The NFL Draft has come and gone and the Indianapolis Colts drafted themselves a MAC player, DE/OLB Jonathan Newsome from Ball State. But they didn't stop there. Immediately after the Draft, they signed a handful of MAC undrafted free agents.
We caught up with Stephen T. Reed of StampedeBlue.com to talk the Colts love for MACtion. (This interview has been condensed and edited)
Hustle Belt: Was there any fan reaction to the draft pick of Ball State DE/OLB Jonathan Newsome since he is an in state kid?
Stephen T. Reid: There was quite a bit of fan reaction when the pick was made. Most of it confusion as to who Newsome was, and why was he drafted in the the fifth round with other arguably better and more productive guys still available at that same position. There are always Colts' fans who have unprecedented faith in every move the GM makes but after last draft several of us were left with questions.
As far as being an in-state kid, I don't think anyone really cared about that as much. Realistically, unless you went to Ball State, the Cardinals don't get much press in Indianapolis. And when it comes to the roster decisions most fans only care if the guy can play and help the team win.
HB: Do you see Newsome playing more of a stand up linebacker or a hand-in-the-ground edge rusher?
SR: Newsome will primarily be a stand up, rush OLB. There's no way with his lack of physical size and strength he could be a DE in the Colts 3-4 defense. Whenever the Colts play their hybrid defense and move to a 4-3 to get more pass rushers on the field, I could see him putting his hand in the dirt, but outside of that, he'll be transitioned to OLB to accentuate his initial quickness and ability to drop his shoulder to dip under tackles.
HB: Do you think in the Colts system Newsome could be molded into a Robert Mathis type?
SR: That's the comparison I keep hearing and that's the direction I think the Colts are looking when they drafted Newsome. The scouting report on Newsome is very similar to that of Robert Mathis when Mathis came out. I fully expect the team to try to mold him like Mathis, but Mathis is one of the hardest working players on the team so if Newsome is anything close to that, then the Colts may have found a real gem.
HB: Do you think the former first-team All-MAC rusher will see the field at all during his rookie year, maybe on special teams?
SR: Barring injury, Newsome will have to make his name on special teams. That's actually what Mathis did his first year as well if my memory serves me correctly. He could get on the field in some situational packages when it is an obvious passing down, but until he becomes stronger, he won't be an every down OLB in the system. Also, the Colts have some depth at OLB, even though the talent there is questionable, so I'd suspect this will be a learning/development year for Newsome.
HB: With the Colts stacked running back corps of Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, does Zurlon Tipton, the CMU running back the Colts signed after the Draft, have any possibility of getting some carries this year?
SR: Tipton honestly may have a tough time making the roster but his size, ability to pass protect, and fairly reliable hands could earn him a spot as the fourth RB, surpassing both Chris Rainey and Daniel Herron. Even if he does make the roster, he'd have a hard time seeing the field, unless a couple injuries occur, and it doesn't seem like he'd be an option on special teams so that could be a huge concern. I do think he would be a great guy to keep on the practice squad and develop though since Ahmad Bradshaw is on a one year deal and the Colts aren't completely smitten with Rainey or Herron.
HB: Do the Colts need any depth at Fullback? Could you see Tipton changing positions for the Colts?
SR: This actually is a more logical place for Tipton. The Colts seemingly love fullbacks, which is a little concerning to some of us, but they only have Stanley Havili with any playing experience. They tried moving a DT or another OT back into the back field but it basically gave away where the play was going.
Tipton's ability to pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield are necessities for the fullback position in the Colts offense. The Colts also like to hand the ball off to the fullback in short yardage situations so Tipton's power and decisiveness would be a huge asset. But again, Tipton doesn't seem to be able to play special teams, which will hinder his chances of landing a roster spot.
HB: Which MAC player is most likely to make the Week 1 roster?
SR: The obvious and cheap answer here is Newsome because Grigson is a huge fan of him. Interesting story to note is that Newsome seemingly wasn't on the Colts radar until the Combine and after Grigson interviewed Virginia OT Morgan Moses who said Newsome was the toughest guy he had to block all year.
Thanks to Stephen T. Reed, and Stampede Blue for helping us out with this.