When the Miami Dolphins drafted offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil with the 13th overall pick, they knew they were getting possibly the best prospect in the entire draft. However, with Branden Albert anchoring the left tackle spot and Ja'Wuan James handling the other end, it didn't exactly leave room for Tunsil to play his natural position.
This means that someone is going to have to move over to play guard, and right now the most likely candidate to do so is Tunsil himself. Considering he's never played anything other than tackle before, that means he'll have to learn a whole new position to start his NFL career.
"You have to be willing to make the move," said Dolphins offensive lineman Jacques McClendon, who has played both guard and center in his career. "You have to have an open mind, you have to be willing to take coaching because it is an absolute process for somebody to move from the outside to inside."
Tunsil, for his part, recently stated that he hasn't played anything other than tackle since the Sugar Bowl, when he played tight end and caught a touchdown pass. However, he seems open to playing wherever the coaching staff decides to put him.
“Wherever they put me, I’m going to give it my all." Tunsil said. "If they put me at quarterback, I’m going to do a seven-step drop back and throw the pass. If they put me at tight end, I’m going to catch the ball. Wherever they put me, I’m going to give it my all. I have never played guard. But hey, it’ll be a new experience. I’ll even play center. Wherever you want me to play, I’ll be fine.”
McClendon shared the confident rookie's sentiments, and expects the former Ole Miss standout to excel no matter what the coaches decide to do with him.
"When you talk about somebody like Laremy (Tunsil), he's obviously a special talent, you don't draft somebody that high and they don't have special skills." McClendon said. "He had an unbelievable college career ... he's already asking for help, reaching out, that's really the most important step is the willingness to change because it's obviously going to be a process. He'll be a player no matter where they put him."
Obviously there are significant differences between playing tackle and playing guard, and those are things that Tunsil will have to learn before he can be effective on the inside. McClendon provided insight on what the rookie will have to learn to do in order to succeed.
"Things happen a little faster." McClendon said. "I think from a power standpoint you're playing against bigger guys so things happen a little quicker, whereas when you're a more athletic tackle like himself, they play in space more. You gotta change your game to play in a phone booth and playing against power."
A common concern regarding Tunsil is that moving him inside would somehow stunt his growth when he inevitably moves back to tackle whenever the Dolphins move on from Branden Albert, who is coming off a down year and will turn 32 in November.
But there have been many cases where tackles have moved inside to guard and excelled, such as La'el Collins, who has experience playing guard in college, but his best years at LSU were when he played left tackle. Collins made a seamless transition and has become an excellent guard in the NFL.
Another example is retired offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden, who played his rookie season with the Ravens at left guard after spending his whole UCLA career at left tackle, and later on had a Hall of Fame career acting as the Ravens franchise left tackle for the next eleven years.
"I'll tell you one thing," McClendon said. "It's definitely easier for a tackle to slide into guard than it is for a guard to go out and play in space."
Whether or not Tunsil actually does get bumped inside has yet to be set in stone, training camp is still a couple of months away and there's time for a different decision to be made if necessary. However, Tunsil has made it clear that he will be glad to shift over if the coaches call for it, and McClendon has faith that the rookie would be more than up for the task.
"I got to meet him last week, he's an upstanding guy, he seems that wherever they put him at, I don't care if they put him at tight end, it sounds like he's willing to do whatever it takes, and that's what you wanna hear from a young guy. He's very willing to help this team out."
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