Lions molding rookie Colby Sorsdal into jack of all trades on O-line

Detroit News

Allen Park — Back in April, the Detroit Lions made just one addition to their offensive line through the draft, adding an offensive tackle in the fifth round.

But when rookie minicamp began, Colby Sorsdal, the William & Mary product, was strictly taking snaps at guard. Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley explained the decision to work in Sorsdal at a position he rarely played in college.

“I told him, ‘Don’t even think about going out there yet,’” Fraley joked at the end of mandatory minicamp.

“But if we need to, we’ll see. I want him to get settled in, try to get his feet wet and just learn that position, because when you’re a guy that’s playing tackle and you go in there, there’s a little bit of a difference.”

Sorsdal took about 98% of his college snaps at right tackle. According to Fraley, it’s not a knock on Sorsdal’s potential that he’s not getting snaps there. Realistically, the Lions are probably expecting former top pick Penei Sewell to hold down one tackle spot for the next decade. Taylor Decker, who is the longest-tenured Lions player, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in the near future.

But with Pro-Bowl left guard Jonah Jackson due for an upcoming extension, center Frank Ragnow dealing with chronic turf toe and Halapoulivaati Vaitai making a return from back surgery, it’s more likely the team’s quickest need on the offensive line is on the inside.

While there are plenty of offensive linemen who can play tackle and guard, it’s not as seamless of a transition as one may think.

“It’s really more in the pass game. The run game, when you’re running off the ball, working in combinations, you’ve done that with tight ends. It’s really the stunts,” Fraley said.

“It’s the, ‘Oh, I’m passing this. It’s a twist game. Plus we got the linebackers.’ How do you communicate in there? You’re bumping shoulders on both sides. That’s the biggest growth, I think, in most guards going from tackle to guard is, that’s where the play’s a little different.

“It happens faster (at guard), where, when you’re out there on that island, everything’s a little bit slower happening and it’s normally an individual battle.”

More than anything, the Lions know they can take their time with a prospect they like but don’t have a spot for yet.

“It’s a learning curve for anybody that’s coming from college, not only coming from not-D1 level, but just going from tackle to going inside,” Fraley said. “It’s a different play style. You’re used to only working with a guard, normally, especially when it comes to stunts. … He’s picked up the system pretty well. He’s had some learning pains here and there, but he’s coachable, and that’s all I ask, to be coachable.

“He’s gonna work hard, and like I said, pads are gonna separate everybody and we’ll see when those come on, but what I’ve seen so far, it’s been good.”

nbianchi@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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