Aggies' Ogbuehi could be NFL's next big prospect from 'O-Line U'
JUL 16, 2014 10:46a ET
HOOVER, Ala. -- Score one for the continually evolving realm of nutrition.
And when viewing the senior lineman sitting in a chair -- while propped up on a makeshift stage -- it's still hard to imagine him stifling the progress of a mammoth SEC defender ... or hell-raising, quarterback-terrorizing rush end at the NFL level.
But size isn't everything -- even when you have plenty of it.
Which brings us to this: Ogbuehi, who isn't a househould name in SEC circles -- yet -- could be the next Texas A&M O-lineman to become a top-10 NFL draft pick. That line of succession includes high-end talents like Luke Joeckel (No. 2 overall pick in 2013 -- Jacksonville Jaguars) and Jake Matthews (No. 6 overall pick in 2014 -- Atlanta Falcons).
(Lindy's magazine cites Ogbuehi as the SEC's highest-rated, draft-eligible talent for this season.)
It also involves a position switch for Ogbuehi -- moving from right to left tackle -- and a possible change in blocking philosophy, since the Aggies no longer have former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel vacating the passing pocket on a regular basis.
On the flip side, A&M will no longer have the luxury of watching the mercurial Manziel (7,820 yards passing, 93 total TDs from 2012-13) carry the program to unprecedented heights over two seasons -- generating fan interest across the country and spurring the development of the Aggies' absurd stadium expansion (eventually swelling the Kyle Field capacity to something like 109,000).
"It's a little more quiet this season," says Ogbuehi, alluding to Manziel, Matthews and receiver Mike Evans (a Round 1 pick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) leaving College Station for the pros, before steering the discussion back to this season's squad. "Same offense, same plays, pass the ball, run the ball -- it's all the same."
Manziel's successor at quarterback has not been named. In fact, Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin wouldn't even hazard a public guess on Tuesday, simply saying that process would play out over the summer and during A&M's training camp.
That aside, there are preliminary indications true freshman Kyle Allen might draw the opening-game start -- on the road against South Carolina on Aug. 28.
If Allen gets the nod, he would be accompanied by a wealth of relatively green playmakers at running back, receiver and tight end -- with the notable exception of wideout Malcome Kennedy (60 catches, 658 yards, seven TDs last year).
But don't confuse "young" and "inexperienced" with lack of talent. Ogbuehi notes the Aggies' backfield has "special" assets, starting with tailback Tra Carson, who packed his seven total TDs from last year into the first two games (four total) ... and final three outings.
The offensive line, in turn, returns four starters (Ogbuehi, Jarvis Harrison, Mike Matthews, Germain Infedi) and will likely bring junior Joseph Cheek into the mix at right guard -- the biggest O-lineman of the A&M bunch (6-7, 304).
"The buy-in factor that first year (running the program) was, 'Listen, we've got enough talent. If we're playing the best we can play, we're going to be good enough to play with anybody, and we'll see what happens at the end,'" says Sumlin, comparing the differences from 2014 to 2012, when the Aggies first joined the SEC.
"Even though these guys are young, on some parts of the team, some parts we're not, but in some phases we're young, they're talented players. It's our job to get them in the right place, to have them playing at a high level. Our expectations are not going to change.
"We don't have in this business, and you know this, we don't have time for a bunch of rebuilding years," reasoned Sumlin. "There would be another (coach) standing up here real quick."
Within that message, Sumlin has substantially upgraded the overall talent of the Aggies' roster, so much that Ogbuehi says, "It's great having a three-deep. Two years ago, it was barely a two-deep."
Depth usually leads to good versatility throughout a roster; and on Tuesday, Ogbuehi seemed almost dismissive about the substantial differences between playing right and left tackle.
"The biggest challenge is going from a right-foot stagger to a left-foot stagger," said Ogbuehi, who originally entered the Aggies program at 275 pounds. "Jake (Matthews) helped me with the reps (last season)."
Ogbuehi humbly fancies himself in the mold of Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, who in 2011 became the first Round 1 offensive lineman in the Jerry Jones era with Dallas -- spanning 22 years at the time. (The Cowboys subsequently invested first-round picks on O-linemen for 2013 and '14 -- grabbing guard Travis Frederick and tackle Zack Martin, respectively).
At age 23, Smith has already developed into one of the NFL's most versatile left tackles, a distinction that carries greater weight this season, in the wake of Tony Romo's offseason back surgery. Smith and Ogbuehi are virtually the same size and are separated by only 28 months, calendar-wise.
They might also be top-10 draft picks. But first, Ogbuehi has to wade through the hype of his potential and dominate the college game for the Aggies.
"I don't really know about (the NFL projections), since I haven't proven myself yet (at left tackle). But hopefully next year, (Texas A&M) will be known as 'O-Line U.'"