NFL DRAFT 2010: CENTERS

Boston College center Matt Tennant, a finalist for the 2009 Rimington Award, said versatility - and maybe even a bit of weight gain - could help him come time for the 2010 NFL Draft.

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Matt Tennant of Boston College Expected to be Among Top Centers in 2010 NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS – The way Matt Tennant figured it, the number mattered.

Maybe it didn't matter a lot, and maybe it wouldn't matter to every team in the NFL Draft. Maybe, he said, it wouldn't even have mattered to any.

Still, after playing center for Boston College last season around 295 pounds, Tennant said he was fairly highly motivated to at least push to the 300-pound mark. With most NFL linemen weighing at least that, Tennant figured not being in that crowd could only do more harm than good.

"Didn't want to be that guy," Tennant said during the NFL Scouting Combine, which was held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis in late February.

Whatever the weight, this much is clear:

As far as many draft analysts are concerned, he is very much an NFL prospect – good enough to likely be among the first few centers selected.

Tennant, a finalist last season for the Rimington Award – given annually to the best center in Division I-A college football – generally is projected as a second- or third-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, being rated behind only Maurkice Pouncey of the University of Florida.

Just where Tennant will be selected is uncertain.

While he is part of what is generally considered one of the deepest offensive line draft classes in recent memory, only one or two interior offensive linemen – Pouncey and guard Mike Iupati – are generally projected to be first-round selections.

Centers historically are selected lower than tackles, and Tennant said it's hard to project where he will be selected.

"I've heard second round, I've heard third round, I've heard fourth round, I've heard fifth round," he said. "So I have no idea."

And while Tennant (6-feet-5, 300 pounds) played center in college, he said he believes he is a versatile player capable of playing multiple positions.

That was something he said he worked toward during the pre-draft process.

"I took some reps at the Senior Bowl at guard," Tennant said. "You just try to show some flexibility. It's imant if you can play center, guard, maybe even some tackle. I think I can play in space like that. I just need the reps. I've been playing center for three years – that's where BC wanted me and that's where they kept me. But I think I can play anywhere. . . .

"You know, some guys talk about strictly center, other guys talk about trying all three. It depends on the team and their needs."

Tennant said being a different build than many centers – slightly taller at 6-5 and leaner at 300 pounds – made versatility not only ideal, but attainable.

"It's extremely important," he said. "I'm a bigger center, a taller guy, so I don't necessarily have to be confined to center. I played tackle in high school, a little bit of guard at BC before I started playing center, so I have that experience. It's just getting accustomed to those reps."

Tennant, who started every game over his last three seasons, said he remained relatively injury-free in college. He underwent "Tommy John" elbow surgery after his junior year of college after falling awkwardly during the final game of the season, and underwent the same surgery in high school, but said the injuries did not limit his ability to snap.

"I can pitch," he said, laughing. "I have a great fastball . . . No problems whatsoever. They both feel great, and I have full strength."

While unconcerned about his elbows, Tennant said what did concern him through much of the last four years was an opportunity to play in the NFL. He said Boston College's reputation for and tradition of sending offensive linemen to the NFL influenced his decision, and helped him prepare to play professionally.

"I just think it starts in recruiting," he said. "When I was first thinking of going to BC, I looked, and it was like, `Wow, there's a history of sending great linemen to the league.' That was something I envisioned. You get to BC, you see what the older guys are doing, what they learned from the older guys before them. It's just a big circle.

"You continue to develop and learn those techniques that the older guys taught you, and then I in turn teach the younger guys; now I'm done, and those guys take over, and the high schoolers coming in see the same things I did."

And the way he saw it, while there was no way to know for certain if reaching 300 pounds would contribute significantly to that process, there was little chance it would hurt. He said it became something of a goal before the combine, but that whatever he weighs, he can play effectively.

"I didn't want to be the lone offensive lineman to weigh in at sub-300," he said. "Some teams say it's important for you to be 300, other teams don't. But I'd rather be 300 and have to lose weight, because I think it's a little bit easier for me. It's not really that big a deal.

"I've played at 280 before and been successful, and I can play at 300."

BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 NFL DRAFT'S TOP CENTERS
Like the rest of the offensive line in the 2010 NFL Draft class, center is considered a deep position, with Maurkice Pouncey a relative rarity as a center projected as a possible first-round selection. He is an early-entry junior who may have the ability to play either guard or center. Boston College center Matt Tennant is projected as a second- or third-round selection by many analysts, with as many as 14 of 15 players at the position considered likely draft selections.

Cs ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Jeff Saturday, 12th season, North Carolina; Jamey Richard, third season, Buffalo.

THE LAST FIVE CENTERS
The last five centers drafted by the Colts . . .

2008: Steve Justice, sixth round, Wake Forest.

2005: Rob Hunt (G/C), fifth round, North Dakota State.

2005: Dylan Gandy (G/C), fourth round, Texas Tech.

1991: Rob Luedeke, 12th round, Penn State.

1986: Pete Anderson, 10th round, Georgia.

THIS YEAR'S C DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 10 centers expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .

Kenny Alfred, Washington State, 6-2, 290

Jeff Byers, Southern Cal, 6-4, 301

John Estes, Hawaii, 6-2, 295

Joe Hawley, UNLV, 6-3, 297

Ted Larsen, North Carolina State, 6-3, 304

Kevin Matthews, Texas A&M, 6-3, 298

Eric Olsen, Notre Dame, 6-4, 306

Maurkice Pouncey*, Florida, 6-5, 304

Matt Tennant, Boston College, 6-5, 300

J.D. Walton, Baylor, 6-3, 300

Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.

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