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Is Jimmy Graham the next Antonio Gates ?


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Graham has a coming-out party for Miami

Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009 - 3:40 p.m. ET

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- If Jimmy Graham had any doubt about which direction to take when his athletic career at Miami ends in a few weeks, it's gone now.

He doesn't consider himself a basketball player anymore.

"I want to play football for the rest of my life," Graham said.

That might have seemed farfetched 3 1/2 months ago, when the bruising power forward for the Hurricanes' basketball team showed up for training camp intent on playing football for the first time in nearly a decade.

Now? No one at Miami is doubting his chances.

Graham had his long-awaited breakout game at tight end Saturday for the 19th-ranked Hurricanes, with season-bests of five catches for 73 yards in a 34-16 win over Duke. Those numbers might not sound like much, but take a deep look at how he got those stats - four of the five catches came on third downs, and on the drives he got the ball, Miami scored every time.

Not bad for a rookie in his final college season.

"He could be really good. He could be exceptional," Miami coach Randy Shannon said Sunday. "He could probably be like a (Jeremy) Shockey or even better than those tight ends that we've had. His size, his speed, and he'd have gotten a lot more aggressive over the four years that he wasn't playing football. For the long haul, he's got a big future. He's still learning."

Graham has 14 catches for 183 yards this season, meager numbers at best, but is tied for the team lead with five touchdowns.

This season has been a learn-on-the-fly proposition for the 6-foot-8 Graham, who has the combination of size, speed and stretch - not to mention athleticism, like a 40-inch vertical leap - that tends to make NFL scouts drool.

And given the way he delivered Saturday for Miami, the lessons learned this season are sinking in nicely.

"It's something that I love," Graham said. "I've come to find out that I have a God-given talent and I feel like with those two combinations, maybe I can be a good player. The transition's already been done before. Hopefully somebody will give me a chance and I'll be able to show them the athletic ability that I have."

For much of the season, Graham has been primarily a red-zone option for Miami. It's almost expected now that when the Hurricanes are deep in opposing territory and Graham is in the game, quarterback Jacory Harris is going to throw it up for his tight end, knowing few if any defensive backs would have a chance to outleap him for the ball.

Against Duke, the routine changed considerably.

Graham had two key drops against Virginia Tech earlier this season in what became a 31-7 Miami loss, and he dropped the first ball that came his way Saturday.

Nonetheless, the Hurricanes kept calling his number and Graham responded.

Harris' very first pass following Graham's first-quarter drop Saturday was to - who else? - Graham again. He caught it for 11 yards and a first down, setting up a field goal.

-Second quarter, third and 13 at the Miami 31. Harris to Graham for 14 yards, and Miami eventually scores a touchdown.

-Third quarter, third and 11 from the Duke 46. Harris to Graham for 12 yards. On the same drive, facing third-and-8 from the Duke 32, Harris hit Graham for a 22-yard gain, setting up another field goal.

-And the big blow came with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter, with the Hurricanes trailing 16-13. Miami faced third-and-8 from its own 12 when Harris connected with Graham for 14 yards, keeping a drive alive. Damien Berry capped it 12 plays later with a 2-yard touchdown run, and Miami was ahead for good.

"It's been awesome, the growth that I've made and the confidence that (offensive coordinator Mark Whipple) and coach Shannon have shown in me," Graham said. "I have to thank them."

They're thanking Graham as well, and will undoubtedly have plenty of good things to say when NFL scouts start calling in earnest when the season ends.

"I definitely want to play in the NFL," Graham said. "It's a childhood dream of mine. It'd be crazy."

Not anymore, it isn't.

The guy has the talent (6'7 260lbs with the physical abilities) but the guy is very raw (so was gates) ...The guy would also learn the TE position from the best player to ever play the position... I think Jimmy Graham will go in the 5th or 6th round.... would you take a chance on him ?

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His hands are terrible. That is one thing that you really can't teach.

I would rather get his teammate Dedrick Epps. He has a lot of upside too and has much better hands.

you can work on a guys hands. it's called catching balls before and after practice. they'll improve.

tony said he dropped a bunch of balls his first and second season but he worked hard and eventually got it down.

TG was also a basketball player in college so maybe he would be able to help graham translate his game.

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