Fair Game
by: JONATHAN FERREY, According to one NFL scout, Duck quarterback Dennis Dixon, shown celebrating a win over Southern California in the fall, could go in the first three rounds of the draft, which starts April 26 in New York.

The NFL draft - heretofore known as 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?' - will be shortened this year when it is held April 26 and April 27 in New York City.

Teams get 10 minutes (instead of 15) for first-round picks, seven minutes (instead of 10) for second-round picks and five minutes thereafter, theoretically tightening up Chris Berman's marathon by three hours.

The third round moves from Saturday to Sunday, giving the term 'first-day selection' new meaning.

With that, if Oregon's Jonathan Stewart chooses not to come out for the draft, the state might not have a first-day pick.

Stewart - tabbed between the 12th and 24th pick in various early mock drafts - probably is the only first-rounder, though combine and pro-day workouts can increase a player's stock.

Oregon State guard Roy Schuening and quarterbacks Dennis Dixon of Oregon and Erik Ainge (Glencoe High) of Tennessee should be gone by the middle rounds.

Others who rate a shot at getting drafted include Oregon offensive tackle Geoff Schwartz and seven OSU seniors - kicker Alexis Serna; linebackers Derrick Doggett, Joey LaRocque and Alan Darlin; defensive ends Dorian Smith and Jeff Van Orsow; and tailback Yvenson Bernard.

One NFL scout says if Stewart declares he is a definite first-rounder and a possible top-10 pick, depending on his pre-draft tests and workouts.

Says the scout, speaking anonymously about the other prospects (he hasn't seen Ainge enough live to feel comfortable offering a comment): 'I like Dixon, but he has to be in the right program. The people who liked Vince Young and Michael Vick will like Dixon. He wouldn't be as effective in a traditional drop-back offense. He's a first-three-round guy. …

'Schuening is considered one of the better guards, though a lot of tackles listed ahead of him could be converted to guard. That he played tackle (at the end of the season) didn't hurt him. Scouts will give him a good look at the Senior Bowl. If he has a good showing, it'll help his stock.'

The rest of the ex-Beavers and Ducks are second-day or free-agent bound.

The scout: 'The question about Serna is how well he'll kick off. He has good accuracy and has been pretty reliable in bad weather conditions and under pressure. Kickers typically don't go real high, but if someone falls in love with him, he could be a midround guy. … I really like Doggett, but he hasn't been able to gain weight. If he weighed 235, he'd be a lock, probably at an early round. LaRocque plays with energy and brings a lot to the table, but I don't know that he'll be more than a free agent. Darlin is down the line, too. A good college player, but he isn't any better than (ex-Beaver) Trent Bray, and he didn't make it.

'Smith will get drafted. He's made some impressions this year, and after only two years of D-I ball, he has some upside. Van Orsow has topped out. He's not as good as Bill Swancutt was, and Bill hasn't made it.

'If Bernard gets into somebody's camp, they may not be able to cut him. He's so tough, can block and catches the ball well, but he's limited with his speed. He'll probably be a free agent. … the only thing Schwartz has going (as an NFL prospect) is his size. He runs pretty well, but he's not real tough, doesn't dominate like a 350-pound guy should. But somebody may take him late because he's so dang big.'

• A blogger, basketball player Gabe Muoneke, makes Ime Udoka sound like a cross between Lennox Lewis and Randy Couture in a recent post about a brawl at the African Championships in Algeria last summer.

Udoka - the Portland native and ex-Blazer who was a member of the Nigerian team that placed eighth in the World Championships at Japan - confirms involvement but downplays his role as the heavyweight 'champeen' of organized basketball.

'When I talked to Gabe, he said, 'I gave you a little shout-out,' ' says Udoka, now with the San Antonio Spurs. 'I said, 'Oh my goodness, that story was supposed to stay in Africa.'

'It did get kind of ugly. It happened after we beat Algeria for third place and clinched a spot in the World Championships. There had been a lot of trash talk and a few incidents during the game. After it, we were watching Angola and Senegal in the finals.

'At halftime, we went back to our locker room, and when we came out, there were (Angola players) waiting for us. I got a guy off Gabe's back. Chamberlain Oguchi (an ex-Oregon guard also on the Nigeria team) got a guy off my back at one point. There was almost too much adrenaline going to get scared. There was security, but there were too many people. The organizers of the whole thing were going right along with (the brawlers). It was wild. We were lucky to get out of there in one piece.'

• Finally, PGE Park is getting a new artificial surface.

The plan is to begin tearing out the old NeXturf today, with a new FieldTurf surface expected to be in place by mid-February - in time for the Oregon State-Georgia three-game baseball series beginning Feb. 29. It's a $1.1 million project that will benefit the Portland Beavers and Timbers, Portland State and the local high schools to no end.

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