Two practices — without pads or in much more than helmets in spikes. That is all it took for two rookies to gain in the Seahawks’ needy defense.
It was clear from the initial position drills last weekend for mostly first-year players and tryout guys what the Seahawks expect the 6-foot-3, 304-pound Young to become: their new nose tackle.
They have an urgent need there. The team released captain Al Woods this offseason. Bryan Mone, another Seattle nose tackle last season, is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee he got in mid-December playing against San Francisco.
To begin addressing their need for nose tackles, Seahawks drafted Young. Then immediately after the draft they signed Robert Cooper, a 309-pound undrafted rookie free agent from Florida State.
Young and Cooper got long looks from Carroll and Hurtt in the rookie minicamp.
Young played defensive tackle at Mississippi State. But he was more over the guard than the opposing center. He moved sharply at the snap, shooting gaps and slanting hard into opposing backfields in the Southeastern Conference.
In the first two no-pads practices of Young’s pro career, coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt had Young squarely over the center, as a nose tackle. The rookie’s new job: Control the “A” gaps to the left and right of the center, plus, as he’s already gathered, keep offensive linemen from getting past him to block Wagner and Seattle’s linebackers.
The role is as different for him as Starkville, Mississippi, is to Seattle.
“It’s totally different. At Mississippi State we did a lot of stunting and a lot of slanting, but here, I’m more in gap control and gap and a half,” Young said. “So it’s a totally different scheme.”
He’s added weight in the couple months since the Seahawks continued their scouting of him for the draft.
“I think it gives me the ability to stay in my gap longer,” Young said.
“It really gives me that opportunity to play the gap-and-a-half scheme.”
He isn’t the only rookie draft pick who has added weight for a hefty new role on Seattle’s defensive line.
Mike Morris’ new job
Fifth-round pick Mike Morris also has known since early March what Carroll and Hurtt have wanted from him.
Get bigger, for a big-boy role.
The 6-foot-6 Morris weighed 275 pounds at the league’s scouting combine 2 1/2 months ago. He played at about 290 pounds at the University of Michigan last season. He was trying to be fast at the combine, so he lost weight.
But the high-ankle sprain that hindered him at the end of Michigan’s run into the college football playoff last winter limited him at the combine, too. That led to disappointing workout numbers that worried some around the league. His injury and that underwhelming combine is why Morris said the day Seattle drafted him: “I have a big chip on my shoulder.”
Last weekend at the rookie minicamp, Morris looked the part of the Seahawks’ needed, edge-setting defensive end (albeit in shorts and a T-shirt). With Hurtt a few yards away watching intently, Morris was rangy, long and fast in drills off the edge and inside the offensive tackles. He also was playing inside against new guard Anthony Bradford, a fourth-round pick this month from LSU.
Carroll and Hurtt like that Morris had seven sacks for Michigan last season as an end and stand-up linebacker-type. But they like more the potential they see in him to be a rugged end to stop the run and fix the biggest problem for Seattle’s defense last season.
The team signed former Denver Broncos 3-4 defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones to a $51 million contract this offseason. The Seahawks also brought back Jarran Reed after a couple years away, to play tackle.
They aren’t done remaking the defensive front seven. They must add more for Seattle to go further than the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs in which they lost iat San Francisco in January.
The Seahawks have told Morris they see him as a three-technique (outside shoulder of the opposing guard) tackle/end or “4i.” That’s an end in the 3-4 that lines up opposite opposing tackles.
“We’re looking hard to watch Mike Morris how he makes this transition that we’re putting him through,” Carroll said. “Mike came in at 290 or something. He’s 6-6, 290-something. He looks great out there. He’s played some defensive line, but not as much as he’s going to play now.”
So far, so great for Morris in his transition: new team, new coaches, new role.
How did he gain about 20 pounds in six weeks?
“Caloric intake,” Morris deadpanned.
Friend in Olu Oluwatimi
The lone familiar part of being with the Seahawks for Morris? His Michigan teammate Olu Oluwatimi is here, too. Seattle drafted the Rimington Award winner as college football’s top center last season, a few minutes after they drafted Morris in the fifth round this month.
“Oh man, it’s been amazing,” Morris said at the rookie minicamp that ended Saturday. “It’s been amazing just to get to see all of the guys from around the country that I have been watching on film and stuff like that, and also going against them.
“I’ve been going against Olu for a year and a half, and it feels good to go against him, and it feels good to go against AB (Bradford). I’m really excited, I’m really excited for the growth that I am about to endure.
“This is a new position for me, but it’s not unfamiliar territory. I just want to get as much work as possible and be the best that I can be.”
Carroll, Hurtt and the Seahawks have organized team activities on the field the next few weeks, the mandatory veteran minicamp June 6-8 and training camp that begins the last week of July to get Young set in his new nose-tackle role and Morris entrenched as a 3-4 end.
“You can see stuff,” Carroll said of the first glimpses from rookie minicamp. “We’ve got to use our imagination a little bit, but we know how tough these guys are.
“We’ve seen them play football. Now we need to see if they can adapt to our stuff, and there’s a lot of positives in there.”