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Can These Rookies Make Up For Lost Time?

Posted Jul 26, 2016

Coming into Training Camp, there was concern whether a few rookies would be able transition smoothly after missing time in the spring. Due to NFL rules regarding academic completion for collegiate players, guard Isaac Seumalo, running back Byron Marshall and defensive tackle Aziz Shittu were only able to attend the Eagles' rookie minicamp.

Third-round pick Isaac Seumalo understands what it’s like to miss time. After sitting out his entire 2014 season at Oregon State due to a foot injury, Seumalo battled his way back and returned the next season to play and start in all 12 games. In addition to having the Eagles' playbook, Seumalo stated that his experience under former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley generated a sizeable difference in his readiness for Training Camp.

“To be honest, I was with Coach Riley playing center there and that’s about as hard as it gets," Seumalo said. "So it was a smooth transition for me.”

It should also be noted that the Oregon native is no stranger to understanding the meticulous details of the game. Seumalo’s father, Joe Seumalo, was a former European professional football player and current defensive line coach for Arizona State. Missing time only intensified Seumalo’s hunger for football. Not only was he familiarizing himself with the plays, but he was also spending as many as four to five days a week communicating via Skype with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. The sometime hour-long sessions proved beneficial for the rookie.

“That was extremely helpful," he said. "Coach Stout is very detailed, expects a lot out of me and I expect a lot out of myself.”

Being an absolute student of the game has manifested itself into one of Seumalo’s most attractive attributes as a young prospect, his versatility. The offensive lineman is more than capable of manning all five positions and has done so in the past. Nonetheless, he tries not to get too comfortable at one position. During the first couple days at Training Camp he has spent some time at guard, center and tackle. Head coach Doug Pederson was extremely pleased with the effort from his rookie lineman.

“He was in a great frame of mind," Pederson said. "He was in shape, ready to go. He’s so smart and intelligent.”

Marshall, who was the first player in Pac-12 history to register both 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a single season, couldn’t be more ready to take Eagles training camp by storm. In fact, he looked at his situation from an altruistic perspective when asked if he felt like he was playing “catch up.”

“I wouldn’t call it that. I just know I have a little more work to do, but I wouldn’t call it catch up," Marshall said. "Just study more, pay attention in meetings, make sure I have it down, ask coach if I have any questions then keep studying for a couple more hours.”

Athleticism has never been an issue for Byron – or his family for that matter. Byron’s older brother, Cameron, had a successful four-year career as a running back for Arizona State where he accumulated 2,700 rushing yards and set the single-season Sun Devil record with 18 rushing touchdowns before enjoying a brief NFL career with the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks. His older sister, Dahlys, was a sprinter and hurdler at the University of Arizona and not to mention his dad, Greg, spent time as an assistant strength coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2007-2010 before becoming the owner and head coach of Marshall Sports Performance and Fitness. The California native will most certainly be able to compete physically in the NFL, but he realizes he must give more detail toward the conceptual part of the game.

“Getting the playbook down, making sure I know my plays and don’t make any mental mistakes out there. That’s really the biggest thing. Other than that just gotta keep playing fast and be strong out there,” Marshall said.

Rounding out the rookies who missed time was Abdulaziz Oluwatosin Shittu Jr. – or Aziz Shittu for short. It’s safe to say Shittu isn’t too perturbed by his absence from the Organized Team Activities. During his senior year, the 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle clashed with the realization that not only did he have to stay on top of the Eagles' defensive playbook, but also manage the rigorous academic demands at Stanford University.

“The transition hasn’t been too tough. I tried to stay on top of the playbook while I was at school. I had my (tablet) and everything, but obviously I’m going to do a little extra studying while I’m out here because the whole install is basically in. So I have to know every play in our defensive package.”

Shittu put together a strong senior campaign after having his previous season cut short with an ACL injury. He ended his collegiate football career with arguably his best game as a Cardinal, finishing with 10 tackles (eight solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks and was named the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP. Shittu culminated his time at Stanford with a degree in psychology. He now looks forward to taking that hard work and dedication from the classroom and channeling it onto the football field.

“You just gotta be locked in. It’s different from college now. This is my job, so if I don’t come out here prepared it’s like not bringing the certain material for my job in the workplace," Shittu said. "I’m just treating it like a job and I think that’s the best way to get the most out of your mental side of it.”

Shittu, unintimidated by the fact that he is the youngest player on the team, celebrates his birthday on Wednesday. With Training Camp now in full swing, look for Seumalo, Marshall and Shittu to further assert their presence on the field before the rest of the team arrives.

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