Chargers meet with small-school safety

Another private visit has been confirmed as the San Diego Chargers continue with their pre-draft preparations. The team has again met with a safety, this one a mid-round prospect with the athleticism and intelligence that General Manager A.J. Smith is looking for at the position. This small-school specimen outperformed his mid-major venue and has played his way onto San Diego's draft board.

John Wendling (6-foot-1, 222 lbs.), a terrific two-way safety from the University of Wyoming, visited Chargers Park on Thursday. His four-year totals include 259 tackles, 14 pass break-ups and seven interceptions. He has played both safety positions and is equally impressive filling against the run and dropping into coverage.

A true workout warrior, Wendling ran a 4.4-sec. 40-yard dash, an incredible time for a player of his build. Although he doesn't always play up to his impressive measurables, that speed is consistently evident when he is closing on a play.

Where Wendling needs the most improvement is in coverage. He appears a bit stiff in the hips and can look uncomfortable in space. Fortunately, he compensates for those shortcomings by diagnosing plays quickly and making timely plays on the ball.

Wendling is also impressive on special teams. During his college career he blocked two kicks, rushed six fake punts for 119 yards and returned 11 kickoffs for 202 yards. Additionally, his physique and aggressive mentality make him an ideal fit for both kick-coverage units.

A leader both on and off the field, Wendling would be a classic Smith selection. Smith loves to take players from small schools, as they often slide farther than they should on draft day. He is more concerned with what a player can do than where he has done it, meaning he is unlikely to hold Wendling's mid-major level of competition against him.

In San Diego, Wendling would challenge for the starting strong safety job as a rookie, assuming Smith doesn't draft another safety ahead of him. He and Marlon McCree would give new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell great flexibility in the secondary, as both can play near the line of scrimmage and can patrol deep, too.

Even if Smith does select a safety in round one or two, that would not preclude the selection of Wendling. Because of his versatility, special teams ability and modest third- or fourth-round grade, Wendling will be hard to pass up, especially if he slides to the end of round four.


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