When the Florida Gators visited the White House to celebrate their second national championship in four years in April of 2009, right tackle Marcus Gilbert (6-foot-6, 318 pounds, 5.28 40-yard dash) received special recognition by new President Barack Obama during the ceremony -- not for his play, but because his father, Jeff, was a Secret Service agent who helped shield the past three presidents from harm.
And people thought Marcus' assignment to protect the blind side of all-everything left-handed quarterback Tim Tebow was difficult.
|LSU's Joseph Barksdale has started every game at right tackle the past two seasons. (US Presswire)|
Gilbert is just one of eight draftable senior offensive tackles in the SEC, widely considered the best conference in college football and undoubtedly the one producing the most NFL talent -- 408 players from the SEC have been drafted over the past 10 years. Gilbert is the only one of the eight not scheduled to play on the weak side in 2009.
Despite the hype that comes with the booming media coverage of football in the Southeast and regularly playing in front of national television audiences on CBS or ESPN, scouts know that not all eight players listed below can transition directly to the left or right tackle spot at the next level. Some will need to move from the left to the right side, or possibly inside to guard, because they lack the elite lateral movement and flexibility to handle the speed, strength and pass rush savvy of veteran NFL defensive ends.
Still, all of these players are draftable because of promising athleticism, strong work ethic and experience against consistently strong competition in the all-mighty SEC. They all could very well end up starting somewhere on an NFL offensive line within two to three years.
Demarcus Love, Arkansas, 6-5, 315, 5.18 (No. 4-rated senior offensive tackle by NFLDraftScout.com): Love teams with fellow senior right tackle Ray Dominguez to form a solid bookend duo to protect top junior pocket passer Ryan Mallett. Love's extremely long arms and natural athleticism pop off on film, and his experience playing the left and right sides of the formation as Arkansas' strong-side tackle last season gives him coveted versatility. He must improve his raw pass protection technique as a senior -- or hope NFL offensive line coaches push for him early, thinking they can mold him into an elite blocker -- to earn a first-round draft slot.
Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State, 6-5, 305, 5.22 (No. 6): Tall, svelte and athletic, Sherrod fits the prototype of an NFL left tackle. He's the best pass protector of this group and compares favorably to the rest as a positional run blocker (though maybe not among the strongest). The Bulldogs haven't had a first-round pick since cornerback Walt Harris (No. 13, Chicago) and wide receiver Eric Moulds (No. 24, Buffalo) were selected early in the 1996 draft, but another strong season from the second-team All-SEC tackle could push Sherrod into the event's first evening.
James Carpenter, Alabama, 6-5, 295, 5.36 (No. 9): The junior college transfer (Coffeyville CC) was no small part of the Tide's BCS Championship run last fall. He protected then-new starter Greg McElroy very well and opened holes for Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram and budding superstar Trent Richardson. Carpenter's game is more hustle and hard work than elite athleticism so a move inside may be in his future.
Clint Boling, Georgia, 6-5, 310, 5.16 (No. 13): Boling has started at left tackle (13 games), right tackle (nine) and right guard (14) in his three years in Athens. He'll be starting at left tackle between the hedges in 2010, playing across from lesser-known senior right tackle Josh Davis. His play earned him second-team All-SEC honors from league media in 2009, and a favorable opinion from scouts. However, he may be moved to right tackle or the one position at which he hasn't started for the Bulldogs -- left guard -- at the next level to take advantage of his strength unless he shows better lateral movement and flexibility to handle the pass rush skills of elite NFL defensive ends.
Lee Ziemba, Auburn, 6-6, 302, 5.22 (No. 10): Like Boling, Ziemba (pronounced ZIM-bah) has been a fixture on his team's offensive line since his freshman season. He has started 38 consecutive games -- his true freshman season at right tackle and the last two on the left side. Ziemba joined Sherrod on the coaches' second-team All-SEC team last season because of his strength as a run blocker and all-out effort to keep his quarterback upright. Unfortunately, he may also wind up inside as a pro because he lacks the initial quickness and recovery ability to handle the speed coming at him off the edge at the next level.
Joseph Barksdale, LSU, 6-5, 315, 5.22 (No. 14): A top-rated defensive tackle prospect out of high school, Barksdale moved to the offensive line upon arriving at Baton Rouge. He has started every game the past two seasons at right tackle, but now takes over for stalwart Ciron Black on the blind side in 2010. His pure athleticism is probably good enough to get the job done there in college, although his mobility and agility have been inconsistent over the past two seasons on the strong side of the formation. He'll need to prove his footwork and technique are up for the challenge of facing NFL ends before teams consider him a legitimate left tackle candidate.
Jarriel King, South Carolina, 6-5, 312, 5.23 (No. 9; guard prospect): The South Carolina native will start at left tackle in 2010, where he started as a sophomore transfer from Georgia Military College (where he played defensive tackle) and began last fall before a two-game move to left guard. Scouts consider him a good pass protector in tight spaces but worry that he may be only adequate on the outside. His strong hands and anchor would also be a major plus inside at the next level -- one reason he was moved inside against Alabama in 2009 was so he could face nose tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody. The fact King missed time with a concussion last season and has had two procedures to fix an irregular heartbeat may scare off teams from selecting him early in the draft but if team doctors sign off on his health don't be surprised if he's picked late.
Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.