His fellow rookies have been learning the playbook, forming relationships with teammates and taking valuable practice reps.
Through no fault of his own, offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo has been thousands of miles away.
Thanks to the arcane NCAA graduation rule for schools like Oregon State that operate on a quarters system, Seumalo has been forced to stay away from the Eagles for the last month, missing all three rounds of OTAs and the mandatory minicamp that wrapped up on Thursday afternoon.
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By all accounts, Seumalo is a pretty intelligent young man. That’s one of the first things head coach Doug Pederson said about Seumalo when the team drafted him in the third round this April and he again called him “sharp” on Thursday. So the young rookie has undoubtedly been sticking his nose in the playbook for the last month. And thanks to modern technology – oh what a world! – Seumalo has been Skyping with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and can watch practice film uploaded to a virtual space.
But no actual football.
And there’s just no replacement for actual football.
“The biggest thing is just missing the reps, and physically being out there on the field,” Pederson said on Thursday. “It's one thing to do it in the classroom; it's another thing to take it to the field and execute the same thing when bodies are flying around. So that part's valuable and obviously, he's missed that.”
Pederson revealed on the last day of the team’s mandatory minicamp that Seumalo will be playing left guard upon his return to the Eagles for training camp. That’s worth noting because earlier this spring, Pederson was quick to name Allen Barbre the team’s starting left guard. This will, eventually, give Barbre some competition.
It’s clear Seumalo will have a chance to dethrone Barbre for a starting job, but Pederson stopped short of naming Seumalo as the main competition, also mentioning veteran free agent pickup Stefen Wisniewski.
For now, though, it is Barbre’s job, and the veteran thinks the rookie will have an uphill battle come training camp.
“I definitely think that will be tough for him,” Barbre said about Seumalo’s missing all spring. “I think it’ll be hard to come in and pick up on everything. I don’t know what all he got during his rookie minicamp, but I think it’ll be tough for him. It’s going to be tough.”
And, like Pederson, Barbre thinks missing the practice reps is the biggest problem.
“I don’t think you can duplicate that. I really don’t,” said Barbre, who hasn’t yet met the rookie who will be gunning for his job. “I think it’s one of them deals where they’re valuable. Coach Stout calls them bars of gold. It’s just an opportunity for you to get familiar with it and adapt your game.”
Seumalo isn’t the only rookie being held captive by his school and the rule. Oregon running back Byron Marshall and Stanford defensive tackle Aziz Shittu have also missed all of the team practices this spring.
Pederson has been thinking about the rule that has kept three talented young rookies away from his team, saying most guys are training for the combine and pro days and aren’t even in school when they declare for the NFL draft.
But rules are rules.
“I wish we could have him here,” Pederson said, “but we've got to abide by the rules and we'll coach him up as fast as we can.”