Three Spartans Scheduled To Audition At 2006 NFL Scouting Combine

DenisePopiolek

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Three Michigan State seniors - defensive tackle Domata Peko, strong safety Eric Smith and offensive tackle Stefon Wheeler - have accepted invitations to participate in the National Football League's 2006 Scouting Combine, scheduled for Feb. 22-28 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

The 6-foot-2, 320-pound Peko led the defensive line and ranked fifth on the team in tackles in 2005, with a career best 53 (32 solos, 21 assists). He finished third overall on the defensive leaderboard with 127 production points. Peko produced 23 total tackles (18 solos, 5 assists) in his last three starts (vs. Purdue, Minnesota and Penn State). He recorded a career-high nine tackles - all solos - against Minnesota, and posted eight stops (6-2) vs. Purdue. Peko made six tackles (3-3) vs. Michigan, and his
74-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter tied the game at 31. He also registered the first sack of his career against the Wolverines. Peko tallied seven tackles (3-4) vs. Notre Dame, including 1.5 for losses (3 yards), and forced a fumble near the goal line that prevented an Irish
rushing touchdown early in the third quarter.

A native of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Peko appeared in 23 games during his two-year career and recorded 67 tackles (43 solos, 24 assists).

"Domata Peko made some great physical strides over the last two years," Spartan head coach John L. Smith said. "He got himself into great shape. Domata really improved his upper body strength and that allowed him to get off blocks and run down plays.

"He has a big upside because he's really only been in a structured weight program for two years and basically played just four years of football."

The 6-1, 202-pound Smith led the team in tackles (101 total) and production points (204) in 2005 and ranked second in interceptions (2 for 16 yards). The team MVP ranked sixth in the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 9.2 per game. Smith, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, posted double
figures in tackles five times in 2005, including 13 stops each vs. Notre Dame and Northwestern, 12 vs. Minnesota and 11 each vs. Michigan and Indiana. He became just the 15th player in Spartan history to reach the 300-tackle milestone with six stops vs. Purdue. Smith also scored the first touchdown of his career against the Boilermakers, returning a fumble 65 yards in the second quarter to give the Spartans a 21-14 halftime lead.

A four-year letterman, Smith earned 36 career starts, including the last 22 in a row, and registered 323 tackles, good for No. 13 on MSU's all-time list. The Groveport, Ohio, native produced double figures in tackles 13 times. His career totals include 10.5 tackles for losses (32 yards),
including four sacks (23 yards), and four interceptions (99 yards).

"I really believe that Eric Smith has a chance to play at the next level," Smith said. "The NFL scouts have expressed an interest in him all season long because Eric is a smart, instinctive football player. He stayed healthy and had a very productive senior year. No one questions his toughness, and
scouts have learned that he's faster than he looks on film."

The 6-5, 330-pound Wheeler graded out 93 percent or higher in 10 starts at left tackle in 2005. (He sat out the Nov. 5 game at Purdue with a high ankle sprain.) An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media, Wheeler was a prominent figure on an offensive line that helped Michigan State rank among the NCAA leaders in rushing (No. 20 at 201.8 yards per game), passing (No. 11 at 295.5 ypg.), total offense (No. 5 at 497.3 ypg.) and scoring offense (No. 18 at 33.8 points per game). He produced his top grades of the season vs. Minnesota (99 percent) and Indiana (98). Wheeler scored 97 percent each vs. Kent State, Hawaii and Illinois. He recorded 31 pancake blocks, including a season-best six takedowns vs. Michigan. Wheeler did not allow a sack in 2005 (approximately 330 passing
plays).

A four-year letterman, Wheeler earned 32 career starts. The Passaic, N.J., native graded out 90 percent or better in 34 of 41 career games played. Wheeler also registered 122 career pancakes.

"Stefon Wheeler's best attribute is his feet," Smith said. "He has exceptional feet for a guy his size. He's also an extremely intelligent football player, so Stefon definitely has the tools to play at the next
level."

The 2006 NFL Draft will be conducted April 29-30 in New York City.

Courtesy of MSU!

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