Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY

Scouting Combine Research Series: Centers

Who is related to a former NFL offensive lineman? Which center would rather not spend hours in the film room? Which top prospect moved to center as a senior? Those answers and more as we learn about the top centers.

Here are the seven centers who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. All players are seniors.

J.J. Dielman, Utah (6-5, 300): Dielman started at right tackle as a sophomore and junior, earning second-team all-Pac-12 in 2015. He moved to center as a senior and started five games before suffering a season-ending leg injury.

Dielman, who weighed just 225 as a high school senior, is close with his family. Which means some good stories, such as his sister signing his detention slips. “I can’t lie and say it was my mother, because it was my sister for about four years of my life in middle school and beginning of high school. My sister really helped me out there a few times but then she was starting to charge me twenty bucks for every signature. She really made quite the killing because my allowance went straight to her for a few years.”

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Speaking of family, a cousin, Kris Dielman, was a four-time Pro Bowler who started a total of 97 games from 2005 through 2011. "Do what Dielmans Do," Kris writes in pregame texts.

Pat Elflein, Ohio State (6-2, 300): Elflein was first-team all-conference guard as a sophomore and junior. As a graduate senior, he moved to center. Nothing changed. He was first-team all-Big Ten again, winner of the Big Ten’s Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year, a unanimous All-American and won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center. “It’s paid off 1,000 percent. I don’t think you could ask for a better fifth year.”

That’s because Elflein is “a finisher.” Said one of his former coaches:  “Some people are great athletes and sometimes they slack. Pat, great athlete, he will run through a wall if you ask him to. I think that was the difference, that was his mental edge. Like, 'Hey, I was born with some good gifts,' but he fought to get his craft. He worked hard on the football field. He worked hard in wrestling. He was outstanding at track. A couple times I think the track coach put him in sprint relays, he was willing to do stuff like that. I think that was the great thing about Pat.” It was incredible career for a player who wasn’t supposed to be a Buckeye. The coaches gave him a scholarship only after a higher-rated recruit decommitted.

Elflein was a powerhouse wrestler in high school. An older brother, Matt, played linebacker for Ohio Dominican.

Kyle Fuller, Baylor (6-4, 306): Fuller started all 39 games at center over the last three years. He was a three-time all-Big 12 honoree, earning first-team honors as a senior graduate student and honorable-mention accolades for Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. Fuller was second-team all-conference as a junior and an honorable mention as a sophomore.

“It’s my job as a leader to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing,” said Fuller, the lone senior on the starting line. “I have to lead by example and I have to be vocal at all times. We kind of joked and said these guys have been in the slow cooker for a while but they’re stepping up.”

Fuller, who enjoys watching Cowboys Pro Bowler Travis Frederick, will have to adapt to the NFL game. “It’s not to the same degree as a quarterback because a quarterback is looking at a lot more things. But coming from a spread offense like we did at Baylor and coming to a pro style offense is different. … I can probably count on one hand [how many times the QB was under center]. It’s not many. Every once in a while we did it just to throw a twist in, but it’s something I’m not bad at. I’ve done it enough times now. It’s not that difficult.”

Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia (6-3, 292): Orlosky was voted a second-team All-American and was a finalist for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s top center. The three-time all-Big 12 first-team choice also was named to the Senior CLASS All-American first team, a team that honors the nation’s best players on and off the field.

“I talk to him like a coach,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He’ll tell you he hates me, and I’ll tell you I hate him, but the truth of the matter is we work together pretty dang good.”

Some players are film junkies. Not Orlosky. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t see the need for me to sit there and watch a defense. Someone asked me that the other day and I just said, ‘Once you start 40 games and have played close to 50, if someone throws something at me that I’ve never seen before, then they’ve reinvented the game of football or something has to be wrong.’ There is only so much you can do, and odds are in my time here playing against the teams that we have, odds are I have seen it and I know what to expect.” That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what’s going on. “What I learned about him early on is he’s going to question everything and wants to know why you’re doing it,” line coach Conachan said. “It’s good to know that you have a player who’s that engaged and curious. But it can also be a drawback, because sometimes you’d like a player to just do what you tell him to do.”

Ethan Pocic, LSU (6-6, 307): Pocic was one of three finalists for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s top center, as well as an All-American and first-team all-SEC choice as a senior. He started 37 games in his career, including 27 at center. He was second-team all-SEC as a junior and opened nine games at right guard as a sophomore.

Pocic, a native of the Chicago suburb of Lemont, didn’t just turn into an elite lineman at LSU. “I’m part Southern,” he said.

His brother, Graham, played at the University of Illinois where he started 36 games on the offensive line in his four years with the Illini and earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors twice. Graham is five years older, so while they were competitive, those battles often were lopsided. “Basketball. Video games. Football,” Ethan said. “I remember my first year of football in the seventh grade. He was a senior, and we put on pads in the backyard. He hit me, and I did a back flip.”

Pocic might have moved to tackle for his senior season if not for offseason hip surgery. “It’s not like a hip replacement,” he said in June. “They go in, scope it, shave the bone down, fix the cartilage. It’s not as bad as you’d think. I feel great now, I feel better. I feel faster, I have more range of motion. I’m excited. I feel stronger, too. I can now do all my leg exercises, I can squat. Before this I couldn’t squat that much.”

Chase Roullier, Wyoming (6-3, 321): In his first season at center, Roullier was named a second-team All-American — the school’s first since 2006. Roullier was a three-time all-Mountain West Conference pick — first team at center in 2016, second-team at guard in 2015 and honorable mention at guard in 2014. Plus, he was a semifinalist for the William Campbell Trophy — aka the Academic Heisman Trophy.

It’s not easy being a big guy. The mechanical-engineering student was part of a team that designed a dune buggy that runs on lithium batteries. He was the only member of the team to not take it for a ride. "It was designed to handle people from the fifth percentile of women up to the 95th percentile of men," said Kevin Kilty, an associate lecturer of mechanical engineering at UW. "And he couldn’t get probably his right leg in the vehicle."

Jon Toth, Kentucky (6-5, 308): After serving as a backup left tackle in the first game of his college career, Toth started at center for the rest of his four years — a total of 48 consecutive starts. He was first-team all-SEC as a senior, anchoring a line that produced a pair of 1,000-yard rushers

The Indianapolis native was a two-star recruit who was getting offers from mid-major schools. One of Kentucky’s coaches was in the area recruiting another player when he was told about Toth. “When we brought him into camp and worked him out, did one-on-one drills there was no doubt that we thought this guy could play in the SEC,” former UK assistant Chuck Smith said. “It’s really about getting exposure and that sort of thing, and I don’t think Jon was really into that. He didn’t go out and do 100 different camps to sell himself. That’s not his personality.”

Toth’s determination comes from his mom. In 2006, she was inolved in a motocross accident. She broke countless bones, including knees, ribs, jaw and nose in every bone in her right leg. Doctors put her in a medically induced coma and feared shed’d never walk again. “Me and my brother were in shock ourselves. Our mom is out of it; she’s about to die. Those kind of thoughts run through your head. This really important person in your life is on the ground and might die.”

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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