Its All About Protecting The Quarterback

Despite the obvious need to upgrade the talent at tackle, the Bears cannot ignore the interior of the offensive line. Work in the trenches is where it all begins and these days offensive guards and centers are getting more money on the open market as the appreciation for their value is realized. When a top player in the draft comes out along the interior of the line, every team in the league takes notice.

The Chicago Bears made Michigan offensive guard David Baas a priority during the Senior Bowl and weren't eager to let the Michigan prospect make his rounds.

While everyone wanted a piece of the Michigan center/guard prospect, the Bears held a lengthy interview with the talented lineman.

Getting noticed also has to do with physique.

Baas has wide shoulders and seemed to have the perfect build for an offensive lineman. His legs also had good development and it is easy to see why he is one of the top linemen in the country.

Despite spending time at both positions during his week in Mobile, according to those in attendance most teams only talked about Bass playing guard.

The Bears are in search for an infusion of talent on an offensive line that allowed a franchise record 66 sacks. Guard may be the deepest position on the unit, with four players with starting capability in Ruben Brown, Rex Tucker, Steve Edwards and Terrence Metcalf.

However, Tucker could be a salary cap casualty as he's landed on Injured Reserve the past three seasons. Over the next four seasons he's due $1.9, $2.6, $3.15 and $3.3 million.

Brown also finished the year on IR and is trying to return from neck surgery at 33.

Edwards and Metcalf are both restricted free agents and can play multiple positions. While neither will garner serious interest on the free agent market, there versatility is valuable.

Bass would compensate for the potential loss of Tucker and Brown being on the downside of his career.

Michigan continues to pound out offensive linemen. Scanning NFL rosters, former Wolverine linemen have made a positive impact on the league. From Jeff Backus to Steve Hutchinson – and now David Baas hopes to join that elite group.

He has already shown the pedigree that has become the staple of Michigan linemen to come before him. Baas entered his senior year as the starting guard on the Michigan line but was moved inside to center because of need. That versatility served has served him well and gives teams a myriad of options at the NFL level.

The Rimington Trophy Co-Winner (with Ben Wilkerson), given annually to the Nations top offensive center prospect, and Outland Trophy finalist, acknowledges his strength remains at guard.

"I think more people see me as a better guard," Baas admitted. "I am just grateful for the opportunity (to play in the NFL). I will play anything."

While he displays a nasty attitude on the field, Baas remains humble off it. When asked whether he is the best guard prospect in the nation, he didn't say yes nor did he say no.

"I am going to try and make myself the best," the number two ranked guard prospect said.

As the co-captain of the Michigan offense, Baas made 30 consecutive starts at guard before moving to center.

Like any Michigan line prospect, he has been well coached and is sound fundamentally. He has the ability to drive his opponents back at the point of attack and does well blocking at the second level. He is not fleet of foot and his pulls need work but used properly, he will be effective from the beginning of his rookie year.

"I think I have done a fairly good job," Baas says shyly regarding his college career. "You just have to keep working hard and keep doing the things that I am doing to keep prepared and we will see what happens on draft day."

With the draft just two months away, Baas relished in the Senior Bowl spotlight. He was plagued by teams wanting a close-up look and was happy to be invited where he could play against the best college football has to offer.

"Competition," Baas said of his time in Mobile. "It is something that you strive off of."

After a successful college career, Baas is hoping to parlay it into a long NFL career. History is on his side.

The keys for the big man heading into an NFL camp this summer will be focus and determination.

"It is just another challenge," he said of playing in the NFL. "You have to live up to the moment. I have to be prepared."

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