NFL Combine: Utahn Xavier Su'a-Filo willing to play either guard or tackle to become Day 1 pro starter
Michael Conroy, AP
Versatility is a key part of Xavier Su'a-Filo's game, and he's hoping it leads to an early starting gig in his NFL career.
The Timpview High alum is one of 85 underclassmen participating in this year's NFL Scouting Combine, as workouts began Saturday and run through Tuesday. Following his junior year at UCLA in 2013, the LDS returned missionary who was born in American Fork chose to make the leap to the pro ranks.
He has no intention of waiting his turn to make it on the field, after starting all 40 games he played for the Bruins. Last year, he split time between left guard (seven starts) and left tackle (six).
"In my offense (at UCLA), I thought I was more effective as a guard, but I was able to play tackle," Su'a-Filo told NFL Network after his workout Saturday. "I was able to step up when my team did need it. So I've told teams wherever I can get a chance to play to compete for a job on Day 1, I'll be more than willing to do it."
Su'a-Filo's 4.44-second time in the 20-yard shuttle at the Combine Saturday was tied for third for offensive linemen. His other numbers included: 25 reps in the bench press, a 5.04-second 40-yard dash, 25-inch leap in the vertical jump, 102 inches in the long jump and a 7.6-second effort in the three-cone drill. Su'a-Filo's performance made an impression on Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar, who named the Utahn one of his risers from Day 1 of the Combine.
"Many believe that Stanford’s David Yankey is the best guard in this draft class. But the more I watch Su’a-Filo, the more I think he’ll be the better player over time," Farrar wrote. "Certain players just hit the game with a specific and effective nasty streak, and that’s what he’s got.
"He could probably be a right tackle in the NFL, but I’d prefer him as a gap guard who could also play zone. He’s a pure finisher who seems determined to play right to (and sometimes through) the whistle."
Su'a-Filo is a potential first-round draft prospect, though he could also have his named called on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft. With the Bruins, though, he's had an added benefit of working under head coach Jim Mora the past two seasons. Mora spent two decades as a coach in the NFL — including four years as head coach with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks — before taking over the helm at UCLA.
"Coach Mora taught us a lot about treating everybody the same but not only being accountable but responsible for your teammates," Su'a-Filo said about his college coach. "And really, what I envision the NFL staff being like was the kind of coaching experience he established at UCLA. Discipline, doing exactly what your coach wants all the time and being responsible, even off the field."
Su'a-Filo admits he plays with a mean streak, and he has a current pro he likes to pattern his game after.
"I try to play like Logan Mankins, the left guard for the New England Patriots," he said. "Learning about him, he was a first-round draft pick out of Fresno State. But he went from Day 1 and started immediately and he's a five or six-time Pro Bowler for the Patriots. The thing I like about him is he's nothing pretty. I think it looks pretty, but he's physical, he's nasty and he's mean. Really, I try to play like that."
How others with Utah ties performed during Saturday's Combine workouts
Jake Murphy, Utah tight end: The former Ute who left school after his junior year had a pair of top performances at the Combine. He finished fourth among tight ends with a 7.18-second effort in the three-cone drill, and his 4.27-second time in the 20-yard shuttle was second-best among his position group.
Anthony Denham, Utah tight end: Denham clocked 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a 32.5-inch vertical leap.
Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State tight end: Duncan, who couldn't participate in workouts because of a broken foot, still made a strong impression in the only physical activity he could do. He finished first among the tight ends with 35 reps in the bench press, seven more than the next-best tight end.
Tyler Larsen, Utah State center: Larsen's 36 reps on the bench press was tied for second among offensive linemen. Larsen also ran an 8.22-second three-cone drill, a 4.7-second 20-yard shuttle and had leaps of 23.5 inches in the vertical jump and 102 inches in the broad jump.
D.J. Tialavea, Utah State tight end: Tialavea was slowed by an injury and did not compete in any workouts.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd