Pul­ley looks solid at cen­ter

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Dan Woike daniel.woike@la­times.com

Van­der­bilt Univer­sity, tucked in­side of Nashville, is re­garded as one of the top uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try, churn­ing out a pair of U.S. vice pres­i­dents, count­less busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives and aca­demics.

It also pro­duced Charg­ers of­fen­sive line­man Spencer Pul­ley, a three­time mem­ber of the SEC’s aca­demic honor roll.

But had Pul­ley learned a sim­ple les­son about prob­a­bil­i­ties while study­ing hu­man and or­ga­ni­za­tional de­vel­op­ment, he might not have the in­side track to a start­ing-cen­ter role with the Charg­ers — some­thing he’ll hope to so­lid­ify dur­ing the team’s fi­nal mini­camp this week.

Ar­riv­ing in San Diego last spring as an un­drafted free agent, his ig­no­rance about his chances might ex­plain why he’s been so com­fort­able early in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

“I al­ways thought I had a good shot, but I was prob­a­bly wrong to think that. I had no idea un­drafted guys weren’t sup­posed to make the team,” Pul­ley said with a laugh. “So maybe I just went in blind, and that was a good thing. I just kind of went in and did what­ever I could, and thank­fully it worked out.”

If Pul­ley went in blind, soon his team­mates and coaches had their eyes wide open.

Philip Rivers was fa­mil­iar with Pul­ley be­cause Rivers’ brother, Stephen, was one of his team­mates at Van­der­bilt.

“I’d never met Philip, but it was cool to have that kind of con­nec­tion com­ing in,” Pul­ley said.

Early in his time with the Charg­ers, Pul­ley im­pressed his new Rivers team­mate with how quickly he grasped the Charg­ers’ scheme. Rivers said noth­ing seemed “too big” for Pul­ley, who wasn’t aware that he was sup­posed to make things look tougher. All it took was a lot of study­ing.

“Com­ing in, I wasn’t the tallest with the long­est arms, the strong­est, fastest or what­ever,” Pul­ley said. “So I just tried to get into the play­book as much as I could and learn the schemes. Be­cause when you get out here things move fast. A solid part of the game is men­tal, so be­ing able to keep up with it and mak­ing that a pri­or­ity was the big­gest thing.”

He took reps last sea­son as a cen­ter and as a guard. So far this off­sea­son he’s worked with the first-string of­fen­sive line as a cen­ter with last year’s starter, Matt Slau­son, sliding over to left guard. Last year’s thir­dround pick, for­mer USC cen­ter Max Tuerk, and this year’s third-rounder, Dan Feeney, also are tak­ing reps at the po­si­tion.

“Spencer’s look­ing good,” Charg­ers coach An­thony Lynn said. “He seems to be han­dling the cen­ter sit­u­a­tion well with the snap counts, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Philip. It’s gone well.”

Up­grad­ing the of­fen­sive line’s been a big pri­or­ity for Lynn since he took the job this off­sea­son. The Charg­ers gave left tackle Rus­sell Okung more than $50 mil­lion, re­leased for­mer starters King Dunlap, D.J. Fluker and Or­lando Franklin, and drafted For­rest Lamp, Feeney and Sam Tevi.

For the rook­ies, they need to hit the books. Take it from a Vandy man.

“It’s def­i­nitely just get­ting in the play­book and learn­ing the plays and try­ing to learn the dif­fer­ent tech­niques,” he said. “It’s the same game, but it’s a dif­fer­ent speed. There are dif­fer­ent com­po­nents to our scheme, so it’s just learn­ing it as fast as they can.”

Pul­ley got it all quickly, and a year later, he could be snap­ping the ball to Rivers once the sea­son opens in Den­ver.

In­gram up­date

Charg­ers gen­eral man­ager Tom Te­le­sco said the gap that had kept the team and star pass rusher Melvin In­gram from a deal closed sig­nif­i­cantly this past week­end, set­ting the stage for In­gram to for­mally sign a fouryear con­tract with the team Mon­day. “Both sides were mo­ti­vated to get a deal done,” Te­le­sco said. “… Part of it was Melvin wants to be here.”

In­gram, who signed for more than $60 mil­lion with more than $40 mil­lion guar­an­teed, will be on the field when the team be­gins mini­camp Tues­day.

Te­le­sco said he ex­pects In­gram to be as pro­duc­tive as he was the last two sea­sons, when he recorded 18.5 sacks in Gus Bradley’s 4-3 de­fen­sive scheme.

But with new coaches on­board, it’s im­por­tant to have In­gram in the fold for at least a week’s worth of work.

“Ev­ery day is crit­i­cal for play­ers to be here,” Te­le­sco said.


NFL Net­work will air the Charg­ers’ sec­ond pre­sea­son game, a con­test with the Saints, live on Aug. 20. The Charg­ers’ pre­sea­son games will be tele­vised lo­cally on Chan­nel 7, with the ex­cep­tion of a na­tion­ally tele­vised game with the Rams. …Dunlap, who was re­leased by the Charg­ers ear­lier this off­sea­son, re­tired Mon­day. The team’s for­mer start­ing left tackle was arrested in Fe­bru­ary on sus­pi­cion of vi­o­lat­ing an or­der of pro­tec­tion.

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