There are at least a few Washington State seniors that could get the call to an NFL camp this upcoming April, not necessarily in the draft pool, but definitely shortly thereafter. Defensive tackle Ioane Gauta is one of those players and we got an inside scoop earlier this weekend.
Evan Brennan, an NFL handler and Gauta’s agent, told us some interesting things about his stock, most importantly that it may be on the rise:
It will come down to pro day, but versatility combined with size make him someone who teams would love to pick up after the draft.
Brennan says that Gauta is receiving interest from at least a few teams around the league that run the 3-4 defense and that they “knew exactly who he was (when they talked with Brennan about Gauta)”. There may be a team or two interested that run the more traditional 4-3, but he does fit the mold of a DE in the 3-down technique better, especially with his ability to move around on the line like he did for the Cougs. So at least for now, that’s where most of the interest is being generated.
Remember he began and played most of his junior season as the nose tackle over the center, before being moved around this season. As we know in the NFL, a guy that can play multiple positions can be a valuable asset to any football team, as teams can only carry a 53 man roster (not including seven practice squad players) on any given Sunday. So if a team can carry a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 guy around with them, that free’s up a depth chart spot for an extra guy somewhere else. Former Cougar Ropati Pitoitua has had himself a pretty good career on the defensive line in various defensive schemes doing the same thing.
Gauta’s weight line from site to site has fluctuated between 285 and 305, but he’s probably closer to the low 290′s right now. While that is a solid weight for a traditional defensive end and perhaps even a little heavy, Brennan thinks his client needs to be around 300 to gain the interest he needs to receive a call to an NFL camp as a value undrafted free agent.
In a 3-4 the defensive ends need to be able to eat up double teams and be able to hold an edge to allow the linebackers to clean up plays. As we saw while in college, Gauta was actually pretty adept at doing just that, while causing plenty of havoc himself in the backfield. But he was inconsistent in his ability to get a push, as was the entire defensive line for Wazzu. Some of that may have had to do with being just a little bit too light for the position in the 3-4-hybrid scheme that the Cougars run, which is obviously the concern for scouts and owners around the league right now. The aforementioned Pitoitua is right at three bills himself, but he is also much taller at 6 foot 8, where Gauta stands 6 foot 3 or perhaps on a good day with new cleats, 6 foot 4.
As Brennan mentions, the most important impression to be made will be at the Washington State Pro Day, which has yet to be scheduled. There, Gauta will have a chance to showcase some better size than the scouts remember along with some (as of now) unknown strength and agility.
Gauta will most likely not be invited to the NFL Combine, a great opportunity to showcase your talents on the national stage these days. He’s not quite as high up the latter as say a Deone Bucannon who will play in the Senior Bowl next Saturday (Jan. 25) and will be at the combine event as well if everything goes as planned. “Buck” is ranked as a top three strong safety almost unanimously among pundits that rank such things.
For comparison sake, coming into the 2013 season, Gauta was ranked anywhere from the mid-70′s to mid-80′s at his position. That number has likely raised a little bit because of the versatility and the fact that he is now being looked at for DE rather than DT, but I haven’t been able to find any concrete updated rankings just yet that confirm that suspicion.
The fact that Bucannon is such a highly rated prospect could help or hurt Gauta immensely. With potential extra eyes coming to watch, there will be every opportunity to impress interested and otherwise uninterested teams. The same could be said for kicker Andrew Furney, cornerback Damante Horton and linebacker Justin Sagote, Washington State’s other most pro-ready athletes graduating this season. On the other hand, we all know what a mediocre showing will accomplish for these guys.
As a two-year defensive lineman for WSU, Gauta recorded 16.5 tackles-for-loss and 6 overall sacks and was a force to be reckoned with for o-lines all around the Pac-12. Our early prediction is that he will make an NFL team very happy that they took a chance on him and of course are hoping that his pro day perhaps drives up at least a little late round draft consideration.
We look forward to getting an interview with the big (now former) Crimson and Gray DL in the very near future. Keep an eye out for an Ioane Gauta exclusive here at All Coug’d Up.