The San Diego Chargers hope to keep their legacy of uncovering diamonds in the rough through their undrafted free agent class this season. Many prospects have been brought in when you count the 20-player UDFA class signed immediately after the draft. Another twenty have been to Chargers Park for three-day tryouts.
As the old saying goes: Many are called, but few are chosen.
One player to keep an eye on during training camp will be West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut. Standing 5’11”, 188-pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, vertical jumped 34″, broad jumped 10’2″ and ran the three-cone drill in 7.13 seconds at the Mountaineers Pro Day.
Overshadowed by his secondary teammates Karl Joseph and Darryl Worley, Chestnut had a standout season in 2015. Lining up at cornerback last season, he tallied 35 tackles (25 solo), 7 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. To further show his impact on the field, consider this tweet from Pro Football Focus:
Passers targeting San Diego Chargers UDFA Terrell Chestnut’s coverage had the second-lowest QB rating (47.8) among Big 12 CBs in this class
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2016
So why did this man go undrafted?
There are two main answers to this question. One is he was overshadowed by his teammates Joseph and Worley. Joseph, a strong safety, was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 14th overall pick in the first round. Worley, a cornerback, was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the 77th overall pick in the third round.
Knee injuries derailed Chestnuts’ freshman and sophomore seasons. He played six games as a freshman and ten games as a sophomore. Chestnut did finish strong, as he did not miss a game in his final two years at West Virginia. His draft stock may have dropped due to injury concerns and overall body of work.
The Chargers may have indeed found another gem, this time on the defensive side of the ball. Chestnut is bound to make the most of his opportunity. This is what he tweeted after signing on the dotted line:
Blessed to say that I have signed a free agent deal and will be joining my brother @Shaqpett_36 with the San Diego Chargers!!!!
— Rell16 (@TChestnut) April 30, 2016
Chestnut will be company on the Chargers as the team also signed his teammate LB Shaq Petteway to an undrafted free-agent contract. Current second-year Chargers’ running back Dreamius Smith was a West Virginia teammate who is very excited to see his running buddies coming to San Diego.
— Dreamius (@dreamius2) May 1, 2016
Here’s hoping that West Virginia chemistry spills over onto the field. Good luck, Terrell!
The Greg One
As soon as they hung up the phone after the seventh round selection in the NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers busily started making calls to sign their undrafted free agent class. Twenty players have been signed to compete for roster spots. Here is the full list.
Mike Berkovici QB, Arizona State
Terrell Chestnut CB, West Virginia
Kenneth Farrow RB, Houston
Tyler Johnstone OT, Oregon
Sebastian Johansson G, Marshall
Jamaal Jones WR, Montana
Chris Landrum OLB, Jacksonville State
Mike McQueen G, Ohio
Adrian McDonald S, Houston
Tyler Marcordes OLB, Georgia Tech
Spencer Pulley C, Vanderbilt
Shaq Pettway LB, West Virginia
Zeth Ramsay OT, Colorado Mesa
Deandre Reaves WR, Marshall
Jay Rome TE, Georgia
Larry Scott CB, Oregon State
Chris Swain RB, Navy
Dominique Williams WR, Washington State
Trevor Williams CB, Penn State
Carlos Wray DE, Duke
Unless you’re a college football aficionado most of these names are unfamiliar but there are a handful of names here to keep an eye on. Living in Phoenix, I have seen Mike Berkovici in person and he is a great story of hard work and perseverance. Instead of transferring schools when ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly was getting all the on-field time, Berkovici stayed true to his team and supported Kelly. After finally getting his starting opportunity when Kelly was injured at the beginning of the 2014 season, Berkovici led the Sun Devils to a 5-1 record including hanging a 510-yard, 5-touchdown game on USC on the road. Check out the clip below of the 2016 Cactus Bowl shootout against West Virginia.
Berkovici had a breakout season in 2015 where he took over the reins for the departed Kelly. Last season he went 318-531 for 3,855 yards, 30 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He also ran for 347 yards and 6 touchdowns. Berkovici had three games last season where he threw for 395 yards or more. In each he had at least four touchdowns. I was in attendance when ASU hosted the Oregon Ducks in what turned into a 61-55 3-overtime shootout. Berkovici went 32-53 for 398 yards and 5 touchdowns in a controversial loss.
Calling my shot here. Berkovici will make the team.
Another diamond in the rough could be Adrian McDonald out of Houston. Semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award (given to the top defensive back), McDonald (5″11′, 205 lbs.) is a playmaker and legitimate ball hawk, swiping 17 interceptions over his career at Houston.
San Diego is determined to make sure the center position is solidified this season not only with the selection of Max Tuerk in the third round but by adding Pulley in the undrafted free agent class. With his great size (6″4′, 300 lbs.) and obvious mastery of his technique (35 pancake blocks in 2015), this will be a position battle to watch this offseason.
The future is looking a lot brighter than it did a week ago.
What do you think Boltfam? Leave your thoughts below.
The Greg One