Steelers Fever – Steelers Draft Prospect Interview: DT Carlton Powell

Steelers Draft Prospect Interview: DT Carlton Powell

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Saturday, March 08, 2008
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist

One look at the Steelers current depth at defensive tackle is all it takes to realize help is needed for the upcoming 2008 season. With Free Agency now nearly a week old and with all notable names (and even not so notable names i.e. Damione Lewis) off the market, it has become obvious that the Steelers will look to fill this need through the upcoming NFL Draft.

Carlton PowellOne name that has been tossed around frequently as a great late round high reward/low risk selection is Virginia Tech defensive tackle Carlton Powell.

Powell already has the frame to fit the Steelers nose tackle model and played in a similar system at Virginia Tech, where his job was to eat up at least two blockers on every snap and free up the linebackers to roam freely much like current nose tackle Casey Hampton.

The former Hokie would add depth behind Hampton and would have the chance to learn the nuances of the position from a four time Pro Bowler who is as valuable to his team’s defensive scheme as any player in the league.

Steelers Fever – How did you get invited to the Combine? Can you kind of explain how you felt once you found out?

Carlton Powell – Man, it was truly a blessing! It came in the mail and I was like, ‘I think this is an invite to the Combine.’ So I was there with my parents, looking at it making sure everything was right. It was a great moment, very exciting.

SF – Was training at Tom Shaw’s in Orlando with fellow defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey prior to the Combine a good reference point for you in terms of how you stack up against ‘the best’?

CP – It was definitely great competition, working out against such a big name guy, but I felt like I held my own and stacked up pretty well. In a situation like that it’s definitely sink or swim and I felt like I proved a lot, but it wasn’t anything I didn’t know in my heart already.

SF – At VT you played Left Defensive Tackle in their 4-3 alignment. Does it make a difference to you whether you play in a 4-3 or a 3-4?

CP – I can play any position on the line. I can adjust to whatever. I am a smart player and I can roll with whatever comes my way.

SF – On 33 plays versus the run last year, opponents ran for only 13 yards and one first down. What is the key to that type of success?

CP – It’s definitely being physical and I really don’t like the ball getting past me when it comes my way more than anything. Whatever it takes, I’m taking them down. It just doesn’t happen a lot.

SF – You also had 15 QB pressures last year in 12 starts. What’s the most important thing in getting to the QB when a lot of the time you’re getting double teamed?

CP – A lot of it is presnap reads and knowing that you’re going to get pass protection and knowing down and distance. If its third and long you know its probably a pass or screen. Getting a good presnap read before the play and knowing what you’re going to do before it even happens. That gives you a big advantage.

SF – Of all NFL Players, who do you compare yourself to?

CP – I take bits and pieces from a lot of guys. Footwork kind of like Darryl Tapp. The way Albert Haynesworth uses his hands, I’ve got a little of that. The way Kris Jenkins gets after the QB, the way Casey Hampton stuffs the run; I try to take a little from everybody.

SF – Speaking of Casey Hampton and the Steelers, did they show any interest at the Combine?

CP – Oh yeah. They were one of the teams I talked to a lot. I mean, at the Combine you pretty much talk to every team there even if it isn’t for long. But the Steelers were one of the teams I spoke to the most.

SF – Have NFL teams begun to work with your agent or is it too early for that? Have the Steelers specifically contacted you?

CP – Oh yeah, they definitely converse back and forth, getting game film and just doing research trying to find out as much as they can about me. I know the Steelers are one of many teams, but at this stage it’s pretty hard to tell what’s for real and what is just part of the general evaluation process that all teams do.

SF – Some have said that you aren’t stout enough to be an NFL caliber DT. Have you tried to bulk up?

CP – Bulking up has never really been a problem for me. What good is it to be 300+ lbs if it’s a sloppy 300? Mostly I’m working on speed and agility in the morning and we lift after that with a lower body day or upper body day.

SF – Regardless of your weight, at Virginia Tech you were said to be benching 400 lbs and squatting 500 lbs. Is that still accurate?

CP – I’m benching around 430 right now and squatting close to 600. I’d say I’m getting close to my plateau now but I never really hit a sticking point or anything before.

SF – Was there a Combine drill that you looked forward to the most or least?

CP – Well, I probably look forward to the 40 as I’ve been running a 4.9 in training. But my weakest point is my vertical.

SF – Are their certain things an opposing guard will do that let you know how he’s going to block you?

CP – Definitely. There’s always tendencies. Like you look at the splits between linemen like if they have a tight split you’re probably getting a double team if they got wider splits you’re looking at one on one. You look at how much weight they got on their down hand and if their leaning forward they’re probably going to run block. If they’re leaning back a little nit its probably pass protection. So there are a lot of things that go into it.

SF – Are reads and techniques like that something you get at a prestigious school like VT that maybe you don’t learn as well somewhere else?

CP – Definitely at Tech, because when I was in high school I played linebacker and didn’t know too much about defensive line until I got there. So that helped a lot.

SF – Do the Pro Scouts look favorably upon a guy of your size playing LB in high school? Do they mention that to your agent as a strength?

CP – Yeah that is a strength they recognize. Being able to move around a lot quicker and being agile means I have great feet for my size. Its definitely an advantage they notice against offensive linemen.

SF – You’re known as a disruptive type of player in the vein of a Warren Sapp. Is that an extension of your quickness or a result of your will?

CP – I’d say both, you know. Getting back there, causing trouble, getting penetration, not waiting for things to happen, you make the play react to you rather than reacting to the play. It works out a lot better from that approach.

SF – Is their a moment in your college career that stands out as your favorite moment?

CP – Man, of course. First game I ever played in was against USC who was ranked #1 at the time at night on national TV at Fed Ex field and I had goose bumps! It was amazing. All those fans? Oh my god. That’s when I knew, “I’m here now!” There are so many things running through your head, so many feelings.

SF – Have you spoken to any current or former Virginia Tech NFL players about making the jump to the NFL?

CP – Yeah, Darryl Tapp mainly (of the Seattle Seahawks). He’s a defensive end so he can kind of relate to what I’m going through. He’s had a really good first two years (10 sacks, four forced fumbles, two INT’s and one TD) so I really ask him mostly about football but also about other stuff.

SF – With the Combine over, do you find yourself more nervous or more excited now that the Draft is the next event on the horizon?

CP – More than anything I’m excited but it’s excited, anxious, nervous all that rolled into one. I’m just can’t wait to get on a team and let everyone know what Carlton Powell brings to the table.

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