Rawlings went from tackle to center in spring training

Center was, for all intents and purposes, brand new for Sean Rawlings when spring football practice began, but by the time it had ended, he had a firm grasp on a position "much different" than right tackle, where he played in 2015, his redshirt freshman season.

"Sean was thrown out of his comfort zone," said Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke. "Even though he had snapped some during bowl practice, it was just snapping, and nothing else. He got that down and snapping was not an issue during spring training, but it is much different at center than at tackle."

Rawlings, who will be a sophomore during the 2016 season, concurred.

"It's completely different from tackle," Sean began. "When you are at tackle on the edge, you basically have to worry about one defensive end, most of the time. When you are in the middle at center, you've got guys flying all around you. Things happen faster and the players in there are bigger and stronger than most defensive ends. There's not as much to room to work, so to speak.

"So, obviously, there is a big adjustment."

There's also the mental side of center. He has to make line calls and communicate with the other OL in a hurry, but that part of it was not an issue for Rawlings either, said Luke.

"It's hard for me to believe he's just a sophomore and that this is the first time he has played center in this system," noted Luke. "He knows the offense inside and out and his communication skills are very good. He's a bright young man, so no problems there."

Again, Rawlings agreed.

"The difficult part, for me, isn't the act of snapping the ball or the mental side of it, I can do those things well, but the physical side of it is just different and takes time to get used to," he explained.

So here's the bottom line - Rawlings is preparing for center and tackle, waiting to see how things are when Robert Conyers - who was the starting center last year until a knee injury ended his seaon - comes back.

"I am going to be ready for whatever Coach Luke wants," he noted. "I prefer tackle, but it doesn't matter to me as long as I play. I think Conyers prefers center, so we'll see. Neither of us cares as long as we are both out there competing and getting a chance to play."

Rawlings said he and Jordan Sims, Jeremy Liggins and Javon Patterson, during spring, have taken on different roles than they have had previously.

"We lost five key guys out of our room who had a ton of experience and were great players," he stated. "That's hard, but this has been an opportunity for the four of us to step up and lead the younger guys. I think we have come a long way. I think we have made progress this spring, slowly but surely. We are working together well and picking things up.

"Obviously, we have more work to do, but from where we started to where we ended the spring, I am happy with what we accomplished. I think we set a good tone for next season," he allowed. "I want to see us move to the next phase quickly in August. That's not thinking so much and developing a tough, intense mentality. Once we get everything down pat, I think we can dig in to that aspect of line play more aggressively."

Rawlings was also impressed with the progress, in the absence of QB Chad Kelly at the end of spring due to sports hernia surgery, with the progress of young QBs Shea Patterson and Jason Pellerin.

"For them to step in and pick things up like they did at the end of spring was very impressive to me. Quarterback will be in good hands a long time here," he added. 

Center? Tackle?

Luke is not committing one way or the other, but he knows Rawlings will be in the mix somewhere.

"Sean is tough, he's smart and he wants to do well," Luke closed. "That's a combination that needs to be on the field somewhere."

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