as he has been during his first two NFL seasons.

Perkins matures

No doubt the ace of the Twins staff so far this season is lefthander Glen Perkins, who is 1-1 with a great 1.50 ERA and three eight-inning outings heading into his next scheduled start Sunday at Cleveland.

"He's not a thrower any more, he's a pitcher," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He concentrates more on location and movement and changing speeds than trying to throw as hard as he can."

The Stillwater High School and Gophers product was a first-round pick of the Twins in 2004, 22nd overall, and he made his major league debut two years later. But this is the first year he has started the season in the Twins rotation.

Asked if Perkins can be as good as Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola, Anderson said: "Oh, I don't know, he's got a chance to be pretty good, I don't know if it's a Viola or not. That's a pretty special class to put him in. But he's got a chance to be a good one.

"... He's matured as a pitcher and realized it's not how hard you throw, it's where you put it and how you change speeds."

Anderson said Perkins has his own style.

"He's just his own different guy," Anderson said. "He's a lefty that likes to pound people in and work off the inside corner and move out that way. I think he's kind of his own guy.

"... It just shows you how far he's come."

Saunders was available

Randy Wittman and Sam Cassell are possible assistant coaches for Flip Saunders, who has agreed to a four-year deal to coach the Washington Wizards. There is no doubt that Saunders would have returned to his old Timberwolves coaching job had it been offered to him. But owner Glen Taylor never talked to Saunders about the job.

I can't see Kevin McHale working for another general manager after he had run the show for so long. But I know that Saunders, who would have given the Wolves credibility, would have been able to work with a new GM. The Wolves have gone downhill since the stupid decision was made to fire Saunders, who proved what a great coach he was at Detroit.

A year ago under Saunders, the Pistons went 59-23 and lost in the Eastern Conference finals to a great Celtics team that went on to win the NBA championship. The Pistons fired Saunders after three years of failing to get to the NBA Finals, but this year under first-year coach Michael Curry, the Pistons went 39-43 and barely made it into the playoffs, and rest assured they are going to be eliminated by Cleveland in the first round.

Jottings

The Gophers have hired perhaps the top diving coach in the world to run its diving program. Wenbo Chen, who will start at the university in August, has served as the coach for USA Diving since 2005; there, he personally coached three Olympians, 15 senior national champions and 12 junior national champions. Chen, the coach at Purdue from 2001 to '05, immigrated from China in 1992 after serving as a national team coach for nine years, guiding six Olympic medalists, including three gold medalists.

Among those selecting their seats in the new Gophers football stadium was athletic director Joel Maturi, who purchased four he will use when he retires.

Former Gophers forward Phil Kessel had four goals and two assists in Boston's sweep of Montreal in the first round. His six points entered Thursday tied for third in NHL postseason scoring. One point behind Kessel was Zach Parise, the Bloomington native who has three goals and two assists for New Jersey in five games against Carolina. ... Former Gophers forward Blake Wheeler didn't register a point in four playoff games for the Bruins, getting off two shots on goal over nearly 46 minutes of ice time in four games against the Canadiens.

Oladipo Fagbemi -- a track and field athlete from Marshfield, Wis., who has signed with the Gophers -- won the triple jump at the Wisconsin Track & Field Association indoor championships with a record distance of 48 feet, 10 1/2 inches, a distance that ranked ninth in the nation for high schoolers, according to dyestat.com. He also has jumped 23-4¼ in the long jump and has run 22.18 seconds in the 200 meters.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com