Scouting Combine Research: OL, Part 1

There are a whopping 50 offensive linemen scheduled to be at the Scouting Combine. In Part 1 of this four-part preview are two small-school stars, Wisconsin's top prospect and an all-conference performer who majored in aeronautics and astronautics.

C Matt Armstrong, Grand Valley State: Armstrong won the Division II Rimington Award, which goes to the nation's top center. Armstrong, the GLIAC Offensive Lineman of the Year, was a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award, which goes to Division II's top lineman. He started at least one game at every offensive line spot during his career. Armstrong also threw the shot put on the track team. "He's a dominant player that can play any of the five sports," head coach Matt Mitchell told the school newspaper. "He's definitely an NFL prospect, so it's nice to have that guy up front who can do things. I'm excited that he's back. He can make the calls and he's at the attack point. If we get a heavy nose guard or something, we know he won't be overwhelmed. He can handle that too. He's a dominant player at Division II, so having him up front is a big thing for us."

T Joel Bitonio, Nevada: Bitonio (6-4, 307) was a three-year starter at left tackle and the school's offensive lineman of the year. Five is his lucky number, apparently. He played under five offensive line coaches at Nevada and he played all five positions at the Senior Bowl. What position would he play in the NFL? "I've been asked that question all week," he said before the Senior Bowl. "I really don't care. I'll play any position they want me to play. Obviously, right now, I'm more comfortable at tackle. But give me three weeks and I'll be comfortable (at guard)." One week into his first training camp at the school, his father died of a heart attack.

C Russell Bodine, North Carolina: Early entrant. Bodine (6-3, 310) was an honorable mention on the all-ACC team as a center in 2013. He was the starting center in 2012, as well, serving as the leader of an offensive line that sent three blockers to the NFL. "He knows the offense inside out and backwards," coach Larry Fedora told InsideCarolina.com. "He's, if not the strongest guy on the team, one of them. Very aggressive and plays the game like we like it to be played. And he gives us some great leadership up front."

G Conor Boffeli, Iowa: Boffeli (6-5, 295) won the starting job at left guard as a senior and was honorable mention all-Big Ten. At Valley High in West Des Moines, Iowa, Boffeli was a standout tight end who helped the school to a four-year record of 43-1. Boffeli might stand 6-foot-5 but he looks up to his younger brother, Carson, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. A family photo shows Carson flanked by Brian Ferentz and Nathan Chandler. Ferentz served as Conor's offensive line coach at Iowa the past two seasons.

T Justin Britt, Missouri: Britt (6-6, 315) started at left tackle in 2011, mostly at right tackle in 2012 and back at left tackle as a senior. Britt, who graduated in December 2012, was second-team all-conference as a senior and a key part of an offense that rushed for a school-record 3,330 yards. His path to the NFL might not have happened if not for one fateful day at practice at Lebanon (Mo.) High School. "Me and Jake (O'Quinn) were in a competition and whoever caught the most passes would stay at tight end," Britt said. "They purposefully threw me bad balls — I'll say that until I die ... they obviously knew what they were doing, moving me to offensive line. Without them doing that and without their coaching I wouldn't have ended up here (at Mizzou)." Britt was born big: he was 11 pounds, 8 ounces at birth.

G Dakota Dozier, Furman: Dozier (6-4, 312), a four-year starter, was a consensus FCS All-American and winner of the Southern Conference's Jacobs Blocking Award. Of his 45 career starts, 43 came at tackle, but he projects to guard in the NFL. "You have to expect no glory," Dozier said for a story on the school Web site. "I've always embraced that; that my job is to not be noticed. You just go out there and execute on every play. If you have the mentality that you need to be recognized on every play, you're probably not going to be a very good offensive lineman. ... It's a special position, because every play you get to go out there and do your best to just crush the guy in front of you. Quarterbacks throw the ball around; running backs try to make people miss; but on the offensive line you get to just hit a guy play after play after play. It's whose will is greater."

G Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State: Edwards (6-3, 309), a four-year starting guard, was a three-time all-conference selection guard and a second-team All-American as a senior. He offered superior pass protection with 34.5-inch arms, as measured at the Senior Bowl.  He was the only player from an HBCU (historically black college and university) to get a Senior Bowl invite. "Don't get me wrong. I love Tennessee State," he said. "The HBCU halftime is part of the culture, and I love the bands. It fills me with pride. But, man, the football is more important to me. I don't want the people to leave the game before the third quarter. Stay and watch us."

Matt Feiler, Bloomsburg: Feiler (6-7, 325) started 35 consecutive games – at guard as a sophomore and tackle as a junior and senior. He was named an AP Little All-American and helped power an offensive that led running back Franklyn Quiteh to a Division II-high 2,195 rushing yards and the Harlon Hill Award, which is D-II's version of the Heisman Trophy. His position coach, Brian McBryan, also coached All-Pro Saints guard Jahri Evans.

T Cameron Fleming, Stanford: Early entrant. Fleming (6-6, 318) started all three seasons at right tackle and earned honorable-mention accolades from the Pac-12 all three years, including a second-team choice in 2013. Fleming is a smart guy. In fact, you might even call him a rocket scientist. Fleming's major is aeronautics and astronautics. He will graduate this spring.

Zach Fulton, Tennessee: Fulton (6-5, 323) was the full-time starting right guard for his last three seasons and made 40 starts in all. He was a top lineman for a team that helped the Vols post their best rushing total since 2004. His brother, Xavier, was a fifth-round draft choice by Tampa Bay in 2009 and plays for Saskatchewan of the CFL.

G Ryan Groy, Wisconsin: Groy (6-5, 325) played in all 54 games, including 33 starts. Incredibly, he made those starts at left tackle, left guard, center and even fullback. He was projected to start at left tackle entering fall camp but moved back to left guard. He started every game at that spot and was a third-team All-American and first-team all-conference. As a junior, he started 12 games at left guard and twice at left tackle. Guard is where he's "most comfortable", he said during fall camp. "It's definitely a more physical position. Tackle's a little more finesse. I think (guard) is a better spot for me, to be honest, but I'm willing to go wherever."

Jonathan Halapio, Florida: Halapio (6-3, 320) played 51 games and started 43 games at right guard. He missed the first two games of this season after tearing a pectoral muscle while lifting weights in the offseason. Against Tennessee this season, he was poked in the eye, which required stitches to stop the bleeding. He returned to action, even though he couldn't see out of the eye.

Jonotthan Harrison, Florida: Harrison (6-4, 299) played in 51 games and made 39 starts, including every game at center the past two seasons. He was ejected from a game this season against Arkansas for shoving an official. He said he was upset because he was being called the ‘N' word by Arkansas players. He's seen a lot during his career.

T Seantrel Henderson, Miami: Henderson (6-7, 331) entered Miami as USA Today's Offensive Player of the Year — the first lineman to win that honor. He never got close to living up to that hype, for reasons including off-the-field issues, three suspensions, back surgery and a car accident. He started nine games as a true freshman. That would be the most of his career, however. He started eight times as a senior and was a third-team all-conference selection. He knows scouts are concerned about his character.

T James Hurst, North Carolina: Hurst (6-7, 305) made his 49th career start at left tackle in the Belk Bowl. He broke his leg in that game, however. He was a two-time all-ACC first-team selection and was seen as a solid Day 2 prospect until the injury. He faced South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney in Week 1 and held him to three tackles and no sacks. Hurst's brother, Nelson, was a tight end for North Carolina and his father, Tim, played at Alabama.

C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma: Ikard (6-3, 298) piled up the accolades for his performance on and off the field. He was the winner of the Wuerffel Trophy and Selmon Spirit Award, the Capital One Academic All-American of the Year, one of 18 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes and a finalist for the Campbell Trophy (aka, the Academic Heisman) and the Senior CLASS Award. Ikard graduated in May with a 4.0 grade-point average with a degree in multidisciplinary studies (emphasis on medical sciences). Sticking to football, the four-year starter was a finalist as a senior for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation's top center. "One of my goals coming into college was to be a 4.0 student," Ikard told the Tulsa World. "But people don't realize, I'm the dumbest person in my family. My mom's got her (juris doctorate) and her master's and is a registered nurse. My dad's got his J.D. My brother was a triple major. And my other brother is about to graduate law school at Northwestern. So when it comes down to it, I'm the least intelligent person in my family."

