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Big things expected from talented tackles

When scouts size up offensive tackles, they look for size, agility, and tenacity. That's why the University of Washington's Khalif Barnes is virtually assured of being a first-round pick in Saturday's NFL Draft.

Barnes, who holds a degree in law, society, and justice from Washington; Alex Barron of Florida State, and Oklahoma's Jammal Brown -- the Three Bs -- are the three highest-rated tackles in the draft.

They help set the pace for what many observers consider one of the better groups of offensive linemen in some time.

"This is probably as good-looking a group of offensive linemen as we've probably seen for, I don't know, 10-12 years," Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese said after scrutinizing this year's crop at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "This is an outstanding group.

"Historically we've seen the jelly-belly kind of guys that weigh a lot that maybe aren't real tall. This group is just outstanding . . . and still flat-bellied, athletic, and can do a lot of things."

The Barnes, Barron, Brown trio has the size -- Barnes and Brown are 6 feet 5 inches, Barron 6-7 -- and each has impressed with his mobility. Barnes leads the way with a 4.94-second 40-yard dash.

And there are no big guts among them.

Like Barnes, Brown began his college career as a defensive lineman, and brought an attacking style to the other side of the ball.

"He has a nasty attitude toward them," said Barnes, who went through pre-draft training with Brown.

Brown is proud of his reputation.

"There's nothing nice about playing on the line," he said. "Every down you're hitting somebody in the mouth, so you have to have some attitude -- you can't be a nice guy about that."

Brown didn't allow a sack last season with the Sooners, and gave up just one in his last three seasons.

"Nobody touched my quarterback," Brown said. "I just know that [I was told] once I made the switch from defensive tackle, `Don't let nobody get near your quarterback,' so that's what I did.

"It's a personal thing because you don't want no guy to beat you and all the fingers to be pointed at you. So I just make sure no one comes close to him."

Marcus Johnson played mostly guard for Mississippi, but is projected as a tackle in the pros. The 6-6, 321-pounder isn't likely to be taken in the first round.

Only three guards have been selected in the first round of the past five drafts (compared to 15 tackles), with no more than one in any year.

David Baas, who played center his senior season at Michigan but is projected as a guard, should go in the second round.

Mississippi's Chris Spencer is the most well-regarded center, a position from which only one player was drafted in the first round in the past five years.

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