Interest Builds in Highly Ranked OL

The Vikings were looking intently at offensive linemen last week during Senior Bowl practices, according to a league source. We review the first of a number of prospects that drew their interest.

The Vikings' need to bolster the right side of their offensive line was apparent to most observers throughout the 2006 season.

The Vikings traded with the Philadelphia Eagles for veteran Artis Hicks during the 2006 draft, but they might just end up finding his replacement in the 2007 draft. Hicks started all but two games at right guard, and three different players started at right tackle. Marcus Johnson made the start at right tackle for the first 10 games but was replaced by Mike Rosenthal for three games, who was then supplanted by then-rookie Ryan Cook for the final three games of the season.

So the Vikings' instability on the right side of the line has bred their interest in talking with offensive linemen at last week's Senior Bowl. The most highly rated prospect in which they were spotted showing an interest was Tennessee's Arron Sears, whom the Vikings were said to be "scouting hard," according to a league source.

He might also be the most versatile offensive line prospect in the top rounds of the draft.

In his junior year, Sears played all positions on the offensive line except for center and still was named All-SEC by the Associated Press and the conference's coaches. In fact, he played both guard and both tackle positions in one game against LSU. In his sophomore season, he played both tackle positions while starting all but one game. Last year, he started all 13 games for the Volunteers at left tackle and earned second-team All-American and consensus first-team All-SEC honors.

During his four seasons at Tennessee, he started 26 games at left tackle, six at right tackle, four at right guard and one at left guard.

Success on the line started before college for Sears. He was selected the Class 5A Lineman of the Year by Alabama High School Sports Magazine and was named third-team offense on Fox Sports Net's "Countdown to Signing Day" All-South Team as a high school player in Alabama.

The honors have followed him until as recently as a little more than a week ago, when the Tennessee Sports Writers Association named him its College Football Player of the Year after winning the SEC Jacobs Trophy as the league's top lineman with 71 knockdown blocks in 2006.

Here is what TFY Draft Preview had to say about the 6-foot-3, 317-pounders daily performances at the Senior Bowl last week:

Monday: Flashed more overall talent than any other lineman on his squad, but was wildly inconsistent. Was shifted to guard for the day. Very quick to the second level, but once in contact with a defender he does not bring his feet. Often lunges. Fires off the ball very hard and very strong at the point of attack but showed a tendency to lead with his head too often as well.

Tuesday: Everything stops and started with footwork this afternoon. The coaching staff consistently corrected Sears on proper power steps. Had trouble taking the proper angles and getting to the second level. One scout pointed out Sears is very strong and does have a great punch.

Wednesday: Very good practice for Sears today. Really started to put everything together. Strong at the point of attack and the issue of his feet has slowly started to fade. Only once was his footwork questioned today by coaches, and that was in his pass set when the back foot was drug instead of planted properly. Sears was even able to collapse the side of the line on one occasion with his power on a downblock.

Thursday: Often asked to pull today and looked solid out in space.

Analysis: Easily the most talented offensive lineman in Mobile. Many scouts were abuzz with his potential. Made the transition to guard for the most part this week and as a result struggled with technique. The flashes of talent were explosive, though, and he will be a very good guard at the next level. Do not be surprised to see Sears land in the late first-round range.

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