Pre-draft, Mason learning to play center

Former Georgia Tech All-American guard Shaquille Mason won praise for his performance at last week's Senior Bowl. (BRYNN ANDERSON)

Former Georgia Tech All-American guard Shaquille Mason is trying to increase his value as a draft prospect by learning to play center. (BRYNN ANDERSON)

Former Georgia Tech guard Shaquille Mason is expanding his skillset prior to Tech’s pro day March 13.

Mason, who is preparing for his audition in Johns Creek, has been practicing snaps and learning the center position to give the NFL scouts, executives and coaches who will attend Tech’s pro day something more to consider.

“I think it’s just going to be a mixture,” Mason’s agent Ryan Rubin said. “Some teams would want him to play guard and some teams as a center, and that probably has to do with their own depth chart. He truly is capable of being a star at both.”

The cross training is at least partly due to his height. Mason was measured at 6-foot-1 5/8 at the Senior Bowl. Linemen, even ones with Mason’s credentials and production, are rarely selected at that height, but Mason’s height is more acceptable at center than guard. Another reason for Mason to train at center is to enhance his versatility.

On the NFL website’s list of offensive line draft prospects, he is the shortest prospect at 6-1, out of 72 linemen. (The first listed weakness in his draft analysis: “Short guard with short arms.”) Last year, out of 21 guards and centers drafted, only one was 6-2. In 2013, out of 18 guards and centers, two were 6-2. In 2012, out of 18 guards and centers, four were 6-2 and one was 6-0. In total, in the past three years, out of 57 guards and centers drafted in the past three years, only one was shorter than Mason.

It is often the way of the draft, as measurables are given considerable (excessive, in the eyes of some) value. An interesting thing, though, about those eight draftees who were 6-2 or shorter. Two were taken in the first 10 picks of the 2013 draft, Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina and Chance Warmack from Alabama. Warmack has started all 32 games he has played in two seasons.

Of the other five 6-2 players, three made NFL rosters. Two (center Ben Jones of Georgia, now with Houston, and tackle Kelvin Beacham of SMU, now with Pittsburgh) have not missed a game in their careers and started all 16 games this past season. Interestingly, Jones and Beachum are both now listed at 6-3.

The one 6-0 player, David Molk, has also managed to stay in the league. A seventh-rounder to San Diego, he played seven games and started four for Philadelphia this past season. So it’s not as though Mason is attempting the impossible in trying to play and succeed in the NFL as a 6-1 interior lineman. He just has a strike that some may find difficult to look past.

That said, Mason’s play this season and at the Senior Bowl has earned him attention. He is training at Goldin Athletic Training Association, where he is being tutored in line play by former Falcons offensive tackle Todd Weiner.

“I’d have to say the interest is high,” Rubin said.

Mason was not invited to the NFL draft combine, but Rubin played that as a potential positive.

“Having him not at the combine should really only increase the likelihood that teams want to take a persona look at him,” he said.


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