Alex Mack is strong. And awesome. (Courtesy California Golden Blogs)
As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, the editorial staff at Buffalo Rumblings will begin profiling draft prospects that may end up being potential targets of the Bills. sireric switches from tight end prospect to the center position by profiling California's Alex Mack.
One of the popular names around these parts remains one Alex Mack. Many consider him to be not just the best center in the 2009 NFL Draft, but the best center to come into the pros in the last decade or two. Now that the Bills have signed Geoff Hangarter, if the Bills are looking at Mack it could be to play guard, which Mack has show the ability to do. Since he is one of the hot names, we thought we should take a closer look into the guy many of us here at Rumblings have tabbed the "must have" guy of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Alex Mack - Center, California
6'4", 316 lbs, Age: 23
Strengths: He's got ideal size for a center and has the smarts to go along with it, and is considered a great technician who understands leverage and angles. Has the aggressiveness and physicality to go along with a nasty killer instinct. Mack is a strong and powerful athlete who is known to be a "gym rat". Has lots of experience, since he was a four year starter at Cal after red-shirting his freshman year.
Weaknesses: Sometimes he can be too aggressive and get out of control; sometimes a little too fiery. Mack also has a tendency to get overwhelmed by much bigger defenders. He's not that light on his feet and doesn't move all that well in space.
- The Draddy Trophy, which is also known as the "Academic Heisman" which is given to the nation's top scholar athlete.
- The Morris Trophy which is given to the Pac-10's top offensive lineman as voted on by the defensive linemen two years in a row.
- Three time first team All-Pac 10.
- Four time academic All-Pac 10.
NFL comparison - Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens
- Birk is a Harvard grad and is considered one of the smartest NFL players today. Mack is a player along those same lines: smart, tough and mean.
A few questions with someone in the know:
For info on Mack I got in touch with BearsNecessity, a fellow Rumbler and a contributor over at California Golden Blogs. He had interesting answers to our questions:
1. Alex Mack is said to be the best center to come out of college in the last 15 years. How close is that to being true?
He is very, very good. Mack certainly has a physical presence that I usually don't see out of an offensive lineman, an explosive ability to open up holes, grapple the defender and keep him anchored to his body until the play ends.
CGB writer Hydrotech adds: He's better at run blocking than pass blocking but still very good at pass blocking. Excellent work ethic and leadership. Serious guy in practices. Smart guy too. Willing to learn. Great awareness. Mentally, I think he's all there and a perfect football player (smart, intelligent, mentally tough, disciplined). Physically he's a great player too.
2. How often has he faced a 3-4 defense, and how has he held up vs BIG DTs?
Outside of practice (when Cal was running 3-4), not much. The Pac-10 defenses generally run 4-3 sets, so Mack is usually facing down a defensive tackle. That being said, Mack anchored an offensive line that gave up the least number of sacks in college football in 2007, and he did a fairly good job on a 2008 team with a mediocre passing attack and with three starting offensive linemen who went down to injury through the season. We ran so many plays right up the gut this season that went for 10-30 yards mainly because Mack was our anchor on the O-Line and he could break out our running backs, Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, to daylight.
3. Is Mack a team leader or just "one of the guys", so to speak?
This year, definitely a leader. The Bears suffered from a lack of leadership in 2007, which contributed to a fairly epic collapse I'd rather not talk about. Mack stepped into that void and provided some senior guidance that kept the offense from getting into too much of a rut and pulling out games that we could've lost all season long.
You can find out more about his contributions here. I think he might be a nice guy.
4. How does the Cal O-Line run? Do they do any zone blocking? Does Mack pull often or is he a more stationary blocker?
If you would like a detailed description of Cal's power run game, you can click here for more info on what Jeff Tedford has run at Cal since his arrival in 2002. While it has definitely evolved since this article was written a few years ago, the basic schemes of what Tedford, Coach M and Ron Gould use to open up the running game are pretty simple. They generally use straight I formation sets where the right tackle and guard seal off against the inside lineman, and they bring a guard from the backside to lead for the tailback to bust through, with the fullback and tight end switching on their blocking responsibilities. It's very tailback heavy.
Regardless of our overall performance as a team, the Cal running game has finished in the top 15 the past 5 years according to yards per carry (5th in 2008, 14th in 2007, 13th in 2006, 3rd in 2005, 1st in 2004). So I'd say it's worked very well.
Collected Scouting Reports for further information:
Scott Wright: Top center
Mocking the draft: Top center
Mike Mayock: #3 center
California Golden Blogs: (With many thanks once again to BearsNecessity who provided us with lots of great info.)