Bolts Meet with Booming Linebacker

The Combine was stacked with talented linebackers and the Bolts sought to benefit from the haven. San Diego met with one prospect who enters the draft after his junior year, making him green around the edges. But with his excellent body positioning and field presence, the Bolts know he can bloom into something special.

On January 15, 2008, Oklahoma junior Curtis Lofton made a decision about his football career.

"I'm leaving!" Lofton stated.

Leaving the game of football and calling it a hobby of the past? Not a chance. Wrapping up his junior year, Lofton decided to proceed to the next level and entered his name in the 2008 NFL draft.

Lofton was lured aside by the Chargers for an informal meeting in Indianapolis last week. The Bolts walked away knowing Lofton's early entry into the draft hasn't jeopardized his readiness. At 6'0", 246 pounds, Lofton's outstanding junior season speaks for itself.

A second-team AP All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year, Lofton ranked third in the nation with a career-high 157 tackles (94 solo). He set an Oklahoma record with nine games with double-digit tackles. He also added 10.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and three interceptions.

It's no wonder by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops called Lofton the best linebacker he has ever coached in his nine years with the program.

Lofton is a consistent force on the field, a natural playmaker who has the vigor to alter the tone of the game. He has an exceptional gift of reading the action and immediately positioning his body to make a play. Running on a high motor, Lofton takes the right angles against his opponents and drops smoothly into coverage.

One red flag is a lack of speed. Lofton entered the Combine already lumped into the slow group. Unfortunately, his 4.77-second 40-yard dash in Indy left the term unchallenged. His recorded time didn't rank inside the top 10 at his position.

The Bolts know this might be the right time for Lofton to join the Chargers, as they are in the midst of shaking up their linebacking corps. With over a decade of experience in the NFL, LB Derek Smith recently signed a two-year contract with the Bolts after spending seven years with the San Francisco 49ers.

Starting linebackers Matt Wilhelm and Stephen Cooper form a reliable duo, averaging more than six tackles per game each. While they are likely to hold their positions, Lofton would be playing behind veterans while absorbing their knowledge and talent.

The Bolts see Lofton's high football IQ and unyielding poise and know he could be a Shawne Merriman in the making. A.J. Smith searches for unharvested talent to be molded into the next generation of Chargers, and Lofton shows all the right signs.

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