EAGLES COMBINE CONFIDENTIAL: Center Prospects
INDIANAPOLIS – Interior offensive linemen could be a target for the Eagles, having to likely replace super-sub Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who will probably depart in free agency, and even more importantly, center Jason Kelce, who is 32 and could retire at any point in any near-future offseason.
The player I think fits them perfectly is Nick Harris, from the University of Washington.
Here are three others who took the podium on Wednesday morning:
MATT HENNESSY, TEMPLE, 6-4, 302
Yes, the local college player is familiar with the Eagles and Jason Kelce having spent time on Temple’s campus.
“I’ve watched him a bunch,” said Hennessy of Kelce. “Obviously, his athletic skill set is unreal.”
Hennessy said he has talked informally to the Eagles.
As for playing in the same city where he went to college and playing on the same field at Lincoln Financial Field that the Owls shares with the Eagles, Hennessy said: “It’d be incredible. Being exposed to the way the fans love the team, and to the way the team loves the city back, it’d be pretty cool to be a part of that.”
Hennessy was a right tackle when he went to a Temple recruiting camp. During a one-on-one session at camp with an assistant coach, then-Owls head coach Matt Ruhle, now with the Carolina Panthers, approached him and offered him a scholarship on the spot.
Ruhle told Hennessy, “I know you’re playing tackle now, but you have the ideal skill set for a center.”
“I was a lightly recruited guy, because I think colleges saw me as a tackle, but just a small one,” said Hennessy, who is rom Nyack, N.Y. “I didn’t get recruited, just by the Ivies up in the Northeast. Then Temple asked me to come down to a summer recruiting camp going into my senior year (of high school).”
Now, Hennessy could very well be a second-day pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY, LSU, 6-3, 312
One of the leaders on the national champion Tigers, Cushenberry is a self-made center after playing tackle in high school. He also said he has met informally with the Eagles and talked to their offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland.
He had played tackle in high school, but LSU told him to get ready to be a center or guard.
Cushenberry never snapped a football before, so he went on YouTube and found some videos and learned how to do it.
“Once I signed at LSU I taught myself how to snap during the time from February to when I enrolled on campus,” said Cushenberry. “I taught myself. And ever since I’ve been at LSU I’ve been a center and a guard.”
When Cushenberry arrived on campus he said he took a football from the equipment room, grabbed his roommate, who was a quarterback during his freshman year, and the two snapped all day long.
“I got the rhythm and we found it,” said Cushenberry, who started 28 games at center the last two seasons.
Another thing Cushenberry learned to do was become a vocal leader.
“Maybe I was born to be a center,” he said. “I didn’t play it in high school, so I had to teach myself how to snap and get comfortable being a vocal guy. I’m not really that vocal off the field, but on the field I’m completely different. I make a lot of the calls, I’m the main communicator, and I’ve gotten used to that. Now I love it. I take pride in that.”
TYLER BIADASZ, WISCONSIN, 6-3, 321
Winner of the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center, Biadasz arrived at Wisconsin as a defensive end but was moved quickly to guard/center. He won’t participate in any drills at the Combine due to a recent scope on the AC joint in his right shoulder. He is expected to be cleared by mid-April, he said, at which time he is hoping to arrange a pro day.
“It wasn't necessarily an injury,” said Baidasz. “I never was limited. It was just a lingering issue. Not really an issue, but just a little pain here and there. I went in after the season, just saw a specialist from LA and tell me that we just don't want anything lingering on to OTAs or rookie camp. So I just got it done.”
Biadasz was asked how he could separate himself from the rest of the centers in the draft and become the first one off the board.
“I really don't know a lot of what they're about,” he said. “Coming from Wisconsin, I have a good understanding of a lot of the knowledge perspective. I think I have a very high football IQ for the game. I love competing. I'm willing to go and grind through whatever I've got to do, if I'm playing right guard and left guard, playing center, whatever I've got to do.
“I adapt and I take pride in that. Speaking from a guy that came in first year never played center in his life and I adapted pretty well coming in and learning from scratch. I think a lot of things separate me, but I think my football IQ and how I can move guys off the spot and pretty good in pass pro, too.”
Perhaps one knock on him for Eagles fans is who he named when asked which NFL center he has studied.
His answer was Cowboys center Travis Frederick.