By Parrish Alford
INDIANAPOLIS – Ole Miss offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper – and others who have played in spread or tempo offenses in college – can sometimes put NFL evaluators at a disadvantage.
College coaches connect their schemes and packages to their preferences. More and more often those packages are not aligning with the most popular NFL systems.
Tunsil could very well be the first overall pick. If so, it won’t be because he mauls defenders at the line of scrimmage but because of his unique skill of using his footwork to stay between them and his quarterback.
“We have to adapt. The colleges won’t change, because they’re doing what they need to do to win football games,” Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert said. “It’s our job to take the talent and work with it, but it’s a little longer (adjustment) than coming from a traditional offense for sure.”
When Tunsil returned in late October from a seven-game suspension, the Ole Miss run game improved dramatically.
The Rebels rushed for just 40 yards at Memphis and averaged only 104 yards in three SEC games without Tunsil. In five SEC games plus the Sugar Bowl, they averaged 201.6 rushing yards.
Still, the run game is where Tunsil most wants to improve. He has focused his pre-draft training in that area.
“I’ve done a lot of explosion work, dead lifts, things to help with explosion and getting off the hips,” he said.
Some NFL executives would like to see offensive linemen in a three-point stance more often. Tunsil rarely put a hand on the ground.
“It’s a different type of run game as far as watching a guy come off the ball in power-type football and those types of things,” Denver coach Gary Kubiak said. “Evaluating their football knowledge is important.”
Face-to-face time with players at the combine becomes important in helping coaches and GMs estimate how a spread offense lineman might transition to a different style in the NFL.
Kubiak said combine meetings allowed the Broncos to make an educated guess on former Florida lineman Max Garcia. It worked out.
Many linemen are asked to draw up plays and blocking schemes in meetings.
“Through this combine and through our time with Max, we knew talking football to him that he could make a quick transition," Kubiak said. "That’s really important – their football knowledge and how quick they can help you.”