AUBURN — Corey Lemonier thinks the question of his NFL position has been pretty much settled.
The former Auburn defensive end said Tuesday every team that runs a 3-4 defense is looking at him as an outside linebacker.
Lemonier mostly just worked on drills for his anticipated new position at Auburn’s pro day under the supervision of Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler, and said Butler offered encouraging feedback.
“He said definitely I could play some linebacker,” Lemonier said.
Auburn’s top draft prospect participated in the session before representatives from 23 NFL teams, along with ex-teammates that included tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, tailback Onterio McCalebb and wide receiver Emory Blake.
Lemonier, who’s projected as a likely second- or third-round pick in April’s draft after skipping his senior season, is facing questions on more than just his transition to a new position.
He said every team he’s talked to, which includes the Steelers Monday night, has asked about the Tigers’ 3-9 season. Lemonier thinks the problems started with the shooting deaths of two former teammates last June and even traced back to the court cases of four ex-Auburn players who had been arrested on robbery charges.
“I basically tell them, coming into the season we had a dark cloud over our heads with the shooting and the players getting arrested, and we didn’t have the talent to match up with teams in the SEC,” Lemonier said. “It was nothing character. Our motivation was still there, but it was just lack of talent.”
Lemonier also is facing questions about his own season. He had 9.5 sacks as a sophomore and 5.5 last season, five of them in the first four games before the season really started going south.
“It was just getting chipped and double-teamed, most of that was coming to my side,” Lemonier said. “I don’t want to sound like, ‘Poor me.’ It’s something that just happened. It’s part of the game.”
The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder had a solid performance at the combine, including running the 40 in 4.60 seconds. On Tuesday, he did position drills and added one inch to his vertical leap, covering 34 inches.
Lutzenkirchen said he thinks Lemonier will make a successful transition to linebacker.
“Athletically he’s a freak. You look at his numbers and everything he’s put up, and the way he’s able to move at 255 pounds is phenomenal for him,” Lutzenkirchen said. “The hand-eye coordination and the catching and everything will come. He’s just a freak athlete and I think he’s got the size and the speed to play a lot at the next level.”
The tight end’s challenge is returning to form after hip surgery four months ago, a recovery process that was projected to take six months.