It is ironic that two of the Saints 2013 NFL Draft picks, Kenny Vaccaro of Texas and Kenny Stills of Oklahoma, were fierce college rivals.
Instead of alternating home games between their respective campuses, the two bordering state universities meet in Dallas each year in what is billed as the "Red River Shootout." In recent years the Red River Shootout has been more like the Red River Massacre as Stills' Sooners have dominated Vaccaro's Longhorns, winning 63-21 in 2012 and 55-17 in 2011. The 2010 game was also won by the Sooners but in a much closer contest 28-20.
The transition from college to pro football often turns opponents into teammates and vice-versa. Vaccaro and Stills have now been brought together through the NFL Draft as they are trading in their Red River rivalry for Mississippi River unity.
While I don't have film to verify, it is possible safety Vaccaro had cover duty on Stills running the deep route when they competed against each other in college. If you have some time to kill, it'd be worth investigating to see who might have had the advantage in the one-on-one battles between the Saints' first and fifth round draft picks. Concluding evidence could provide clues into who will develop into the more valuable player.
As the scores indicate, Oklahoma dominated Texas in every phase of the game over the last two years, but did Vaccaro still hold his own against Stills and the rest of the Sooners receiving corps? Let's take a look at the stats.
While not known for being a ball hawk anyway, Vaccaro had zero interceptions during his career against the pass happy Sooners. In the Sooners' 2012 beatdown of the Longhorns, Stills put up average numbers, catching just 3 passes for 37 yards.
Stills' impact was much greater during his first two seasons in the rivalry. As a freshman in the 2010 game, Stills was the leading receiver, catching 5 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown. Out of the 55 points the Sooners hung on Texas in 2011, Stills was responsible for two touchdowns, five receptions and 51 yards receiving.
Will the Texas/Oklahoma rivalry now carry over between Vaccaro and Stills as they undoudetly go up against each other during practice? Hopefully, it will be in a good-natured way that will fuel their competitiveness.
While he is not solely responsible, I do find it concerning that Vaccaro was a member and leader of a defensive unit that gave up so many points in consecutive years against his team's arch rival. Those stats don't necessarily suggest that he will be the next Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu. However, I recognize that football is the ultimate team sport and that one player can't do it all, just as Stills doesn't deserve all the credit for the Sooners current domination of Texas.
Following Vaccaro's selection, news reports were filled with praise from the Saints scouting department touting his abilities and attributing his lack of turnovers to the scheme in which he was playing. I hope those characterizations of Vaccaro prove to be accurate, and not just used as feel good justification for using their first round draft choice on him.
Consequently, just as Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham have proven to be, I hope that Stills follows the pattern of becoming another late round receiving gem for the Saints. Having Drew Brees throwing the ball to you makes that a greater possibility.