For many years when football fans heard Chadron State mentioned they immediately thought of former NFL receiver Don Beebe, but in recent years Danny Woodhead has established himself in the NFL and this year offensive linemen Garrett Gilkey is trying to prove he belongs. A three year starter at left tackle at Chadron State, Gilkey has been on the NFL’s radar all through the 2012 season with many scouts making their way to this small school in the middle of Nebraska. Having been to Chadron State to work out and time cornerback Marvin Jackson in the spring of 2003 and 2004 I understand the process of identifying and evaluating small school talent.

GARRETT GILKEYUS PRESSWIREChadron State OT Garrett Gilkey lines up at right tackle (73 on helmet) during practice at Senior Bowl.

At Chadron Gilkey displayed the athleticism, playing strength and competitiveness to not just be a good small school player, but rather a dominant one. While his ideal size at 6057 and 314 would work at offensive tackle in the NFL, his shorter arms, 31 ¾, will likely lead to him be tried at guard first in the NFL. His dominating play at Chadron earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl where he immediately showed that he belongs.

Lining up at guard in Mobile, Gilkey displayed the quick feet, body control and flexibility to get out of stance and set to block quickly. For a small school player it was impressive to see him pass block with good base/leverage consistently. He clearly was not out of his place physically and not intimidated playing against a much higher level of competition. He still blocked with an aggressive attitude, stayed after his blocks and did not hesitate to finish his man hard. Unlike many very athletic small school linemen, Gilkey did not have any issues dealing with the dramatic increase in strength/power of the defensive linemen in Mobile. He got his hands on man quickly and was able to anchor versus pass rushers consistently and improved each day which is a great sign that points to his being able to make the jump up to the NFL. Showing off his quick feet and athleticism, Gilkey was able to get through the line to seal block effectively much of the week in Mobile. He improved doing this each day as he became more comfortable with the increased speed of the defenders with each day.

From what I saw at the Senior Bowl, as opposed to his play at Chadron, it is clear that he has the physical ability to play at the NFL level. But it is also clear that he is going to have to adjust to playing inside at guard where the footwork is different and the assignments to handle defensive line stunts/loops and blitzes are new to him. Additionally, his tendency to get a little overly aggressive at times led to him leaning and reaching to maintain contact at the Senior Bowl and he will need to rein that in to avoid NFL defensive linemen defeating his blocks because of this.

Overall, Gilkey is not a player that is likely to be drafted in the first three rounds, but in the fourth or fifth round he has good value. I am confident that he has what it takes to develop into a solid, workmanlike starting guard after a season or two to adjust to the NFL.

Email Russ at Russelllande@yahoo.com or Follow Russ on Twitter @RUSSLANDE