Draft Exclusive 14: Learning From Matthews

Arizona's Ricky Elmore piled up 21 sacks as a defensive end during his final two seasons. Elmore, who talked to Packer Report on Tuesday, said most teams view him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. To learn the tricks of the trade, he's been training with Clay Matthews Jr.

Arizona's Brooks Reed has drawn comparisons to Green Bay's Clay Matthews III.

But Reed's teammate, Ricky Elmore, is the one who's learning from Matthews' father, longtime NFL star Clay Matthews Jr.

While the relentless nature Reed showed on the field and the explosiveness he showed during a superb workout at the Scouting Combine have made him a potential first-round pick, Elmore was arguably more productive during their careers with the Wildcats. Elmore led the Pac-10 in sacks as a senior (11.0) and ranked second as a junior (10.5).

Like Reed, Elmore is highly coveted as an outside linebacker by teams running 3-4 defenses. He's been learning from one of the better outside linebackers of all-time in Matthews Jr. as well as his son, Oregon inside linebacker Casey Matthews.

"It's crazy just to be able to have an opportunity to work out with somebody like him, just the knowledge that he has of the sport and the tricks of the trade for the position," Elmore told Packer Report on Tuesday. "He's really taught me a lot during our couple weeks. When I go back to California, I'm definitely going to keep working out with him because he knows that 3-4 outside backer position. It really helps, besides working with Casey, to have another linebacker who's actually played in the NFL. He can really help me along because he knows what the game is like. It's been a really good experience working with them."

Getting hooked up with Matthews Jr. was a stroke of good fortune for Elmore. Elmore played at Grace Brethren High School in Simi Valley, Calif. Grace Brethren is a rival of Agoura Hills High School, where Casey and Clay III played.

To prepare for the draft, both Elmore and Casey Matthews were sent to the same facility in California, Proactive Sports. Elmore struck up a conversation with both Matthews and they formed a connection.

"He's just more than glad to help out," Elmore said of Clay Jr. "Just right place, right time, and it worked out well."

Elmore, who hasn't met the Packers' Matthews but is looking forward to "picking his brain" about the outside linebacker position, said he's been working on linebacker techniques after spending his career at Arizona as a hand-down defensive end. While he's still working on defensive lineman drills, Elmore said most of the teams he's talked to field 3-4 defenses. So, Clay Jr. has been a huge help with his vast storehouse of knowledge from his 19-year NFL career. They've been focusing on rushing from the edge, drops, angles and reads from his potential new vantage point on the field.

Elmore, who potentially could be on the Packers' radar in the third round, said most teams aren't worried about him making the conversion.

"To be honest," Elmore said, "when I spoke with (teams) down at the Combine, they were like, ‘Don't worry about it too much right away. If you come in, we just want you to come in and do what you do best and rush the passer. We'll teach you the ropes with everything else.' It'll be a learning process. It seems like the coaches I've talked to, they've been understanding about the transition and told me they'd coach me up, but when I come in, just be ready to get after the quarterback."

That's what Elmore did best in college. A high-effort player like the touted Reed, that ability to sack the quarterback will give him a long NFL career.

"I feel like I play the game with speed," Elmore said of his strength as a pass rusher. "I think my get-off is right up there with anybody else. I think I try to get people to play off-balance a lot. If I can get off the ball, I can get the tackle off-balance so my other moves will work better or I can do a little speed to power. But I really rely on my get-off. The faster you get off, the faster they're going to have to go, as well. Working on that is really what I've been focusing on."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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