Clifton's College Coach Mentored Bakhtiari
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Clifton's College Coach Mentored Bakhtiari

David Bakhtiari's long-term position will be decided over the next several months, starting Friday. His experience at the position and his ability to play multiple spots could make him a key player as a rookie. "That zone-style running is really what he does well," Steve Marshall said.

For David Bakhtiari's final two seasons at Colorado, his position coach was Steve Marshall. Roughly two decades earlier, Marshall was the offensive line coach at Tennessee, where he mentored a promising young lineman named Chad Clifton.

"Chad, he was a lot better athlete than you think," Marshall told Packer Report last week. "I remember when Chad was a sophomore in high school at a little old country school way out in Tennessee, he ran like a 4.8 at about 275 pounds. He's a lot better athlete than people give him credit for. He had a great slide and a great punch and he was a great kid. I'm so happy he had a great career. I'm a Chad Clifton guy all the way."

Marshall also counts himself as a Bakhtiari guy, though he not surprisingly was hesitant to compare the two.

"That's hard to say," Marshall said. "Chad is a legitimate NFL left tackle. David, I think he has more of the ability to move inside and play center/guard. He could probably play left tackle but he doesn't have the range that Chad had as far as size and length of arms. David certainly is a guy that has a chance to play in the league for a long time."

For the record, Clifton is an inch taller than Bakhtiari (6-foot-5 1/4 vs. 6-foot-4 1/4), though Bakhtiari's arms are an inch longer (34 inches vs. 33 inches).

Bakhtiari was an early entrant but has no shortage of experience.

As a redshirt freshman, Bakhtiari played right tackle as Nate Solder manned the left side. With Solder being selected by New England in the first round in 2011, Bakhtiari moved to the left side for the past two seasons.

In 2011, Bakhtiari provided eight touchdown-producing blocks, allowed just two sacks and was penalized only once. In 2012, he recorded 94 knockdowns — tops among Pac-12 Conference offensive tackles — 10 touchdown-producing blocks and allowed just 2.5 sacks. The Buffaloes, however, went 1-11 and the entire coaching staff was dismissed.

Rather than return for his senior season, when he would be playing for his third head coach and fourth offensive line coach, Bakhtiari declared for the draft. That he lasted until the fourth round likely signals that most teams don't believe he can play left tackle, since left tackle is considered a premium position and those players tend to fly off the board quickly. Of the 32 projected starting left tackles heading into 2013, 20 went in the first round and only five entered the league later than the second round.

"I feel I can play left tackle," Bakhtiari said. "I've shown it in college, but wherever the Packers want me to play is what I'm going to play. They're going to give me the playbook, they're going to let me know the position, and I'm going to study it and try and become the best position I can. I feel like I can play multiple positions, that's just kind of my body type and how my athleticism plays. I'll just have to wait and see, but I'm excited to embark on this new journey and maybe a new position."

Marshall called Bakhtiari a "110 percenter" who will be "the first one in the building" to improve his game. He also said he'd be an excellent fit for the Packers' scheme.

"I think they're getting an excellent football player who has a lot of great football in front of him," Marshall said. "That zone-style running is really what he does well. He's a reach-and-run, athletic, get-on-second-level defenders blocker. He can really move in short spaces. He's very explosive and has good change of direction. I think that's his game. He was our best run blocker by far, and he's a good pass protector, too. He's got strong hands and he's got some power in his body. He plays with a little bit of nasty and he's tough."

Bakhtiari's long-term position will be decided beginning with the rookie camp that starts on Friday and through OTAs, the minicamp and training camp. While he's unlikely to beat out Bryan Bulaga at left tackle as a rookie, Bulaga missed four games in 2011 with a pair of knee injuries and the final seven games of 2012 with a hip injury. So, Bakhtiari's left tackle experience provides some options, if necessary, with only seven linemen active most Sundays.

"I think it's very comforting that you have a player — I consider myself a good player — who can come in and compete yet you have the comfort in knowing I can play multiple positions and help out," Bakhtiari said, "because it's a long season, and with a team that is an awesome organization and (has made) playoffs after playoffs, that's a lot of games and injuries do occur. So, to have the ability that I know that I can jump around from position to position can really help the team in the long run, and I think that's a huge benefit."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.