Center Kyle Friend is one of two rookies signed in free agency from head coach Todd Bowles’ alma mater – Temple (the other being Robby Anderson).
- Name: Kyle Friend
- School: Temple
- Position: Center
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 305lbs
Friend was not offered a scholarship from any major program coming out of high school and was signed after attending Temples’ football camp before going on to become a four year starter for the Owls. As one of only three Temple freshman given a starting role, Friend went on to appear in 43 consecutive games (41 as starter) until a knee injury sidelined him for part of his senior year. He was team captain for three out of those four years; in fact Friend and teammate Tyler Matakevich are the only three-time captains in Owls’ history. In 2014, Temple head coach Matt Rhule credited Friend with having a major role in decreasing the teams’ sack total by a third from the previous season. This was the same year that the Owls’ won the Joe Moore Honor Roll award for the best o-line in the country. A letter winner in all four years, in 2015 Friend was voted to the AAC All-Conference First Team and played a key role in Temple making their best start in program history, prior to his injury. Friend worked his way back to full health to play his final two college games and compete in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Pre draft projections
Despite his college successes, Friend was not invited to the NFL combine. However, following his impressive performance at Temples’ pro day, where he benched 41 reps at 225 pounds (the video of which went viral), most analysts predicted that he would be drafted in the sixth or seventh round. Despite having experience at guard, Friend does not have the size to play that position in the NFL. He was mostly ranked in the top eight centers available.
An honor roll student each semester in high school and the recipient of various academic accolades in college, Friend is a smart guy as well as a tough competitor. Despite some physical limitations (detailed below), he is credited as having an extremely perceptive understanding of his own strengths, leading him to make the most of his abilities. He is also a strong locker room leader with plenty of experience as a key team role model; a vital attribute for a center. On the field, NFL.com analysts describe him as a ‘cinder block of power and toughness’. Other scouts describe him as “sticky blocker with [a] quick snap-and-step motion, driving his feet and always looking for someone to hit,” He is athletic; clocking a 5.09 forty which would have ranked him eighth out of all OLs at the combine. He does well at the second level, using his athleticism to seal off run lanes.
WeaknessesFriend’s physical attributes are on the small side for a center; making him the target of ‘if only he were two or three inches taller‘ assessments. In particular his short arm length is a problem, meaning he may face problems securing blocks against higher calibre and lengthier opponents in the NFL. In pass protection he has a tendency to let defenders slip past his shoulders. In a league where starting center jobs don’t pop up everyday, Friend’s size precludes him from contributing at any other position, limiting his chances of playing time. He makes up for his shortcomings with toughness and grit although his aggressive approach can sometimes lead him to lunge and lose balance.
With stalwart center Nick Mangold at age 32 and entering his eleventh season, it’s unsurprising that the Jets are beginning to look to the future at this position. When Mangold was injured in mid 2015, the Jets certainly felt his absence with Wesley Johnson as his replacement. Only time will tell whether Friend can be ‘that man’ but he certainly recognises the level of opportunity he has in front of him;
“It’s a good situation here. I can learn from the best in the country with Nick Mangold, and with Coach Bowles being a Temple guy.”
He certainly has the grit, aggressiveness and leadership skills to be a center in the NFL, it will be his below average physical attributes which will test his ability to compete with the toughest of NFL defenses.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com