In part three of my interview with Wes Bunting, the National Football Post’s Director of College Scouting, Wes gives his overview of offensive line prospects at the three major positions and gives his overall assessment of offensive line talent.
RV: Let’s move to offense. For casual and not so casual Cowboys fans, these are probably positions 1 through 10 in priority. I’m talking about the offensive line. Let’s start by taking the crop as a whole, offensive line, tackles, guards, centers. How would you rate the 2011 group compared to the 2010 crop or the one which came out the year before?
Wes Bunting: As last year and the year before there’s no real elite guy in my opinion. Last year we had Russell Okung. The year before that we had Andre Smith and Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe. This year, I don’t think Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin is a top ten pick. I don’t think Solders from Colorado is a top ten pick. My favorite is Demarcus Love from Arkansas, but he might be better as a guard. I think you can find good, talented players here but I don’t think the talent is as consistent here as in years past.
RV: I think in some ways that may hearten Cowboys fans because they don’t expect to be picking in the top 15 unless the team is crippled by injuries. Let’s go position by position, starting with guards. Give us three or four names who we can start tracking entering the season. Dallas is looking for bigger prospects with power.
Wes Bunting: Okay, Ben Ijalana from Villanova. (6’4″, 320 lbs.) He’s a lot like Vladimir Ducasse from UMass. He plays left tackle but will probably be kicked inside at the next level. Marcus Cannon from T.C.U. plays left tackle there. (6’5″, 358 lbs.) He’s a physical player, a better athlete than people give him credit for in the run game but he can’t hold up on the edge. Put him in tighter quarters and he can play.
Justin Boren from Ohio State (6’3″ 320 lbs.) this guy is nasty, spits nails. He’s physical run blocker, he plays with leverage. I think he could be a good fit. Some late-round guys like Zach Hurd of Connecticut (6’7″, 325).
RV: I’ve heard from people who track players over the years that guard has been a deficient position in the NFL lately. Do you agree with that assessment?
Wes Bunting: I think it’s a combination of how athletic and talented some of these defensive linemen are, compared to the athleticism of some of the players at the guard position. These guys are asked to drive people off the football, and they’re lining up against athletic guys who run all over the place. I think the guard position has been split into two positions. You have the zone blocking guys who get out in space and cut people down and your in-line guys. And depending on what scheme you run, it affects who you look for. It’s a pretty good guard crop to be honest. You just have to find the guys that fit your system and go from there, so I don’t know if I agree with that assessment.
RV: Let’s move to tackle. Lots of concern about the health of Marc Colombo’s knee. Some people think he might be done. The team doesn’t have much depth behind him. It has Alex Barron, who is the definition of a band-aid. Give me some right tackle types who are in that nasty, drive-blocking, have good enough feet to handle their edge without too much help mold.
Wes Bunting: One guy that interest me is Orlando Franklin from Miami (6’7″, 312 lbs.) played guard the last couple of years, but is playing left tackle there now. It takes too long to uncoil but he could work on the right side if given time to develop. Jason Pinkston from Pitt (6’4″, 305 lbs) he’s another guy who could play right side as well. One guy to watch is Curt Porter from Jacksonville State. He plays left tackle and they moved him to guard [last] week against Mississippi and he did a number on Jerome Powell. He’s a nasty country boy who can drive you off the football. He’s a guy who I’m really keeping a close eye on and I think he could be a good player.
RV: Where does he project as a pro? Where does he rate in your system?
Wes Bunting: Right now, as a small-school player who’s a developmental player who could mature into a starter, I’d say you take him in the mid to later rounds.
RV: Same question as guard. As a crop, how do you rate this year’s tackles?
Wes Bunting: I don’t think it’s as deep or as talented at the top end as last year’s group, or ’09 bunch. I do think there’s a nice mix of athleticism, raw upside. Some of the tackles will, in my opinion, move to guard in the pros so that hurts the group’s depth. But I think you can find some guys who can end up being starters in the NFL.