Coach Tomlin and Kevin Colbert RE 1st Round Pick Maurkice Pouncey
MAURKICE POUNCEYOffensive Center/Guard – University of Florida1st Round – 18th Overall
Kevin Colbert: Well I don't think there was any big secret or surprise, because I think that every mock draft that I saw including Ed's (Bouchette) had us picking Maurkice Pouncey. We're extremely excited that he was available for the 18th pick and this is a kid that's going to be a solid player, played primarily center at the University of Florida the last two years, his first year as a freshman he started at guard. Coach will fill you in on the plans I'm sure that will be your next question, but it broke very well for us and we are very excited to have Maurkice as part of the Steelers.
Mike Tomlin: He's a guy that we viewed as an interior capable offensive lineman with flexibility. Again like Kevin stated earlier he was able to start at right guard for those guys as a true freshman and spent the last two years at center. Of course something that we value is that he's a young guy just turned twenty-one years of age, with a great deal of experience playing high quality football in the SEC. The type of playing demeanor that we covet, he's a physical guy, he's football smart, we're excited about having him.
You went down to see him at Florida, what impressed you most about him? Was that the first time you saw him in person?
MT: No we interviewed him in Indianapolis at the combine. We just wanted to go down there and not only see him but of course they have some other players we wanted to watch them interact and compete if you will at their pro day. We had an opportunity to meet his father and his brother. Just to watch how those guys interact in their comfort zone on their campus. And we really came away with similar feelings that we had coming out of Indy that he's our kind of guy.
KC: In addition to that, Coach Kugler, our new offensive line coach, also put him on the board and spent some time with him and really his intelligence was very impressive, which is a premium for that position and he did a great job on the board, watching film with Coach Kugler and we just came away more impressed.
You made the pick quickly did you get any calls or trade offers?
KC: There were calls coming in but we were very happy that he was there and we weren't going to trade away from him.
Mike do you see him as a guard first or start him out as a center?
MT: That is the plan at this point, yes.
Right or Left, Mike?
MT: He played right guard as a freshman. Again we are open to whatever he's flexible and capable of doing. We'll start him out at right guard.
Will you work him in at center at all? Or just let that go at this point?
MT: We'll see how his work progresses at right guard before we add more to his plate.
Does Urbik stay at right guard/Does Tray move back to center?
MT: Well of course all those guys have position flexibility. We are not anointing him anything in terms of starting lineups and so forth; he'll be provided an opportunity to compete. Those other guys you mentioned of course have position flexibility. And our goal of course is to put the best five on the field and back them up with flexible men. Some of the guys you mentioned for us have shown that flexibility already.
Does it say anything about a guy that plays in a big conference?
MT: It made it a fun and easy evaluation, when you watch him play SEC football week in and week out against the likes of Cody and Williams from Tennessee. We respect that football and that conference as everybody does and it's a fun evaluation.
He seems to very alert in regards to the rush and blitzes, did you like that about him?
MT: Liked that element of his game, but not only what's up front but here's a guy who communicated at the line of scrimmage, and even in regards to safety rotations and so forth, this is a guy that's capable of drawing up all 22 and understanding rotations and stuff that effects protections. He's really a smart guy and mature beyond his years in that way.
Now his wonderlic is supposedly low, do you guys use that wonderlic score at all? And did you feel the need to test him mentally?
KC: Jim, we don't talk about the score, but again the intelligence and the ability to communicate at the center position is very valuable. And again Coach Kugler had him on the board, Coach Tomlin and I sat in the back and watched, and were very impressed at the way he could recall what he was taught and give it back to Coach Kugler almost flawlessly. And Florida will talk and did talk very highly of his intelligence and his ability to communicate. It was clear watching him work with his peers in the weight room and on the field that he was a secondary leader because they really have a great team down there, and of course Tim Tebow was I'm sure the leader along with Brandon Spikes but this kid stood out as somebody that was one of the guys for sure.
His high school team won three state championships and won National Championships. Do the wins factor into your decision?
KC: It doesn't hurt.
Was he surprised when you called him?
MT: He's somewhat of a cerebral guy when it comes to football. He was excited; I think the people in the background were more excited than he was. Those phone calls are really fun. It's a great conversation and of course he was excited, and really excited to be a Steeler.
When do you think you'll get him up here?
KC: We're going to try to get him up here tomorrow night and tomorrow afternoon, early evening. And he'll be available Saturday as well.
This team hasn't drafted a center in the first round since 1941. Why now?
KC: He was that good. It really has nothing to do with the position. He was just that good. It was pretty evident early on when we started to evaluate this kid. Again, as a junior, we got on with the process late with him. It was evident early on that this was someone who was going to be interesting to us, where we were going to be picking. And really there was no predetermined position, anything like that. It was just that he was that good.
Was it a simple decision to pick him when he was still available after the 17th pick?
KC: As picks formulate, we kind of do a little exercise and I always give Coach the worst case scenario if we stay at that pick. It worked out just like we wanted it to and it would.
Do you think you'll move up to a higher pick in the second round?
KC: This thing is so deep that I think that unless someone is just dangling there that we really want to go back up and get, we're just going to stay put. There are a lot of quality players to be had throughout this Friday and Saturday.
How do you think a transition for him from center to guard will be?
MT: I think the biggest thing is the communication because the center usually is going to be responsible for that. Again, Maurkice moved in there as a sophomore and they say did a great job. Again, what he did with Coach (Sean) Kugler was impressive and we don't have any problem with that. I believe that they plan on moving his twin brother in from guard to center next year. So I think that it's a transition that they were comfortable with. I think that when he gets here, coach is going to find a spot for him somewhere.
Why is it better for him to get time in at guard rather than sitting behind a veteran center?
MT: More than anything, of course, we've talked quite a bit about the importance of the center position and it being a hub of communication not only for the offensive line, but the offense from a protection standpoint. As a young guy coming in, it's probably easier mentally to play guard because it's more receiving information as opposed to giving it. Now of course we have a young man with some center exposure, so hopefully he's a guy at guard that will visualize the game like a center. But definitely form a starting out standpoint, the guard position is one that receives information as opposed to giving it. So pre-snap should lessen his work load.
Does he have the nasty disposition of a guard when he plays?
MT: He does. He has a play demeanor that we covered. He's a finisher. He's a physical football player. He likes to play the game, but not only as he's playing the game. When you do your research on this young man, he likes the things that come with being a professional football player and being a football player period. He likes to work out, he likes to compete in the weight room, he likes to work on his craft, and those are things, of course, that we're looking for.
Is the goal for him to eventually move to center?
MT: Well the reality is that we have a guy that's capable. He has legitimate position flexibility. Some of those questions will be asked as we continue on down the road.