Vikings to visit with tackle

The Vikings' need at the tackle position has been well-chronicled over the last few months. So what are they doing about it? They have been interviewing plenty of draft prospects, but their first known visit is scheduled with a tackle projected to be a first-day pick. Who is he, what is he working on and what is he saying?

The Vikings' need at the tackle position has been well-chronicled over the last few months. So what are they doing about it? They have been interviewing plenty of draft prospects, but their first known visit is scheduled with a tackle projected to be a first-day pick.

The visits with draft prospects are beginning to be lined up for the Vikings, who have been busy with offseason analysis, from the all-star games in January to the NFL Scouting Combine last month to the pro days this month.

New month, however, the Vikings are expected to continue their recent tradition of hosting about 30 college prospects for dinner and a visit. The first known invitee for an April visit is University of Oklahoma offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, according to Scout.com's Ed Thompson.

Loadholt's frame reflects his name – he is a load, and that's the first impression he usually makes on people meeting him for the first time. It was no different when Viking Update met Loadholt at the Senior Bowl, with visions of Bryant McKinnie's frame being sent down to Mobile, Ala.

Loadholt checked in at 6-7¾ at the combine in February and 332 pounds, down about 10 pounds from his playing weight. He said he studies the taller offensive tackles in the NFL to see how flexible they are when it comes to bending their knees, a prime consideration for the position.

"My favorite player of all-time, Jonathan Ogden, he's about the same height as me, if not taller," Loadholt said at the combine. "Tra Thomas is a tall guy, Flozell Adams all those guys. I've always been watching those guys to see if they can bend at the knees, not at the hip.

"You see a lot of guys get low and try to make us bend. I've just been paying attention to those things for a while now."

Loadholt said he expects to be a first-round pick, but most projections have him going in the second round of a draft that is deep at offensive tackle.

Of course, it's no surprise that the Vikings will be looking for help at tackle and possibly center during the draft. Neither Ryan Cook nor Artis Hicks was able to establish himself as a surefire starter at right tackle, opposite McKinnie on the left end. One of the big questions for Loadholt is which side he'd best be suited for at the NFL level.

He says he can play both left and right tackle, but he's more comfortable on the left side because that's where he played the last two seasons at Oklahoma.

"Wherever I have an opportunity to make an impact, wherever I have an opportunity to play at, I'm ready to do that," he said. "… Different teams are saying different things. Some say they can see me at right, some see me at left. Whatever they're comfortable at, I'm comfortable at."

There is a bit of a pride factor that goes into play left tackle, too.

"The main thing is being accountable and blocking for your quarterback, keep your quarterback clean," he said. "That's the main thing for selling yourself as a left tackle."

Loadholt got a late start at a major Division I school. He was initially planning to go to the University of Colorado but was an academic non-qualifier. After spending two years at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, he found a home in Norman, Okla., the season after Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson left.

"I came in that spring when he was leaving, so I got a chance to talk to him a little bit," Loadholt said of Peterson. "I talked to the guys and they said he was just amazing – hold your block for just a second and he was through there. Definitely heard about the passion he brought to the game and the things he was able to do."

Since finishing his senior season at Oklahoma, Loadholt has been working at Athlete's Performance in Los Angeles and says he has gained more strength and explosion there. He had a good showing last week at his pro day, which was attended by head coach Brad Childress, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, and offensive line coach Pat Morris, among others, according to reports out of Norman.

The main thing for Loadholt is consistency, he said.

"Becoming more consistent with my technique through four quarters of a game – that's probably the main thing for a lot of offensive linemen. In this league you've got to be a technician if you want to last long and do your job good. So that's probably the biggest thing," he said.

"Overall foot quickness – things I've been working on already – technique."

His athletic skills would say he can do that. He was recruited as a basketball player after averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds as a prep senior in Kansas.

Loadholt has been honored every year in college, first as a two-time Junior College All-America selection and then as a two-time All-Big 12 selection at Oklahoma. His immediate goal is to prove he belongs among the elite in a deep position of the draft.

"I think I should. I don't know how all that goes with the gradings and the rankings and all that stuff. All I can do is do everything I'm capable of. The film is on. The film doesn't lie," he said. "… I can't control anything else, any rankings or any of that stuff. So I've got to continue to go hard."

Scout.com NFL draft analyst Chris Steuber says: Loadholt is a huge, monstrous tackle who can shed the opposition away with ease. He stays square to the defender, has good technique and uses his brute strength to his advantage to knock defenders off their rush. He's a strong run-blocker who drives the opposition off the line and finishes his blocks until the whistle blows. He has to improve his lateral quickness, as he struggles against speed rushers. Projection: 2nd Round.


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