Chase Farris had gotten lost in the shuffle.
The spotlight is finite and was occupied by the Ohio State stars, including the five expected to be picked Thursday in the first round of the NFL Draft and the other nine who attended the scouting combine. Meanwhile, Farris shuttled back and forth from defense to offense throughout his five-year career with the Buckeyes, only finding a home as a senior at right tackle.
The Elyria High graduate was invited to the East-West Shrine Game — it’s the oldest college all-star game but has been surpassed by the Senior Bowl — but still wasn’t feeling the love.
Until he put on the pads.
“I don’t think anyone expected me to perform like I did,” Farris said Monday by phone. “No one talked to me Day 1, but after two days in pads, that switched and I started drawing the attention of people.
“Since then, it’s been business. Work out, maintain my diet, be the best I can be to succeed.”
Farris won’t receive any national publicity in the run-up to the draft, but he’s garnered the attention of NFL teams. All of them need offensive linemen every year.
Farris could be selected Saturday on the third day of the draft. If that doesn’t happen, he’s expected to be signed as a priority free agent in the minutes following the final pick.
“He could sneak into the back end of the draft,” NFL Network analyst and former Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah said. “You’ve got some physical tools to work with there.”
“He’s a big, strong guy,” NFL Network’s Charles Davis added. “Look at the base that he’s got.”
Farris (6-foot-4, 306 pounds) has worked out for the Colts, Lions and NFC champion Panthers and attended the Browns’ workout for local prospects April 15. He ran the 40-yard dash and went through offensive line drills for Cleveland’s coaches and scouts.
“It was a good workout, good experience, good chance to know the staff,” Farris said.
Agent Shannon Polk, who represents Farris with Andy Kabat, said NFL teams have been impressed. Farris ran a 5.17-second 40, had a 26½-inch vertical jump, an 8-6 broad jump a 4.8-second short shuttle and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times at Ohio State’s pro day.
“A team would be crazy not to draft a player like Chase,” Polk said. “The things we’re hearing are consistent with that notion. There’s a lot of buzz and he has a huge amount of upside.”
Farris wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl or scouting combine, so he’s been largely left out when the Buckeyes’ possibly historic draft class has been discussed. He attributes being ignored to the multiple moves across the line of scrimmage and the small amount of time he spent at guard, which is where he projects in the NFL.
“I played tackle in college but have little more of a guard build,” Farris said. “I didn’t have many snaps at that position. Maybe I am more of a sleeper.”
Farris was recruited from Elyria as a defensive end, switched to right guard as a redshirt freshman, was a defensive tackle as a sophomore, was the sixth offensive lineman as a junior and started at right tackle as a senior. He played 42 games, including 13 starts last season.
“Who knows what would’ve happened if I had stayed on one side of the ball the whole time,” he said. “At times in can be frustrating. But at the end of the day, you just trust the coaches and believe they put you in the best position to be successful.”
Farris put his head down and did what he was told, but he confided in Steve Hamilton, his coach at Elyria, how much the yo-yo bothered him.
“He shared his frustrations, but he’s always about the team first,” Hamilton said. “He took that individual stuff and threw it in the garbage. He did it for the team.”
The final switch to offense could pay off in an NFL career.
“It showed my athleticism, the ability to play this game past college,” Farris said. “It was a good move.”
Polk said he expects Farris to be asked to play guard, or possibly center, at the next level.
“I have to be ready to play any position,” said Farris, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sport industry. “That’s what I’m working on now, making sure I’m versatile.”
The biggest transition from tackle to guard is working in a confined space. That suits a tough player who likes to mix it up, and Farris calls physicality his strength.
“Finishing blocks, getting guys out of the way,” he said. “I’m a player that’s going to go out there and grind to get the job done. Go out there and leave it all on the field.”
His effort and ability were obvious on film. He created push off the ball, positioned himself well on long Ezekiel Elliott runs, sprinted 40 yards to block a defensive back and hustled downfield to put himself in position to recover a fumble.
His main focus in the offseason has been maintaining a square body in pass protection. He’s been training in Scottsdale, Ariz., at LeCharles Bentley O-Line Performance. Farris originally worked with Bentley, a former lineman with St. Ignatius, Ohio State and the Browns, in Avon Lake during high school.
NFL players Kyle Long, Chance Warmack, Bobby Massie, Alex Boone and Shawn Lauvao are among those who work at Bentley’s position-specific academy.
“There are so many guys in there that have been through what you’re going through and at a level you want to reach,” Farris said. “It’s not just lifting and field work, it’s just being around the guys and training at a high level. It’s just an experience you can’t get anywhere else. If you want to be the best, you have to train with the best.”
Life with the Buckeyes may not have always been easy, but it gave Farris a national championship and the chance to be seen.
He participated in the school’s pro day in Columbus, which was packed with NFL decision-makers, including Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and Titans general manager Jon Robinson.
“It’s extremely helpful, get more looks from guys that I normally wouldn’t, can catch their eye,” Farris said. “It’s definitely amazing. Show all the improvements I’ve made throughout the offseason with LeCharles. I still have a long way to go but I’m working.”
All signs point to the work continuing in the NFL.
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