NFL DRAFT 2010: OFFENSIVE GUARDS

Versatile Mike Iupati of the University of Idaho likely will be the first offensive guard selected in 2010 NFL Draft.

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Iupati Consensus Selection Among Analysts to be First Guard Selected in 2010 NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS – As Mike Iupati sees it, there's value in versatility.

Still, the senior from the University of Idaho also knows that while he has played both offensive tackle and offensive guard at times in recent months, he is primarily seen by NFL scouts and personnel officials as a guard.

More specifically, he is seen by many as the best offensive guard in the draft class.

Even more specifically, he's widely considered a first-round selection.

So to Iupati, while versatility is nice, there's more than a little value to being very, very good at one position, too. Quite a bit of value, actually.

"I think it's pretty good to be the best offensive guard, but being versatile will be a great deal and hopefully put me up in the draft, Iupati said at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis in late February.

"But I think I will do a great job as an offensive guard."

Many observers and analysts believe so, too.

Iupati (6-feet-5, 331 pounds), whose family moved to the United States from Samoa when he was 14, is a relatively rarity in this year's NFL Draft – a first-round-rated offensive lineman who doesn't play tackle. While this is considered by some analysts to be one of the deepest offensive line drafts in recent memory, most of the highest-rated linemen play the coveted left tackle position.

Iupati has played that position, too, doing so during practice for the Senior Bowl this past January.

But mostly, he has played guard, where his strength and athleticism at the position has many observers believing he could be selected some time in the Top 20.

"I was quick and I like to pull and kick out those linebackers and defensive ends," Iupati said at the combine when asked why he settled on the left guard position. "That's pretty much the main reason why. I like to be engaged to a person real quick and I like to pull."

Because of his size and athleticism, and because left tackles often command bigger contracts in the NFL, Iupati has worked at times to develop the skills to play on the end of the line. He not only played that spot during the week leading to the Senior Bowl, he also worked at times at right guard.

"That was my first set at tackle or right guard," he said. "I've just got to get it down. I'll be fine. A lot of people told me that I have to be versatile. They know that I am a pretty good athlete. It'll come natural to me. I just have to learn it. I'm very quick setting up my left side. But I need a little time with it, and I know I'll be fine. You've got to give me time.

"I know most of them really like me as a guard. It just depends on what team picks me. If they

want me to play tackle then I will definitely work on it more."

Iupati said his road to the NFL, while close to complete, hardly was an easy one.

He said his family was well off in Samoa. They owned land, with his father working as a highly-paid mechanic and his mother also working. But he said his parents also knew in Samoa "the opunities were limited."

"They wanted us to excel in the U.S., so they just dropped everything and moved here," he said. "My family decided they wanted us to have a good education. They sacrificed a lot of stuff to move from Samoa because we were very well off."

Upon moving to the United States, he said the five-person family stayed at first in his aunt's garage, later moving to a small apartment in Anaheim and living "paycheck to paycheck."

"It's been hard," he said. "That's why I always take advantage of every little opportunity I get, just try to seize the moment so I can have a better future for myself and my family."

Iupati said he originally planned to attend Cerritos (Calif.) Junior College, but while attending a barbecue function at a junior college while in high school, he met officials from Idaho.

"They saw me there and they recruited me and went to my high school the next day and offered me a Prop 48 deal," he said. "I refused it, but my parents were the reason I took the offer because they took out a loan and paid for my first year (at Idaho)."

Iupati, who sat out his first season to focus on academics, entered his senior season with 20 career starts, then started 13 games last fall to earn consensus All-American honors. He attended the Senior Bowl, and while he said some scouts and coaches expressed concern over his pass-blocking techniques, he said it's an area he's addressing.

"I have a short punch and I come off the ball very physical, sometimes too aggressive," he said. "I guess that the pass blocking kind of changed of my game. I didn't want to get beat so I didn't want to just try to tackle them. Them using my body with me sort of made me look real bad.

"Pass blocking you have to be patient. I tend to be very aggressive. They like to teach kids to be patient and very aggressive."

Iupati, who is working with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater leading to the draft, said wherever he plays, he's confident that his approach will make the selection a successful one.

"Whatever a team wants me to play, I will definitely give them 110 percent and definitely know I will be the best at that position," he said. "They're getting the whole package, I think, character-wise and the physicalness. I have a lot of goals entering the league, and I know I will (reach) most of them."

BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 NFL DRAFT'S TOP OFFENSIVE GUARDS
The guard class in the 2010 NFL Draft class is fairly typical for the position, with a player or two expected to be selected early and solid depth through the rest of the draft. The clear selection by many as the top guard available is Mike Iupati from Idaho, who is projected to be selected anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second round. He is athletic and big enough that he worked at left tackle at the Senior Bowl, and that versatility could make him more attractive in the draft. Jon Asamoah of Illinois is projected as a second-round selection, with about 10 guards projected to be selected by about the fifth round.

OGs ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Kyle DeVan, second season, Oregon State; Mike Pollak, third season, Arizona State; Jamey Richard, third season, Buffalo; Andy Alleman, fourth season, Akron; Jaimie Thomas, first season, Maryland.

THE LAST FIVE OFFENSIVE GUARDS
The last five offensive guards drafted by the Colts . . .

2009: Jaimie Thomas, seventh round, Maryland.

2008: Jamey Richard, seventh round, Buffalo.

2008: Mike Pollak, second round, Arizona State.

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

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

THIS YEAR'S OG DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 15 offensive guards expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .

Jon Asamoah, Illinois, 6-4, 305

Zach Beadles, Utah, 6-5, 310

Ciron Black, LSU, 6-5, 327

Brandon Carter, Texas Tech, 6-6, 329

Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest, 6-4, 325

Mike Iupati, Idaho, 6-5, 331

Mike Johnson, Alabama, 6-5, 312

Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, 6-3, 315

Marshall Newhouse, TCU, 6-4, 319

Mitch Petrus, Arkansas, 6-3, 310

Chris Scott, Tennessee, 6-5, 319

Brian Simmons, Oklahoma, 6-4, 315

Shelley Smith, Colorado State, 6-3, 300

Mike Tepper, California, 6-6, 324

Adam Ulatoski, Texas, 6-6, 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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