Monday, March 23, 2009

Nittany Lions in the Pros - Offensive Tackles

My weekly feature is winding down. After today's post there is only one more position to examine. This week we conclude our journey along the offensive line by focusing on the bookends - the offensive tackles. OTs are the most widely heralded - and criticized - offensive line position. It is more or less their responsibility to keep the QB upright. Just like CBs in man-to-man coverage with no help over the top, OTs are usually left alone to handle DEs or blitzing LBs. If you have poor OT play, your QB will be running for his life.

Is this a sacred position for Penn State? Has the team churned out premiere NFL talent over the last 4+ decades? What is in store for Gerald Cadogan? Check out statistics of former Penn State players in the NFL below.

Click to enlarge statistics.

Wow, only 14 former Penn State players have latched on to NFL rosters over the last 43 years? That's only one every three years is good enough to be a pro. Maybe that isn't as bad as it sounds. It's hard to tell with comparisons with other similar institutions (Ohio State, Michigan - perhaps a feature for the next month?). Anyway, former Penn State OTs stick around in the NFL for about seven seasons. In 92 accrued seasons of play by 14 former Nittany Lions, only two were All Pro worthy - both by Stew Barber. Barber also makes up for five of the seven Pro Bowl selections. The others were earned by Keith Dorney (1982) and Brad Benson (1986). Only 4 of the 14 OTs lasted 10 or more years in the NFL. However, 5 of the 14 started for at least eight seasons and half started for six or more years. Once again it seems Penn State molds solid professionals at the position but lacks that one marquee name.

Stew Barber is really the only option. He was drafted by teams in both the NFL (Dallas) and AFL (Buffalo), where he spent his entire nine year career. Barber actually played his rookie year at LB and notched three INTs and a TD. He moved to LT in 1962 and played 111 games at along the OL, most at LT. Barber got acquainted with his new position in one year. By year two, 1963, he was an All Pro and Pro Bowl player.

2009 DRAFT
Gerald Cadogan enters the draft after a stupendous season for the blue and white. However things weren't always as great for Cadogan as 2008 turned out to be. He came to Penn State in 2004 and promptly was redshirted. He broke through in 2005 and was the backup to Levi Brown at LT. Unfortunately for Cadogan the team wasn't explosive enough nor did Brown miss much time for him to add many game snaps to his resume (just 41). He became a starter - at LG - to start the 2006 season. He started the first four games of the season, was a backup against Northwestern, started against Minnesota, then played in five of the final seven games as a reserve. He did not play versus Purdue or Wisconsin. Cadogan's play was not up to par for the coaching staff resulting in his demotion. Perhaps he really was best suited for tackle? Cadogan responded. With Brown in the NFL in 2007, Cadogan became the de facto LT. As a redshirt junior in 2007, Cadogan started 12 of the teams 13 games at LT, missing only the Michigan game due to injury. His play was much better at LT than LG and big things were expected from him for 2008. He delivered. The mammoth OT started all 13 games at LT and was a big reason for Penn State's success this past season. In his four years as an active player, Cadogan amassed 30 starts for successful o-lines that produced 1,000 yard rushers and a dangerous passing attack in 2008.

What should we expect from Cadogan on draft day? Or really, what can we expect from teams doing the drafting? OTs are always in demand so I have 100% confidence he'll be selected. Right now, Cadogan is ranked the 9th best OT (and 92nd best player available) by Draft Tek and 9th best OT and 88th best player by NFL Draft Scout. On the other hand, ESPN has him as the 16th best OT and isn't ranked overall. Last year there were 22 OTs selected. Cadogan is safe. I expect him to go in the third or fourth round at this point.

Why? Because he is quite strong, has a great push, uses good leverage, and has a powerful first punch with long arms. He has a bit of a mean streak and never gives up on a play. Those things are big to scouts and NFL personnel. Unfortunately he doesn't always use the best technique and his footwork leaves much to be desired. If he is drafted by a team that can allow him to learn for a season or two and has a superb o-line coach, Cadogan could become one of those 10-year, solid OT types. Or he could be a three year, see ya later kind of player. He has talent but hit must be nurtured. He'll be drafted and make it through August cuts. He has too much talent not to be a viable backup at RT and can provide depth at OG.

The offensive line has been analyzed. Next week will be a position that received much of the spotlight last season - wide receivers. Yeah, I think Penn State has a guy or two (or three) that could make an impact on Sundays.

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