NFL Scouting Combine Research: Offensive Tackles, Part 1

What top prospect beat leukemia? What other top prospect was a walk-on? Who is pals with Jack Hanna? Those answers and more as we take a look at the offensive tackle class.

Willie Beavers, Western Michigan (6-5, 324): Beavers was a three-year starter at left tackle, earning second-team all-MAC honors as a junior and first-team accolades as a senior. He capped his college career at the Senior Bowl. Beavers was headed to Illinois after high school but the Illini had more commitments than scholarships available, so Beavers was the odd man out.

Caleb Benenoch, UCLA (6-5, 305): Underclassman. Benenoch started the final 35 games of his career. Most of those starts came at right tackle, though he did open four games at guard in 2015. He was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team as a sophomore. Benenoch was born in Nigeria and came to the United States with his parents, a pair of ministers, when he was 8. His mother raised him in Katy, Texas, while his father is the bishop of a church he started in 1989 in Lagos, Nigeria. “It takes a very strong family. It’s not easy to do,” Benenoch said of the distance separating his family. “I know for them it’s not easy to do, and I appreciate them a lot.” He started playing football when he was 9. His mom thought she was signing him up for soccer.

Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech (6-6, 312): Clark earned his third consecutive all-Big 12 first-team honor. He started 51 consecutive games, the longest streak on the team, and played a key role on an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring, total offense and passing offense and first in third-down efficiency. Clark started at left tackle during his final three seasons, using his 36 1/4-inch arms to keep defenders at bay. He played right guard in earning Freshman All-American honors in 2012. How’s this for leadership: Clark stayed after practice to work with the freshmen. Clark is one of seven children — five sisters and one brother. He’s an avid outdoorsman. He said he got his first BB gun when he was 3. And he dabbles in carpentry, including building a treehouse when he was 10.

Shon Coleman, Auburn (6-6, 313): Underclassman. Coleman is one of the best stories in this draft. Or any draft. He was a prized recruit out of Olive Branch High School in Memphis. In March 2010, a few weeks after signing his letter of intent to go to Auburn, the unthinkable happened: He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Coleman received his medical treatment at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis for two years. He missed the 2010 and 2011 seasons and redshirted in 2012 as he regained his strength. “I always knew I’d get better,” Coleman said at the time. “I always knew I’d play again.” Even when the chemotherapy’s toxicity was at its highest point, Coleman kept working out. When he was cleared to begin practicing in April 2012, he was 295 pounds — 10 pounds heavier than he was in high school. In 2013, he backed up Greg Robinson, who went No. 2 in the 2014 draft. In 2014, he was in the starting lineup. "I never doubted it," Coleman said before his first start. "Faith, that's been one of the biggest things that's just kept striving me forward, with my family, and just working hard. Where I'm from in Memphis, you really don't see a lot of people even get to college or the spot that I'm in. My hometown really showed me that you have to work hard for anything that you want or desire." Coleman started at left tackle in 2014 and 2015. He was a second-team all-SEC choice this season.

Jack Conklin, Michigan State (6-6, 318): Underclassman. Conklin went from walk-on to potential first-round draft pick. He started 38 of his 39 career games with the Spartans — 35 at left tackle and three at right tackle — and had 235 knockdown blocks, according to the coaching staff. This season, he became the Spartans’ first offensive lineman since Flozell Adams in 1997 to be named a first-team All-American. He had 65.5 knockdown blocks during the regular season. Conklin was second-team all-Big Ten in 2014 and a Freshman All-American in 2013. Recruiting interest was “nonexistent,” said Conklin’s dad, who walked on at Michigan when the legendary Bo Schembechler coached there. They were so desperate for a major school to take notice that when they sent his highlight video to Illinois coach Ron Zook — an avid water skier — they sent along a video of Conklin slaloming on one foot.

Fahn Cooper, Mississippi (6-5, 304):  Cooper started all 13 games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman at Bowling Green in 2012. Hoping to catch the attention of a bigger program but not wanting to sit out a year as a transfer, Cooper spent 2013 at the College of DuPage (Ill.), earning junior college All-America honors, before spending his final two years at Ole Miss. He was a two-year starter for the Rebels, mostly at right tackle but also some at left tackle — including the first seven games of the 2015 season when he filled the void for suspended  Laremy Tunsil. As a senior, he won the Kent Hull Trophy, which goes to the best offensive lineman in the state of Mississippi. "The unique thing about Fahn is just how unselfish he's been," Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "We moved him over to left tackle when we were without Laremy and he didn't miss a beat. Laremy comes back and Fahn moves back over to the right tackle and doesn't complain. He just goes out and makes us better. He has really become a leader this season and has graded well consistently."

