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Where he'll go is the remaining question.

But where Cincinnati-bred Eric Wood has been since he did a Senior Bowl diary for is an even better story. He is one of those guys flying up the charts at the right time and even Mel Kiper Jr., himself projects Wood as the last pick in the first round to the Steelers at No. 32.

"I saw that. And I saw where he said I might have been the guy who had the best offseason," Wood admitted Tuesday. "For a guy to play the position I play and to come off a team that went 5-7 and didn't have a lot of hype, I think it's a testimony to my hard work. My goal this offseason was to improve my draft stock and I'm hoping it will pay off."

Wood, the Elder High School product, said he looked around Paul Brown Stadium on Tuesday and thought it could have been a Southwest Ohio all-star game.

There was LaSalle High School guard Ryan Stanchek, who played at West Virginia, as well as a couple of University of Cincinnati kids Wood played against in high school, such as cornerback Mike Mickens of Wayne High School in the Dayton area, and guard Trevor Canfield from nearby Western Hills High School.

"Those guys got me in college," said Wood with a laugh, the Louisville center that won two Ohio state titles as a member of the Panthers. "But I got the bragging rights all through high school."

Before the draft, the Bengals and all NFL teams can host up to 30 players who either lived in their region during high school or went to college here and on Tuesday 29 prospects converged on PBS. They are in addition to the other 20 prospects the club can bring in before April 25.

Wood said they pretty much stretched and went through position drills.

He came from the western-most part of the eligible area in Bridgetown. It extends east to Milford and north to Hamilton in Ohio, and to Elsmere, Ky., in the south. It should have been a homecoming for Wood as one of the draft's rising names, but it turned out to be just another layover.

He did manage a few hours at home before jumping on another plane to Cleveland on Tuesday after the PBS workout. He had come from Atlanta and he'll finish his visits Thursday in Detroit. Then it is back to Louisville for another week of workouts before getting back to Cincinnati to spend Draft Day with his family and agents from the Newport, Calif.-based Athletes First.

Wood isn't shy. He'd love to play for the Bengals. Even though he has already played at PBS for Elder, he got a tingle Tuesday when he realized he could have a locker there.

Of course, what the Bengals are thinking isn't as clear. They can use plenty of other positions as well as center and they've got two untried centers in Kyle Cook and Dan Santucci that already have two years in the system.

Even Clif Marshall, the head of Ignition Gym in Blue Ash, Ohio who has trained Wood and several other players that showed Tuesday, is trying to guess along. He knows the Bengals like his prized pupil, UC tight end/defensive end/SAM linebacker backer/WILL linebacker backer Connor Barwin, but enough to take him in the second round at No. 38?

"And I'm not sure which position they'd take him at," Marshall said.

And how many centers will go in the first two rounds? While Kiper has Wood coming off the board first, some have California's Alex Mack going first and others have Oregon's Max Unger going first.

"I think it all depends on when the first center goes, whether it's Max or Alex or me," Wood said. "If it's late in the first round, then I think we'll all go pretty quickly. I hope I go to a tough team like Cincinnati. Actually, I think any team in the AFC North would be a good fit."

At 6-3, 310 pounds, Wood has flashed that he's got plenty of muscle to duel with 3-4 nose tackles, but he also showed in the Senior Bowl for the first time in his life that he can play guard. So did, for that matter, Mack and Unger, two guys that actually played for the Bengals coaches in Mobile.

"I tell teams," Wood said, "if you don't think of me as the No. 1 center, then think of me as the No. 1 guard."

Kiper could be playing the Pittsburgh hunch because Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein visited Wood at Louisville. Wood is just waiting.

"You know how that goes. Would they take an interior lineman 32nd? I don't know," he said.

He certainly was comfortable Tuesday.

"Everywhere I turned, I knew somebody," Wood said.

There was Bengals linebacker Brandon Johnson, a former Louisville teammate. There was Bengals quarterback Jordan Palmer, who shares the same agents. There was Mickens, the former state playoff foe.

"That guy cracks me up," Wood said. "He's a funny guy."

The guy cracking everybody up is Barwin, projected by Kiper to be the second pick in the second round to New England. OURLADS Scouting Services sends Barwin to the Eagles at No. 28 in the first round.

What Marshall knows is he's putting Barwin on the cover of next year's brochure. The guy on this year's cover, Purdue linebacker Stanford Keglar, came out of nowhere to dominate the combine drills and ended up going from a possible free agent to a fourth-round pick of the Titans.

Under  Marshall's  guidance, Keglar concentrated on six drills: the 225-pound bench press, the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuttle, the L cone, vertical jump and broad jump. Marshall says Keglar led five of the six categories, just like Barwin did.

But Barwin already had the scouts buzzing at the Senior Bowl with his athleticism and versatility a month before the combine.

"I don't think they go off the drills," Marshall said of the pro scouts. "But I think the drills make them go back and look at you on film."

Marshall thinks a perfect example of that is another one of his guys that showed Tuesday. Ohio University safety Mike Mitchell, out of Fort Thomas, Ky., didn't get invited to the combine but he covered the six drills so well at his Pro Day that he's making a Keglar-like climb. Maybe he didn't get invited to Indianapolis in February, but the Colts brought him to Indy to check him out, as did the Bears, and the Raiders are next.

This is a guy Kiper rated as the 73rd safety. 

On the other hand, offensive linemen don't impress in shorts, only on film, but Wood backed up his strong Senior Bowl with 30 reps of 225.

And yet, after all these numbers, Wood knows there is only one that counts.

"You've got a one in 32 shot to be picked by a team," he said. "That's all I know."

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