Rookie camp notes: Hawks OL ‘proud’ of less-traveled road to NFL

May 4, 2024, 7:10 PM | Updated: May 5, 2024, 2:36 pm

Seattle Seahawks...

Seattle Seahawks OL Mike Jerrell at rookie minicamp. (Zac Hereth/Seattle Sports)

(Zac Hereth/Seattle Sports)

RENTON – When the Seattle Seahawks used their final pick of this year’s NFL Draft, the name that popped up wasn’t one that was a on the radar of many.

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With a sixth-round pick at No. 207 overall, Seattle selected a player that took a road less traveled to the NFL – offensive tackle Mike Jerrell out of NCAA Division II Findlay in Findlay, Ohio. Jerrell became the first D-II player to come off the board, and he was the third offensive lineman Seattle selected.

How exactly did an offensive lineman from a little-known D-II school become a sixth-round pick in the NFL? An invite from a former Findlay coach and current Ohio State assistant to the Buckeyes’ pro day and a strong showing thereafter helped Jerrell gain attention.

The 6-foot-5, 294-pound Indianapolis native put together numbers that showed off elite athleticism for his position. Jerrell, a former high school basketball player, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.94 seconds with a 1.69-second 10-yard split. Both would have tied for the second-fastest times among offensive linemen at the NFL combine, which Jerrell wasn’t invited to.

After his first two days of Seahawks rookie minicamp, Jerrell explained the biggest difference he’s seen in making the jump from D-II to the NFL thus far.

“I would say it’s not really too much of a speed difference, it’s just guys are more disciplined, I would say,” Jerrell said Saturday after the Seahawks finished their second day of rookie minicamp. “In D-II guys kind of fall out and do things that aren’t characteristic. When you’re playing against better competition, obviously they’re bigger, but they’re just more disciplined. They lift the same weights we do in D-II, so everybody’s strong. The attention to detail is a little bit different.”

Jerrell spent most of his time working at right tackle on Saturday and also received some time on the inside at guard. Right tackle is where Jerrell played a Findlay, where he started 40 straight games to close out his career, but the interior of the offensive line is where the Seahawks currently hold their biggest need up front.

“It’s felt good playing at guard,” he said. “Everything happened so fast, but I feel like it’s the same thing as tackle. Everything is right there in front of you and obviously you’re going up against some bigger guys. I think my speed and length at guard kind of helps me a little bit. I didn’t really have too much trouble getting adjusted to it.”

While taking the route of playing at a lower level of college football made Jerrell an unknown when the Seahawks picked him, he’s happy with the path he chose, which ultimately led him to the same place as the top D-I prospects.

“I’m proud of where I came from,” Jerrell said. “I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. The coaches, the players, the teachers and the players I met at the school, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. I’m glad I went to Findlay. I’d do it all again if I could.”

New CBs have longstanding connection

The Seahawks went after a pair of cornerbacks in the later rounds of the draft, and they just so happened to be college teammates at Auburn. Nehemiah Pritchett went in the fifth round and D.J. James 56 picks later in the sixth.

“I was super excited,” Pritchett said. “Me and DJ have been friends for a really long time.”

Pritchett and James played the past two seasons together with the Tigers in the powerhouse SEC. Pritchett spent all five years of college at Auburn, while James transferred in after beginning his career in the Pacific Northwest at Oregon. But the pair new each other before their college days.

Pritchett attended Jackson High School in his hometown of Jackson, Ala. James grew up about an south in Mobile, where he attended Spanish Fort High School. Both graduated in 2019 and played in a high school all-star game together. Pritchett said he even tried to get James to go to Auburn out of high school.

“It’s great just having a former teammate with you, just living our dream and playing in the NFL,” James said. “It’s fun. We’re having fun.”

The speedy Pritchett, who ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, has heavily played on the outside thus far during camp. James has bounced between the outside and the slot with a lot of his time coming at nickel.

“It’s growing on me by the day,” James said of playing nickel. “… I love the inside. I get to work my feet, it’s more of an eye-progression type deal. … It’s making you use your brain, and that’s what I like to do when I play football.”

First-year head coach Mike Macdonald had this to say of the rookie corners.

“It’s hard to tell with the tempo, but mentally not a lot of mistakes,” Macdonald said. “… They only know cover 3 and cover 4 right now. There’s just a lot of things that we’re going to be working on, but they’re off to a good start.”

Laumea comfortable at guard

Sixth-round draft pick Sataoa Laumea played tackle during his last two years at Utah, but he’s mainly been seeing time at left guard during rookie camp. The thought when Laumea was drafted was that he’d likely be capable of slotting in at either position in the NFL. He said Saturday that he is willing to man either spot, but that the interior is where he feels most comfortable.

“I’m willing to learn. If they want me outside, I definitely trust (offensive line) coach (Scott) Huff to coach me up to play tackle if he needs,” Laumea said. “My career I’ve definitely been more comfortable on the inside. So I feel like at the Senior Bowl and everything I moved back inside after two years of not playing it, just because I feel comfortable, but I’m willing to learn and play anywhere they need me.”

Macdonald on DT Murphy, LB Knight

Macdonald was asked about what he has seen in Seattle’s first two defensive draft picks, first-rounder Byron Murphy II and fourth-rounder Tyrice Knight.

Here’s what he said about the DT Murphy: “Tough to truly evaluate because of the tempo, but just an overall good start. We’re not going to crown him right now that he’s the best defensive tackle of all time, but we’re really excited about him. He shows all the bend and the strength at the point of attack, the acceleration. He needs to get in a little bit better shape so he can get through a whole practice and fly around like we expect him to, but he understands that just like the rest of these guys. It’s so hard to stay an elite shape with the way this calendar is set up.”

Here’s what he said about the LB Knight: “He made some good plays. Today we had a little bit of an install, so we had a couple of mental errors that we want to chase, but I think the intent was there, the attention to detail was there.”

Facing the music

One of the first things noticed when rookie minicamp started was the change in when and how loud the music was played at practice. The beats were on Saturday afternoon, just maybe not as loud as during the Pete Carroll era.

“We’re working through it,” Macdonald said. “Obviously you want to bring the juice and have energy and have the music going. That’s all good, but you also want to temper that with, ‘Ok, we’re trying to get some teaching done at the same time.’ … So I think it depends on the situation and the flow of practice.”

More on the Seattle Seahawks

• Rost: Three things about the Seahawks that stand out after their draft
• Ex-NFL scout hopes Seahawks open up QB competition between Geno, Howell
• Position swap pays off for Seattle Seahawks’ first-rounder Murphy
• Seahawks GM takes us inside their strategy from this year’s draft
How Seattle Seahawks showed ‘really good’ strategy by picking Murphy over Fautanu

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