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Seahawks Analysis: Recent History Foreshadowing Success For Olu Oluwatimi?

Boasting one of the most decorated resumes of any incoming NFL rookie, Olu Oluwatimi finds himself in good company compared to past Rimington Award winners. What does history suggest about his potential impact for the Seattle Seahawks at the pivot position?

When it comes to projecting how a player will fare in the NFL, awards won at the college level aren't always the best tool of choice for making accurate predictions.

Case in point? While the Heisman Trophy remains one of the most coveted awards in sports, being voted as the best player in college football hardly guarantees that dominance will translate to the pros. For every Joe Burrow or Lamar Jackson who becomes equally as big of a superstar in the NFL, there are bound to be several players such as Troy Smith and Tim Tebow who fail to meet expectations and find themselves outside of the league within a few short years.

With that being said, some college awards offer a bit more value historically when it comes to forecasting NFL success. Among those that seems to have more carryover to the next level, the Rimington Award - which is given to the nation's best center each year - has produced a bounty of quality NFL players over the past decade.

That's potentially great news for the Seattle Seahawks and fifth-round pick Olu Oluwatimi, the 2023 recipient of the Rimington Award as well as the Outland Award granted to the best interior offensive lineman in college football.

Winning the Rimington Award doesn't make Oluwatimi, who played over 3,500 snaps at Virginia and Michigan at the college level and has impressed thus far in Seattle's offseason program, a lock to have his bust in Canton someday or even become a perennial Pro Bowler. But dating back to 2015, with the exception of a player or two who may not have lived up to the hype, the honor has been a strong precursor to flourishing early in the NFL.

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Looking at the previous seven Rimington Award winners, three players have been named to the Pro Bowl, including Colts center Ryan Kelly being selected to the team three times. The former Alabama standout also earned Second-Team All-Pro distinction in 2020 and has consistently performed as one of the best at his position in seven NFL seasons.

Most recently, Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz and Eagles guard Landon Dickerson, who won the Rimington Award in back-to-back seasons, garnered Pro Bowl honors after helping their respective teams make the postseason in 2022. With both players still on their rookie contracts and under 25 years of age, they should continue to improve and already have established themselves as two of the best young players at their positions in the league.

Though Biadasz had to wait for his turn to start behind veteran Joe Looney, he eventually took over as starter towards the tail end of his rookie season. As for Kelly and Dickerson, they became immediate starters entering the league and the same can be said for Garrett Bradbury and Tyler Linderbaum, who were selected by the Vikings and Ravens in the 2019 and 2022 draft respectively and were immediately installed into the starting lineup.

Of course, not every recent Rimington Award winner broke into the NFL and became a quality starter. Once viewed as a can't miss prospect coming out of Ohio State, Billy Price struggled mightily with the Bengals before eventually being allowed to walk as a free agent. His play hasn't improved the past two seasons with the Giants and Cardinals and he's currently an unsigned free agent.

But aside from Price and Pat Elflein, whose career has been derailed by injuries the past three years after a promising start to his career in Minnesota, the majority of Rimington Award winners have made an instant impact and proven to be long-term anchors in the middle of the offensive line for their teams.

What does that mean for Oluwatimi and the Seahawks? Like any player coming into the league regardless of draft position, he will have to earn a starting job on the practice field battling against a capable veteran competitor in Evan Brown over the next couple of months. The team won't simply give him the job at the pivot position for the sake of throwing a rookie into the fire.

However, past precedent suggests experienced centers coming into the NFL with the accolades Oluwatimi has on his resume have a great chance to excel at the next level in large part due to traits at the position translating well to the league.

From a physical standpoint, Oluwatimi handled the elite athletes in the ACC as well as the physical, overpowering defensive tackles in the Big Ten. Last season, he helped anchor Michigan's dominant run game holding his own on gap and zone schemes and didn't allow a single sack in pass protection. He then impressed against top-notch competition at the Senior Bowl, demonstrating excellent pro readiness that caught Seattle offensive line coach Andy Dickerson's attention in the pre-draft process.

"You see these guys learning a new system in a short amount of time with a bunch of different players, new coaches and seeing what they do in that scenario and the one-on-one reps from that as well," Dickerson explained. "You see a guy and can see him take command and control in both of those settings at Michigan and the Senior Bowl. You can see him drive the offense and knowing that he is in command and can communicate and get everyone on the same page. So that is exciting.”

Coming from a pro style scheme at Michigan after spending three years in a vastly different Air Raid system at Virginia, Oluwatimi is well ahead of the curve compared to many of his peers in regard to commanding the huddle, making line calls in both the run and pass game, and reading opposing defensive fronts. He also offers ample experience picking up blitzes and stunts, which should pay dividends relaying communications to his other linemates before the snap.

Once the heat of training camp arrives in August, Oluwatimi will have his work cut out for him vying for snaps against Brown and it would be a mistake to assume that he will be a day one starter based on what other Rimington Award winners have accomplished. But if early returns and recent track records are any indication, the Seahawks should be fired up about the prospects of finally landing the franchise center they have been seeking since Max Unger departed in 2015.

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