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Another intriguing mix

Kevin Zeitler was the second of the two Bengals first-round picks in the 2012 draft.

When he signed on for two more years earlier this week, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis cited a personnel department that has teamed with his coaching staff to help yield an NFL-best four Pro Bowlers in the 2010 and 2011 drafts before its 2012 effort was universally acclaimed as one of the best drafts in the league.

"This is a very good-looking football team. It's big and it's fast," Lewis said. "That's kind of a metamorphosis from where we started. It's something the organization ought to be very, very proud of, that we really have converted into what an NFL team looks like in size and girth and speed and length."

The evolution continues this month when the revamped personnel department begins to hit the road scouting college prospects with new assignments. The Bengals responded to the retirement of 20-year director of football operations Jim Lippincott by hiring two young college coaches with roots in their regions and freeing up director of player personnel Duke Tobin to crisscross the country cross-checking players.

"You don't replace a talented and experienced guy like Jim Lippincott overnight," Tobin says. "We're fortunate in that we have other guys already here who have been in football their entire lives that can mitigate Jim's loss."

One of the reasons Lewis thought the Bengals made the playoffs last year is that there were enough veterans to give the talented young nucleus ballast. Now the scouting department has that same kind of intriguing mix of youth and experience.

Robert Livingston, 26, a defensive quality control coach at Vanderbilt this past season and a former assistant at Furman, is going to work the Southeast while based in Cincinnati. Steve Radicevic, 28, the director of football operations at UCLA for the past three seasons, is going to scout the west while also living on The Coast.

They're 40 years younger than the man replacing Lippincott in the Midwest, Bill Tobin, as well as the club's senior vice president of player personnel, Pete Brown.

"We've got two guys that are rare in this league," Duke Tobin says. "Most clubs don't have one guy with 40-plus years of experience, but we've got two with 40 years of looking at college players and being heavily involved in NFL Drafts. They've been integral in every pick we've made and will continue to be. Bill is integral in seeing all the guys I feel our team is going to be interested in and Pete knows every player in the draft. We're fortunate to have these guys with that kind of experience."

Bill Tobin, 71, has been with the Bengals since the '02 draft and had been scouting the Southeast after a three-decade run he ran drafts for the Bears, Colts, and Lions.

At a recent informal golf outing for the personnel department, Livingston and Bill Tobin showed up in the same car 45 years apart. A little late and Livingston was taking heat.

"We got here a little around-about," Bill Tobin joked, but the Bengals figure the amount of knowledge that can be passed in such a car ride is worth more than the gas.

Plus, the Bengals East Coast scout remains Greg Seamon, 56, a veteran college offensive coordinator and NFL coach who has 30-year ties to all aspects of both games and has been a constant since he arrived the same year as Lewis after a stint as the Cowboys tight ends coach.

"Greg has been a highly successful coach on all levels and and he's got numerous years NFL personnel experience to go along with that," said Duke Tobin. "That combination gives us a unique experience."

Not many guys have this picture on their desks. When Miami University quarterbacks coach Mike Bath visited training camp last week, Seamon snuck in a picture with Bath and Bengals defensive coach Hue Jackson. Seamon coached both quarterbacks, Jackson in the '80s at Pacific and Bath a decade later at Miami.

Not everybody is on the road. Paul Brown, vice president of player personnel, negotiates contracts and has input in college and pro prospects. While the scouts are visiting campuses during the season, Brown manages the roster and sets up the weekly Tuesday tryouts at Paul Brown Stadium.

Duke Tobin, 42, grew up a scout's son and spent his first four years in the NFL working for his father while Bill ran the Colts. He's spent the next 13 working for the Bengals doing just about everything and now he's changing his role with the arrival of Livingston and Radicevic.

Tobin moves out of his West Coast gig and is now going to hit only Texas before getting on the road and visiting the 40-45 schools with the top prospects. He'll be working off the preliminary list from National Football Scouting, of which the Bengals and other NFL teams are members.

"I would double back and do a lot of the cross checks after I did the West," Duke Tobin says. "Now from the start I'll be doing cross checks. So we'll get a second fall visit on some of these campuses that maybe we haven't been getting in the past."

It breaks down like this: Duke Tobin has Texas. Radicevic has west of Colorado. Livingston, a Hendersonville, N.C., native, goes as far north as Tennessee and Arkansas and as far south as South Carolina and Florida. Seamon goes from North Carolina to Maine, as well as working the local schools.

"A big part of scouting is the connections and that's one of the reasons I'm excited about our young guys," Tobin says. "Robert has recruited the area and he's prepared for opponents in the SEC, so he's got a good working knowledge of those kids. He's got a great jump-start."

The Bengals feel Radicevic offers similar strengths out west, where he played the offensive line at California-Davis and defensive line at UCLA. For the past three seasons at UCLA he coordinated the visits by pro scouts.

"He knows all the NFL scouts that come through the west and he's watched them work," Tobin said. "A lot of scouting is those connections. The thing I like about these guys is they've done different things in football. Robert coached. Steve was in the operations end of it. But both realized they wanted to scout after seeing all sides of it. To me, that's the important thing. You've got to have a passion for it and these guys do. This is what they want to do."

The Bengals actually scouted Livingston before he became a scout. Seamon wrote him up when he was a senior safety at William and Mary ("good size, smart, got them lined up"), but instead of signing him they brought him in for a personnel internship and were immediately impressed.

It helps to have a coach's eye in the Bengals organization, where founder Paul Brown and current president Mike Brown have put a premium on their current coaches being heavily involved in scouting. It's a trend that has dipped through the years in the NFL. But in Lewis the Bengals have a coach out of the old school that cut his teeth in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, clubs that also encourage their coaches to get involved and Lewis feels comfortable in the evaluation end.

When he re-upped this week, Lewis praised Tobin for his work in bridging the coaching and personnel staffs.

"Duke has done an amazing job continuing to really shape the draft, massage the board and help get everybody on the same page as we cross-check and get input from the coaches," Lewis said. "And we all feel comfortable with what we feel like, and about who has a chance to be a successful player."

Tobin has the same kind of comfort level with the coaches, in part, because the staff has been so stable in Lewis's 10 seasons.

"Our job is to facilitate the success of our coaches. That's the way we approach it. It's been Mike's philosophy from the start," Duke Tobin says. "I've been nothing but impressed with our coaching staff. The way they dive into the college scouting at the end of the season is phenomenal. They're hard working and every guy we've got is a football guy through and through.

"We can disagree. But in the end we all want a championship."

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