Whether or not Lawrence Guy is truly ready for the NFL isn't clear.
What isn't in question is the NFL potential he possesses, which he has shown for quite some time.
"I can remember situations, especially early in his career, where it was like, 'Wow, look at that. If this guy continues to grow, he could be a first-round draft choice,'" said Craig Bray, Guy's defensive coordinator at Arizona State. Bray would know, having coached Green Bay's 2003 first-round pick, Nick Barnett, at Oregon State.
"But the continuation of growth was the key."
Guy will have to do some of that growing on the job in the pros after entering the draft following his junior year and being selected in the seventh round by the Packers.
Barring injury, another year in college probably would have helped him develop, but to read between the lines of some of Bray's comments, injury may have been exactly what he feared.
Guy burst onto the scene as a true freshman at Arizona State in 2008, moving from defensive end to tackle early on and landing a starting job. Incredibly agile at 6-4, 304, Guy recorded 6 ½ sacks among 17 tackles for loss over his first two seasons, notable totals for an interior defender.
The production dried up last year, though. Guy's 14 solo tackles were the lowest total of his career. He had just 1 ½ sacks and six tackles for loss, yet, he decided to turn pro a year early anyway. Some draftniks rated him a mid-round prospect, but he lasted until the 233rd overall pick, the Packers' last of this draft.
"He was our best inside guy, and most inside guys get doubled all the time anyway, but he got doubled more," Bray said. "There was a lot more chop-blocking and cutting going on with him, a lot of things that took away from his production and he was frustrated with that, too.
"I think that was one of the things that motivated him to get out earlier. He felt he was getting picked on, you know."
It's hard to blame opposing offenses for taking any measures necessary to slow Guy down. Termed by Packers GM Ted Thompson "a big guy who can really run," Guy is blessed with standout speed and athleticism for his size, making him an intriguing prospect as a defensive end or inside nickel rusher in Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme.
"I don't think a 40 time does it justice," Bray said. "There were times in his career with us, he was unbelievable how he could run and run people down. When he gets that motor running, he's impressive.
"The thing he needs to be able to do is to become a more creative pass-rusher and be violent at the line of scrimmage."
Bray wondered whether some of that violence turned to caution amidst all of the double-teams and cut-blocks, because earlier in his career Guy was "just flat attacking" and getting separation from blockers.
That will be watched closely as he transitions to the NFL, though missing mini-camps and OTAs due to the labor situation makes his challenge tougher. Having overcome attention-deficit disorder and dyslexia to succeed in college, Guy could benefit from the preparation spring normally provides for rookies. Spring, however, is quickly passing.
"He does need time, but he learned football pretty dog-gone well," Bray said. "He was very assignment-sound through his career, very rarely made assignment mistakes. We're not a very complex defense like they have in the NFL, but he does do a good job."
It was a job that seemed to come a lot easier for Guy when he was more of an unknown quantity. As a late-round pick, he'll have to make a name for himself all over again.
"I think if he can get back to the things he did early in his career and growing from the experience he'll get early in camp, he'll have a chance," Bray said. "He's gotta draw on everything he's got because, obviously, as a seventh-round draft choice, you're just another guy. You have to make an impression very early and continue to build on that impression. I'm hoping for real good things for him."
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