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News » Ready for a switch?

Ready for a switch?

Ready for a switch?

Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo had no trouble trying to convince the Browns he could make the transition from rush end in a 4-3 defense to outside linebacker in a 3-4.

He had the film to prove it.

Last season, his new defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, installed some of the 3-4 defense at Texas that he had learned under his mentor, Nick Saban, at Louisiana State and with the Dolphins.

That means Orakpo is already familiar with the fundamentals of the Browns' scheme, because Saban has the same defensive mind-set as his good friend and old Browns boss, Bill Belichick . . . who was current Browns coach Eric Mangini's mentor.

"Coach Muschamp brought that 3-4 scheme with him to Texas from the Miami Dolphins, and we played it a lot here," said Oscar Giles, Orakpo's defensive line coach at Texas. "Brian played both end and linebacker in the scheme, and he excelled at both.

"He can rush the passer, play the run and drop into coverage - and he can do all three at a high level."

Orakpo, who had 11? sacks last season despite missing two games with a sprained knee, is confident he can make the switch.

"What I like to say is that I'm not a guy that thinks I can do it, I'm a guy that has done it," he said.

"I can play as a 3-4 'backer and also put my hand in the dirt. I know I can be effective at the position at the pro level."

Just to be sure, the Browns sent their new linebackers coach, Matt Eberflus, to Texas last month to conduct a private workout with Orakpo, a player the Browns are considering with their No. 5 overall pick.

"It went pretty well," said Orakpo, who won the Nagurski Award last season as the nation's best defensive lineman.

"We watched some film and went over their 3-4 defense. Then we broke down my film, went over some plays and took it to the field."

Eberflus put Orakpo through a series of linebacker drills, including those that tested his agility and coverage skills.

"Coach was very impressed with how fluid I looked on those kinds of drills," said Orakpo, who also visited the Browns last week. "I was also able to catch the ball real well, so it was good. Everything seemed to go really well from his point of view. I had to show them that I could do all of that, and then when it's all said and done, I'll do what I do best, and that's rush the passer."

Like other top 10 prospects in the draft, Orakpo has endured his share of criticism over the past few weeks. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call Wednesday that No. 5 is too high for Orakpo and that he no longer views him as a top-10 pick. It was a departure from the NFL Combine, where Mayock compared Orakpo to Dallas star DeMarcus Ware and said he'd be a good fit for the Browns at No. 5.

"My issue with him is I don't see it all the time on tape," said Mayock. "I see it a lot, but I just don't see the consistency of effort and production that I'd like to see from a potential top-10 type of pick."

Mayock also told si.com of Orakpo, "Buyer beware. He's boom or bust. I don't know if he's DeMarcus Ware or Vernon Gholston [whom Mangini picked for the Jets last year]."

But Orakpo (6-3?, 261) takes the criticism in stride.

"[Mayock] is an analyst, and it's his job to point out things I can do better," he said. "Consistency is something I can get better at with great coaching at the next level. DeMarcus Ware was also a 'tweener, and look at him now. He had 20 sacks last year. I'll do whatever it takes to be a productive player who can help his team win."

Another draft analyst, Rob Rang of nfldraftscout.com, has dropped Orakpo to No. 20 on his mock draft.

"I don't know that he's athletic enough to be a rush linebacker," said Rang. "He's so bulked up that he's a bit stiff. I think he'll struggle to make the transition. The fact that Kamerion Wimbley has tapered off for the Browns and considering Mangini's experience last year with Gholston, I think it would be a risky pick for the Browns."

Orakpo's position coach also laughs off the naysayers.

"Brian did a great job for us, and he made the other guys around him better," said Giles. "He could've had 18 or 19 sacks last season, but the main thing we try to do is disrupt the quarterback. He also had 20-some pressures. His upside potential is tremendous, and he's going to be an asset to anybody's team."

But the thing that has impressed Giles the most has been Orakpo's impeccable character.

"I watched him at all these awards banquets, and all he did was give credit to his teammates and his family," said Giles. "At his Pro Day, he spent time helping the other players correct their drills if they made a mistake. He's a leader on and off the field, and that's something you can't teach."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: mcabot@plaind.com, 216-999-4670


Prospect profiles

This week leading up to Saturday's NFL Draft, The Plain Dealer will profile five of the top prospects, one of whom could become the first pick of the Browns.

Tuesday: Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 21, 2009

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