When the Panthers drafted a pair of defensive tackles in the third round in 2011, team officials hoped Sione Fua and Terrell McClain would clog the middle of interior defense for years to come.
So much for that.
Two years later, the Panthers invested their first two picks in another pair of defensive tackles. Again the front office – led by a new general manager – is confident it’s found the long-term anchors for the defensive line.
While Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short have better resumes and were more productive college players than their 2011 predecessors, but the Panthers won’t know how both will transition until they begin practicing against their NFL peers.
Lotulelei, the 14th overall pick from Utah, and Short, the second-round pick out of Purdue, will line up alongside each other for the first time Friday for the start of the Panthers’ rookie minicamp.
The three-day camp at the team’s practice fields adjacent to Bank of America Stadium is closed to the public.
Lotulelei was considered a top-3 prospect before doctors diagnosed him with a heart issue at the combine. A University of Utah cardiologist cleared Lotulelei, but the diagnosis affected his draft stock.
While Lotulelei is best known as a run-stuffer, Short was an accomplished pass rusher at Purdue. But Short said the two have one thing in common: creating havoc.
“We’re going to do what we do best,” Short said last month.
Besides their five draft picks, the rookie minicamp will include the Panthers’ 13 undrafted free agents, 35-40 tryout players and six players under contract with less than a year of NFL experience.
The NFL’s new CBA put stricter guidelines on offseason workouts and minicamps. As such, most teams bring in tryout players to have enough to line up for drills during the rookie camps.
There are a few familiar names among those on tryout contracts this weekend.
Former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin will participate a week after trying out at the Redskins’ rookie minicamp. McGloin went undrafted despite throwing for 3,271 yards, with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions as a senior under first-year Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien.
McGloin and Colby Cameron, an undrafted rookie from Louisiana Tech, are the only quarterbacks expected to participate.
Other players trying out include ex-North Carolina linebacker Quan Sturdivant and Brenton Bersin, the former Wofford receiver who was in the Panthers’ training camp last season. Sturdivant was drafted in the sixth round by Arizona in 2011 and was on Kansas City’s practice squad last season.
They face long odds.
The Panthers only signed one player from their tryout camp last year – offensive lineman Justin Wells, who joined the team in August following an injury to former offensive tackle Lee Ziemba.
Wells, a 6-foot-4, 316-pound guard from Saint Augustine’s, remains on the roster and will participate in the minicamp this weekend.