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South has plenty of talents for Bills to keep tabs on

Talk about bad timing. Just seven days after the Bills set off their rocket launch against Oakland, leading our citizens to daydream about the Super Bowl days, here comes that dratted Tom Brady.

OK, today's game may be a reality show but even the most zealous of the team's followers must have realized that the Bills are still a project under construction. Injuries that took two important wide receivers, Roscoe Parrish and Marcus Easley, off the roster for the season, are a reminder of things that could come crashing down as the result of a lockout that erased valuable preparation time.

Luckily, the early returns on the nation's college powers suggest that the 2012 draft could contain some special talents, most of them in the South. For instance, it might be a good idea for the Bills to set up scouting camp in Tuscaloosa, Ala., since the Crimson Tide have seven or eight stars who could be playing on Sundays next season.

Since top-shelf offensive linemen are likely to interest the locals, remember the name of Barrett Jones, a 6-foot-5, 305-pounder who was an all-SEC guard last year as a sophomore but is now bashing holes as a left tackle, as Penn State might attest after its meeting with him in State College two weeks ago. When he finished high school in Memphis, he was named the best player in Tennessee. He is a top student with the highest character rating, having passed up his spring break two years ago to travel to Haiti, where he helped victims of its devastating earthquake. Last spring he returned to Haiti.

The Tide also has two of the best safeties in the country, Robert Lester and Mark Barron, running back Trent Richardson, defensive tackle Josh Chapman, inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower, outside backer Courtney Upshaw and center William Vlachos.

Buffalo has had good luck with college free agent wide receivers and others given second chances, but the receivers group for '12 already looks enticing. The early raters claim the top four are also from the South: Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State, Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma, Alshon Jeffrey of South Carolina and Jeff Fuller of Texas A&M.

Since Brady is in town today, everyone is thinking "pass rush." So far the top three candidates at defensive end are also from the South: Brandon Jenkins of Florida State, Quinton Coples of North Carolina and Devin Taylor of South Carolina. Kentucky outside linebacker Danny Trevathan had 16.5 tackles for losses last season.

Not all the desirables are in the South, however. Some talent raters think the best defensive tackle in college football is Jared Crick of Nebraska, who had 19 sacks as a sophomore and junior. He is being compared to his ex-Cornhusker teammate Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft who is now tearing up offensive lines for the Detroit Lions.

So, why have I written a column that normally appears sometime early in April, when the Bills' followers are bursting with anticipation? Blame Brady.

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Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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