Bengals take versatile O-lineman in fourth; S Sands in fifth


Updated: 3:20 p.m.

Drafting a Georgia lineman in the fourth round worked last season with defensive tackle Geno Atkins, so the Bengals decided to attempt an encore performance when they selected offensive lineman Clint Boling with the 101st pick Saturday.

The Bengals hit another need with West Virginia safety Robert Sands in the fifth round. The 6-5 217-pound Sands, a junior, is an excellent special-teamer who is known to play the run and worked in some games at five different spots during games. 

Boling, a 6-foot-5, 308-pound jack-of-all trades was an All-SEC lineman last year despite starting six games at left tackle, four at right guard and two at right tackle. While his significant footprint left at Georgia was covered in versatility, head coach Marvin Lewis sees Boling fitting in at guard with the Bengals.

"He's a big man, got some strength and is a competitor," Lewis said. "We really feel that he'll come to Cincinnati here both adding some depth and the chance to compete on the interior of the line."

Boling is used to winning those competitions. A series of injuries and alternating positions allowed him to start 49 of 51 possible games at Georgia, including 38 straight.

"As long as I can get on the field," Boling said, "I just really want to get the opportunity to play."

Backup guard Evan Mathis is a free agent and 34-year-old right guard Bobbie Williams is heading into the last year of his deal. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander indicated he's looking for Boling to develop before he would challenge incumbent left guard Nate Livings.

"Some of my strengths are versatility," Boling said. "I like to play hard, try to finish blocks. Some of the things I could work on just trying to become a little more explosive."

Lewis and Alexander spent much of their time at the Senior Bowl keeping a close eye on linemen. Though Boling was on the opposite team which didn't allow for much interaction in practice, the two got a feel for Boling's personality through meeting him and witnessing his demeanor around the facilities. They saw what the coaching staff at Georgia did in making Boling an offensive captain his senior season and earning an award for the hardest working player in the strength and conditioning program.

"We got to see what kind of kid he is," Alexander said. "He's a high-quality kid, very smart, competitive leader. He has all the intangibles you are looking for. We think he's a solid person."

Boling certainly fits the mold on the offensive line. The trend of selecting lineman from the Southeastern Conference continued. A glance at what would be a projected two-deep chart for next year that includes Boling has seven of the 10 players hailing from the SEC.

Boling's teammate, for a second time, A.J. Green, commented Friday how surprised he was Boling hadn't come off the board following Round 3. Boling joins tackle Dennis Roland, end Robert Geathers, Atkins and Green as one of five players from the Athens, Ga., campus, most of any school on the Bengals roster.

"There are a couple guys from Georgia up there, which is going to be good," Boling said. "I am really excited to be a Bengal."

The Bengals are thin at both safety and running back and they opted for Sands in the fifth after seven running backs went in the fourth round and North Carolina's Johnny White went right before them in the fifth. With strong safeties Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe free agents, Sands becomes the sixth safety on the roster as the Bengals seek backups for Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson. They are looking for some pop and size at that spot.

"He has the size to play as a strong safety. That's a concern of ours. We continue to build depth at that position," said secondary coach Kevin Coyle. "We have some returning players like Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson who don't have this type of size. They are more like free safeties. He's played both in their (the Mountaineers) scheme. He has played in deep coverage as well as in the box.

"He's a physical guy and an instinctive football player. When you play the tape, the thing that impressed us the most was his ability be decisive and to attack the line of scrimmage. He plays with a really good feel for the game. He has range in deep coverage."

Coyle says Sands will able to help the club with his ability to play all four special teams.

"He played with very good effort and intensity. A lot of times you don't see that when (teams) are starting players," he said.

Coyle says Sands lined up in five different spots on all three position levels in some games, depending on the situation.

"I feel comfortable at the free or the strong. I feel comfortable in the back (defensive backfield) being able to see the whole field and having everything in front of me," Sands said in a conference call with Cincinnati media. "I like it back there. I played some linebacker last year, but that was because of special package deals in third-down."

He won't have that latitude here, but Sands says he'll line up anywhere on special teams.

"I was on kickoff, punt, punt return, punt block, PAT block," Sands said. "I was on a couple of the special teams ... I'm good at all of them. I'm a football player. I'm good at whatever I do. When I step out on that field, I make sure everybody knows who I am, and I make sure they're accounting for me."

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