*In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft (April 26-27), BR.com will offer a look into the top prospects by position. This week, we had two guards to keep an eye on. Here's a snapshot of the best of the rest guards and centers in alphabetical order.
Chilo Rachal, G, USC (6-4, 313)- With only 21 games as a starter in three years, Rachal doesn't necessarily have the tenure that most NFL-ready offensive line prospects possess, but he does have quick feet and athleticism that teams like. He could potentially develop into a starting prospect over a year or two. It is worth noting that Rachal declared for the draft because of the financial strain on his family due to medical bills for his mother, who was diagnosed with a stomach tumor.
In his own words:(Rachal on his decision to forego his final year) "My mother didn't want to tell me during the season because she thought that it would take me off my game. So she waited until toward the end of the season to tell me. Once I realized that, I figured I had to do what was best for us."
Roy Schuening, G, Oregon State (6-4, 308)- If a team wants a consistent anchor in their offensive line, look no further that Schuening. The tough guard started a school record 50 consecutive games for the Beavers, even gutting out a mild concussion in 2006 to continue his streak. In 2007, manned right guard for the first nine contests before switching to right tackle because of injuries. As a senior, Schuening was an All-American choice by The Sporting News and ESPN.com, and he earned All-Pac 10 and Academic All-Pac 10 honors.
In his own words:(Schuening on the NFL Combine) "Who knows how much of it goes into what kind of football player you are?"
Mike McGlynn, G, Pittsburgh (6-4, 309)- McGlynn is a special type of athlete, one that can move from tackle to guard effortlessly. He began his career as the starting right tackle, but went to right guard for his senior season. After his successor at tackle struggled, McGlynn moved back to his original position, and the Panthers' offense inproved from 312.7 yards per game to 321.8. The Youngstown, Ohio, native can also long-snap, which makes him a more attractive candidate for his versatility.
In his own words:(McGlynn on his versatility) "I could play center, I could play guard, I could play tackle. Versatility is one of my strengths. Hopefully, a team really looks into that and it helps me out … It can't hurt me. At Pitt I was a backup center and backup guard (while starting at tackle)."
Eric Young, G, Tennessee (6-4, 310) - Young is an interesting candidate, another tackle that many are projecting to become a guard at the next level. A two-time All-SEC performer, Young's senior season ended too early, as a torn quadriceps shelved him for the final six contests. With Young in the lineup, the team averaged 147.6 rushing yards per game (130.43 average without him), 268.9 yards passing (256.1 average without Young) and 416.4 yards in total offense (386.57 average without Young).
In his own words:(Young on his injury) "I plan on getting back out there as soon as I possibly can. I'm not going to let it get me down or anything. We play a violent sport and it happens."
Robert Felton, G, Arkansas (6-3, 313)- Playing two positions on the offensive line is difficult, but Felton actually saw time at every one except center for the Razorbacks. He filled in because of injuries at left and right tackle as a redshirt freshman, then settled in at his main position - right guard. During his senior campaign, Felton was key for an offense that racked up 286.5 rushing yards per game. Felton, who is known for his outgoing personality and ability to make others laugh, is a thick mauler that could excel on the interior of the line.
In their own words:(Felton on his strengths) "My strengths are definitely footwork and physicalness. At Arkansas you definitely have to be physical because you're running the ball in any situation. You've got to be physical to run the ball. I've played every position – just this year I've played every position. I played tackle for two years. In the middle of that I've played every other position."
Steve Justice, C, Wake Forest (6-3, 293) - Many have called Justice too small to make it to the next level, but it is certainly not necessary to top 300 pounds as a center. Just ask Atlanta's Chris Myers (295 pounds), New England's Dan Koppen (296) or Green Bay's Scott Wells (295). Justice, who took over center duties as a sophomore, quickly established himself as one of the top linemen in the nation. He was All-ACC in 2006 and 2007, and he earned All-American honors from six different news services his senior campaign.
In his own words:(Justice on his NFL thoughts) "I was always thinking NFL. One of the big reasons I went to Wake was for education. Small school, small class sizes. But I also saw an opportunity to play early. Saw an opportunity to come in and try to make a difference and try to turn a program around. If you go to the bigger school like Miami or Florida State, you're probably going to have to wait until you're developed enough in your sophomore or junior year to get a starting role, unless you're a freak of nature."
Mike Pollak, C, Arizona State (6-4, 301)- Known as one of the toughest blockers in the Pac 10, Pollak excelled at the point of the Sun Devils' offensive line, despite ASU's quarterbacks enduring 55 sacks on the season. Pollak solidified his place at center as a junior and then rattled off 31 straight starts. He really impressed at the Combine, clocking in at under five seconds in the 40-yard dash and benching 225 pounds 29 times.
John Sullivan, C, Notre Dame (6-4, 301)- It was a tough 2007 season for the Fighting Irish, one that ended on a sour note for Sullivan, who missed the final two contests with a right knee sprain. But, his stalwart career at the anchor spot for Notre Dame speaks volumes. Sullivan became the starter his redshirt freshman year and never relinquished the position, earning 43 career starts. Plus, the fact that he played under former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis can only help his status.
In his own words:(Sullivan on playing for Weis) "Coach Weis is um, there's no B.S. with Coach Weis. He tells you how it is, he expects a lot from you, but at the same time, he cares about his players and he's the type of guy you want to work hard for."