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February 21, 2013

Aaron Brenner commentary: Big weekend for Auburn prospects, showcasing one main skill

AUBURN, Ala. – Take career accomplishments, and a few former Auburn football players would be creating more buzz near the top of many draft boards.

Reserve the evaluation for game tape from 2012 – a pre-rookie contract year, if you will – and Corey Lemonier, Philip Lutzenkirchen and Onterio McCalebb would be testing free agency or contacting realtors in Canada.

Obviously, NFL scouts consider more than one factor when resting the future of their franchise on serious personnel decisions. The combine, which opened in with interviews Wednesday and continues this weekend with televised action on NFL Network, gives draft hopefuls a chance to personally impress their potential bosses in Indianapolis.

Generally, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay like Lemonier, a defensive end giving up his senior year of eligibility, somewhere in or around the second round. Lutzenkirchen and McCalebb, joining Lemonier at the combine, are projected mid- or late-round selections, perhaps a surprise considering their injury troubles and lack of production senior year.

Then there’s Emory Blake, the underrated receiver who squeezes the most out of his talent and did not score an invite to Indy. He’ll have to wait until Auburn’s Pro Day on March 5 to show the NFL what he can do when he doesn’t have three defenders draped all over him.

So this weekend’s all about Auburn’s Three Amigos, each with a championship ring and a pocketful of dreams. They’re intertwined one other way: each man holds a specific talent he’ll need to play up big-time this week.

Lemonier is the reason quarterbacks take Nyquil. Draft experts love his ability to crush a gameplan, the way he doggedly pursues passers just as predators chase their prey.

McShay, for one, tabbed Lemonier a first-round type once upon a time. But that was before the sack artist’s numbers, and overall impact, dropped off his junior year.

Lemonier’s first four games in 2012 included two sacks of Tajh Boyd, one sack of Tyler Russell, one critical blocked field goal vs. Louisiana-Monroe and – on national television against LSU – two sacks of Zach Mettenberger. Problem is, he only had one half-sack the rest of the year.

McCalebb, well, he runs. Fast. Really fast. If he posts a sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard-dash, he’ll force teams to keep him in mind, because that one-trick pony can serve a multitude of roles on an NFL roster.

Lutzenkirchen doesn’t strike you with his physical attributes, so honestly, his heavy lifting’s probably already done: in the interrogation room, where the well-spoken tight end can point to his track record as a leader and a role model – on and off the field – as an asset.

It’s like any other job interview: admit your weaknesses, but spotlight your strengths.

Aaron Brenner, abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

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