Vlachos proving he can 'play with anybody'

MOBILE, Ala. -- After more than 40 career starts, William Vlachos is looking to settle in. His career at the University of Alabama is over, and after four years in Tuscaloosa, Vlachos finds himself a stranger in a strange town.

So much has changed. The sights, the players, the coaches and even the language is different. At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., the 23-year-old center is trying his hand at something new, trying to prove he can play on Sundays after a career of autumn Saturdays in the South.

“You’re talking about an entirely new snap count,” Vlachos said. “(Georgia’s) Ben Jones and I have started 40 games with the same snap count. You’re talking about a completely new set of hands behind you so it’s tough.

“I think everyone was a little bit rusty at first, a little anxious. All the best players in the country are here with new terminology, new quarterbacks behind you – all that stuff which adds to the anxiousness.”

In the early going Monday, Vlachos struggled to get a grasp of his new surroundings. On the wet turf of Fairhope Stadium, Vlachos and quarterbacks Nick Foles and Brandon Weeden botched the quarterback-center exchange multiple times.

But after a few more repetitions, getting the ball to the quarterback was no longer an issue.

“It took us 45 minutes, but we didn’t have any bad snaps after that,” Vlachos said.

That quick learning curve is something Vlachos is hoping to show off to NFL scouts this week.

“I want to show that I can learn an offense and learn quickly. I want to show them that I can play,” Vlachos said. “I’ve played quality football in the SEC for a very long time. But I want to show them that with the best players in the country here, I can play with anybody.”

Despite playing four years in the SEC against NFL-caliber talent, Vlachos still has one big question mark left to clear -- his size. At 6-foot, Vlachos is by far the shortest offensive lineman in Mobile. No one else on the South Team line comes in at under 6-foot-3.

While Vlachos tries to sway the coaches and scouts that he’s fit to play on Sundays, there’s one coach who is already in his corner. Alabama coach Nick Saban -- who spent one season in the NFL -- stopped by practice on Monday and said Vlachos has what it takes to play, despite a lack of size.

“I think everybody has a criteria for what they’re looking for size-wise at every position,” Saban said. “I think that’s only one factor. People are going to evaluate a guy’s ability to play his position and the critical factors they like to see a guy perform to and the physical abilities it takes to perform that. I think they also do a lot to evaluate a guy’s character, intelligence, toughness, and you know William Vlachos is going to be off the chart in all those areas – except his height.”