By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) The last move Phil Emery made as general manager of the Bears was giving center Roberto Garza a one-year contract extension. New general manager Ryan Pace undid that move, releasing Garza in early April and signing veteran Will Montgomery. Outside of Montgomery, the Bears have no other center on the roster and thus they have no future prospects for the position.
Today we take a look at one of the draft's top-rated centers: Oregon's Hroniss Grasu.
C Hroniss Grasu (6-foot-3, 302 pounds, 23, Oregon)
40-yard dash: 5.03
Arm: 32 1/8″
Bio: Grasu arrived in Eugene as a three-star recruit who played both center and defensive end in high school. He redshirted his true freshman season in 2010.
In 2011, Grasu became the full-time starter at center, starting all 14 games on an offense that finished third in the nation in scoring, fifth in rushing and sixth in total offense. In 2012, he again made every start (13 games) for an offense that ranked second in the nation in scoring and third in rushing. He earned third-team All-American honors.
In 2013, Grasu started all 13 games on an offense that ranked second in the nation in total offense and fourth in scoring, and he earned first team All-American honors. In 2014, he missed three games due to a leg injury but started the other 12, earning first-team All-Pac 12 and second-team All-American honors. He was a Rimington Award finalist.
In total, Grasu started all 52 games he appeared in at Oregon.
Pro outlook: Grasu's a fluid athlete who wins with leverage, smarts and angles. He projects best in a zone-based running scheme, where he can utilize his lateral agility to and clean footwork to get movement on down linemen on outside runs or work his way to second-level defenders on inside runs.
He would be a great fit in offensive coordinator Adam Gase's zone-based run scheme. Additionally, Gase frequently pulls the center on wide receiver screens, which suits Grasu's game.
Grasu plays with low pad level to get underneath opponents, and once engaged he plays with functional strength to drive and redirect. He exhibits a strong punch at the point of attack and quick hands to counter once he's lost the initial leverage battle on pass protection sets.
Oregon's offense didn't face nearly as many blitzes as other programs. However, when they did, Grasu was quick to point them out and adjust the protection, then slid well after the snap.
Grasu will be 24 before the season starts, which may signal he's nearly fully developed physically. This could be an issue as he does give up ground when dealing with a shaded nose tackle, so extra weight could help him anchor inside. While he was extremely durable in college, he did suffer a leg injury that required surgery.
Draft projection: Grasu is the second-best center prospect in this class, trailing only Florida State's Cam Erving. He projects as a third-round pick.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.
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