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Texans announce rookie free agents


Running back Arian Foster ranks second on the all-time rushing yards list at Tennessee.

The Texans signed 13 rookie free agents, including a pair of running backs, the team announced Wednesday. The team also released veteran tight end Courtney Anderson on the heels of adding two tight ends in the draft last weekend.

Headlining the crop of free agents are running backs Arian Foster of Tennesee and Jeremiah Johnson of Oregon, who both had 1,000-yard seasons in college. They'll give the Texans backfield depth after the team did not draft a running back to complement Steve Slaton.

Other undrafted agents joining the Texans are: Wide receiver Aubrey Bell (Mississippi State), punter Justin Brantly (Texas A&M), offensive tackle Doug Dedrick (Iowa State), center Brett Helms (LSU), defensive end Tim Jamison (Michigan), wide receiver Mike Jones (Arizona State), defensive tackle Josh Leonard (Hawaii), linebacker Toddrick Verdell (Florida State), defensive tackle Jake Visser (Ferris State), guard Brandon Walker (Oklahoma) and offensive tackle Jason Watkins (Florida).

Following is a brief look at each player's college career.

WR Aubrey Bell (6-3, 216), Mississippi State: Had 55 catches for 633 yards and one touchdown in four seasons at Mississippi State. Recorded a career-high 31 receptions in 2008.

P Justin Brantly (6-3, 241), Texas A&M:A native of Sealy, Texas. Averaged 44.3 yards per punt in his four-year Texas A&M career. Is the only punter in Aggie history to average at least 43 yards per kick for four consecutive years. Finished third in the nation as a senior with a 45.7 average, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. Career punting average and punts downed inside the 20 (58) rank second in A&M history behind Oakland Raiders Pro Bowler Shane Lechler, who has been a family friend of Brantly's for years. In fact, Lechler used to babysit the younger Brantly when both of their families lived in East Bernard, Texas.

OT Doug Dedrick (6-4, 301), Iowa State: Started all 24 games over the last two seasons at Iowa State, making 22 of his starts at left tackle. Was Iowa State's Newcomer of the Year in 2007 after transferring from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College.

RB Arian Foster (6-1, 215), Tennessee: As a junior, ran for 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns while playing through a left knee injury that later required surgery. Production fell off his senior year on a team that had a disastrous season. He totaled 131 carries for 570 yards. A tough runner between the tackles who also totaled 83 receptions out of the backfield at Tennessee. Ranks second in Tennessee history with 2,394 career rushing yards and first with 650 rushing attempts. **(YouTube highlights)**

C Brett Helms (6-2, 270), LSU: Played in 46 games at LSU with 41 starts, 39 at center. Started twice at left guard as a redshirt freshman. LSU went 30-9 in games in which Helms started at center.

DE Tim Jamison (6-3, 263), Michigan: Four-year letterman who made 25 starts at defensive end and was a team captain as a senior in 2008. Recorded 29.5 tackles for loss and 20 sacks in his career. Ranks seventh in career sacks at Michigan.

RB Jeremiah Johnson (5-9, 210), Oregon: Ran for 1,201 yards (7.1 avg.) and 13 touchdowns as a senior. Played with a shoulder injury that limited his production as a receiver. As a junior, spent six games as co-starter with 2008 first-round draft pick Jonathan Stewart before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Averaged 6.7 yards per carry over his four-year career, best in Oregon history among players with 2,000 or more career yards. **(YouTube highlights)**

WR Mike Jones (6-4, 203), Arizona State: Prepped at Fort Bend Austin High School in Sugar Land. Caught 131 passes for 1,853 yards (14.1 avg.) in 49 college games, 33 starts. Led ASU with 61 receptions for 744 yards (12.2 avg.) in 2008. Has a 36.5-inch vertical leap. Spent three seasons on ASU's baseball team and was selected by the New York Yankees in the 29th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball draft.

DT Josh Leonard (6-3, 305), Hawaii: Bench pressed 225 pounds 41 times at his pro day; the highest total on the bench press for a defensive lineman at the combine was 37 (Michigan's Terrance Taylor, a fourth-round draft pick of the Colts). Was a Junior College All-American at Sierra College in Rockland, Calif., where he recorded 33 sacks in two seasons. Had 32 tackles and two sacks for Hawaii in 2008. **(YouTube highlights)** **(Pro Day workout)**

LB Toddrick Verdell (6-3, 225), Florida State: Played in 30 career games at Florida State. Started 12 times, all as a senior at weakside linebacker in 2008. That season, recorded 66 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss and four sacks. Had two career interceptions.

DT Jake Visser (6-2, 275), Ferris State: Consensus Division II football All-American in 2008 and two-time conference Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year. Played in the annual NCAA Division II All-Star Game, the 2009 Valero Cactus Bowl. Also won his conference's 2008 Jack McAvoy Award for character and leadership on and off the field. Had 105 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and four blocked kicks during the 2008 season. Is the eighth player from Ferris State to make the NFL.

G Brandon Walker (6-3, 306), Oklahoma: Three-year starter at right guard for the Sooners. Graded out at 80 percent in the 2007 season, the highest grade on an Oklahoma line that included 2009 second-round pick Phil Loadholt and fifth-round pick Duke Robinson. Was first-team AJCA and NJCAA All-America in 2005 at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

OT Jason Watkins (6-6, 302), Florida: Started all 27 games at Florida in the last two seasons. Played right tackle as a senior, when he was a team captain, and left tackle as a junior. Didn't start playing football until his junior year at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland, Fla., where his family moved from Louisiana and he was convinced to play.

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