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Wilkerson excited to bring his skills to Jets' defense

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Posted May 14, 2011 @ 11:37 a.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

One of the entertaining sideshows of the NFL draft is how the Jets fans in attendance react to their team's first pick. With the 30th pick of the draft, the Jets took DE Muhammad Wilkerson, their five-technique of the future, and Radio City Music Hall was full of cheers.

"I didn't (hear the fans), but my family did. I'm excited the fans are happy with the pick," Wilkerson told PFW.

Wilkerson came out of Temple, not necessarily a school known for producing top-flight NFL talent, but that didn't concern him.

"I wasn't nervous at all. My freshman year, I played with Terrance Knighton, who was drafted by the Jaguars in the third round and has been starting since he was a rookie," Wilkerson said. "That showed that it didn't matter that we played at Temple."

With Shaun Ellis likely gone, the Jets needed to address the defensive end position. Both Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum stressed the need to add depth up front, and the team took NT Kenrick Ellis in the third round.

Wilkerson went to the team facility on Friday, April 29 with the lockout temporarily lifted. He met with Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Wilkerson was also one of the few first-round picks who was able to get his hands on his team's playbook before the lockout was reinstated.

"I've been looking through the playbook. It's a little different. The assignments and terminology is different, but I'm getting the hang of it," he said.

Wilkerson expressed excitement at the opportunity to play in Ryan's defense.

"He's a defensive guy and a player's coach. This is a team on the rise that has made it to the AFC Championship game two years in a row. I feel that I got put in a great place," said Wilkerson.

The Jets ranked third in the league against the run last season, but would like to wreak more havoc in the backfield, something that Wilkerson, who had 9½ sacks last season, should improve. The 6-4, 315-pounder will also be expected to set the edge against the run.

"Definitely stopping the run," Wilkerson said about what he will bring to the Jets' D-line. "And when it's time to get after the quarterback, my size and athletic ability to get around offensive linemen to make plays in the backfield, whether it's make sacks or tackles for losses."

Wilkerson was a basketball star in high school and said that it helped him have good footwork and the ability to change direction quickly.

Ryan compared the team's first pick to a veteran he's very familiar with, Trevor Pryce, who has logged 14 seasons in the NFL.

"It's an honor (to be compared to Pryce)," said Wilkerson. "I've seen him play and being compared to him, it's very exciting. For a young guy like me to be compared to him, it will make me play harder."

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