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Packers Look For Starting Guards Among A Deep Offensive Line


Offensive line coach Larry Beightol has not established the starting offensive line, but he likes what he sees.

"I want competition," he said. "Competition is going to bring all the cream to the top. Nobody's going to take a day off when you've got competition."

The most heated competition occurs at the guard positions vacated by the departures of Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera. Free agent additions Matt O'Dwyer and Adrian Klemm are battling with veterans Atlas Herrion and Grey Ruegamer, who started 11 games at center last year in place of the injured Mike Flanagan, for the two spots.

"I think they're going to be great," fullback Nick Luchey said. "I don't think we're going to miss a beat."

The foursome has rotated repetitions with Klemm and O'Dwyer starting one day and Herrion and Ruegamer on the next.

Beightol said Ruegamer had his best day in camp on Wednesday.

"Ruegamer is looking very good to me," he said. "He's a tough, hard-nosed guy. He's very competitive. He's smart."

Ruegamer, like his fellow linemen, has great versatility. He plays right guard and has not taken any snaps at center, but he demonstrated he could play that position effectively last year. The man Ruegamer replaced, Mike Flanagan, has played right guard, center, left guard and left tackle during regular season games. Right tackle Mark Tauscher also can play guard.

"A lot of guys can play a lot of different positions," Ruegamer said. "It's hard to get quality depth in this league, and when you have it you really appreciate it."

Rookie undrafted free agent Chris White exemplifies that philosophy. The Packers have moved White, a tackle at the University of Southern Mississippi, inside to center, and he has adapted quickly. Beightol labeled him a phenom.

"He's been a very, very big surprise and a very pleasant one for us," he said. "We didn't think he'd be this far along."

White has a body type better suited for center. As a 6-2, 285 college tackle, he allowed just one sack last year but does not have the height and reach to play that position in the pros.

"I kind of figured I'd play center," White said.

Although the Packers signed him as a free agent, they gave him a draft-worthy grade.

He has displayed excellent balance and uses his hands well but faces competition from many of the drafted players, including William Whitticker, a seventh round pick from Michigan State University.

The 338-pound Whitticker, who registered 222 pancake blocks in college, has good size but is raw.

"He's done a nice job for us," head coach Mike Sherman said. "He certainly has a long way to go."

Whitticker played right guard during one of the day's highlights. Along with left guard Klemm and center Scott Wells, he broke open a hole, allowing the 273-pound Luchey to rumble for 25 yards.

"It was really the O-line," Luchey said. "They got on their blocks and stayed on them. I just stayed patient."

Running back Najeh Davenport, who set up the play with a fake, jumped on Luchey's shoulders to celebrate the play.

The Packers' line has made their share of big plays throughout camp, but they have not yet sorted out the starters among a deep group of players.

Beightol does not know when that will happen.

"I don't know," he said. "This is early on. We haven't even gotten to the first scrimmage yet."

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