Raiders draft defensive tackle Lamarr Houston

the Raiders were riveted by the national-title game in the January between Alabama and Texas. A day after taking Crimson Tide linebacker Rolando McClain in the first round, Oakland selected Longhorns defensive tackle Lamarr Houston in the second round Friday.

He will play defensive end as the Raiders plug in physical players with pedigrees to fix a run defense that was 29th in the NFL last season.

"Getting good and turning it around," coach Tom Cable said, "We don't need knuckleheads; we need champions."

Oakland then finally took an offensive tackle - maybe its biggest need - in the third round, but it was not workout champ Bruce Campbell of Maryland. He ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash at the combine and was predicted by many to go to Oakland in the first round at No. 8, was still available at No. 69.

The Raiders went with Division II All-America Jared Veldheer of Hillsdale College in Michigan. Veldheer is 6-foot-8 and 321 pounds, and impressed Cable and Raiders managing general partner Al Davis on a visit to Alameda 10 days ago.

"He was the best tackle available," Cable said. "He is a tremendous athlete."

Though Veldheer is slightly taller than Campbell, it was his ability to bend better that probably gave him the nod over Campbell. Veldheer is the highest-drafted Division II player since defensive end Lamar King of Saginaw Valley was taken in the first round by Seattle in 1999.

In the second round, the Raiders traded down five spots in two separate trades before taking Houston with the 44th pick. He had 10 tackles and a sack in that 37-21 loss to McClain and Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.

"I'm bringing a physical attitude," Houston said. "A physical attitude, someone whose motor is high and ready to play football. I'm excited about trying to change the face of the Raiders' defense."

A running back, basketball player and track athlete in high school, Houston grew into first a defensive end and then a defensive tackle at Texas. In a conference call with reporters, Houston said how much he enjoyed playing tackle - hours before Cable said that he would be playing end in the NFL.

"He has the power and speed, it will be an easy transition for him," Cable said. "We're going to become a little more physical this year, and he can wrestle the tight end all day and win those battles."

As Oakland kept trading down in the second round, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen kept slipping, but Cable said he was not a consideration. How's that for a vote of confidence for JaMarcus Russell?

The Raiders have six picks in Rounds 4-7 today. They added a fifth-rounder from Tampa Bay to move down three spots and then a sixth-rounder from New England to drop two more spots.


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