Georgia Tech guard Shaquille Mason, who has never played center before, hunched over ball at the school’s pro day last month.
He looked comfortable while pumping direct and shotgun snaps to former New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
So goes an interesting spring for Mason. After serving as a key cog at guard on an offensive line that powered the Yellow Jackets’ vaunted option attack, he is being scouted as a center for the NFL Draft, which is set for April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
Scarnecchia, who’s retired but lends a hand with draft evaluations, thought Mason handled the transition well.
“If they want to move me to center, I have no problem with it,” Mason said. “I feel comfortable at both positions.”
Pro day was important for Mason, who despite being voted to the All-ACC first team last fall, was not invited to the NFL scouting combine.
He put up some impressive numbers:
- 40-yard dash: 4.98 seconds. At the combine, only one lineman ran under 5.0.
- Vertical jump: 32 inches. He would have tied for fifth at the combine among linemen.
- Broad jump: 110 inches. He would have been seventh at the combine.
- 3-cone drill: 7.53 seconds. Would have been fifth.
- Short shuttle: 4.57 seconds. Would have been sixth.
- 225-pound bench press: 25 reps. Would have tied for 20th.
“I’m OK with it,” Mason said of the 40-yard time. “I wanted to run faster obviously, but I’m perfectly fine with it. I was happy with most of my numbers. On the bench, I could have did more.
“In training, I was doing like 28 and 29. But I think fatigue came in and was a factor. But overall, I feel like I had a pretty good day.”
Several teams have invited Mason to their headquarters for interviews with coaches and executives and to also take physical exams.
“I’m enjoying the process,” Mason said. “Obviously, I would have liked to have been at the combine. I just control the things I can control.”
Mason, a three-year starter at Tech, did have a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
“As far as the transition from the Senior Bowl to now, I’m getting better every day working on all aspects of my game,” Mason said. “I think it’s all coming into play.”
If Mason can make the transition to center, he could hear his named called during draft’s the middle rounds.
“They like me a lot at center,” Mason said. “Some at guard still, but I definitely think my position will be center.”
Mason is projected to be selected in the fifth round by nfldraftscout.com, where he’s the sixth-rated center prospect.
While Mason will have to find the right team to fit in, Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, at 6 foot 5, 320 pounds, is considered the top offensive lineman in the draft.
He played tackle for the Hawkeyes, but some believe he can play guard immediately as Notre Dame’s Zach Martin did last season for the Cowboys.
“I’m pretty versatile, I feel like I can play guard and tackle — whatever they need,” Scherff said. “I’ll play wherever, absolutely. If I get a chance, I’ll just do my best and play wherever.”
Scherff played quarterback in high school.
“It was different,” Scherff said. “I was 290 pounds and my center was like 190 pounds. So it should be flip-flopped probably from that. It was a good experience for me. I learned a lot and I’m thankful for that.”
He was the rare five-sport athlete who also played basketball, baseball, track and tennis in high school.
“I would consider myself a pretty good athlete,” Scherff said. “Gave tennis up sophomore year. I did three sports in the spring so I missed quite a few track events or tennis events. So I gave that up and just played four sports.”
LSU La’el Collins could also make an instant impact in the NFL.
“For me, I think I’ll be able to bring just a guy that other guys would love to be around,” Collins said. “Just a guy that’s going to contribute to a team’s success in any way possible. Wherever you need me, I’m willing to play.”
He played left tackle at LSU, but could shift to right tackle or could even be kicked down to guard.
“I definitely feel like I’m a left tackle,” Collins said. “I know I can play left tackle on the next level, but I’m willing to play anywhere. Where anybody wants to put me. If you like me as an offensive lineman, I can play wherever, from center to guard to tackle.”
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Staff writer Ken Sugiura contributed to this story.