In looking at the Green Bay Packers' starters on the offensive line last season, there’s a common theme among them.
Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay, all of them were left tackles in college. Pretty much all of them except for Josh Sitton were left tackles in college.
The trend could continue this year if J.C. Tretter ends up winning the competition for the job at center.
If the Packers are looking for the next college left tackle to shift to another position in the pros, they might consider North Dakota State’s Billy Turner, who they made one of their 60 allotted formal interviews at the NFL Combine.
“From a lot of the stuff I’ve heard, a lot of the teams, they like me at guard,” said Turner. “I can play either position. I can snap the ball as well. That was the first thing I ever played, center. A lot of teams like my versatility. But for the most part, a lot of the teams are talking to me about playing right tackle and playing guard. So we’ll see what happens.”
The Packers tend to identify talented offensive linemen and frequently wait until they reach Green Bay and see them in person under the tutelage of an NFL coaching staff to see where they fit. And Turner would seem to fit the same profile.
Turner was a big part of the North Dakota State dynasty that won three straight FCS national championships from 2011 to 2013 and wouldn’t even have to change the green and gold color scheme from college if he were drafted by the Packers.
Perhaps the coaching staff will pick the brain of teammate and fellow NFL Draft prospect Brock Jensen, who they’ve invited to Green Bay for a visit next week.
“Billy had a great career at NDSU,” Jensen told Cheesehead TV. “He came in, didn't redshirt. The first start he had, a guy went down, and he stepped right in and never looked back after that. He kept me on my feet my whole career really, maybe gave up a couple sacks his entire career, which is very impressive.
“He's a huge, huge guy, and he moves very well for his size. He's physical. He was definitely our best offensive lineman and even got voted the best offensive lineman in the country. I'm excited to see what his future holds. He's going to get picked up, it's just a matter of where he goes.”
Despite playing at the FCS level of college football, Turner didn't fly under the radar of NFL scouts, having been invited to the Senior Bowl postseason all-star game. In Mobile, Turner was able to show he stacked up well against players from the ranks of major college football, playing primarily right tackle and right guard.
"Especially after that first day (of practice), "said Turner, "a lot of the teams liked my athleticism, the way I was moving through all the drills. On top of that, they liked my feet and the way I played the game, getting downfield, getting on guys, hustling around."
Athleticism is no stranger to the Turner family. Billy's father Maurice played for four seasons in the NFL in the 1980s and his brother, Brian Kehl, has been bouncing around the the league since 2008, most recently as a linebacker for Washington last season.
When Turner reaches the NFL, he looks forward to the challenge of changing positions.
"To be honest, I was playing tackle my entire career up in North Dakota and I always wanted the chance to play guard, just because I’m a physical guy," said Turner. "I’m a physical run blocker, so I always wanted to get inside, get a little closer to that defender and just try to run some people over a little more than you can at the tackle position. But I was always kept at tackle because they needed me to defend the edge for our quarterback. A lot of guys I’ve talked to say they want to see me at guard, so we’ll see what happens."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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