Offensive Linemen Share Michigan Connection

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Joseph Barksdale was selected in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft and Jared Veldheer was taken in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft. AP Photos.

Joe Barksdale and Jared Veldheer have several things in common.

Both of these promising young football players play offensive line positions. Both were selected by The Oakland Raiders in the third round of the NFL Draft—Veldheer in 2010 and Barksdale in 2011. And both hail from the state of Michigan, Barksdale from Detroit and Veldheer from Grand Rapids.

Now Barksdale hopes to have another thing in common with Veldheer and that is breaking in to the starting lineup as a rookie for the Silver and Black. Veldheer earned the starting spot at center for the Raiders coming out of training camp before settling into the starting spot at left tackle for the Silver and Black.

Oakland Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson said after this year's draft that Barksdale would have the chance to earn playing time either at right guard or right tackle. "(Joe) can play either guard or tackle and we feel very comfortable about that," said Jackson. "Obviously our goal is to make sure we put the best five guys out there and let guys compete and make an impact and I feel very fortunate that he's going to find a home somewhere on this football team."

Jackson added: "I would like to bring him in on the right side to begin with start him over there, everyone has to have a starting point and then see how we progress from there, obviously he played both sides and that is the flexibility of our line now. We have a left tackle that has played center. We have center now that has played guard, we have had a right tackle that has played over there on the left side."

Barksdale was a highly-regarded lineman at Detroit's Cass Technical High School, where he was the top defensive tackle prospect in the Midwest and was rated the fourth-best player in the country at his position. Although he was pursued by all of the major colleges in his area, Barksdale became the first player from the state of Michigan to sign a national letter of intent to attend LSU.

At LSU, he moved to offense and continued to dominate in the trenches. Barksdale was a three-year starter at LSU, seeing time in the opening lineup at both right and left tackle. In his three seasons as a starter, he recorded 144 knockdowns and 29 touchdown-resulting blocks, producing an 83.83 percent grade for blocking consistency.

"I am really excited to be an Oakland Raider," said Barksdale who then mentioned that his family was very familiar with the history of the Team of the Decades. "I know that it sounds simple, but my father used to talk about the Raiders all the time, back when Jim Otto and [Jack] Tatum and those guys were here.

"He has been a Raiders fan for the longest and when I got drafted by the Raiders he told me that you are about to be a part of something big because he could see that the Raiders are coming back to dominance and he is really excited for the team as well as me. So I am just so happy to be here and I love the opportunity that I have and I am ready to come here and hit the ground running."

Now the talented young offensive lineman from Detroit joins Veldheer, another Michigan native and talented young offensive lineman who is already on the roster. Veldheer started the final 10 games of his rookie season in 2010 and was part of a line that helped the Raiders rank second in the NFL in rushing. He was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team by the Sporting News and helped the Raiders offense set a franchise record by averaging 4.9 yards per rushing attempt and set a team record with three games with 500-plus yards of total offense.

Said Veldheer after being selected by the Raiders last year with the 69th overall pick: "It's been real busy but you know it's been fun going out there and competing. You gotta pinch yourself saying you're now with the Oakland Raiders. It's a cool thing. It's new, it's fast, you know and a good group of guys and I've really enjoyed it."

Veldheer dominated his level of competition at Hillsdale College, and then showed his athletic prowess at the NFL Combine. In 2008, Veldheer was co-captain of the Hillsdale Chargers football team. After the 2009 season, the American Football Coaches Association named him First-Team All-American. Veldheer attended Forest Hills Northern High School in Grand Rapids, where he was the team's Most Valuable Lineman and added All-Conference honors as a senior.

Here's what one scouting report said about Veldheer: "If you look around the National Football League depth charts, most of the starting offensive linemen hail from the major college ranks. Most professional scouts feel that Veldheer could be that exception to the rule, basing that assessment on his career at Hillsdale, along with very impressive performances during practices prior to the Texas vs. the Nation Game."

Now, a mere four years after these two young, talented football players made their respective marks on prep fields in the state of Michigan, they are now joined together to form the makings of a solid foundation on the offensive line for the Silver and Black.

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