USA TODAY

Scouting Combine Research Series: Offensive Tackles (Part 1)

Which big man wants to be a big star? Who was rescued by his lacrosse coach? Who played tight end as a junior? Those answers and more as we get to know the top offensive tackles.

Here are the 22 offensive tackles 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 unless noted.

Erik Austell, Charleston Southern (6-3, 290): Austell began his college career on the defensive line in 2012 before converting to the offense and starting 12 games at tackle in 2013. He was a second-team FCS All-American as a junior and a first-team All-American as a senior and started 39 games in his career. At tiny Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Warner Robbins, Ga., Austell played quarterback, running back, defensive end and middle linebacker.

Combine Coverage
COMBINE PORTAL - CLICK HERE!
Use code COMBINE2017 to get two free months with purchase of one!
JOIN TODAY!
Austell is the first player in school history to be invited to the Combine. "Getting an invitation to the Combine is not like any other invitation; it's an invitation to work even harder. It gives me a better opportunity to showcase and the opportunity to work even harder. The biggest thing about being at the Combine is being able to show what I can do, match up against the best of the country, and show that I belong.”

Zach Banner, USC (6-8, 361): Banner was a three-year starter at right tackle. As a senior, he received some first-team All-America honors.

Not surprisingly, considering he is the biological son of former NFL offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, Banner’s always been big. “In second grade, Zach was 5 feet tall. His teacher was 5-foot-2,” one close friend said. “We'd walk into class, and it'd be like Baby Huey sitting at this tiny desk.” But he got too big. Far too big, at close to 400 pounds after being sidelined for the 2013 season following hip surgeries. “Weight, weight, weight, I literally think about it all day. And every time I take a bite of food, it’s like: up a dollar, down a dollar. Literally.” And that left Banner feeling a bit jealous of hit much-smaller teammate, Adoree’ Jackson.

For a big man, he’s incredibly athletic. While he didn’t play in a game, he did join the USC basketball team at the end of the 2012 football season. And he’s got dreams of being the next Michael Strahan — a football star turned TV star.

At Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash., Banner was a finalist for the 2012 Watkins Award, which goes to the nation’s best high school student-athlete. This year, he was one of 10 semifinalists for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award, which honors excellence on the field, classroom and community.

Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh (6-6, 307): Other than a few games as a freshman due to a back injury, Bisnowaty was a four-year starter at left tackle. He was a first-team all-ACC selection as a junior and senior. In 2015, he finished fourth in the coaches’ voting for the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy; in 2016, he finished second.

Bisnowaty graduated in 2015 and is a four-time all-ACC academic selection. He was nominated for the Senior CLASS Award for his work in the classroom and with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. “I really love giving back and putting smiles on people’s faces, but doing these things really puts a smile on my face. Nothing is better than building a relationship, whether it is for a few hours, over a number of years or a school year, and seeing that smile on their face. I hope I make them as happy as they make me.”

Bisnowaty emerged as a key team leader.  “How he makes it easy out there, obviously, on the field,” quarterback Nathan Peterman said, “but when we're in the huddle, he eases things and cracks a few jokes here and there. It makes it easy-going out there, kind of takes some stress away.”

Garett Bolles, Utah (6-5, 296): Junior. Bolles was a Junior College All-American in 2015 before landing at Utah and earning first-team all-Pac-12 honors in his one and only season with the Utes. "It definitely was my family, putting my wife and son first and knowing I need to take care of them. There were good things for both. I could've come back. Each way would've been a great decision. But I put in a lot of hard work and effort, and I know I made the right decision."

His path to the NFL might have been solidified with a kiss. Before that kiss, Bolles had a troubled home life. He was suspended or kicked out of five schools as a teenager. There were drugs, an arrest for vandalism and time in jail. He was kicked out of the family home, only to be rescued by his high school lacrosse coach. "I remember going to bed that night, and my husband and I talked about it," the coach’s wife said. "I thought he would last a few weeks. Greg thought he would make it three days.”

Daniel Brunskill, San Diego State (6-5, 278): Brunskill played tight end for three seasons, including as a junior, when he started 14 games, caught 10 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, and was voted honorable-mention all-Mountain West. A better blocker than receiver, the coaches moved him to right tackle for his senior season.

