- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2015

Brandon Scherff laughed. If he’s going to be, quite literally, the next big thing for the Washington Redskins, it’s important for the local population to be able to pronounce his name right.

Scherff,” the 6-foot-5, 319-pound right tackle mused Saturday, his Midwestern modesty clinging to both syllables. “Like the cop. Yep. ‘Sheriff.’”

With introductions out of the way, the Redskins‘ top pick in the recent NFL draft could finally get to work. He joined the team’s nine other draftees, as well as a combination of undrafted players, those in town on a tryout and a select few former practice squadders, at Redskins Park this past weekend for three days of practice and instruction.

The rookie mini-camp wasn’t Scherff’s indoctrination — he, and the others on contract, have been around their teammates since early last week — but it was among the former Iowa standout’s first steps as he begins the acclimatization to life as a professional.

The Redskins have big hopes for Scherff, who was drafted with the No. 5 overall pick and will be given a leg up on a starting role come the beginning of the season. With his selection, new general manager Scot McCloughan found his prototypical offensive lineman — a strong, long, athletic player who approaches the game with a certain degree of nastiness.

Scherff was a left tackle at Iowa, starting 26 games over his final two seasons and capturing the Outland Trophy and a slew of all-America, all-Big Ten and team honors last year. There was a pervasive belief leading up to the draft that Scherff may be better suited in the NFL as a guard, rather than a tackle, partly because of his inconsistent technique in pass protection.

But Scherff said Saturday, repeating what McCloughan and coach Jay Gruden have insisted since his selection, that he will be given a shot opposite Trent Williams at right tackle.

“Obviously, moving over to right tackle is not just a transition that’s going to be immediate and easy for him,” Gruden said on Saturday. “He’s going to have to take some lumps. But the good thing about Brandon, he’s a very focused individual. He studies very hard. He takes coaching extremely well, and he’s got the best coach [in Bill Callahan] to coach him up.”

The influence of Callahan, hired by the Redskins this offseason after three years with the Dallas Cowboys, was something Scherff noticed immediately this weekend. The position coach put the nine offensive linemen in attendance through a litany of drills, including some Scherff said he’d never participated in before.

At the end of the morning session on Saturday — players went through two-a-days on Friday and Saturday, then were left to individual studies on Sunday before breaking camp — Callahan had his players fending off a rushing lineman with one arm folded behind their backs.

“He’s taught us a lot and he’s put a lot on our shoulders,” Scherff said. “He expects us to know it, so that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to come to practice and go to meetings and go back to the hotel and study and just complete that every day.”

The Redskins drafted three offensive linemen this year, with Alabama left guard Arie Kouandjio taken in the fourth round and USF center Austin Reiter selected in the seventh.

Kouandjio, a native of Hyattsville, Maryland who played at DeMatha Catholic High School, said he has begun to appreciate the opportunity to return home and play for his hometown team. He has had the chance already to reconnect with friends who remained in the area, and family members are thrilled that he’s playing for their favorite team.

“I think my brother [Cyrus, a left tackle for the Buffalo Bills] made the comment that he appreciates this rather than me going in the first round anywhere else,” Kouandjio said. “It’s a big blessing.”

Of the 10 draft picks, only Evan Spencer, a wide receiver drafted out of Ohio State in the sixth round, did not participate. Gruden said Spencer had a “slight hamstring” strain that prevented him from taking part in Saturday’s sessions.

The only other glaring absence was that of Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, who McCloughan said earlier in the week was signed as an undrafted free agent because of the success he attained in college. Halliday left the team Friday morning for reasons unknown, Gruden said, leaving only a voicemail before taking a flight back to Spokane, Washington.

Camp, of course, continued without him, and those in attendance knew their primary task was to compete. Scherff, who completed his college career on Jan. 2 with a loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl, said merely getting back on the field after such a long layoff was important.

No particular statements were made on the field during the two Saturday sessions, given the level of competition, but there will be time for that in the coming weeks.

“We’re getting back to football,” Scherff said. “I’ve had five months off, so it’s nice to get back, get into the swing of things with everybody and just play football.”

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