NFL Scouting Combine Research: Centers

For which two center prospects was their path to the draft a family affair? Who served as a player-coach this spring? Those answers and more as we look at this year's top centers.

Jack Allen, Michigan State (6-2, 297): Do you know someone who wants to be a big-time offensive lineman? Then reach out to John and Leslie Allen of Hinsdale, Ill., for some pointers. Jack Allen started 47 games in his career (42 at center, five at left guard). This season, he lined up next to his brother, Brian, a sophomore who started 10 games at left guard and two at center to win second-team all-Big Ten. Their younger brother, Matt, will be a freshman at Michigan State next season. In the family home, there’s a full wrestling mat — and a hole in the wall. "Like any three-boy family," Spartans coach Dantonio said, "there's a lot of ribbing going on." Said Jack of Brian: “"I know how he learns the best. It's not usually from a pat on the back." For his career, Jack Allen allowed only three sacks. Not only was the team co-captain a two-time all-Big Ten first-team selection, but he joined Dave Behrman and Tony Mandarich as the only offensive linemen in school history to be two-time All-America first-teamers. As a senior, he was a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, aka the Academic Heisman, and one of three finalists for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s top center. He started 12 games, with the coaches giving him 77 knockdown blocks. During the game-winning drive vs. Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, he lined up at center, fullback and tight end.

Austin Blythe, Iowa (6-2, 291): Blythe, an all-Big Ten second-teamer, was one of three finalists for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s top center. “I’ve seen the guy that did win the award, and I wouldn’t trade him for Austin,” offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said. “And I’ve seen the guy that was ahead of him in our conference, I wouldn’t make that trade, either.” Blythe started 45 consecutive games (and 49 overall) — at right guard as a redshirt freshman before moving to center for his final three seasons. As a senior, he helped lead Iowa to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1990. As a heavyweight wrestler at Williamsburg (Iowa) High School, he fashioned a 187-11 record. He was state runner-up as a freshman and a state champion his final three years. His 146 career pins are second most in state history. "Wrestling helped me a tremendous amount (as a football player), especially with hand placement and being disciplined with keeping my elbows in and my center of gravity low," Blythe said. "It also helped me bend at my knees and not at my hips and waist." He was considered one of the top five heavyweight recruits in the nation.

Evan Boehm, Missouri (6-2, 309): Boehm, who was recruited by Missouri during the summer between his eighth grade and freshman year of high school, ended his career with 52 consecutive starts — the longest in school history, the fourth-longest active streak in the nation and the top mark among players from a Power Five conference. He took a lot of pride in that streak. He sprained an ankle in this year’s season-opening game. When coach Gary Pinkel said, “We’ll see,” to Boehm’s proclamation that he’d start the following week, he retorted: “No, we’re not going to see what happens,. I’m telling you, I’m going to do what I need to do to get back and be able to play on Saturday.” He started at left guard as a freshman before moving to center. In high school, he was coached by his father. He was a state champion in football, wrestling (heavyweight) and track and field (discus). The Lee’s Summit West High School gym reads, “The Home of Evan Boehm.” He is a leader who enjoys a good laugh — even if the laugh is of a football hitting him in the crotch.

Jake Brendel, UCLA (6-4, 293): All Brendel did was start 52 games at center. He was second-team all-Pac-12 during as a junior and senior. Impressively, he was a co-captain for each of his final three seasons. As a senior, Brendel was one of 12 National Scholar Athletes and a finalist for the William Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman — with a 3.43 GPA in economics. “Just having this honor, it solidifies that I didn’t take the easy road,” Brendel said. “I could’ve come here and did the same major that everyone else did and taken the same classes that everyone else did and just gotten by. My parents always pushed me to be my best, and to get an economics degree from UCLA and getting a pretty good GPA to go with it, it puts a cap on all the effort that I’ve put into the past few years now.” He also was up for the Wuerffel Trophy, Senior CLASS and AFCA Good Works teams, all of which honor success on and off the field. Just how important was Brendel to the Bruins’ offensive success? The one game he missed, in 2014 against Virginia, the Bruins allowed five sacks. Like most centers, he enjoys the mental chess match. “That’s the reason I really love the game. It’s such a challenging game mentally, to play, to excel. To run a very good offense, against a very good defense, it’s not the easiest thing to just exploit their weaknesses or attack them where they’re soft. So it always takes a little bit of intelligence and wisdom. And that’s something you take pride in, as a good offense.” When offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was suspended for alleged recruiting violations, Brendel filled the void during spring practice.

