April 21, 2012 in Sports

Division II lineman Silatolu intrigues NFL teams

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 

Silatolu
(Full-size photo)

GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s winding down now. The general manager, the head coach and a few trusted lieutenants are spending the final days before the National Football League draft taking that last look at highlight tapes of debatable players and tweaking their ratings accordingly.

In many draft rooms, one of the most talked about players for months has been Aminiasi “Amini” Silatolu, a left tackle from Midwestern State University who will play guard in the NFL.

Silatolu played two seasons at left tackle for an NCAA Division II institution just as Larry Allen played right tackle in 1992-93 for Division II Sonoma (Calif.) State and Jahri Evans started at right tackle from 2003-05 for Division II Bloomsburg (Pa.) University.

Allen, a second-round draft choice (No. 46) by the Dallas Cowboys, might be the greatest guard of his generation.

Evans, selected in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints, has started every game at right guard for six seasons and has been a Pro Bowl starter each of the last three years.

“When I saw Silatolu, first thing I thought of was Jahri Evans,” said Mark Dominik, general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I’ve watched Larry Allen’s highlight tape from Sonoma. At Midwestern State, he dominated the way Larry Allen did and the way Jahri Evans did.”

Located in Wichita Falls, Texas, Midwestern State has sent a handful of players to the NFL, most notably running back Dominic Rhodes.

As good as Evans has been, Allen is the gold standard when it comes to franchise guards.

When the raw numbers for Allen and Evans are compared to Silatolu, it makes personnel people even more curious. It’s part of the reason why 20 teams either have had Silatolu in for a visit or worked him out in California since his pro day March 15.

Eighteen years ago at the combine, Allen (6-2 1/2, 325) ran 40 yards in 5.21, went 25 1/2 inches in the vertical jump and 8-7 in the broad jump, didn’t bench press and scored 16 on the 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test.

Evans (6-4 1/2, 316) ran 5.25, jumped 27 and 7-11, bench- pressed 20 times and had Wonderlic scores of 27 and 17.

Now look at Silatolu (6-3 1/2, 313), who ran 5.33, jumped 32 and 9-2, benched 28 and improved from 12 to 20 on the Wonderlic.

“Very, very good athlete,” Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff said, referring to Silatolu. “Very powerful. He is obviously a very intriguing player.”

C.O. Brocato, who has been coaching and scouting in Texas for most of his 82 years, left Wichita Falls this fall with one overriding thought.

“I said he could come in and start for us right now,” said Brocato, the Titans’ supervisor of national scouting. “Everybody puts that ol’ small-school crap on these guys. Hey, if a guy can play, he can play. Everybody says second round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went in the first.”

Scouts also make a more recent comparison to Idaho’s Mike Iupati (6-5, 325, 5.27), the 17th pick by San Francisco in 2010 who has started every game for two years at left guard.

Two scouts said Silatolu was better than Iupati, and a third said he was as good.

Unlike Iupati, who undoubtedly moved up in the draft by playing in the Senior Bowl, Silatolu wasn’t able to accept an invitation to Mobile because of a pulled hamstring.


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