Combine Preview: Interior O-Line

Guards and centers come in all shapes and sizes. Which ones make the most sense for the Packers, whose zone blocking scheme requires blockers that are quick on their feet and quick mentally? Idaho's Mike Iupati headlines the guards.

The NFL's ultimate job interview, the Scouting Combine, began on Wednesday in Indianapolis, with the first on-the-field workouts starting on Friday.

Packer Report gets you ready for the Combine with a position-by-position look at the 329 players on the invitation list.

Interior offensive line

State of the Packers

The Packers are set at right guard with Josh Sitton, who had a breakout second season in 2009 and is on course to become one of the top-tier guards in the conference. Scott Wells had a fine year at center after losing the job in training camp to Jason Spitz.

Left guard is the huge question. Daryn Colledge is a restricted free agent, as is Spitz. Colledge had a poor season, though another season of shuffling to left tackle didn't help. Spitz is coming off a season-ending back injury that required surgery. Both could return; both could be allowed to leave. Either way, the Packers could use another interior lineman.

Combine guest list: Guards

Jon Asamoah, Illinois

Dorian Brooks, James Madison

Brandon Carter, Texas Tech

Kurtis Gregory, Missouri

Joe Hawley, UNLV

Mike Iupati, Idaho

Mike Johnson, Alabama

Alex Parsons, USC

Mitch Petrus, Arkansas

Dace Richardson, Iowa

Shelley Smith, Colorado State

Combine guest list: Centers

Jeff Byers, USC

Erik Cook, New Mexico

Jacob Hickman, Nebraska

Ted Larsen, N.C. State

Eric Olsen, Notre Dame

Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

Matthew Tennant, Boston College

J.D. Walton, Baylor

Who to watch

Maurkice Pouncey is the top center.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
With the Packers tied to their zone blocking scheme, footwork is coveted more than girth.

G Jon Asamoah, Illinois: Other than the big guy from Idaho a couple notches down on this list, Asamoah is considered the cream of the crop of guards. At 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Asamoah is remarkably athletic, superb in pass protection, tough and smart (academic all-district first-teamer). He needs to get stronger but has all the other tools. He could go as early as the end of the second round.

G Dorian Brooks, James Madison: Brooks (6-2, 300) started the final 37 games and was a third-team all-American in Football Championship Subdivision. He's regarded as a physical blocker who led a running attack that produced a 1,770-yard rusher and 1,072-yard rusher in 2008. Both of those backs graduated, so the Dukes' run game slumped in 2009. At best, he's a late-round pick.

G Mike Iupati, Idaho: Iupati (6-5, 325) was the talk of the Senior Bowl. Any questions about whether a player from Idaho could adapt to facing big-time competition were extinguished during his week in Mobile. He was nothing short of unbeatable while at his customary spot at left guard, though he struggled some when moved around to both tackle slots. With his athletic ability and long arms, he could be drafted and moved to tackle. He might not be on the board at No. 23 — and definitely won't if a team thinks he can play left tackle.

G Mitch Petrus, Arkansas: Petrus (6-3, 304) started two seasons at guard. He opened his career at tight end and spent his sophomore season at fullback, where he helped Darren McFadden and Felix Jones run to 1,000-yard seasons. That speaks to his athletic ability and potential to really blossom with experience. He needs to get stronger, though, to develop as a consistently powerful run blocker. Could be a target in the third round.

C Jeff Byers, USC: Byers (6-3, 299) has what the Packers covet: versatility. He started at guard and center for the Trojans. He's a powerful blocker, stout in pass protection and has a bit of a mean streak. About the only drawback is he missed the 2005 season after hip surgery and the 2006 season with a back sprain. He's smart; he was working toward his master's in business this season.

G Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Pouncey (6-5, 318) is the best center in this class and could go in the first round. He started 40 games in his three seasons, closing his career by winning the Rimington Award as the nation's best center. Even with his height, leverage hasn't been an issue. He's smart and tough — two must-have assets for a center — but could move to guard, where he started as a true freshman. The total package.

G Matthew Tennant, Boston College: Tennant (6-5, 290) is considered the second-best center in this class and had a strong week at the Senior Bowl. He started the final 41 games of his career at center. Last year's first-round pick, B.J. Raji, called his former teammate the best lineman he faced in college. He isn't as big as Pouncey and needs to add some muscle, but he's strong, tough and likes to finish.

G J.D. Walton, Baylor: Walton (6-3, 300) was a standout at the Senior Bowl — probably more impressive than Tennant — in following up on an All-America 2009 campaign. He started his final 36 games. By Baylor's count, he tallied 112 knockdown blocks in 12 games. A major plus is he played in a zone scheme with Baylor. He's tough, intelligent (earned degree in December) and strong in pass protection. He could be a target in the third or fourth round.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and 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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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