There was no other Panther draft pick from last month's NFL draft that garnered more question marks than the Panthers pick of OG Edmund Kugbila from Valdosta St. in the 4th round. Yet as we discussed on CSR radio last week the Panthers did their homework on this prospect. In fact, when you peel this onion back, you actually find Big Ku is the perfect prospect to fill the Panthers huge need at RG.
To get a good understanding of where this Division II prospect comes from, you have to go back to his childhood:
Valdosta State's Kugbila to participate in Falcons' local workout | Atlanta Falcons | www.ajc.com
"At this point, I just want to be on a team where I can play football again," said Kugbila, who moved to Georgia with his family from Ghana at age 10. "I don’t really care where I go."
He started playing in the seventh grade at age 13 for the Lawrenceville Youth Association. He didn’t like it much, but his mother Lucy talked him into sticking with the game. "I thank my Mom every day for talking me into staying with it," Kugbila said. "I just have to get used to a three-point stance, but that’s not going to be difficult," Kugbila said.
Kugbila was described as a late bloomer who bloomed just in time to garner interest from some of the top programs in the country. Schools like Alabama where Nick Saban was very interested in the big kid from Atlanta. So how did he end up at Valdosta St?
"I was highly recruited and was a Gwinnett County All-Star, but I was just 10 points short on my SATs," Kugbila said. "Valdosta State came in and it was between going to a JUCO and Valdosta. I visited Valdosta and loved it."
So even after a couple seasons at Valdosta St., rather than transfer to Division 1, Kugbila preferred to stay where he felt at home. So did he regret staying at the small school located in the southern Georgia plains? Well, considering he won a National Championship his senior season I'm thinking 'no':
Panthers take VSU’s Kugbila in 4th round of NFL Draft " Blazers Blog " Valdosta Daily Times
"My heart is racing and it feels like the national championship but even more exciting," said Kugbila, who helped lead the Blazers to the 2012 Division II national championship this past December. "I can’t talk right now. I am just speechless."
After he helped lead the Blazers to the 35-7 win over Winston-Salem State in the national championship game in Dec., Kugbila did not return to Valdosta State for classes this spring. He, instead, moved home to Gwinnett County and began working out, training for the NFL.
He participated in the NFL Combine in Feb. before returning to Valdosta for his pro day on April 18. Kugbila then worked out for several NFL teams, including the Panthers. But he still had no idea the Panthers would be calling his name in the draft.
"Their O-line coach came down to work me out after pro day, and I talked to them a little bit, but that was it," Kugbila said. "I had no idea they were going to take me."
Hopefully Kugbila will return to finish up his degree in future summers but it would seem his preparation for the draft paid off. One of the big questions about about the Panthers 4th round pick was whether he would have still been available in the later rounds since he had a 6th-7th round grade from most evaluators. My hypothesis is that the Panthers were afraid the Falcons were also targeting Kugbila, and the Falcons had two picks at the end of the 4th round.
So can Big Ku come in and grab the RG slot right out of the gate? He has some things to work on first:
"They say that it’s harder to run block out of a two-point stance and I was doing pretty good. I just have to get used to a three-point stance, but that’s not going to be difficult," Kugbila said. Out of a three-point stance, I should be able to do better. I just have to work on that and try to get better."
Kugbila comes from an offense that has its linemen essentially playing from a pass protection stance most of the game. The good news is that supposedly it's harder to play RG from that stance; hence, he should be able to adapt pretty quickly to the 3 point stance.
Edmund Kugbila | Valdosta State, OG : 2013 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile
04/28/13 - A closer look at the Panthers' picks: Round 4/108 -- Edmund Kugbila, OG, 6-4, 317, Valdosta State...The Panthers need some depth on their offensive line, and Kugbila could immediately compete at guard. The native of Ghana may have lasted another round, but Carolina obviously saw enough in him to not risk waiting. - The Sports Xchange
During some of the post draft interviews Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said one of the things they look for in prospects from smaller schools is, 'Did they dominate at their level?' Looking back at his college career before his senior year, you see a steady trend upward in performance:
Valdosta State - Edmund Kugbila - 2012 Football
AS A JUNIOR IN 2011: Played in all 10 games, starting eight of those contests ... Earned third team All-America honors from Don Hansen's Football Gazette while also being named unanimous choice first team All-Gulf South Conference ... Started each of the last eight games of the year ... Saw action on 662 plays on the year, with a positive grade on 594 ... Graded out positively on 89.7 percent of his season plays ... Recorded a team-best 43 knockdown blocks while surrendering only two quarterback hurries and no sacks.
AS A SOPHOMORE IN 2010: Played in all 11 games, starting 10 of those contests ... Only non-start came in VSU's Senior Day game against West Georgia Nov. 6 ... Saw action on 539 plays on the year, with a positive grade on 418 ... Graded out positively on 77.6 percent of his season plays ... Recorded 65 knockdown blocks, second-most on the squad.
AS A FRESHMAN IN 2009: Played in all 10 games, all as a reserve ... Was involved with 316 plays on the year, grading out positively on 193 of those ... Earned a positive grade on 61.1 percent of his plays ... Tallied 15 knockdown blocks on the year.
Other comments about Big Ku encountered during the post-draft evaluation process, though I don't have links for all of this:
- Dave Gettleman contacted Nick Saban about his impression of Kugbila from his recruitment process
- Kugbila is very family-oriented and is excited to be staying fairly close to home
- He has the 3rd fasted short-shuttle of the OGs at the NFL combine
- Given the Panthers O-line coach John Matsko worked Kugbila out personally, he had to be 'banging the table' for him
Though he didn't garner a lot of attention at the NFL combine, a look back shows a performance well worth a 4th round pick:
Here's the measurables, and you just have to love his size and arm length:
Arm Length: 34 7/8"
Weight: 317 lbs
Hands: 10 1/2"
40 Yard Dash: 5.31 sec
Bench Press: 23 reps
Vertical Jump: 22.5"
Broad Jump: 105" (8' 9")
Three Cone Drill: 7.72 sec
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.65 sec
While his short shuttle time excited the coaches, for fans the 23 bench press reps was a red flag. A year in an NFL weight training program should improve that easily. Also he has the frame to add more weight if needed.
NFL Events: Combine Player Profiles - Edmund Kugbila
Kugbila was picked to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, but this wasn’t likely the most fortuitous selection in his family’s history. Kugliba’s parents Cletus and Lucy, won a visa lottery that allowed their family to move to the United States from Ghana. Kugbila and his family moved to the U.S. in 2000 when he was 10 years old. His younger brother Romauld, an Archer grad, is a freshman on the West Georgia football team. Edmund began playing football in the seventh grade. His size and talent attracted schools such as Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Florida, but a low SAT score prevented him from academically qualifying for a Division I school.
His parents won the lottery in 2000 to immigrate to the US and then just won it again this past draft. Might it actually be Panther fans who won on that fateful day in 2000 We've needed a mauling RG for the running game for as long as I can remember. Even if it takes a year for him to adjust and make an impact I'm still excited at his potential and the positive impact he can have in the future.
So again, please welcome Edmund Kugbila to the Panther family!