Ever since Jeff Saturday left the Colts following the 2011 season, the center position has been an issue for Indianapolis.
Last year, Jonotthan Harrison started more games than anyone else (nine), but he didn't do much to inspire confidence in his ability at the position moving forward. He entered the offseason as the tentative projected starter, but it was thought that the Colts would address the position in either free agency or the draft.
That's exactly what they did, as they used their first round pick on Alabama center Ryan Kelly, and then just for good measure drafted Iowa center Austin Blythe in the seventh round. Kelly is the team's new starting center without question, and Blythe has a good chance to win the backup spot.
As a result, the Colts have moved Jonotthan Harrison to working more at guard, where he has been seeing reps with the first team in OTAs as Hugh Thornton rehabs an injury. It's a new position, but Harrison is confident he'll be able to do well there.
“It’s a little different [than center]," he said last week. "Not too much different but it is a little different, a little more space, sighting different rules and everything going on. Playing center, I understand all the rules at all the positions. It’s just going to take practice, film, film study, correcting myself and just working on any weaknesses that I may have at the position.”
Harrison said he hasn't played much guard in the NFL, as outside of some plays in a game against the Titans in his rookie year and some position work in practice, he hasn't worked at the position at the pro level. In live situations in practices and then in games, Harrison has been at center. But he has a skillset that makes a switch to guard especially interesting, as he has the strength and physical traits to play there. It's about getting the techniques down and being consistent, something that led to his failures at center.
"Each day I feel myself getting more comfortable with the position and recalling different techniques used to play the position," he said. "I’m just here to work every day and work on getting better each day.”
The Colts are giving him the chance to do that, something not afforded to fellow center Khaled Holmes, who started seven games at center last year for the Colts but was released following this year's draft. Harrison was kept around and moved to guard, and he's just excited to still have a chance to compete. Everyone knew that it wasn't good news for him at center when the Colts drafted Kelly, but Harrison hopes to make a positive impression at guard.
“I’m here to compete either way," he said. "I’m just here to compete. You never know what’s going to happen, but either way, my goal is to have a starting role in this offensive line.”
He still has a long way to go before that actually happens, but Jonotthan Harrison has been working with the first team at guard this offseason and is certainly a player to watch in training camp and preseason.