South Carolina's Jamon Meredith was one of the finest left tackles in the SEC entering his senior season. Then, he was moved to left guard.
"It was kind of weird, but my coach explained the situation to me in a one-on-one situation," Meredith told Packer Report last week. "So, I knew it wasn't a demotion, even though at the time I felt like it was. We talked about it and he let me know that the only reason why he was moving me inside was because our interior linemen were struggling. He knew I could play there. Once I got used to it, I got pretty comfortable."
The move was just part of a strange season for the highly intelligent Meredith. As a true freshman in 2004, Meredith played three snaps in one midseason game against Vanderbilt. Meredith was granted an extra year of eligibility, but at the price of having to sit out the first two games of his senior season.
When Meredith returned, he took his usual spot at left tackle. But just for one game. He was moved to guard, where he made eight starts to conclude his collegiate career.
Even now, he's conflicted about what transpired.
"Honestly, I want to look at everything as a positive, but being honest, I really think it hurt (my draft stock)," he said. "If I would have played tackle all year, I believe I would have been right up there close to the top. But versatility is helping me. Once you make the team, it's good if you're versatile. But as far as the draft, I think it hurt me, but I think it will help me in the long run."
Meredith's loss could be the Packers' gain. Assuming they don't use the ninth overall pick of the draft on an offensive tackle, Meredith is a major option in the second round. Meredith talked extensively with the Packers at the East-West Shrine Game and at the Scouting Combine. An athletic and nimble blocker at 6-foot-5 and 304 pounds, Meredith's experience in South Carolina's zone blocking scheme would make him a valuable addition in Green Bay as either the heir to Chad Clifton's spot at left tackle or Mark Tauscher's replacement on the right side.
"Pretty much all of the teams that I've talked to are saying left tackle or right tackle," said Meredith, who started 19 games at left tackle and 11 at right tackle for the Gamecocks. "A very few have said they would like me to play guard, but I think that's just out of necessity for them and not so much how they view me."
One thing for certain is Meredith will have no problem picking up the playbook. The sports and entertainment management major graduated in May 2008 with a 3.74 grade-point average. That's impressive considering the high-pressure world of SEC football.
"It's all about time management," said Meredith, who wants to stay involved in football as a coach or scout after his playing days. "Sometimes, it's hard to balance school and sports, but if you just manage your time wisely, you'll be fine. I know sometimes, when we traveled for away games, sometimes we'd have movies and stuff like that, but I'd be studying for a test."
Meredith's next test will be the NFL. With his intelligence and ability to stymie pass rushers and get to the second level to block linebackers, he's poised to have a long, successful career.
"Once a coach gets his hands on me, he can mold me into anything he wants," he said.
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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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.