2011 NFL Draft: OT Ben Ijalana, Villanova

The 2011 NFL draft is around the corner and SB Nation's The Nova Blog has given us the full run down on OT Ben Ijalana.

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2011 NFL Draft: OT Ben Ijalana, Villanova

The 2011 NFL draft is around the corner and one player expected to be picked is Villanova OT Ben Ijalana. SB Nation's The Nova Blog has the full run down on Ijalana. Check out The Nova Blog for more on him.

Ben Ijalana | Offensive Tackle | 6'3", 317 lbs, 36" arms | Junior

Defensive scheme and projected NFL position

Villanova ran a run-heavy version of the spread offense for Ijalana's career. He was known as a powerful drive blocker in the scheme, the kind of OL where once he latches on, you're out of the play. Villanova did their fair share of passing though, and Ijalana excelled there as well. He's got what Coach Andy Talley called 'rare' feet and a long reach that allows him to jab continuously at oncoming rushes before they can fully engage him.

He started every game in his 3 seasons at Villanova at left tackle for the Wildcats and helped pave the way for one of the FCS' most feared rushing attacks. He was a 3-time All-CAA selection and a 2-time Consensus All-American. Finished in the Top 10 in voting for the Outland Trophy this past season.

While he was the country's most dominant left tackle at the FCS level, Ijalana is projected by most as an NFL guard due to his height, although his flexibility to play either inside or outside will definitely increase his value in scouts' eyes.

A story you may not know

Most players who enter the NFL Combine as a possible high draft pick have been well-known since high school. But as a high school student in New Jersey, Ben Ijalana never really considered playing college football. In fact, he really only played sports (football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, shotput in the spring) to remain active. 

He was a star wrestler in high school (a quality becoming more and more prevalent in NFL linemen), but never really garnered much interest from college football coaches because while being a big body, he didn't have much in the way of technique. A nice way of saying that someone doesn't know how to play the game.

Then Andy Talley and the Villanova coaching staff showed up. While other programs didn't have time for a project, Talley and Co. saw an athletic specimen, and offered him a full scholarship on the spot. They may have thought they were getting a bit of a project too. That's until Ijalana came in and dominated, never missing a start in his 3-year college career.

Comparable to which NFL player

The most notable comparison that I've heard is to Vladimir Ducasse, the UMass product selected in the 2nd round of last year's draft. Like Ijalana, Ducasse was a college LT that projected as a guard at the next level - and I'm sure the fact that they both played at the FCS level doesn't hurt the comparisions either.

As for a proven NFL veteran, I think a good example is Chris Snee of the New York Giants. Snee's best quality is his run blocking ability, similar to Ijalana. But Snee has also been a stalwart on that Giants line in pass protection. Rarely do sacks come as a result of his work, which is exactly how things played out at Villanova for Ijalana.

This is a great YouTube focusing on Ijalana during the 2009 FCS Championship game against Montana. You'll seef how dominant and instrumental he was in upsetting Montana for the title.

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