G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State: Jackson (6-4, 340) was a four-year starter, with 52 starts at left guard. He earned all-conference accolades all four seasons, as well as All-American attention as a junior and senior. As a senior, not only did he win the Kent Hull Trophy as the state's top offensive lineman, but he won the C Spire Conerly Trophy, given annually to the best football player in the state of Mississippi. "He has worked relentlessly to become a great player. There is no doubt he is one of the best offensive linemen in the country," Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy said. "As a coach, he is everything you look for in a complete player. He will be fun to watch on Sundays."

T Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee: James (6-6, 315) was an all-SEC second-team selection as a senior. He made 49 career starts, all at right tackle. That's the most in school history for an offensive lineman. A knee sprain sustained at the Senior Bowl prevented him from playing in that showcase. Not only is he a top performer, but he's grown into a leader. "Ja'Wuan is one of those individuals I gravitate towards. We probably text every night," coach Butch Jones said.

T Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt: The undersized Johnson (6-5, 290) was first-team all-SEC left tackle as a senior after being an honorable mention as a junior. His 51 starts — a school record and the longest streak in the conference — came at left tackle, center, right tackle and right guard. "That in itself in is unbelievable — how versatile the guy is," offensive line coach Herb Hand told the Nashville City Paper. "The thing I always worry about with him is being a jack of all trades, master of none because he has played so many different spots. But I also know there is great value in that and it has really helped us maintain depth throughout the course of a long season. It has been a real value and asset to us." According to the school, he allowed two sacks in his final two seasons.

T Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama: Early entrant. Kouandijo (6-5, 310), a recruiting coup for the Tide after he initially announced he would go to rival Auburn, started at left tackle in 2012 and 2013. He was first-team all-conference both seasons. Kouandijo was born in Cameroon. As a boy, he played soccer. It was the same sport his grandfather played for the Cameroon national team. Why football? That decision was made by his brother, Arie, who is the Tide's starting left guard.

C Tyler Larsen, Utah State: Larsen (6-4, 317) had a dominant senior season. He was a second-team All-American and one of six finalists for the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation's top center. Larsen is just the ninth player in school history to be a three-time all-conference first-team selection. After a season-ending knee injury early in 2009, Larsen started a school-record 52 consecutive games. He's married to a Utah State softball player and "Call of Duty" addict. His brother, Cody, an undrafted rookie in 2013, spent the season on the Ravens' practice squad.

T Charles Leno, Boise State: Leno (6-4, 302) started at right tackle as a sophomore and at left tackle for his final two seasons. He was all-conference first team as a senior and a second-team choice as a sophomore. Boise State is something of a Left Tackle U. The three left tackles before Leno were Daryn Colledge, Ryan Clady and Nate Potter. "You just want to be better than those guys and keep it going, never leave it the same, never be mediocre at the position," Leno said.

T Taylor Lewan, Michigan: Lewan (6-7, 315) started 48 games at left tackle, including 41 in a row. He was named the Big Ten's Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior and earned All-American honors in each of his final two seasons. His father, Dave, played at Minnesota. Lewan contemplated going to the NFL last year, but the man who once had a pair of steer horns attached to the front of his car so he could tool around campus like "The Dukes of Hazzard" villain Boss Hogg decided to stick around to mature a bit.

G Brandon Linder, Miami: Linder (6-6, 316) started for his final three seasons. As a senior, he started 10 games at right guard and three at right tackle, earning second-team all-conference honors. He was named the Hurricanes' Offensive MVP. Linder and his little brother, Nick, scuffled all the time as kids. Last week, Nick signed his letter of intent to play for Miami.

C Corey Linsley, Ohio State: Linsley (6-3, 298) opened his career as a guard and tackle before taking over at center for his final two seasons. Despite missing spring practices while recovering from a broken foot, he was first-team all-Big Ten as a senior. He keyed an offense that led the conference with 48.2 points per game and finished second nationally in rushing. At one point, he considered giving up football so he could concentrate on throwing the shot put.


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