Renton – You can’t blame Russell Okung if his brain is on overload.
After four months of preparing for the most important job interview of his life, the Seattle Seahawks’ top pick in this year’s draft is immersed in intense on-the-job training – learning the intricacies of becoming a competent left offensive tackle in the National Football League.
And oh, by the way, he’s replacing one of the best to play the game in Walter Jones, who announced his retirement last week.
So it’s no wonder Okung’s head is spinning after two days of working on the practice field at the team’s headquarters this weekend.
“I feel like I’m swimming a little bit,” said Okung, the No. 6 overall selection. “I’m a bit overwhelmed. But I’m just taking everything in and I’m learning. And I’m getting in the playbook and I’m being patient. And things are going to get rolling.”
Okung has two of the best offensive line tutors guiding him in Seattle offensive line coach Alex Gibbs and left guard Ben Hamilton, whom the Seahawks recently signed to bolster the line and help mentor Okung.
Okung has a playbook the size of a metropolitan telephone book to digest and master before training camp begins at the end of July, and both Gibbs and Hamilton are in charge of teaching the nuances of that information, along with the ins and outs of the team’s new zone blocking scheme.
“He’s a tremendous help,” Okung said about his new teammate Hamilton, a 10-year veteran who also served as mentor in Denver for offensive tackle Ryan Clady when he first joined the Broncos. Clady, now in his third season, is a two-time All-Pro selection for Denver.
“He’s a veteran guy,” Okung added about Hamilton. “He knows the offense very well. So as long as we communicate and we stick together, we’re going to get better.”
Although not as physically imposing as Jones, Okung is solidly built, long and athletic. He’s looked comfortable in run-blocking drills during the first two days of camp, crouching surprisingly low in his stance for a guy 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds and showing good explosion off the line blocking in Seattle’s running game.
However, on pass plays Okung has at times gotten beat around the edge by faster defenders, something he understands he will improve on with more practice.
But the one thing that has been noticeable is Okung’s attitude. Known at Oklahoma State for playing with a little bit of nastiness, Okung has shown that same demeanor during the first two days of offseason workouts.
“It’s very fast,” said Okung, when asked about the speed of the game. “This is the National Football League. It’s not the NCAA. It’s not college. These guys out here, they’re better. They’re well-coached. They’re disciplined, and I’m just trying to get myself up to their level of play.”
One person who has helped Okung in that regard is Hamilton. He knows what Gibbs wants from playing for the longtime offensive line guru when he played for him in Denver.
“He’s been a huge help stepping into that huddle with us,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said about Hamilton. “When you step into the huddle, you’ll call a play, and I’ll hear him kind of give a quiet reminder to the guys near him, or even at the line of scrimmage if the defense shifts or we go in motion. He’s just got the finer coaching points down. He’s got experience with these calls, with this offense and with this system.”
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates wouldn’t bite when asked to compare Okung to Clady. Bates was coaching in Denver when the Broncos drafted Clady in 2008.
“I see a guy that is very intense, wants to learn the whole playbook right now just like all the rookies,” Bates said about Okung. “And he’s a long ways off. But right now he’s our starting left tackle and we’re excited we have him. He’s got unbelievable size and length and attitude. And he’s going to be very good if he keeps working.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437