Taylor Decker, Ohio State (6-7, 315): As a senior, Decker was selected the Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Year — the first Buckeyes blocker to win the award since LeCharles Bentley in 2001 and the first offensive tackle since Orlando Pace in 1995 and 1996. He broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore at right tackle before going to the left side for his final two seasons. That’s meant plenty of one-on-one matchups with Joey Bosa, who might be the first pick in the draft. He’s spent two years interning at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In Summer 1014, he worked alongside renowned zoologist Jack Hanna, the zoo’s emeritus director. He loves the big cats — dating to his childhood favorite movie, “The Lion King” — but his most serious incident was getting his fingers trapped inside an armadillo’s armor plating. Decker leads tour groups and is part of the zoo’s outreach program. He’s also cleaned cages and given medicine. "You'd get scratched, nipped at, nibbled on," Decker says. "But it wasn't anything that was going to be really detrimental to your health. You can't be intimidated by animals or fear an animal. Because they'll catch on to that."

Joe Haeg, North Dakota State (6-6, 307): Haeg has experience on his side. He started 60 of 61 possible games in his four-year career, with 29 starts at right tackle as a freshman and sophomore and 31 at left tackle as a junior and senior. The Bison won national championships each of those four seasons. Haeg was a first-team FCS All-American in 2014 and 2015. As a senior, he finished 13th in voting for FCS Offensive Player of the Year. He capped his career at the Senior Bowl. Haeg didn’t garner much attention as a 240-pound high school senior but walked on at the FCS powerhouse. At the time, he could barely bench press the 225-pound bar he’ll be throwing around at the Combine. "I wanted to prove myself as a Division I athlete," he said. "A lot of it I guess came from myself and believing that I was able to play at this level."

Jerald Hawkins, LSU (6-6, 300): Underclassman. Hawkins started at right tackle as a redshirt freshman and sophomore. He contemplated entering the draft at that point but the coaching staff convinced him to return and moved him to left tackle for 2015. In high school, he was the state champion in the shot put. During his redshirt season at LSU, his father, Warren, died of a heart attack. “I felt like it was a nightmare,” Hawkins said. “It didn’t feel real. I talked to him a few hours right before practice, and then after practice he was gone. It was tremendously hard.”

Tyler Johnstone, Oregon (6-6, 295): Johnstone started the first 26 games of his career at left tackle, earning Freshman All-America honors in 2012 and honorable mention all-Pac-12 as a sophomore. In the Alamo Bowl at the end of that season, however, Johnstone sustained a torn ACL. He tore the ACL again early in fall camp in 2014 and sat out the entire season. As a senior, he returned to left tackle and started every game, earning first-team all-conference and some All-America honors for the nation’s fifth-ranked offense. Johnstone, who had a brief role in the Will Ferrell movie “Everything Must Go” in 2010, was a regular on a Eugene, Ore., TV station’s video series called “Moose Time.” The lighthearted “Moose Time” segments eased the pain of the injuries. "The hardest game for me to watch was the Arizona game," Johnstone said of that early-season loss. "I couldn't even be on the field. It was too risky. At halftime everyone went down from the box to the field and I was sitting alone with all the equipment guys up there and was like, 'This sucks. I can't help.'"

Denver Kirkland, Arkansas (6-5, 340): Underclassman. Kirkland started at right guard as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior, Kirkland — who had earned some preseason All-America hype — bounced outside to left tackle. He started all season but did not receive any all-conference accolades. “It is a whole different world out there,” Kirkland said before the season. “You have got to be able to move in space. You have got to be able to hang with the faster guys on the outside. You are on an island. It is just like you are on a island. The responsibility of being a left tackle is a big responsibility. I am glad that chose me to step up to the plate and take that challenge. I like challenges.”

Alex Lewis, Nebraska (6-6, 302): Lewis spent two seasons at Colorado. As a freshman in 2011, he started once at left tackle and twice at tight end before moving to guard. In 2012, he started all 12 games at left guard and graded out as the Buffs’ best blocker. However, he decided to transfer. After sitting out 2013, Lewis spent his junior and senior seasons at left tackle, earning second-team all-Big Ten as a senior. Lewis is the son of former Husker All-America center Bill Lewis, who starred at Nebraska in the mid-1980s and played seven NFL seasons for the Raiders, Cardinals and Patriots. They’re one of only three father-son captain duos in program history. So why did he go to Colorado? The Huskers didn’t want him out of high school. Two years later, with Lewis tired of losing in Colorado, the Huskers took him with open arms. But not for long. While still enrolled at Colorado, Lewis faced two charges of felony assault due to an alcohol-related incident. So, in Fall 2013, Lewis listened to the roar of the Nebraska crowd from his grandparents’ ranch just outside of Lincoln. Between that and 28 days in jail, Lewis is a changed man. Being named a captain was confirmation of that. “It’s a great feeling. Looking back a few years ago, I was in a dark place, and to be called co-captain with five other teammates of mine is a pretty cool feeling.”

Tyler Marz, Wisconsin (6-7, 320): Marz was a three-year starter at left tackle, earning honorable-mention all-Big Ten as a sophomore and junior and second-team honors as a senior. After earning his degree in May, he began pursuing a master's degree in educational leadership and policy analysis. It was a heck of a career for a player who didn’t know what to expect coming out of Springfield (Minn.) High School, where he helped guide the team to a state basketball title. "Coming from a small town, I didn't even know if I'd see the field. There's a lot of guys that go play college ball, for me to get that opportunity was great. I'm always going to have high expectations and set high goals for myself."


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 and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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