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Kerrigan a challenging OLB projection

INDIANAPOLIS -- Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has a lot going for him in the 2011 NFL Draft as one of the most explosive pass rushers. For the Patriots, he represents a challenging projection to outside linebacker in their defensive system.

Kerrigan (6-3 7/8, 267 pounds) spoke with reporters on Saturday and said all the right things, especially when it came to his specialty -- rushing the quarterback.

"Our motto at Purdue was it's not enough just to get the sack or get the tackle, but you wanted to force a fumble and get the ball back for your offense," he said.

Kerrigan proved effective at the role, totaling 25.5 sacks over the last two seasons as well as 12 forced fumbles. So when it comes to disruptive playmakers in the draft, Kerrigan is high on the list.

But here's the catch when it comes to the Patriots: Kerrigan's role at Purdue was solely as a defensive end in their 4-3 scheme, playing forward. He seldom, if ever, dropped back into coverage, which is an important part of playing outside linebacker in New England's system.

"I don't have too much experience with it, but in my training for the Combine, I've been working on a lot of [pass] drops from a 3-4 linebacker standpoint and I feel like I've really made a lot of strides on that," he said. "We rarely played with our hand out of the dirt at Purdue."

While some view Kerrigan bulking up to 267 pounds as a sign that he's focusing more on being a 4-3 defensive end, Kerrigan said he plans to go through linebacker drills here at the Combine, which will help 3-4 teams better evaluate his skills. He was anywhere from 260-263 pounds during the season at Purdue and added that he's open to playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense in the NFL.

Purdue has produced some solid NFL defensive ends/outside linebackers -- such as Rosevelt Colvin, Shaun Phillips and Anthony Spencer to name a few -- and Kerrigan is the latest to join the mix.

"I'm happy to be another Boilermaker defensive end to take his game to the next level," he said.