Patriots Take Gholston Interest Up A Notch

Vernon Gholston (Getty Images)

The Patriots could use a superstar on defense considering age is about to claim one or more of their starters. Ohio State's Vernon Gholston could be that player? The Patriots have already taken a close look at the kid, but are they planning on dialing that up another notch? UPDATE: Get inside for an NFL Scout's opinion on Gholston and team interest.

Updated 11:15am

The New England Patriots were one of many teams to express interest in the physical specimen known as Vernon Gholston, linebacker for THE Ohio State University.

A physical freak and workout monster, Gholston could become an immediate impact player on any defense he joins, whether it's a 3-4 or 4-3 system. The Ohio State product is currently ranked among the top 3 outside linebackers available in the Draft, and projects to be a Top 10 pick in April.

Last week Gholston was on Sirius NFL Radio for one of the many pre-draft interviews he will be doing. On the show, Gholston noted that he's received a lot of interest, and has a busy schedule as more teams want a closer look at him. While he's had some workouts, visits are usually conducted by teams after they have all the data they need on a player's physical ability.

"At this point, it's about taking team visits and getting ready for the Draft," said Gholston. When asked which teams want a closer look, Gholston said the interest began at the Combine and increased since.

"Most of the teams -- with higher picks in the Draft -- have been 3-4 teams," said the former Buckeye. Considered to be top target of teams that run the 3-4 scheme, the Jets are believed to be interested in adding Gholston to their revamped linebacker corps. New York picks one slot ahead of the Patriots in this year's Draft with the 6th overall selection.

"I met with the Jets at the combine," said Gholston. "That's the team a lot of people have me connected with. I think I did well with them."

Gholston mentioned that he had a visit set with the Patriots for the 19th, but didn't specify if it was a private workout or a team visit. Teams are allotted a maximum of 30 players whom they can invite to team facilities for a visit. Workouts at the player's local facility are not limited.

Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel -- an Ohio State alum -- often frequents his college campus coming in contact with past and future Draft prospects. He's already been in contact with Gholston, no doubt sharing some insights on the Patriots. "He was in the weight room last week," said Gholston on seeing the New England linebacker around campus. Gholston credits Vrabel with being willing to share advice with all of the Draft prospects that are working out at the university.

Other teams in the mix for Gholston's services include another team that will run the 3-4 defense, the Miami Dolphins. "I met with them last Monday (March 3rd)," said Gholston. The Dolphins have the first overall pick in the 2008 Draft. While Gholston has skyrocketed up draft boards, seeing him go first overall would be a bit of a surprise.

"He's a junior prospect who elected to come out early," said former NFL Scout Tom Marino when asked about Gholston. "He's an unbelievable physical presence. He's got a blacksmith's arms and he's a big, rocked-up guy."

Gholston used that bulked up body to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, managing 14 sacks for the Buckeyes in 2007.

Ironically, with all of the ability to get to the quarterback, Marino claims that people don't think of Gholston as a pure edge rusher. "He's really more of an undersized 3-technique defensive tackle," said Marino. "I think the guy has some real presence, he can really fly."

Gholston was clocked under 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, fast for a defensive end, and certainly much quicker than some of the starting linebackers in the league currently. His dedication to the weight room showed when he posted 37 reps on the bench press -- tied for the best overall with offensive tackle Jake Long of Michigan. At 6-foot-3, 266-pounds, Marino feels that Gholston may have maxed out physically. "I don 't think he's going to get much bigger," he said.

Although some mock drafts project Gholston to the Rams with the second overall pick, Marino believes that's taking the hype a bit too far. "I can tell you that's not going to happen," said Marino, who still counts among some Ram insiders among his many sources. "I don't think he's a top ten talent, but he'll probably be a top ten pick," said Marino, who cited technique as one of the issues Gholston has to work on to convince scouts that he is the real deal.

Regardless of his mock draft prospects, Gholston will be a major contributor for any team he joins. With New England bringing him in for a closer look, expect the Patriots to give serious consideration to drafting Gholston at No. 7.

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