MOBILE, Ala. – During Florida guard O'Cyrus Torrence's freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida, his offensive line coach Rob Sale used to make him watch tape of the elite college players in the game at the time.
One of the players Torrence watched a lot of tape on was then Oregon offensive tackle and current Detroit Lions Pro Bowl tackle Penei Sewell. Even though Torrence was at guard and Sewell was a tackle, Sale thought the two had similar body types and athletic traits, and Torrence could benefit from studying his game.
"I liked how big he was, but he was nimble on his feet," Torrence said Wednesday at the Senior Bowl of watching Sewell. "Quick feet and also good hands. He never gave up on a hand battle. He always placed his hands pretty well and just the violent physicality he brought. I'm a violent and physical player by nature and watching him play and be violent and controlled at the same time helped me think about how I can be the same way."
Sale and Torrence would watch Oregon film and talk through the Florida offensive terminology trying to pair how Torrence could take parts of Sewell's game and incorporate it into his own game and Florida's scheme.
"Explaining how I could do some of the same things," Torrence said of those sessions with Sale. "(Sewell) was playing tackle and I was playing guard, but it was more of just how he was technical with his feet and hands and things like that."
Fast forward a few years and Torrence (6-4, 337) has turned into arguably the best guard prospect at the Senior Bowl and in this year's NFL Draft.
It's unclear just how big of a need the Lions will have in 2023 at right guard, but it's expected general manager Brad Holmes will look to add to the interior of Detroit's stout offensive line. Veteran Halapoulivaati Vaitai, 29, is coming off a back injury that cost him all of the 2022 season, and Evan Brown, who did a really nice job replacing Vaitai at right guard most of the year, is headed toward free agency.
With five selections in the top 81 picks, Holmes has the draft capital to get a player the caliber of Torrence or one of the other top interior offensive linemen in this class.
"It would be nice to go there and play alongside those guys," Torrence said of playing in Detroit next to Pro Bowlers Sewell and center Frank Ragnow. "Right alongside (Sewell) would be nice."
Torrence, Minnesota's John Michael Schmitz, Michigan's Olusegun Oluwatimi and TCU's Steve Avila are some of the top interior offensive linemen in this draft class and all four are down here in Mobile competing to be the first guard or center off the board.
"I want to show everyone I'm one of the top interior linemen in this draft," Schmitz told detroitlions.com. "Basically, my mindset is going to be to finish every play to the whistle and just bring that grit factor and that toughness each and every play and to be a really strong leader on that field."
Torrence, Schmitz and the rest of the interior guys have been rotating this week between right and left guard and even some center. Versatility is key among interior offensive linemen. Brown being able to step in and play center in place of Ragnow in 2021 and then in place of Vaitai at guard this past season is expected to earn him some money in free agency, whether that's in Detroit or elsewhere.
Detroit has built one of the best offensive lines in football and it was a big reason why the Lions enjoyed so much success on offense in 2022. Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell understand the value of being good in the trenches and how that makes every other aspect of the football team better. So expect them to take a close look at these interior offensive line prospects and if they think they can add another dominant youngster to that group they likely won't hesitate.