When the Green Bay Packers signed free agent Jeff Saturday on Friday, it was viewed as a stopgap solution at the center position. They still need to find the long-term answer, most likely a player they can draft and develop.
With only a handful of centers worthy of being drafted at all in April, maybe it will be Mississippi State's Quentin Saulsberry, viewed by most draft analysts as a mid-round draft choice.
It just so happens that Saulberry considers Saturday a player he admires and tries to emulate.
"Jeff Saturday, my coach always talks about him," said Saulsberry at the NFL Combine in February. "Maurkice Pouncey for the Steelers, those guys I look up to and see how they play and the aggression they bring and the passion they bring to the game."
Because Saturday is 36 years old, signed to only a two-year contract, and the Packers will have as many as 12 draft picks come April, there's a decent chance they'll select a center, someone Saturday will help groom to be his replacement.
Saulsberry also played guard at Mississippi State, but he said most NFL teams are looking at him as a center at the professional level, perhaps because of his somewhat smaller stature.
Measuring in at 6-2, 304 lbs. at the Combine, Saulsberry's size is eerily similar to the center that recently left Green Bay. Scott Wells, who signed with the St. Louis Rams as a free agent, is listed as being 6-2 and 300 lbs.
A comparison can also be made about the style of play of both Saulsberry and Wells as well. Paul Guillemette, who contributed to Cheesehead TV's Pro Football Draft Preview and also covered the East-West Shrine Game for the Great Blue North Draft Report, saw a parallel between the two centers while at the all-star game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"No question that Saulsberry is somewhat undersized," wrote Guillemette at the Draft Report, "but he is a try-hard guy who can play all three inside offensive line slots and will battle to the whistle on every down.
"He'll probably never go to a Pro Bowl and he'll have to fight like hell just to make a team, but once he does he's likely to be a solid reserve for quite a few years. The Packers have a guy with his kind of pluck who's done pretty well for himself by the name of Scott Wells."
It could be Saulsberry who takes one of the spots on Green Bay's 53-man roster vacated by Wells, and if he does, he'd be reunited with one of his former teammates at Mississippi State.
Derek Sherrod, the Packers' first round draft pick in 2011, played on the same offensive line as Saulsberry for the better part of three years from 2008 to 2010. They played next to each other as the left tackle and guard for most of 2009.
During the offseason, Sherrod returned to Starkville, Miss. and gave Saulsberry some pointers about what to expect at the Combine.
"He told me about the process, what’s going to happen, how you’re going to feel, what to do, what not to do," said Saulsberry. "When you have guys that come back to your university that’s in the NFL and have gone through the whole process, it’s special. And you just take what you can from those guys."
Whether he's drafted by the Packers or not, Saulsberry faces an uphill battle to make an NFL roster. He has to overcome that lack of ideal size and show he has what it takes to block defensive linemen who outweigh him by as many as 50 pounds.
But Saulsberry feels competition in the SEC has helped prepare him for the next level. By going up against players like Nick Fairley of Auburn and Josh Chapman of Alabama, he's faced some of the biggest and best bodies college football had to offer.
"Being on the line of scrimmage, defensive line, offensive line, you have to have that mean streak in you," said Saulsberry. "Because it’s a war in the trenches. Always. You’ve always got to think about, the phrase we always hear is third-and-1, fourth-and-1. Who’s going to step up and make the play? Who’s going to be that person who makes their lock? Who’s going to be that guy who gives up that play?"
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