2003 Center Prospects
OC-Al Johnson<br>Photo:Getty Images
OC-Al Johnson
Photo:Getty Images

Posted Jan 28, 2003


2003 Center Prospects

The Steelers are in good shape when it comes to center. Jeff Hartings returns as the starter next year, after battling through some injuries this past season. His backup, Chukky Okobi, proved to be a capable replacement this year and could challenge Hartings for the starting position in the near future. There is no need for Pittsburgh to draft a center.

At the long-snapper position, Mike Schneck has held down the position for three years now. There have been several questions raised as to the sensibility in having a player that cannot play another position on the roster. Many of those questions were answered when Schneck went down during the season, which impacted the kicking game. It is unlikely the Steelers will look for a long-snapper in this draft.


#1
Al Johnson
6’ 4”
298 lbs
Wisconsin – Senior

A good technical blocker who possesses good speed, Johnson has cemented himself as the top center in the country. Johnson is good at pulling, finding blocks in open space, and using his hands and arms to keep opponents away from him. He does struggle against the bull rush and doesn’t have elite power for a lineman.

Likely to be drafted: Late First, early Second Round



#2
Jeff Faine
6’ 3”
298 lbs
Notre Dame - Junior

A strong, intelligent pivot man, Faine has anchored the Irish line the last three years. A team leader, Faine has been an Irish captain and was instrumental in Notre Dame's resurgence. Was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award. Strong at the point of attack with a good base, Faine is a mauler type of lineman, and could stay inside or move out to guard.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round


#3
Wayne Lucier
6’ 4”
288 lbs
Colorado - Senior

Lucier is a strong lineman who moves well in space. Lacks size and lower body strength, which shows when defending against a bull rush, and has had some injury problems to deal with. Manned both guard and center for the Buffaloes and that versatility should only help him come draft day.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round


#4
Bruce Nelson
6’ 3”
290 lbs
Iowa – Senior

A productive player throughout his career, Nelson has played tight end, left tackle, left guard, and center for Iowa. Nelson appears a bit thin for the position and can be overpowered at times, but is a good technician who takes good angles.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round


#5
Brett Romberg
6’ 2”
290 lbs
Miami – Senior

Romberg has anchored the Miami line for two years now. Possessing good speed and intelligence, Romberg has a firm understanding of the position. A bit undersized, he can be beaten on the bull rush and must take better angles on his blocks. Has also played every line position for the Canes.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round


#6
Dan Koppen
6’ 2”
298 lbs
Boston College – Senior

Koppen is a very intelligent player, which helps make up for his lack of athleticism. Possessing good size, but not the speed and agility one looks for in a center, this three-year starter might be best served sliding out to guard in the pros.

Likely to be drafted: Fourth Round


#7
Austin King
6’ 3”
292 lbs
Northwestern – Senior

A classic overachiever, King plays with a lot of fire. Intelligence and a good grasp of the game highlight Kings' abilities. A gifted line caller, he makes the most out of what he has, but can be beaten by bigger, stronger tackles.

Likely to be drafted: Fourth Round


#8
Gene Mruczkowski
6’ 2”
298 lbs
Purdue – Senior

A solid college player, Mruckowski has been a four-year starter for the Boilermakers at both center and guard. He plays with a lot of emotion and has really done a good job of learning the position and line calls. Very rarely misses an assignment. Is not over-athletic and may not have a lot of upside.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round


#9
Ben Claxton
6’ 2”
290 lbs
Mississippi – Senior

Claxton is a blue-collar player, who is solid in all aspects of his game. He doesn’t have great size or athletic ability, but is very strong for his size. Can dominate in a small area.

Likely to be drafted: Seventh Round


Undrafted Free Agents

Alonzo Ephraim
6’ 1”
312 lbs
Alabama – Senior

Ephraim has everything a team looks for in a pivot man - leadership, understanding of the position, and toughness. While not the most gifted athlete, Ephraim does a good job at staying low and using leverage in his blocks. Battling a knee injury all year has hurt his development. May be a bit shorter than teams would like.

Lui Fuata
6’ 2”
315 lbs
Hawaii – Senior

A starter at both center and tackle, Fuata has gotten consistently better each of the past three years. Solid in the short area, with good size and a strong base, Fuata will most likely move inside to center due to his lack of speed.

Brandon George
6’ 3”
252 lbs
Temple – Junior

George is not a center, but a long-snapper. One of the better prospects at the position, he is coming out as a junior since he will graduate this spring. George does not play another position but has the frame to add some bulk.

Joe Iorio
6’ 2”
300 lbs
Penn State

The first true freshman walk-on in Penn State history, Iorio has improved every year. Can play center and guard, has good size, and excels in run blocking. He’s not overly athletic or fast, but understands the game and is a leader along the line.

Ian Knight
6’ 2”
286 lbs
Georgia

Knight is a bit undersized to play guard or center in the pros, but is a good tactician. Plays an intelligent game and is rarely out of position. Has enough speed to get into the linebackers and pull, but lacks strength and size. Has played guard as well, but is limited in his experience.

Antoine Mirambeau
6’ 3”
302 lbs
Florida State – Senior

While not being a great athlete, Mirambeau's effective in a short area, able to get off the ball quickly. He possesses average bulk but is a bit slow.

Ben Nowlan
6’ 2”
298 lbs
Auburn – Senior

Nolan has a great feel for the game, but durability has been a bit of an issue. Has only average measurables, but plays a very intelligent game. May not have a lot of upside in the pros and is more of a "you see what you get" type player.

Chad Setterstrom
6’ 3”
298 lbs
Northern Iowa – Senior

Possessing good size and ability, Setterstrom has played much of the last three years at tackle. But lack of speed will dictate a move inside. Versatility should allow him to stick on a team.

Steve Washington
6’ 2”
337 lbs
Kansas State

Washington is massive for a center. Best when blocking straight ahead, he actually does his best work when matched up against nose tackles, unlike most centers. Does not have great athleticism for a center and may have to move out to guard. He’s much better as a run blocker than a pass protector.

More Player Links:

Al Johnson

Jeff Faine

Wayne Lucier

Bruce Nelson

Brett Romberg

Dan Koppen

Austin King

Gene Mruczkowski

Ben Claxton

Alonzo Ephraim

Lui Fuata

Brandon George

Joe Iorio

Ian Knight

Antoine Mirambeau

Ben Nowland

Chad Setterstrom

Steve Washington





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