Meredith Brings More Competition To O-Line

It was expected the Green Bay Packers would look for potential prospects at offensive tackle on the second day of this weekend’s draft, and they certainly did. - More Packers 2009 Draft Page


It was expected the Green Bay Packers would look for potential prospects at offensive tackle on the second day of this weekend's draft, and they certainly did.

With their second fifth-round pick on Sunday, at No. 162 overall, the Packers took offensive lineman Jamon Meredith from South Carolina, the second offensive tackle taken in a span of three picks by Green Bay.

Whether Eastern Michigan's T.J. Lang, who was taken in the fourth round, or Meredith, or last year's fifth-round pick Breno Giacomini, or every one of them, emerges as a future NFL starter is long from determined. But there's no question the Packers aren't putting all their eggs in one basket, and they're counting on the competition being created to push everyone involved to see who emerges.

"We have to get them here and work with them a little bit," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, declining to cement the young prospects, Meredith included, in any particular spot right away. "Where they start, ... in a perfect world you put a guy in one spot, he learns it, and he stays there forever. That may be the case with these young guys, it may not be."

Meredith is a curious case, a 6-foot-5, 304-pounder who's had everything from his toughness to his attitude to his coachability questioned in media reports. But there's no doubting his experience, with 38 starts at South Carolina at three different positions - 19 at left tackle, 11 at right tackle and eight at left guard.

"I'm just happy to be on a team," Meredith said, answering questions from reporters about some of the negative talk surrounding him leading up to the draft, including his own projection that he'd be selected much earlier than the fifth round. "I'm happy somebody took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity. All that's in the past and I'm ready to move forward."

The Packers southeast scout, Brian Gutekunst, communicated with the South Carolina coaching staff in scouting Meredith, and came away assured he can be a solid NFL player.

"The South Carolina coaching staff has always been good to work with, and they had a lot of positive things to say about him -- that he's naturally strong, he's very smart, and he has a lot of explosion and power," Gutekunst said. "We felt with the coaching he had at South Carolina, that will help Jamon make a quicker transition to the NFL."

Meredith, an honor student with a 3.74 GPA as a collegian who comes from the same Hillcrest High School in Simpsonville, S.C., as current Carolina Panthers lineman Travelle Wharton, already has had to overcome his share of tough circumstances. After starting at right tackle as a sophomore and then becoming the starting left tackle as a junior, he had to sit out the first two games of his senior season due to an eligibility issue.

Back in his true freshman year of 2004, Meredith appeared briefly in a game against Vanderbilt but then was told he was being redshirted. Because he had played in a game, he had to appeal to the NCAA to get the year of eligibility back, and in an agreement with the NCAA, Meredith sat out the first two games of 2008 to regain that final season.

Upon his return, he was then moved from left tackle to left guard as the South Carolina coaching staff put the younger Jarriel King in his place. Meredith was put next to him at guard rather than have two of the better offensive linemen on the team at the same spot, where only one could play.

Meredith played that final season battling an ankle injury, and if he has to prove he can play tackle again, that's fine with him. He feels it's his best position, and he feels most natural on the left side.

{sportsad300}"Just by playing (I can prove it)," he said. "Just by people getting to know me and playing, I'll have to prove people wrong. I've been doing that my whole career, so it's nothing different."

The Packers, like they do with any draft pick or newcomer, will give Meredith a clean slate. Philbin said he watched film of two of his college games, against Iowa and Kentucky, and didn't see the criticisms of "softness" reporters kept bringing up.

"I liked his initial quickness off the ball, I thought he had some explosiveness and played aggressively," Philbin said. "I felt he needed some work fundamentally, as fundamentals at times can catch you, but I don't recall him being overpowered a bunch or in a mismatch situation in the film that I saw."

Judging by the number of linemen on the roster now, Meredith will have plenty of competition on his own side of the ball, not to mention the more polished pros lining up across from him, and it will be up to the coaching staff to see where he has the best chance to succeed.

"I don't know that I project him anywhere at this second," Philbin said. "At the end of the day we'll get together tomorrow, we'll take a look at our board, and see what it looks like, see if we can slot these guys in the right spots. Again, whether we have them in the right spots tomorrow, we won't know."

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