Notebook: Former Big 12 wideouts speak highly of Johnson

Dan Tracy

INDIANAPOLIS — Physical. Solid. Trash-talker. Competitor.

Just a few of the kind words from former Big 12 wide receivers on Friday talking about facing former ISU defensive back Leonard Johnson last season.

Six Big 12 wideouts in all are attending this year’s NFL scouting combine, but none has been more highly-touted than former Oklahoma State Cowboy Justin Blackmon. The two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the best college wide receiver in the country and a likely top-five selection in the NFL Draft identified former Nebraska defensive back Prince Amukamara and Johnson as the two toughest Big 12 cornerbacks he faced in his college career.

“He’s just one of the more physical guys that I’ve faced,” Blackmon said of Johnson. “I just think he’s better than the rest of the corners I’ve faced. He’s one of the best in the Big 12.”

Blackmon caught 10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in Oklahoma State’s 37-31 double-overtime loss at Iowa State on Nov. 18.

Another top wide receiver prospect in Indianapolis this week is former Baylor standout Kendall Wright. Wright, who is widely believed to be a top-20 pick in April’s draft, hauled in eight catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in Baylor’s 49-26 win against the Cyclones on Oct. 8.

“He’s a great cornerback, I like his game a lot,” Wright said of Johnson. “He’s physical, he’ll get into you and talk a little trash.”

Although Johnson was primarily singled up on his teammate T.J. Moe, former Missouri wide receiver Jerrell Jackson prepared for Johnson’s physical play at the line in the week leading up to Missouri’s 52-17 home win against Iowa State on Oct. 15.

“He’s one of the most solid cornerbacks I played against this year,” Jackson said. “A real physical guy that tries to jam a lot so working release moves was something big that I was working on that week. Overall he’s a heck of a competitor.”

North squad teammates fond of Osemele

Whether he was asking questions about the playbook or playing pool in the team’s free time, Kelechi Osemele’s teammates at the Senior Bowl in late January in Mobile, Ala., built some friendships and had some fun with the former ISU offensive tackle.

On the field, Osemele helped open holes for former Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead, who earned MVP honors in the game with 129 all-purpose yards. Off the field, Pead and Osemele squared off in billiards before and after practices during the week leading up to the game.

“He was working,” Pead said of Osemele. “A big guy, you couldn’t miss him. A fun guy, a goofy guy, my type of guy.”

Former Ohio State center Mike Brewster became friends with Osemele down in Mobile as the two went through offensive line drills all week in front of NFL personnel.

“He’s awesome, he’s one of my buddies now,” Brewster said.

The former ISU tackle leaned on the former Ohio State center in practices in Mobile as Osemele shuffled around on the offensive line playing both guard and tackle for the North squad.

“It’s hard to play two positions and learn some new plays in the same week but he did a great job, he was a great guy to play next to,” Brewster said.

Pioli, McCarthy talk offensive line versatility

Due to their versatility and experience playing different positions on the offensive line, both Brewster and Osemele may be asked to leave their previous positions of center and offensive tackle to move to offensive guard at the next level.

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli knows how important versatility can be for an offensive lineman’s draft stock. Pioli was an offensive line coach in 1990 at Murray State before he began working in various NFL personnel positions that required scouting and analysis in order to make decisions on which players to select in the draft.

“The game is different inside than it is on the outside,” Pioli said of the different spots on the offensive line. “There’s a different type of athleticism that’s needed to play tackle. The other thing that happens on the inside is the game is a little closer and quicker. The game is a little bit quicker because it’s closer to the ball, it’s faster on the outside so there’s different skill sets needed for both guys.”

Coming off his sixth season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy also has experience in evaluating linemen as the Packers have selected 12 in the past six seasons including 2010 All-Rookie team offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, a former Hawkeye.

“We’ve put a lot of premium on guys that play tackle, I think that’s obvious just the way we’ve drafted offensive lineman,” McCarthy said. “If you’ve got a good offensive lineman that does the things that you want him to do within your system then we’ve got a place for him.”

Osemele completes bench press test

With his primary day of testing ahead of him on Saturday morning, the 6-foot-6, 333-pound Osemele went through the first of many strength and speed tests on Friday, bench pressing 225 pounds for 32 reps on Friday afternoon.

That number of repetitions tied him for third-most along with Utah’s Tony Bergstrom, Colorado’s Ryan Miller and Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler among the 48 offensive lineman that participated in the bench press test on Friday.

Osemele will begin testing on Saturday with the 40-yard dash at 11 a.m. ET.