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John Urschel Isn't Kelechi Osemele, But He's Aiming For His Job


There's a noticeable difference when looking at the Ravens' offensive line this summer compared to a year ago.

Out is 6-foot-5, 330-pound Kelechi Osemele, who inked a five-year deal worth a reported $60 million with the Oakland Raiders in March.

In is 6-foot-3, 305-pound John Urschel, who spent his offseason at MIT studying for his Ph.D. in mathematics.

Now Urschel is in football mode, and he appears to have the inside track on the starting left guard spot to replace Osemele. Urschel ran with the first-team offense throughout Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp. But Urschel knows he's not Osemele.

"He's a freak athlete, let's be honest. He's elite in that sense, and I'm not that," Urschel said.

"When K.O. walks into a room, he's towering over people. I'm not that. People are always telling me I look like a linebacker. We're just different body types."

They're different in other ways too, but that doesn't mean Urschel can't also play at Osemele's high level. They just may do it differently.

"I've got quickness, I've got smarts, I like to think I'm a savvy football player, and I like to think that I use all that I've got, which is important," Urschel said.

Playing left guard is somewhat new for Urschel. He spent his college career at Penn State at right guard, and has started just two NFL games at left guard (both in 2014 when Osemele was banged up). Urschel started the final seven games of last season at center when Jeremy Zuttah was* *sidelined.

While it may not seem like much of a difference, playing left guard as compared to right guard means "everything is backwards."

"It's starting to feel natural," Urschel said.

A fifth-round pick in 2014, Urschel has proven he can handle a starting role. He filled in quite well when asked to start at right guard, left guard and center during his young career. Now it's about proving he can be a full-time starter at one position.

Urschel has drawn a lot more attention during his young career for his brains outside the lines than his brawn inside it. That used to bother Urschel, but not so much anymore, he says.

"For the longest time in my career, I felt like I wanted people to recognize that I'm a good football player, but not just a football player that does math," he said.

"These days, I love having the math conversations, I love the chess conversations. I actually really welcome those and enjoy them because it's an opportunity to let those things shine."

But don't get carried away and assume Urschel isn't passionate about the competition that lies ahead in training camp. He said he welcomes it.

The other top contenders for the position are Ryan Jensen and fourth-round rookie Alex Lewis. Jensen played well in six starts at left guard last year next to Urschel. Lewis is more in the hulking Osemele mold, and has been impressive so far this summer.

"It's something I want," Urschel said. "I want to help our team, I want to contribute, I want to be a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. I have been, and I want to continue to be. I'm ready to compete to get that done."

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