With that as a backdrop, Packer Report is running a series of profiles on this year's outside linebacker candidates. We continue with ...
College: Virginia Tech
Height/Weight: 6-3 3/4, 259 pounds
Agility tests: 4.70 in the 40-yard dash…1.68 10-yard dash…2.76 20-yard dash…4.27 20-yard shuttle…7.19 three-cone drill…37-inch vertical jump (ranked third among all defensive linemen at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine)…10'-2" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times…32 3/8-inch arm length…9 5/8-inch hands…78 1/4-inch wingspan.
Injury report: 2011 Season…Suffered a high ankle sprain in the Miami game and did not play vs. Wake Forest the following week…Reinjured ankle on the first series of the Boston College game and did not return.
Number to note: Gayle posted 22 sacks during his career, including six as a senior.
The bitter rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have divided more than a few families located alongside the Wisconsin-Illinois border.
That could be the case if James Gayle were drafted by the Packers.
Gayle's uncle, Shaun, played defensive back for the Bears from 1984 through 1994.
"I talk to my uncle a lot," James Gayle said at the Scouting Combine. "I haven't talked to him in a while but he's been very influential throughout my whole career. He knows so much about what's going on because he did it, he's played in the league for 12 years."
Asked if any pearls of wisdom from Shaun Gayle's decade in the NFL stuck with him, James Gayle said: "Something that he said to me that will always probably stick out is ‘Be yourself and play hard.' So that's what I did."
By playing hard, Gayle had an excellent career at Virginia Tech. He started 39 times during his four seasons with the Hokies and recorded 22 sacks, 40.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. As a senior, he registered six sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses. He was named an All-American Super Sleeper by the NFL Draft Report, a publication headed up by longtime NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas. The scouting service ranked him as one of the five most physical defenders in college football.
"I'm big, I'm fast, I'm violent," he said. "I play hard, I play through the whistle. I play lunch-pail defense for Virginia Tech, (a) top five defense in the country."
Gayle, who is considered an option in the fourth or fifth round by Thomas, played in a two- and three-point stance in the Hokies' defense. He has the quickness and agility to drop into coverage or challenge runners and receivers on underneath routes. And he's got the strength to stand tall against powerful offensive tackles.
"I feel I can do both," Gayle said of playing 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end. "Obviously, I probably need to gain a couple pounds to play defensive end, but I can easily do that. I played at 270 in college (weighs 259 right now). I feel like right now I can play outside linebacker. I feel comfortable."
Another former Virginia Tech defensive end, Jason Worilds, successfully made the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker. In free agency, Pittsburgh gave him the transition tender worth $9.754 million.
It's another outside linebacker, however, that Gayle holds in the highest of regards: Clay Matthews.
"He's a dog," Gayle said. "He goes out there, he plays hard, he's athletic, he's a great player. So if you want someone to watch and take tips off of, guys like Terrell Suggs and Clay Matthews, you can't go wrong."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.