Graham Glasgow, Michigan (6-6, 306): Glasgow, a former walk-on, started 37 games in his career. He played all three interior spots during his career but spent most of his time at center. That’s where he started all 13 games as a senior, when he earned an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. Two of his younger brothers, defensive tackle Ryan and safety Jordan, are walk-ons, as well. Graham’s recruiting pitch?  “Listen, you're gonna get your ass kicked at first. Scout team sucks. On Fridays, you're gonna lift with the non-travel guys and the strength staff is gonna demoralize you. You don't get respect from veterans until you prove yourself. It seems like a lot, but I'd love to have you. It would be a lot of fun if you came here.” He lives with his 81-year-old grandmother, a strange living arrangement that dates to his 2014 arrest for drunken driving and a subsequent probation violation. “It’s good for her and good for me to have someone cook for me and wash my stuff and watch after me in some ways,” Glasgow said. “She gets to cruise the streets, walk around and do whatever she wants. But she’s the nosiest person I’ve ever known. She has to know everything. She’ll say, ‘You’re back a little later, why is that? Were you being smart, Graham?’ Oh, Grandma.”

Ryan Kelly, Alabama (6-4, 297): Kelly won the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s top center, and was a consensus first-team All-American. He didn’t allow a sack all season and allowed only four pressures while adding 18 knockdowns blocks to fuel the Derrick Henry-led running attack. In 1,012 snaps, he committed one penalty (none for holding) and had just eight missed assignments. He also won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which goes to the SEC’s top offensive lineman. Kelly was a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman — and was the SEC’s Scholar Athlete of the Year. He was a three-year starter. Henry called him the “heart and soul” of an offense breaking in nine new starters. A brother, Mike, plays football for Navy. “When I was traveling and looking at all these colleges and universities, my brother was always there with me,” Ryan said.

Matt Skura, Duke (6-3, 305): Skura was a three-year starter at center. After earning third-team all-ACC as a junior, Skura was a first-team choice as a senior. While in high school, Skura was dating a girl who spent part of her life living in Raleigh, N.C., and was a big Duke fan. On a trip to North Carolina, she bought a Duke shirt for him. A few weeks later, a Duke coach attended one of Skura’s practices and invited him to a Duke football camp. “I didn’t know anything about Duke football or Duke in general,” said Skura’s who’s now engaged to that girl, Emma Ellis. “I just laughed at the shirt. I said, ‘I’ll take it but I don’t think I’ll wear it.’ When Duke played Butler in the [college basketball] national championship game, I was rooting for Butler because I had no idea about Duke. It’s kind of funny how things worked out.”

Max Tuerk, Southern California (6-5, 285): Tuerk, who was expected to be in the mix for the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center, missed the final two-thirds of his senior season with a torn knee ligament. You want versatility? As a true freshman, he started five games at left tackle (and once at left guard). As a sophomore, he started 13 games at left guard (and once at right tackle). As a junior, he started all 13 games at center and was a first-team all-Pac-12 selection and the school’s Offensive Lineman of the Year. How’s this for an analogy? “I attended a performance of the St. Petersburg orchestra in Russia,” said Tuerk’s high coach. “I sat in front of the first-chair violinist. Amazing music, but can you imagine if they asked her to switch chairs and play the trombone? Hey, they all play instruments, right? What’s the difference?” Tuerk not only started at four positions but played for four head coaches and four position coaches. “It definitely took a lot of work,” Tuerk said. “I’ve had a lot of great coaches who have been able to help me through all that. A lot of work in the weight room, a lot of work in the film room and a lot of work on the field. I wouldn’t say it’s easier now, but definitely with the more reps, everything kind of starts to slow down.”

ALSO IN THIS SERIES

Offensive tackles, Part 1
Offensive tackles, Part 2
Offensive guards, Part 1 (FREE)
Offensive guards, Part 2 (FREE)
Centers (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 1 (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 2 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 1 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 2
Wide receivers, Part 3
Wide receivers, Part 4 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 1 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 2
Running backs, Part 3
Fullbacks (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 1 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 2 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 3 (FREE)

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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