USCFootball.com/Ryan Abraham

Sitcom star Mama making his NFL move

USC's lowest-ranked early junior departee for the NFL, Damien Mama, finds out this weekend if he made the right call.

It wasn't looking so good for Damien Mama two months ago at the NFL Combine.

While his fellow USC juniors, Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, acquitted themselves with performance numbers that backed up their decisions to leave school early, Damien was becoming the newest recurring character in the NFL Network's annual "Run RIch Run" series determining whether anchor Rich Eisen, in suit and tie, can run the 40 as fast as an NFL prospect.

Unfortunately for the 334-pound Mama, Mama became that guy as his historically slow 5.84-second 40-yard dash was replayed over and over, superimposed on the simulcam against the network host's 6.02 time that was just a step behind.

Google "Rich Eisen vs. Damien Mama" and you get 44,100 results right now. For Damien, there is the fame of it at least. And the Draft projections for this weekend aren't all that bad. The NFL.com says simply: "Fifth round."

From a five-star All-American at St. John Bosco when he weighed in at nearly 400 pounds and a true freshman starter at USC to a second-team All-Pac-12 guy in his final season when he started 13 of 14 games for the Trojans, it hasn't been all that smooth for Damien -- starting with the big weight loss.

"Was stuck in a battle for a starting position to open season due to a lack of accountability and consistency," is the NFL.com's take on why he had to fight back to earn a starting spot over Chris Brown. For USC fans, the one memory from 2016 will probably be that missed block on a Utah linebacker that cost the Trojans the chance for a touchdown that probably would have put that game out of reach for a Utes' comeback when Damien was flagged as an ineligible receiver downfield.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock does not have him in his Top 100 and NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter, in his seven-round mock draft, has Damien at No. 199 in the sixth round going to the Minnesota Vikings.

Pro Football Focus stays in that same neighborhood, listing Damien as its No. 192 prospect and 10th-ranked offensive guard on its big board with this quick take: "Mama has limited scheme fits at the next level, but can create movement on the ground when he locks onto defenders. He improved greatly in pass protection in 2016, allowing only eight QB pressures after surrendering 18 in 2015 on a similar number of attempts." To put that into more context, those eight pressures (one hit, seven hurries) came on 449 pass-protection snaps in 2016 according to PFF.

The pluses for Damien according to PFF: "Best on down blocks pinning and moving defensive linemen on pin-pull plays" . . . "when he can lock onto a defender at any level his size and power becomes evident" . . . "consistent 2016 season in pass protection; [although] rarely faced any speed or explosive rushers."

The negatives: "Inconsistent in his two seasons as a starter with a better season as a run-blocker in 2015 than in 2016 and vice-versa in pass protection; which is the player you’re going to get?" . . . "lack of testing athleticism is clear to see on tape" . . . "struggles to work laterally on outside zone plays" . . . and "struggles with change of direction . . . in picking up slants and stunts in both run and pass games."

Here's PFF's "bottom line" for Damien: "If Mama can play the game in a small area and lock onto a target he can not only lock up his defender but also generate movement and create space at the point of attack. However, his limited athleticism means that if he has to close much ground to his assignment or make a block on the move he struggles to be as effective. A strong 2016 season in pass protection shows his ability to play with power and shut down certain types of rushers but a lack of exposure to more speedy and agile rushers may lead to more flaws being exposed at the next level."

The NFL.com big board has this relatively positive outlook for Damien: "Could start his career as a backup, but has the size and ability to become eventual starter."

 After his Pro Day at USC last month, Damien seemed pretty pleased. "My numbers are better," he said of his weight -- down eight pounds -- and his cone drills and 40 time -- "down to 5.7."

And no Rich Eisen. "The atmosphere was much better here," Damien said with a grin. And at least there's this: Damien has name and the fame and even though it's preserved for all time on youtube, he'll always finish ahead of Rich Eisen in that 40.  

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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