Two Michigan State Spartans offensive linemen got the call from NFL teams during the draft over the weekend.
It started Thursday night when Jack Conklin was selected in the first round of the draft by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 8 pick overall in the draft. While Conklin was projected to go in the first round, many had him going more in the middle of the round as compared to where he landed inside the Top Ten.
The selection of Conklin gave the Spartans their third consecutive first-round pick and also a pick of an offensive lineman. Donavon Clark followed on the final day of the draft giving the Spartans two drafted from the guys up front.
For Mark Dantonio, it was another step in showing prospects they can develop players at all positions.
“It’s another check mark,” said Dantonio. “Certainly we’ve had great tailbacks, quarterbacks, wideouts, corners, safeties, linebackers, defensive linemen, and now we’ve got the opportunity to check off our offensive line with two guys being drafted, a third going as a free agent.
“You know, I think it sends a message that you come here, you’re going to have opportunities at every position, just like anywhere else in America. Great things can happen if you play and you’ve got a big stage to play on here and you’ve got a highly successful program that demonstrates the coaching of Mark Staten and everything else we’ve done in terms of protecting our quarterback and running the football, as well.”
As for the surprise selection of Clark, Dantonio stressed the draft can be full of surprises. But in the end the work done on and off the field can give players every chance they need to hear their name called.
“When you’re involved with the NFL Draft, you don’t really hear that much because it’s pretty quiet on the front as you move forward. But I thought he had a great pro day when they came over, on our Michigan State pro day. I heard a lot of positive comments about him in terms of how he moved, how fluid he was for his size, his strength. I think he did a great job representing himself in the All-Star Games and things of that nature.
“But I just think that they watched him on film, saw him in person, saw how athletic he was, and I think the fact that he’s extremely versatile; he’s played left tackle for us, he’s played left guard, he’s played right guard, right tackle. To find a little balance, he even played a little center in practice. Even so, I think he’s a pretty versatile guy, he runs well, and he tested very well for them.”