The move was a return to his roots after playing center all four years of high school. “I don’t have an ego about not catching the ball,” Brunskill said in August. “I like hitting people. The more I’m down blocking, I can hit people. I can put them on the ground. Getting a pancake is a lot more fun (than catching a pass). That first touchdown was great when I scored at Boise, but I like pancakes a little better because you can get that nasty shove in there and then they get a little pissed off. It’s always fun to do that.”

Brunskill spent three years as a walk-on, finally getting a scholarship before the 2015 season. After all, it took a while for the lineman to learn how to catch. “When he first got here, he couldn’t catch anything.,” coach Rocky Long said.

Collin Buchanan, Miami, Ohio (6-5, 329): Buchanan was a three-year starter at right tackle who earned his first all-conference accolades — second-team all-MAC — as a senior.

Aviante Collins, TCU (6-5, 305): Collins started 13 games as a true freshman — 13 at right tackle and three at left tackle. But his career really never took off. Collins started nine games in 2013, only once in 2014 and had his 2015 end after three games due to injury. He played in 13 games as a senior but didn’t receive any postseason honors.

While Collins was blessed with his size, his father was blessed with athleticism. Billy Collins competed in the 1976 Olympics. At TCU, he was a three-time conference champion, breaking school records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. He broke or owns American or world records in those distances in four master’s men’s age categories.

Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell (6-7, 310): Davenport was a four-year all-Patriot League left tackle who was second-team FCS All-American as a junior and first-team All-American as a senior. He started all 44 games during his four seasons.

“From what I’ve been told, I have pretty good athleticism for a guy my size and I know that’s a big help. I have a pretty good mind for the game, a good football IQ. I know how teams work and what happens if certain aspects of the defense play out. I’m physical and love to play. I don’t want to be beat in any rep, I’m always going hard.” Bucknell’s coach spotted Davenport playing high school basketball. Naturally, the big man picked up four quick fouls.

Davenport’s 36-inch arms and 87.5-inch wing span were the longest at the Senior Bowl.

A cousin, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, plays for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Antonio Garcia, Troy (6-6, 293): Garcia was a three-and-a-half-year starter at left tackle, earning an honorable mention on the all-Sun Belt team as a junior and first-team honors as a senior.

Garcia was a basketball player until his sophomore year of high school, when friends persuaded him to give football a try. A couple years later, he became the first all-state player in the history of Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Ga. “I am the first football player in my family. In high school a lot of my friends were playing football so I decided to go out there and play as well. There wasn't really anything else to do in my hometown. But once I started playing, I really fell in love with it.” Garcia graduated this past spring with a degree in criminal justice. “I would like to join ATF, SWAT, or something like that. I want to have a job where I get to be physical, and I think I would be good at it.”

Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M (6-3, 308): After helping East Mississippi Community College win a junior college national championship, Gennesy landed at A&M. He redshirted in 2014 and started at left tackle for his final two seasons. As a senior, he was named first-team all-SEC.

East Mississippi CC, which is located in Scooba, Miss., was the subject of a six-part Netflix documentary series called “Last Chance U.” Gennesy wasn’t part of those programs but he fit the theme of under-the-radar players vying for the attention (and scholarships) of big-time programs. "He was a very driven kid," EMCC offensive coordinator Marcus Wood said. "From the time he was here, you knew he was going to make it somewhere big. You knew he was going to be big because of his work ethic."

Will Holden, Vanderbilt (6-7, 313): Holden started the final 37 games of his career. He broke into the lineup at right tackle as a sophomore before moving to left tackle for his final two seasons. As a senior, he was voted second-team all-SEC. Holden earned academic honors all four seasons, including academic all-district as a senior.

Holden grew up in Cove Springs, Fla. — population 6,908. He figured 10 members of his graduating class went to college. “It was not something you did. Everyone stays around town and starts working. They marry their high school sweethearts and start a family.” Holden’s dad spent 30 years in the Navy and his brother is currently in the Navy. “Growing up, I never thought I would play football at this level,” Holden said. “I always thought I would just follow in the family footsteps.”

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.


The OBR Top Stories