While it may be viewed as a temporary fix, Vikings center John Sullivan is convinced it may be the permanent solution to replacing Charlie Johnson at left guard.
Speaking on KFAN-Radio Friday with Vikings play-by-play man Paul Allen, Sullivan made is sound like the shifting of Fusco to left guard will benefit the Vikings offensive line because it will be an opportunity for Fusco to show the progression he has made as a lineman and give rookie T.J. Clemmings a chance to prove early that teams made mistakes by passing on him in the first three rounds on draft weekend.
“I think Brandon is more than up to the task,” Sullivan said. “I love the idea of having Brandon and (left tackle) Matt (Kalil) together on the left side. I think the other important point is that you get T.J., who’s a rookie – a fourth-round pick and a very talented guy. Everything we heard was a first-round talent all the way. An incidental injury had been discovered at the Combine that dropped his stock a little bit. He actually didn’t play offensive line his entire time at Pitt either, so he’s relatively new to the position overall.”
The knock against Clemmings, aside from the calcified broken bone in Clemmings’ foot that was never diagnosed until the Combine, was his lack of experience. He’s never played guard and was only an offensive tackle the last two seasons at Pitt.
But, Sullivan was quick to point out that, if you’re going to insert a rookie guard into the lineup, there is no better place that to put him between the two longest-tenured starters – himself and Phil Loadholt.
“If you scoot him into right guard, that’s not a huge transition from college tackle to NFL guard,” Sullivan said. “You’re seeing a lot of guys doing that. Zack Martin (of the Dallas Cowboys) is probably the most notable recently. That way, you also get T.J. in there between myself and Phil, who have been here starting since 2009 – your two most experienced offensive linemen. I think that’s the best situation possible so we continuously coach him up.”
The key to the switch, in Sullivan’s view, is how quickly Clemmings can pick up the right guard spot, not as to whether Fusco can make the switch. Sullivan has been one of Fusco’s biggest fans since he arrived from Division II Slippery Rock and has seen the maturation and improvement from one year to the next up close and personal.
It’s not unprecedented to see powerful linemen moved from the right side to the left side and Fusco has all the ability to make the switch and thrive at left guard.
“If you look at other guys around the league transitioning from the right to the left side – (Green Bay’s) Josh Sitton is probably the most notable recently – he made an incredible transition from the right to left. Brandon is that level of talent. He’s that type of player. I almost feel us as players and the fans got robbed of seeing that progression last year with him having the pectoral injury in Week 3. But just wait. He looks great at left guard. There will be some growing pains, some bumps along the way, but he’ll work all that out during the OTAs.”
Mike Zimmer didn’t commit to anything this week at OTA practices, saying that if things don’t work out, Fusco can always be slotted back to right guard. But if you buy into what Sullivan is saying about the switch, it looks like it may be one that is written on the depth chart in ink, not pencil. It may be a permanent move.