MAIN ATTRACTION: Tunsil strengthens case as draft’s No. 1 prospect

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A scheduling conflict didn’t allow for Laremy Tunsil to talk to members of the media afterward, but he didn’t have to say anything following his workout at Ole Miss’ Pro Day on Monday.

His performance did all the talking.

Tunsil further exhibited why he’s the popular choice to be the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft should the Tennessee Titans decide to hold on to the pick. Ole Miss’ former left tackle still hasn’t run the 40-yard dash for teams after recently pulling his hamstring during training and didn’t participate in cone drills, but he showed off his upper-body strength and the combination of quickness and agility that’s rarely seen in 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive linemen.

Email newsletter signup

With Titans head coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson in attendance at the Manning Center as well as representatives from every other NFL team, Tunsil cranked out an eye-popping 34 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, an amount that would have tied the most reps done at this year’s scouting combine held in Indianapolis in February. He also cleared 28.5 inches on the vertical jump while displaying seemingly effortless lateral movement during offensive line drills.

“He can cut grass with his feet,” Robinson said of Tunsil in an interview with the NFL Network. “He’s strong. You can see him block a lot of good football players. He’s a tough guy, he’s a big man, he’s hard to get around. He can really run. … It’s easy to evaluate how athletic he is.”

The Titans have the top pick because they had the league’s worst record a season ago, a sign of a team with many needs to address. They could try to address those quicker by trading out of the top spot for additional draft picks, but keeping the pick and spending it on Tunsil makes sense with Tennessee needing to protect its investment at quarterback in Marcus Mariota, who the Titans drafted in the first round a year ago.

Tunsil’s former coach knows which decision he would make.

“I don’t care who you have on your team. I don’t see how you can bypass Laremy Tunsil,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “For a big man, an offensive lineman protecting your quarterback, that left tackle position is something you want to make sure you can secure. Laremy’s that guy. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody that can bend and move like he does.”

The 34 reps were a little more than expected — “He thought he was going to get 30. I said, ‘Man, that would be a good goal,” Freeze said — but the favorable light Tunsil finds himself in when it comes to draft projections doesn’t come as a surprise to Freeze, who pulled off a signing day surprise in 2013 when Tunsil, a former five-star recruit, chose the Rebels over Alabama, Georgia and others.

Tunsil lived up to the hype, taking over as a full-time starter three games into his freshman season. The two-time All-American and three-time All-Southeastern Conference performer allowed just two sacks in his college career.

“I absolutely do at this point and thought that was a possibility when we recruited him,” Freeze said of the idea of Tunsil being the No. 1 pick. “I remember telling some people this guy could be a top 2 or 3 pick just because of how good his feet are.”

Tunsil’s total package may be good enough for No. 1.

“I don’t care if he ever runs a 40,” Freeze said. “There can’t be but a handful of guys that are that talented at that size and weight. I couldn’t bypass him if I were picking.”