Offensive tackle Ali Marpet is impressing NFL teams in Mobile, Alabama this week. Marpet played at Division III Hobart (a private liberal arts college in upstate New York) this year, winning co-offensive player of the year in the Liberty League and shutting out opposing pass rushers by not allowing a quarterback sack. Now Marpet is mixing it up with prospects coming out of Division I super-schools. The path is difficult and long but not impossible.
"It's hard not to be grateful going against top Division I talent coming from a Division III school," Marpet said via the Baltimore Sun. "This is an awesome experience. It's been a challenge, but I think each day gets better. Going forward, I think I can be even better. "...football is football. It doesn't matter what division you play at. I think Division III guys have the ability. We just need a chance to show what we can do."
Are the Bengals interested?
According to Tony Pauline with Draft Insider, 31 teams "passed through the Hobart campus to scout him"... all but the Cincinnati Bengals.
Wednesday evening I spoke at length with Ali Marpet of Hobart College. Marpet, who went to high school in Hastings, New York, (about 20 minutes from my house) told me he was 230-pounds as a senior and few college teams recruited his school, hence the reason he ended up at Hobart. Marpet is not a physically impressive specimen but his technique on the field is almost flawless. He explained the offensive coordinator at Hobart is also the teams offensive line coach and preaches technique and fundamentals. Marpet told me every team in the league expect the Cincinnati Bengals passed through the Hobart campus to scout him.
If you're concluding this point as evidence that Cincinnati isn't interested, hold onto that thought for now. Cincinnati expressed very little interest in an undersized defensive tackle out of Georgia, to the point that it shocked Geno Atkins when Cincinnati drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. Then again, the Bengals aren't frequent investors with small school players
Offensive tackle is viewed as a need for the Bengals. They have virtually no depth at the position and Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are entering the final year of their respective deals. In Whitworth's case, he'll turn 34 this year. If Cincinnati develops a tackle to groom as his successor, offensive line coach Paul Alexander has a simple preference:
"Big," Alexander says via Bengals. "They all have the same physical requirements for my techniques to work. Long arms, quick twitch, and balance. I need guys with long arms. And big. It may be a simple thing. But they say the same thing about Whit that they said about Willie. Big and heavy so you can’t run over him, and long and tall so you can’t get around him."
An interesting note from the mothership about how Alexander grades players:
Like he always does, Alexander came down here with his pile of 3 by 5 index cards and gives each offensive lineman his own card. From what he calls the bathing suit competition (the weigh-in) to the stretching exercises to the one-on-one pass rush drills, Alexander gives them a grade on everything they do this week.
Five is a Pro Bowler, four is a good starter, three is a guy that can only make it, two is a guy fit only for training camp and one is a reject. For instance, he won’t write down the length of his arms, but he’ll give him a grade for it. Alexander spends practices jotting notes, traits, and grades on the cards, adds up the grades, shuffles the cards and comes up with his first of many orders.