NFL draft: Notre Dame offensive tackle Young might interest Bears
By Vaughn McClure
Sam Young is a Florida native, so it's unlikely he would claim he grew up a Bears fan. But the former Notre Dame offensive tackle does have a slight tie to the organization.
"My biggest connection with the Bears is that Brian Piccolo went to the same high school I did," said Young, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, known as Central Catholic during Piccolo's playing days. "My high school stadium is actually named for him."
Maybe Young, who met with a Bears' scout at the Senior Bowl, will follow in Piccolo's footsteps.
The Bears could be in the market for a right tackle to pair with Chris Williams. Left guard Frank Omiyale might be an option, and Kevin Shaffer, who finished the 2009 season as the starter at right tackle, remains on the roster.
But if they go the draft route, the Bears might be enticed if Young is available when they finally get their first pick in the third round. All 32 teams will get a closer look at Young and the other available tackles during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week, with offensive linemen set to test Saturday.
Young, a highly touted lineman coming out of high school, had a productive but not outstanding college career. Yet many believe he could shine in the right pro system.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz will be on the lookout for athletic tackles. The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Young believes he fits that mold.
"I know within that system, there's a lot asked of the tackles — intellectually, physically and athletically," Young said. "That would be a great challenge, and I'd look forward to taking it on."
Young and the other 328 players invited to the combine know this could be a make-or-break week.
"The best piece of advice I've ever been given about the whole process was to look at this as a 12-month interview," Young said. "It started last spring and it ends with the draft. The combine is just another step."
Here are five stories worth monitoring as the prospects start to arrive Wednesday in Indianapolis:
Injured QBS: The two top quarterbacks in the draft, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, won't participate in workouts. Clausen is recovering from postseason toe surgery while Bradford had shoulder surgery in October.
That said, the strongest impression either can make is through the interview process. Clausen might need those sessions more than Bradford considering some teams have expressed concern about his maturity.
Small-time flavor: Can Central Michigan product Dan Lefevour improve his stock with Clausen and Bradford on the mend? Possibly. Lefevour reportedly won't throw at the combine although he is not injured.
But he is expected to perform other drills that might show off his footwork and strength. Lefevour had a solid showing at the Senior Bowl so the decision for him not to throw might turn out to be shrewd one. Some project Lefevour as a second-rounder.
Suh sighting: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, arguably the best player in the draft, has opted to participate in drills. Whatever numbers the former Nebraska star puts up are sure to raise eyebrows, just as his college statistics did. He recorded 56 tackles for loss, 24 sacks and four interceptions in 54 games.
It's hard to imagine the Rams not drafting Suh with the first pick overall, although Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is another good option.
Speed read: Offensive player of the year Chris Johnson of the Titans set the record with a 4.24-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine two years ago and catapulted into the first round.
Darrius Heyward-Bey turned in a 4.30 last year and ended up the seventh overall pick by the Raiders, although most would say he didn't deserve to go that high. Johnny Knox of the Bears turned heads with his 4.34 although Knox didn't go until the fifth round.
Who will be the next to turn heads with a 40 time? Keep an eye on receivers Jacoby Ford of Clemson and Taylor Price of Ohio. Ford, an track star, already guaranteed a 4.2.
Catching on: In terms of receivers, all the attention will be on former Oklahoma State star Dez Bryant, who entered the draft early after the NCAA suspended him for rules violations. But can Notre Dame's Golden Tate and Illinois' Arrelious Benn steal some of the spotlight?
Tate made Clausen's life much easier with the Irish, and his big-play ability caught the attention of the Bears' front office. Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said on a conference call that Tate could be a late first-rounder if he runs well at the combine.
And in his latest mock draft, Kiper has Benn, a Baltimore native, going to the Ravens with the 25th pick. Fellow draft expert Todd McShay has Benn as the third-best receiver behind Bryant and Tate.