Finch Brings Smarts, Quicks to Center

Under-the-radar Georgia Tech center Jay Finch is one of the more athletic players at the position. He's learned plenty by watching a player of similar size, Jeff Saturday.

The Green Bay Packers need depth at center, and Jay Finch seems like their kind of guy.

Finch doesn't figure to be drafted but he has plenty of upside.

— He's experienced, with 41 career starts at Georgia Tech.

— He's smart, being a Dean's List student at a school known for its academics.

— He's tough, having started all 14 games as a junior despite a shoulder injury that required surgery, then returning to start all 13 games as a senior.

— He's athletic. After not getting an invitation to the Scouting Combine, Finch ran his 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds with a 31.5-inch vertical leap and 28 reps on the bench press at Tech's pro day. To put that in perspective: In NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas' rankings, as many as 12 centers might be drafted. Of that group, Ohio State's Corey Linsley ran the fastest 40 in 5.03 seconds, Vanderbitl's Wesley Johnson had the best vertical at 29 inches and only North Carolina's Russell Bodine, Utah State's Tyler Larsen and Linsley had more reps on the bench.

"I had a great pro day and I believe I put myself in the best position possible going into the draft," Finch told Packer Report last week.

Asked about the overlooked value of athleticism on the offensive line, he said: "I feel like you want a good athlete to go against the athletes they're going to have on the D-line."

Along with athleticism, Finch said intelligence is a strength to his game. Being smart is a huge asset at center, who oftentimes must set and coordinate the line's blocking assignments.

"When you make the right calls and you're successful, it makes everything worthwhile," Finch said. "As an offensive lineman, we don't get the glory of the running backs, so them scoring is the reward for us."

At 6-foot-3 and 291 pounds, Finch relies on his athleticism and intelligence. He's the lightest of the aforementioned "draft-worthy" centers. So, it stands to reason that Finch has watched plenty of film on Jeff Saturday. Before the 1998 draft, Saturday measured in at 6-foot-2 and 292 pounds; he played at about 295 for most of his career.

"Watching him has been very valuable with how he handles some of the bigger people," Finch said.

And how do you handle someone 40 pounds heavier? That's not a foreign concept in the ACC, so he shouldn't be in awe of, say, B.J. Raji if they were to square off in training camp.

"I'm a very explosive player — I hold the school record for power cleans — so I shoot my hips very well, which allows me to redirect (the opponent's) force," Finch said.

Regardless of what happens during next week's draft, Finch has little doubt he has the talent to make it in the NFL. He's been training with Jon Stinchcomb, a former offensive tackle who spent eight seasons with the Saints. Stinchcomb has told Finch that he has the talent to make it in the NFL.

Assuming he's not drafted, Finch and his agent, One Sports Group's Justin Bingman, should have a busy phone next Saturday night.

"It's going to be a breathtaking moment," Finch said of landing with a team. "I've been waiting for this day for a very long time. I went to Georgia Tech to get the degree in case football didn't work out but I wanted to get to the NFL. It's been an aspiration ever since I was a little kid."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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