Quick Hits: Line Shuffles, 'Bama's Lewis Deployed

Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton was a last minute addition to the 2020 Senior Bowl, but came up big as the South had only five healthy offensive linemen at the end of the game.
Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton was a last minute addition to the 2020 Senior Bowl, but came up big as the South had only five healthy offensive linemen at the end of the game.

MOBILE, Ala. - It's not exactly the way Bengals offensive line coach Jim Turner and assistant Ben Martin drew it up in the week leading up to Saturday's Senior Bowl.

Sure, they wanted to get a good look at a bunch of guys at different spots. But this was ridiculous.

Their South team began the week with 11 offensive linemen. There were just five standing at the end of the game and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor getting tight ends ready just in case while Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton was getting pulled out of a sideline interview to finish the game.

If there was a big winner up front it was the 6-5, 320-pound Throckmorton and not just because he secured air time with Bengals.com's Dave Lapham, the most versatile offensive lineman in Bengals history.

And he wasn't even listed on the Senior Bowl depth chart. After playing in last week's East-West Shrine Game in Tampa, Fla., he had barely kicked back in Dallas when he got a call Tuesday afternoon to check on his availability for Mobile. Throckmorton was on a plane at 9 p.m., checked into headquarters after midnight and by Wednesday afternoon before practice Martin was talking about how well he had picked up the playbook.

"He's a genius," Martin said. "He knows it better than all of us."

When the Bengals staff showed up last Sunday, they found out they were down to nine O-linemen with tackles Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn and Tremayne Anchrum of Clemson not playing and during the week they lost guards John Simpson of Clemson (ankle) and Ben Bartch of St. John's (knee).

For a team that began its season losing starting left tackle Jonah Williams for the year (shoulder), what else was new?

"All-star games are hard," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "The pass rushers are good and the offensive linemen have only played together for a couple of days in and out at a bunch of positions. You usually see the impact of that."

The North took full advantage and had three players with at least 1.5 sacks. The South's playmaker, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, was sacked twice on his first series and threw an interception on his next when he got popped as he threw. The tackles who were struggling out there on the edge, South Carolina State's Alex Taylor and Texas Tech's Terence Steele, left injured during the game. At one point Turner turned wryly to Lapham and asked, "Any suggestions?"

Throckmorton turned out to be a solution. There was a chance when the game started that he could pull a "Lapham," and play all five positions in the game, which Lapham did twice during his ten Bengals seasons. With the problems on the edge, Throckmorton never got to play guard Saturday and ended up at both tackles as well as center and the irony is he may be best suited for guard.

This is why Throckmorton said, "Yes," to the Senior Bowl during a week other players who were already here were pulling out for a variety of reasons. More snaps at more spots.

"My agent and I talked about it and we thought it was a good opportunity," Throckmorton said in the South locker room while doing what he did all week and packed his bag. "It was good to be able to get that much on tape. I would have wanted to play a little better today, but I was real happy with the performance I put out on the practice field."

Throckmorton certainly isn't an afterthought on draft boards. When he was a junior he was the only FBS offensive lineman in 2018 to start at four different positions: right tackle, center, right guard, left tackle. Plus, profootballfocus.com had him as the top offensive lineman in the Pac-12 in 2018 and he didn't commit a penalty in his first 1,133 college snaps. Walter Football projected him as a third- to fourth-rounder

Maybe the most impressive thing he did came before he even got on the field and how quickly he picked up the scheme before his first practice.

"I looked at the playbook and tape of the (Tuesday) practice and tried to marry them up," Throckmorton said. "I felt like I had a pretty good handle on it. I think my legs were a little heavy from playing last week."

INSIDE MOVES: Kentucky guard Logan Stenberg came in with a sterling rep of toughness and power as a guy that could potentially go as high as the second round and he did nothing to diminish those credentials on Saturday playing both sides. The scouts have to decide if his pass-blocking is good enough to get into the second round and if Saturday was a fair enough test. But he put a good practice week on tape.

"We had five guys in the second half, so that was tough but I think I played well and proved I could learn an offense in less than a week and execute at a high level," Stenberg said.

It was a homecoming of sorts for a Wildcat who went north. Stenberg grew up about five hours away in Madison, Ala., ("I visited Kentucky and really liked the line coach") and he figures he had about 18 people in the stands.

There were a lot of contrasts during the week and one of them was how the small-school guys fight to get into this game and what it means to the schools. Bartch, the guard from Division III St. John's, was greeted by a contingent of about ten from the Minnesota college after practice Thursday.

"Buddies and teammates," Bartch said. "They got plane tickets early. When they found out I was playing."

The tough thing is they got down there just about the time Bartch's knee buckled in that practice. He's not sure what the diagnosis is and it's a blow, given that he was projected between rounds four and six by Walter. But it seems like he proved during his two practices that he belongs in the league, but now the debate is about where he goes in the draft.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: The South defensive line also took some shots during the week and lost several top players, including the best defensive player in the game in South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. The last man standing was Alabama rush end Terrell Lewis and he thought that was kind of funny.

"The guy that's not durable," said Lewis, who knows his knock after his career with the Crimson Tide had some injuries.

Lewis is a guy that can rush the passer in a 4-3 as well as drop at linebacker and he was doing all those things all week and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons got a lot of use out of him, too. At 6-5, 252 pounds, he can certainly move.

"I'm trying to show them I can bring versatility being able to play in space, knowing the game, knowing situational football, showing them I can learn the system," Lewis said.

He could be there at No. 33 for the Bengals and despite the durability stuff, they'd have to look at him.

Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor had some high marks coming in and at 5-11, 190 pounds, he probably went up some boards when he made a heck of an interception off a tipped ball.

You can see why Hurts walked into Oklahoma from Alabama and became a captain almost right away. The kid's got a terrific personality and loads of charisma. Everywhere he went Senior Bowl week he left cheers in his wake, a reminder how good he was before he transferred. When teammates would hear a burst of cheering somewhere they would say, "Jalen."

Hurts got a chance to show what he's got in the second half when he threw a touchdown pass, but the first half was rough as the line struggled. After he got sacked twice in that first series he went down to the end of the bench where the offensive line was sitting to see what was going on. You could tell if these were his guys he might not have been so gentle, but he gave out a wink and patted the left side on the legs and was off.

Since there were no head sets and every coach was on the sidelines, Turner and Martin were relying on the quarterbacks not playing to find out what play was being run. So either game MVP Justin Herbert or Colorado's Steven Montez got the play in their helmets and dutifully stood next to them and repeated it to them.

That led to some good give and take. Montez and Turner, a vet of Texas A&M, traded names of some coaches they knew in the conference wars. Knowing full well Herbert is a high pick and that it was probably the last few minutes of the last game Herbert would not be on the field in the fourth quarter, Turner joked with him, "Enjoy being a backup while you can. It's a pretty good gig."

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