Scouting Combine Guards: Mr. Versatility and Mr. Mayor
Part 2 of our two-part series on the guards includes Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg, Clemson’s John Simpson and Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton. (Underclassmen are marked with an asterisk.)
John Molchon, Boise State (6-5, 318): Molchon was a three-year starter and three-time all-conference pick, including first-team all-Mountain West as a junior and senior. He also was a three-year member of the academic all-district squad due to a 3.70 GPA in finance.
“You could see the potential of this guy in what maybe he could be as a player, but it was more just who he is that was always a big thing to me,” coach Bryan Harsin told the hometown Las Vegas Sun. “I remember his family, eating at his house, everyone at the table and just some of the conversations we had. It was like, ‘All right. This guy fits exactly what we’re looking for. He’s going to be a great Bronco.’ I hoped as a player he was going to be able to step up and do the things he’s done, and now here he is.” He started 43 career games, mostly at guard but at tackle when pressed into service due to injuries as a senior. “It’s already a season to remember,” he told the Idaho Statesman. “It’s been awesome. Being able to play with different people and different positions has been super helpful for me. Kind of just doing whatever I can to help the team is my biggest mindset. My goal is to win a championship. There’s no individual goal that I’m really worried about besides helping the team.” He played this season with a broken bone in his foot. “It was painful for sure,” Molchon told the Idaho Press. “It was something I had to overcome mentally, not just with the pain but with the highs and lows of the season. It was my senior year and I was trying to make the most of it and do what I could do. It came down to preparation and needing to mentally prepare more.”
Kyle Murphy, Rhode Island (6-4, 302): Murphy was a three-year starter, including at left tackle as a junior and senior. He earned FCS All-American honors as a senior and was a two-time member of the all-New England Team.
He was WPRI’s Hometown Hero in August. “He’s quietly developed himself, step by step into the leader he is,” coach Jim Fleming told WPRI. “Very tough, very focused, he’s always taking coaching well and it’s been remarkable to watch his growth but it’s been expected. He’s a tough kid, he’s a very diligent worker and now that he has control of this football team as captain, I think he’s embracing that and he’s going to take it one step higher.” At Attleboro (Mass.) High School, he was a captain in basketball and football. “My favorite part about being an offensive lineman is definitely being in the trenches,” Murphy told Mass Varsity. “Everybody depends on you to make the block. It always starts with the offensive line and defensive line. Being in the trenches, hitting someone on every play and making holes stands out.”
Michael Onwenu, Michigan (6-3, 350): Onwenu started 35 games in his career, including 13 starts at right guard as a junior and senior, when he was third-team all-Big Ten. He played on both sides of the ball as a freshman.
“Big Mike” was a little less big as a senior, cutting his weight from 375 to 350. He traded red meat and sweets for chicken and veggies. “I think it was more so a maturity level thing,” Onwenu told the Detroit News. “My younger years. it was just like me playing a role, me playing right guard. But when it comes around, this is my last year and as an offensive line, this is what we do. In my mind I have to take it more seriously as a right guard and an offensive lineman to take that role.” Less weight didn’t mean less power. “It’s hard to move a man against his will five yards,” Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner told MLive.com. “He used to not do that. He does that now, and credit to him for preparation and practice. He’s committed.” Sports got Onwenu off the coach and away from cartoons. “As a kid I was just a lazy person of bigger size,” he told MGoBlog.com. “I was just watching cartoons, playing games, but my dad had put me in sports.” He’d like to start a resale shop for men who need big shoes. His parents came to Detroit from Nigeria. "We went back to Nigeria about three times for a month at a time," he told MGoBlue.com.
Tyre Phillips, Mississippi State (6-5, 345): After playing a lot as a backup as a junior, he started all 13 games at left tackle as a senior.
Phillips played only one year of football at Grenada (Miss.) High School. He spent 2015 and 2016 as a guard at East Mississippi Community College. To gain experience and lose some of his 388 pounds, he redshirted for Mississippi State in 2017. "I learned how to pass protect at East Mississippi," Phillips told CDIDispatch.com. "I came out of high school at Grenada and I'd say we passed the ball like five times throughout the whole season." He earned his degree in child and youth development. “It was just something I picked up on in high school,” Phillips told DJournal.com. “I was always the big guy that would take care of the special kids from getting bullied. That’s always been my passion.” At Grenda High, his focus was basketball. "It was one of those deals where he played junior high ball and then took some time off," coach Ashley Kuhn told 247 Sports. "When kids do that, they're usually so far behind that they can't make it and they struggle in the weight room and conditioning. To be honest, I didn't know if Tyre would make it. But to his credit, he worked every day and never complained. It wasn't one of those deals where he was working to get on the field. He was just working to work.
