Max Unger Gives Seattle Seahawks Some Max Protection

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIApril 28, 2009

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 24:  Max Unger #60 of North Team prepares to snap the ball against Corvey Irvin #90 of the South Team during the Under Armour Senior Bowl on January 24, 2009 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Under Armour)
After all of the wheeling and dealing was done on the first day of the draft, the Seattle Seahawks had managed to secure Denver's first-round pick in 2010 and still get back into the second round to take the guy they wanted all along, Oregon center Max Unger.
The Seahawks said Unger, who played all across the line at Oregon, will play inside for Seattle. And, although they wouldn’t come right out and say it, it’s a pretty good bet that Unger will replace Chris Spencer as the starting center.

Here’s what new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had to say about Unger: “Here’s a guy that started for four years [at Oregon]—started his first year at left tackle and then went inside and played center, and that’s an important need in our offense.

“With what we’re going to do offensively, we’re putting a little bit of a burden on the center as far as calling out the protections and [putting him] in charge of the run game assignments," Knapp said. "It is all generated from the center’s call, and this is a guy that is well versed in that area. He displayed that [at] Oregon, not only in the amount of time he played but in the offense they ran.

“They went through some unique changes at Oregon with their coordinator, and he picked up this offense and didn’t skip a beat in the changes from one coordinator to the next. We love his versatility, we love his toughness, and he’ll play inside for us. He’s coming in to play the center/guard position.”
In a conference call from Eugene on Sunday, Unger told reporters he expects his experience in the zone-blocking system to help him make the transition to the Seahawks' new system.  
"I know [the Seahawks] run some zone stuff up there, and that was about 90 percent of our run plays," he said. "As far as the spread offense translating into the NFL, as football goes, it translates pretty easy for the O-line. It’s one of those things where football is football, and if you can play football in the spread, you’re going to be able to
play in the pro style."

For the record, Knapp said, “Spencer is still the center here.” But conventional wisdom says he won’t be for long.

Coach Jim Mora said the team was not sending a message to Spencer, Seattle's first-round pick in 2005, by drafting Unger, rather it was creating competition.

“With Unger, he was a guy that is multi-positional,” Mora said. “We’ll play him inside, initially, and he can play guard and he can play center. And he is just a big, talented guy that we want to get in our organization.

“It’s not about sending a message to anybody; it’s just about creating competition, trying to become the best football team we can become.”

Put your money on this starting line when the Seahawks open the season against St. Louis on Sept. 13: LT Walter Jones, LG Mike Wahle, C Max Unger, RG Ray Willis, RT Sean Locklear.
Behind them will be Spencer, Steve Vallos, Rob Sims, Mansfield Wrotto and Kyle Williams—a group that has been baptized under fire over the past three seasons (Spencer and Sims in 2006 and the others last year).
There's a chance Spencer or Steve Vallos could play center if Unger replaces Wahle, who had some big penalties last year before getting injured.

Unger (center), Locklear (left tackle) and Willis (right tackle) would appear to be the future of the line, with Jones and Wahle soon to be the old men out and with plenty of questions about the other young linemen.

If Jones and Wahle can make it for the next couple of seasons, this could turn into a very good group. After that, they'll need a couple of guards.