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Bobby Wagner says he’s grasping Seahawks’ defense

By Brady Henderson

Rookies face a difficult transition mentally from college to the NFL. For middle linebackers who are vying to start right away, it’s even harder.

That’s the challenge for Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks’ second-round pick who is trying to earn a starting job at a position that has an awfully steep learning curve.

“I’ve had to learn a lot on the fly, but I feel like I’m picking it up,” says rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. (AP)

“It’s pretty difficult because in college you just had to focus on your one spot, maybe you knew what the D-linemen did,” he told “The John Clayton Show” on Saturday. “But I feel like here you have to know a little bit of everything — where the D-line’s going, where the safeties [and] corners are going, how to set up the D-linemen, call a front.

“It’s a lot more responsibility, but the difference between [the NFL and college] is you don’t have to go to school no more so I get more time to focus on learning that stuff, and I think I’m picking it up.”

Wagner was billed as a significant upgrade athletically over David Hawthorne, especially in terms of speed. The Seahawks also liked his versatility (he played inside and outside linebacker in college) and his production (455 tackles in four seasons). But the mental aspect of the position can be tough to grasp, even for a player with strong physical attributes.

Wagner said the defense he ran at Utah State was relatively simple partly because of the predictability of many of the pass-happy offenses they played against in the WAC. His job is now much more complex. Just consider everything he has to do before the ball is even snapped.

“I’ve got to look at the tight end to call the strength. I’ve got to make sure the line’s set up, look where the fullback’s at, look what the guard’s doing,” he said.

During the interview, Clayton told Wagner that he saw a faster version of former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu while watching Wagner in action during a rookie minicamp practice. Wagner said linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. has had him watch film of Tatupu “just to see how he ran the defense.”

“In watching him, I’ve kind of taken some of his style, the way he runs the defense, the way he was able to run around and make plays. He was definitely a heck of a player while he was here,” Wagner said.

“He knew the defense inside and out. He ran it for so long. You could just tell, as soon as the tight end motioned or somebody moved he was making the checks.”

After hearing Wagner’s conversation with Clayton, Brock Huard and Mike Salk discuss the biggest challenge that rookies face in today’s NFL.

You can download Monday’s podcast here.

Related audio: How the Seahawks are helping Bobby Wagner’s development