Wednesday, April 22, 2009

University of Albany FCS Football's Nguti Eyes 2009 NFL Draft - UAlbany Sports 2009

There's no doubt University of Albany offensive tackle Raphael Nguti has the size to play in the NFL. He's 6-foot-6 and weighs 330 pounds. His arms are 341/8 inches long, which ranks among the top 10 prospects at his position entering the NFL Draft April 25-26.

And yet his agent, J.R. Rickert, said opinions are all over the map on whether Nguti is good enough to play at the next level and whether he might be selected in the seven-round draft.

"It's interesting," Rickert said. "There are a wide range of ratings from different scouts. Some people think he's good enough to be (picked) in the fifth round. ... "

There are concerns about whether a player from UAlbany, which belongs to the Football Championship Subdivision, can play against higher-level competition from the Football Bowl Subdivision. In addition, NFL teams wonder whether Nguti has the athletic ability and the quick feet needed to block pass-rushing defensive ends at the highest level.

"I definitely think there are going to be questions just because I didn't get a chance to play week in and week out against guys who are playing in the SEC and Big Ten," Nguti said. "It's up to me to show everyone I can play and excel against that caliber of talent. I take that challenge."

Rickert said it's likely that Nguti will go undrafted and then sign immediately with a team as a priority free agent. And that's fine with Nguti, who didn't even think he'd play college football as an overweight high school prospect out of Rochester.

"I'd rather be drafted but what it comes down to is an opportunity to show a team I can play football," he said.

UAlbany has had two players drafted, linebacker Kurt Campbell by Green Bay in 2005 (seventh round) and cornerback Rashad Barksdale by Philadelphia in 2007 (sixth round).

Rickert said the Eagles are showing interest in Nguti, who along with punter Chris Lynch worked out for them at UAlbany's pro day last month. A left tackle last season, Nguti projects as a right tackle or guard in the NFL.

Former UAlbany lineman Jacob Hobbs was cut by the Eagles in training camp two years ago. "(Nguti) has got the measurables," Hobbs said. "It basically comes down to how bad he wants it."

Nguti, an FCS All-American, wasn't even voted UAlbany's best offensive lineman last season as the players instead chose Jon Leible, who's now playing for the Albany Firebirds of arenafootball2.

But Nguti drew scouts from almost every NFL team last season because of his size and reach that neutralize quicker opponents. He held his own in 2007 against Montana defensive end Kroy Biermann, who plays for the Atlanta Falcons. "I call him 'The Tsunami,'" UAlbany coach Bob Ford said. "He just rolls off the ball, baby, and look out."

Nguti, who will follow the draft from his parents' house in Rochester, feels he'll be in a training camp this summer. "It's been a long, long journey," Nguti said. "There's not any place I'd rather be."


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