Cassius Marsh misses his former UCLA teammates Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin, who left sunny southern California for the frozen tundra of Green Bay when they were drafted by the Packers last season.
Another in the long line of new age defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid prospects, Marsh wouldn't mind being reunited with his comrades when it's his turn to be drafted in a few short weeks.
"I know Datone's over there, and that's one of my good friends," said Marsh at the NFL Combine. "I love Datone and Johnathan. It would be awesome to be there."
If the Packers are looking to bolster their pass rush, perhaps they'll consider adding Marsh to complement Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and the rest of the team's outside linebackers. According to Marsh, he talked to the Packers while at the East-West Shrine Game in January.
Marsh's emergence as a football player has coincided with former NFL coach Jim Mora's takeover of the UCLA program, which has resulted in 9-5 and 10-3 records each of the past two seasons. Prior to Mora, the last time UCLA won at least nine games was 2005.
"I played in a 4-3 my first two years, and now I played in a 3-4 the last two, so I have an understanding of both defenses and the way they work," said Marsh. "I think being able to do that and play multiple fronts, play multiple defenses helped my understanding of the game significantly. I think that it will help me a lot at the next level."
In 2012, Marsh had 9.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss for the Bruins and followed that up with 8.5 sacks and five tackles for a loss as a senior.
Quickness would appear to be one of Marsh's best assets, finishing among the top performers at his position in the three-cone drill (7.08 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.25 seconds) while at the NFL Combine. He also measured in at 6' 4" and 252 lbs. in Indianapolis.
But beyond what can be quantified with a tape measure or a stop watch, Marsh offers an intangible quality that figures to play well in a small-town environment like Green Bay, where football is king.
"I think (teams are) going to learn about how much I love the game," said Marsh. "I think it's pretty clear to see when you talk to me or when you're around me or when you watch me play, I'm very passionate about the game of football. I think they'll learn that I have a very high football IQ. I understand the game in every aspect.
"I like to talk to the DBs coach, linebackers coach. I like to talk to the offensive line coach as well, any way I can learn more about football."
Appropriately named after Cassius Clay, Marsh is a fighter. His mother liked the name Cassius because it means "strength" in Greek.
Now Marsh has the opportunity to take his strength to football's next level. Projected as a mid-round draft choice, maybe he'll have the opportunity to join forces with Jones once again.
"He's a hard worker," said Marsh. "We did a lot of extra workouts together, a lot of stuff. He's a technician, practices hard, and that's something that I learned from him. He just enjoys the game. I think it's great to be around guys that really enjoy playing the game of football, even on practice days.
"I love Datone, that's one of my great friends. I'm very happy for him, seeing him succeed at the next level, and I hope to join him next year."
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 [email protected].
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