NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Joel Bitonio, OT Nevada

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Oct 19, 2013; Boise, ID, USA; Boise State Broncos defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (8) during the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Bronco Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

PS: Who is the best player you went up against this year?

JB: I would honestly say, like the best battle I had this year was probably Boise State and DeMarcus Lawrence.  He’s getting a lot of hype now, but I thought he was getting overlooked for a little while there.  In the first half, I thought I got the clear advantage.  We were running the ball and I thought I played well the first half.  I mean, he had a huge game.  I think he had three sacks that game, but a few of them came on the other side of the OLine.

In the second half, we were down a couple touchdowns and I thought he did a great job of changing up what he was doing.  He’s an athletic dude.  He has good hands and he knew we were going to pass the ball, so that gave him a little bit of an advantage.  I think he’s a good player.  I think he’s gonna do well at the next level.

PS: In a game that turned ugly like Florida State did, what is your mindset to keep fighting and playing through it?

JB: For me, I’m just a competitor, so no matter what the score is, like, even though with the OLine and the offense, you want to work together and you have to score points.  For that to happen in my aspect, I have to win every battle.  So, I’m going through that, I thinking that no matter what, I have to win this battle.

So even though, we’re down by I think, 60 points at the end of the game, I’m still thinking like, you know if we want to get the offense going, I have to win.  I’m not going to give up a sack here or let my man make a play.  You know, we’re still down, but I want to prove where I can play with these guys. And that’s kinda just the mindset that I was going in with when I had to play that game.  You look at the score, because you know you want to be winning the game, but also, it’s an individual matchup every time out there, I never want to lose those.

PS: What was your overall experience with the Senior Bowl?

JB:  It was definitely overwhelming, you know, in the sense that there is so much going on.  You’re talking to scouts, you’re talking to all different types of people during your off time and you’re trying to learn a bunch of new plays and work with, you know for OLinemen, you’re used to working with certain guys.

So when you come in there with a whole new offense, whole new terminology, and guys you’ve never played with.  It’s pretty overwhelming, I think for offensive linemen especially.  You’re trying to learn new blocking techniques, new combos and stuff, so you know, day one and two, I was pretty, mentally just trying to learn the playbook and stuff like that.

I thought I was competing, obviously.  I had some good plays, some bad plays, but there were good players there, so you’re gonna have both of those.  But by day three, I felt really comfortable and I felt like I could start imposing my will pretty well and then by game time, I thought I had a really good game.  I thought I had a strong showing.  We won the game, so that’s always a bonus and it was a great week.  I met some good guys.  It kinda helps when you go to the combine and you know some people now instead of just going there without knowing anybody.  I loved it and I think anybody who goes there should take advantage of it.  Worst case scenario, you struggle a little bit on the field, but you have such a good opportunity to meet coaches, meet personnel people, and just kinda show them who you are off the field as well.

PS: What do you say to critics who suggest you don’t have the length to play tackle?

JB: I would say that my arms are pretty long.  I think my arms at the combine were 33 7/8” and I was looking that up and it’s pretty good for a tackle.  I’m not 6’7” with 36” arms, you know what I mean, but I think have the athleticism, which I tried to show at the combine, you know, and ability to be on the edge.  I played against Anthony Barr, I played against Florida State, I played against DeMarcus Lawrence, I played against Shaq Barrett, Kyle Van Noy; guys that rush the passer and I felt like I held my own in every single one of those matchups.

Obviously the learning curve going to the NFL; every player is a great player in the NFL.  Every player is a really good player.  You have to bring your A game, but you know I’ve never played tackle in the NFL, so I don’t know if it’s going to affect me that I’m not 6’6” or not, but I think with what I’ve done so far in my career, it makes me feel like I can still do it at the next level.

PS: At what point in Indianapolis, did you know you were never going to run another 40 yard dash in your life again?

JB: Probably when I took off the 40 cleats.  You know, you have those special 40 cleats, the really light ones.  And I was just like, man, I did well.  I’m taking these off.  I’m never running another 40 yard dash again.  I’m really excited.  It was a good time.  I did really well at the combine, so I was really relieved afterward, man.  I was a happy camper.

PS: Does Nevada run a pretty good mix of zone and gap concepts?

JB: My first few years were a lot more zone heavy than we were these last two years, but this year our quarterback was kind of banged up a little bit, so we ran a lot of zone and a lot of gap.  We were pretty even running both throughout, but I’ve experienced both for sure.

PS: So you’re not unaccustomed to having to kick out and track down blocks, hit guys in space or make blocks on the move?

JB: No.  Our read option offense, I mean, it started when Kaep was there, but our read option, I work with the guard and we double team the 3-technique or 2-technique and we’re working up to this backer and this backer has a 2-way go.  I mean, it depends what defense we’re playing, but sometimes he’ll be the alley guy, he’ll fill and be the guy that’s taking the quarterback or he’ll be playing downhill and you never know on a given play.  So you’re stepping, you have to be able to react to what he’s doing.  It’s almost an aggressive, finesse block. I think it’s one of the harder blocks that people have to do on the back side of a zone read, at least the way we ran it.  I got pretty good at it my last couple years, but sometimes when you’re playing these linebackers, you gotta be really, really sure so it doesn’t make you look bad.

PS: I have to imagine that practicing against guys like Dontay Moch with all of his speed had to be a tough test to land some of those blocks.

JB: Yea, I think that was one of the benefits, man.  Our defense my first two years was athletic.  We had guys flying around and I think at the time, all three of our linebackers when I was on scout team all had a shot.  I believe two of them are still in the NFL right now and one of them was in training camp for a while.  And then our DLine was loaded too with Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped were freaks off the edge.

So, you know, me just getting used to speed; that was the biggest thing when you’re coming from high school.  It’s just so much faster than high school that you gotta get used to that, but once I started blocking those guys, I was like man, I could play with anybody.  At least that was the mindset I had.  It slowed down the game almost when you’re playing against guys that know your offense.  So when you go to the games and they don’t really know  your offense as well, it slows down for you and it is definitely an advantage.