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The NFL isn't worried about first-rounder Laremy Tunsil's NCAA run-in

The league has bigger things to worry about than whether a player took a few extra benefits, according to the pros.

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Three weeks from the 2016 NFL Draft, Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick to the Tennessee Titans, a projection that's held steady for months despite Tunsil's run-in with the NCAA during his final college season.

Tunsil sat out Ole Miss' first seven 2015 games, first as a cautionary move by the Rebels and then as part of a brokered suspension by the NCAA for impermissible benefits that included use of loaner vehicles, rental cars and a free airline ticket.

That's not all. Tunsil and his stepfather, Lindsey Miller, were involved in a physical altercation last summer after Miller allegedly pushed Tunsil's mother, resulting in Tunsil and Miller briefly filing charges against one another.

The NCAA interviewed both Miller and Tunsil as part of a larger investigation into Ole Miss' athletic department. Sources previously confirmed to SB Nation that alleged violations tied specifically to Tunsil are part of a notice against Ole Miss.

So, why hasn't Tunsil been hit with the "character concern" tag, like other top prospects in recent years? SB Nation spoke to multiple sources, including coaches, NFL scouts and agents, to learn why Tunsil's character grade has remained intact.

The NFL's response to NCAA violations is a growing indifference.

In 2011, the NFL suspended third-round quarterback Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State for five games, saying he'd attempted to avoid an NCAA suspension of the same length by entering the supplemental draft.

But in 2015, Georgia running back Todd Gurley was a first-round pick and eventual Rookie of the Year, despite having served a four-game NCAA suspension for autograph dealings.

"It's an 'off-field issue,' but there's no drugs, no guns, no violence against women," an NFL scout said. "That's a whole different world from what you're looking at with Tunsil."

The sources we spoke with said front offices have a fraction as much concern with NCAA rules as with actual crimes.

Many have criticized the NFL's stance on domestic violence over the last several years. Starting with this February's NFL Combine, any prospect found to have a domestic violence or sexual assault conviction will be barred from league events.

Last year, the Buccaneers claimed to have extensively investigated a sexual assault allegation against Jameis Winston before picking the former Florida State quarterback at No. 1. NCAA issues don't demand nearly that kind of pro scrutiny.

"Getting a car or money from a booster, there's no end to that in college football," said the scout. "No one is interested in that, and if you held that against one player, well, that's half the kids in the draft driving a free car during college. And hey, we pay our players."

To the NFL, Tunsil's record is clean where it counts.

According to sources, had Tunsil's NCAA-mandated suspension been paired with any criminal record or discipline problem, it would have caused concern.

"He's a quiet guy," a source at Ole Miss said. "He's an offensive lineman. Good kid. The mother is great. He's not the guy you worry about."

"The stepfather thing is a non-issue," said an agent not associated with Tunsil. "I don't think anyone has confused punching a man who put his hands on your mother as a character concern, no."

Tunsil was mentioned by Ole Miss teammate Robert Nkemdiche as having been present in an Atlanta hotel room this past December, when Nkemdiche fell 15 feet out of a window. Police found marijuana in the room, which was registered to Nkemdiche.

"I think that hurt Nkem more than Laremy. More people talked about [Nkemdiche] ratting on a teammate," said the scout. "Laremy was never arrested. He’s been asked about it, but he was at a hotel party. No history of being near this. Isolated."


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His college coaches publicly support him.

Tunsil's behavior while suspended was considered exemplary, even with the possibility of a full-season suspension, which could've ended his college career. According to multiple coaches, Tunsil was active each week in meetings and practiced as if he would start.

"Teams look at his behavior during [the suspension] as a positive," the scout said. "Still involved at meetings and practices, not creating any kind of extra distraction. That situation ... it's not like you're suspended for taking a car in the NFL, but in pro football, players face more distractions you have to tune out. He handled it well."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said he's answered "one or two" questions from NFL personnel about Tunsil related to the eligibility violations.

"It hasn't been a big item of discussion," Freeze said. "He sat out as punishment for something that he, I believe, did unintentionally. I don't think he intentionally said, 'I'm gonna get involved in this.' He had a bad circumstance with the issues all around him.

"We could sit here and talk about who's right or wrong [regarding the incident with Miller], but it doesn't matter. He did that. But I don't think that's a big source of concern. I don't think it speaks to any kind of character flaw he has.

"Put his tape on, and it's easy to look past whatever decision he may or may not have made, good or bad."

In NFL eyes, he's a made-to-order pro tackle.

When weighing any negative against a prospect, it helps if the on-field product is as positive as possible.

Freeze said one NFL scout told him many active left tackles would stand to lose their starting jobs to Tunsil.

Last week at Ole Miss' Pro Day, Tunsil bench pressed 225 pounds 34 times. Multiple scouts on-hand remarked that he didn't slow his motion or show any fatigue until the 28th rep.

Retired NFL defensive lineman Stephen White wrote:

People often associate athletic big men with being soft, but that couldn't be any further from the truth with Tunsil.

You can see his power and aggressiveness on film, without a doubt. I saw this several times in each game when Tunsil would sift up to a linebacker and then block him either off the screen or damn close to it. That's power.

However, you just can't sustain blocks like that on little guys without a lot of athleticism, no matter how much you bench press. After a while, it was clear that if he locked onto a guy on the second level, that dude was going for a ride not of his own choosing.

"To me, that's been the easiest discussion to have," the scout said. "I don't know how you can pass up Laremy Tunsil. For a big man, an offensive lineman, protecting your QB at the LT position is something you want to secure. Laremy is that guy. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone who can move and bend like he can.

"There is always doubt, but with certain guys, the talent gap closes and there's less and less, and you get closer to what you hope is that sure thing. That's [Tunsil]. That's the biggest concern for the league, getting that right."