Logan Stenberg, Kentucky (6-6, 322): Stenberg was a four-year starting guard. As a senior, he helped power the Wildcats’ record-setting rushing attack. According to the coaches, he had 95 knockdown blocks and didn’t allow a sack as a senior, when he was first-team all-SEC and had some All-American recognition.
His toughness comes from his much-older brothers – Eric is 15 years older, Ryan 13 years older and Jacob seven years older. “They beat the tar out of me growing up. I credit them with my toughness, honestly. You had to be tough with them,” he told Kentucky.com. Once, per mom’s instructions to keep an eye on their little brother, they taped him to a coffee table. “They left me out for about an hour and a half, until my mom came home. I was crying the whole time. My mom, man, she was irate. She ripped into them when she got home.” His disciple comes from military roots. "I grew up coming in out of the Redstone Arsenal (Army post)," Stenberg told AL.com. "My father was in the military for 21 years. Retired as a lieutenant colonel. My mother's worked on the Arsenal for 30 years now. She's an accountant for the Black Hawk contract. I grew up with that. I grew up with that structure in the house, and I think it really shaped me into the man I am today."
John Simpson, Clemson (6-4, 330): A two-year starting guard, Simpson was second-team all-ACC as a junior and a consensus All-American as a senior.
Simpson’s family didn’t have much money. As related by Sports Illustrated: “I’d sit in my room and cry,” Simpson said, recalling difficult days as an adolescent—his father in prison, his mom working hard but struggling to make ends meet for her two sons, John and Jayden. “I felt like it was all on me to be the man of the house.” The man of the house at a young age, he went to school, played football and got a job. He worked at Halls Chophouse in downtown Charleston, S.C. – a place he could never afford to eat – through the “Teach the Need” program. “We’re serving ladies and gentlemen,” restaurant owner Tommy Hall told the Post and Courier. “I never would think about bringing a high school student in, but John was one of those guys we gave a chance to and he just shined. He would go play football games on Friday night and he’d be bruised up, scraped up and he’d be at work at Halls the next day, uniform pressed.” He scored on a 1-yard touchdown as a senior. “I was going crazy,” Simpson told the State. “I legit forgot about everything. Getting a touchdown tonight was huge.” He was named Mayor for the Day of North Charleston in April.
Simon Stepaniak, Indiana (6-4, 321): Of Stepaniak’s 31 career starts, 30 came at right guard. As a senior team captain, he started 10 games at right guard and one at left guard to earn a third-team nod on the all-Big Ten team.
A physical powerhouse, he made Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks” list. He bided his time and learned from former standouts Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney. “The first two years I was here, it was pretty much learning the ways of college football. I was playing behind Dan Feeney and watching how he attacked the day every day,” he told the Greensburg Daily News. “This year I know what I want to do and what I want us to do as a team. This summer I just tried to attack the weights every day, and I feel like I’m ready to go.” He was teammates and roommates with center Hunter Littlejohn, who is part of this draft class. They eat a lot and watch a lot of film – whether it’s game film or romantic comedies. “Living together, I feel like as an o-line, you are bonded every single day, and that helps playing next to each other because you know every guy’s move,” Stepaniak told Hoosier Times. “So we were all living as a unit. We eat, like, six times a day, all together. Chill, watch movies, hang out.”
Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon (6-5, 309): Throckmorton started at right tackle as a senior and was an honorable-mention on the all-Pac-12 team but a third-team All-American. As a junior, he earned some All-America accolades as the only lineman in FBS to start games at four positions (everything but left guard). He was a four-year starter with 52 career starts.
Throckmorton graduated with a degree in human physiology and plans to attend medical school after football with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. “We were identifying structures labeled on donor bodies from people that had passed away,” he told the Register-Guard. “I love it. That’s what I’m really interested in and what I want to pursue in life.” When he injured an ankle in the bowl game that capped the 2018 season, he knew the extent of the injury and that he’d need surgery. “I knew something wasn’t in the right place for sure,” he said in a wide-ranging story by Oregon Live. “The way I got pulled back and the way my own weight and the weight of other people landed on it. … When they were doing some of the preliminary tests on the field, I knew as soon as one of them hurt, I was like, ‘Yeah, I kind of know what just happened.’ I knew exactly what surgery. I was never in doubt of my ability to come back from it or come back stronger.” He was a late add to the Senior Bowl roster, where he played left tackle a – position he hadn’t played since 2018. “I kind of just like that trench aspect, doing the grunt work and being down in the trenches and go to work and grind guys,” he told Oregon Live. “Doesn’t matter if it’s 2 or 3 yards every play, those are going to start turning into 5- or 6-yard gains. I love the mentality of playing on the inside. Tackle I like to be out in space and be able to go against those top edge guys.”