This morning, Buffalo Rumblings presents you all with another interview in regards to a draft prospect. The newest interview is on rookie safety John Wendling, and we were fortunate enough to get some time from Scott Allen. Scott is the Wyoming football beat reporter for the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, and he was able to cover Wendling's progress his entire senior season. He bases the answers to these questions on observing Wendling at Wyoming's home football games and on conversations that he had with Wendling's agent, Kenny Zuckerman, prior to the draft. Here's the interview in its entirety:
Buffalo Rumblings: Wendling will likely be a big special teams contributor for the Bills right off the bat. How much special teams did Wendling play at Wyoming? Was he a special teams "playmaker" in his time at school?
Scott Allen: Buffalo Bills special teams coach Bobby April was an assistant at the University of Arizona when Wendling's agent, Kenny Zuckerman, was a wide receiver there. Zuckerman put Wendling in touch with April before the draft and made it sound as if the Bills were interested in making Wendling their special teams ace. While he didn't return many kicks at Wyoming -- he averaged 18.4 yard per return on 11 kickoff returns as a senior -- Wendling was a key contributor on special teams. As the Cowboys' punt protector, Wendling was given the authority by the coaching staff to call for a fake before the snap and totaled 119 yards on six rushes out of punt formation.
BR: The Bills love the fact that Wendling has the athletic ability to play either free or strong safety. Which safety position did he play at Wyoming, and which position do you think is a better fit for him?
Scott Allen: Wendling spent the majority of his career at Wyoming playing free safety. He made the switch to strong safety as a senior, while the entire Wyoming defense made the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4. He excelled at both positions, leading the team in tackles at free safety as a sophomore and at strong safety as a senior. I think he's capable of contributing right away in nickel and dime packages.
BR: Wendling slid down to the 6th round, a bit lower than many "experts" had predicted he'd go. What do you think contributed to this slide? Do you think Wendling has a long-term NFL future despite his low-round status?
Scott Allen: It's hard to say what contributed to Wendling's "slide." I think more surprising than how far Wendling fell were the number of safeties ranked below him by most of the experts before the draft that were then taken ahead of him. His agent was reluctant to project where Wendling would be taken given how much of an inexact science the draft is each year and didn't sound overly surprised that Wendling fell to the sixth round. I think the combination of Wendling's ability to play several positions, athleticism and football intelligence could make him a fixture with the Bills. He's someone who has succeeded and stood out at every level thus far, and his agent obviously saw enough potential in him to send him to Athlete's Performance before the draft to train with a slew of first round picks. Zuckerman is fond of saying it's not how you enter the league but where you end up that matters.
A big thank you goes out to Scott, who took time out of his very busy schedule to answer these questions about Wendling. Sounds like the Bills got themselves one heck of an athlete in the sixth round - other than the obvious choices of Lynch, Poslsuzny and Dwayne Wright, the Wendling pick was by far the most intriguing selection to me - I think he's definitely got a future with the Bills. Thanks again, Scott!