Experts Say ISU's Osemele Has NFL First-Round Future

Courtesy: Iowa State University Athletics Department

Iowa State University offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele poses during media day for the Cyclones football team at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008, in Ames. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

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By Aaron Hepker

AMES, Iowa - It seems that there hasn't been a knockout in the first round since Mike Tyson landed a right hook to the face of Clifford Etienne in 2003. Look past Paquiao and UFC fights, the next time football fans see a K.O. it will be in the 2012 NFL draft. In this case, K.O. is Iowa State all-conference offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele. Over the past four years at Iowa State, Osemele has evolved into one of the nation's best blockers.

Osemele came to the Iowa State program in 2007. Weighing in at an astonishing 340 pounds out of high school, he has been able to maintain that weight while improving his quickness and agility.

Scouts began to notice his progression during the 2009 season, after Rhoads and offensive line coach Bill Bleil made the decision to move Osemele from guard to tackle.

"As he matured, his athleticism improved," Bleil said. "We moved him. In the long process, making the transition helped him a bit."

"We needed a tackle so I switched," Osemele explained. "Now, I am probably a better tackle but I feel more comfortable with my hand on the ground (at guard). I can go either way."

Early NFL mock drafts by experts around the country have K.O. projected as a middle to late pick in the first round. Predictions stretch as high as 19th by SI.com's Andrew Perloff. Perloff, also known as "McLovin" on the Dan Patrick Show, called Osemele "a mauler that will start at guard but can play right tackle."

Peter Schrager of foxsports.com has Osemele going 26th. CBS Sports ranks him as the top guard in the 2012 draft class and ESPN's Todd McShay has Osemele going 30th to the Pittsburgh Steelers. If selected, Osemele would be the only other Iowa State player besides quarterback George Amundson (14th overall pick to the Houston Oilers in 1973) to be drafted in the first round.

"Every player has aspirations to play at the next level," Osemele said. "I've progressed a lot as far as improving my technique."

When it comes to offensive linemen, individual numbers are hard to measure. You can tally sacks allowed and pancakes, but besides those, there are few statistics to go by. Beyond the "eye test", a good offensive lineman is evaluated by those who teach these gridiron behemoths.

"Plays happen so fast," head coach Paul Rhoads said. "Physical contact on the offensive line can be two to three seconds. Kelechi has the ability to go for the full six seconds, the average duration of a play."

Linemen are essentially measured by their intangibles. Football IQ, aggressiveness, and physicality encompass the talents of a hogmalley (offensive lineman). Rhoads says, K.O. is a "'very physical player.' He has the ability to manhandle defensive lineman. Once he gets on you, he finishes you, often times into the ground."

For Osemele to be successful at the next level, Bleil says he's going to have to dominate in the college game. That means doing the little things right, every snap, every play.

"He's very intelligent and understands the total scheme by playing both positions," Bleil said.

Osemele plays with a personal motto. "I try to make every guy who lines up against me remember my name."

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