FOXBORO, Mass. — During his first meeting with New England reporters, new Patriots offensive tackle Antonio Garcia admitted he doesn’t know much about legendary Pats offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
That will change in a hurry.
From the moment Garcia arrives in Foxboro this week, it will be Scarnecchia’s job to mold the lean, athletic draft pick into New England’s potential left tackle of the future.
“I know the Patriots are definitely a winning organization,” Garcia said in a conference call shortly after the Patriots selected him in the third round (85th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. “And I’m just excited to work with all the coaches there, especially the offensive line coach there. I met him, met with him, sat down with him, and I look forward to just getting better under his tutelage.”
It won’t be a brief process. Though Garcia was Troy’s starting left tackle for the past four seasons, he’ll likely begin his Patriots career at or near the bottom of the depth chart behind 2016 starters Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, as well as swing tackle Cameron Fleming.
Garcia’s adjustment to the NFL likely will involve adding mass to his 6-foot-6 frame. He weighed in at just 302 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine and “consistently (played) below 300 pounds” during his college career, according to his official draft profile on NFL.com.
“I’m comfortable anywhere between 300 and 315,” Garcia said. “… I’ve been here consistently at about 305 for a few months now, and I’m just more focused on being in shape and being able to play to the best of my abilities.”
For comparison’s sake, the Patriots only had one sub-300-pound lineman on their active roster last season: center David Andrews, who’s listed at 295 pounds. Solder, Cannon and Fleming are listed at 325, 335 and 320 pounds, respectively.
Despite his relatively slender physique, Garcia, a former high school basketball player, was a highly effective pass blocker for the Trojans. He did not surrender a single sack in more than 900 offensive snaps as a senior — a fact he gleefully confirmed Friday night.
“That is absolutely true,” he said in his conference call. “I don’t remember (the last time I allowed a sack). It’s been a long time, I know that.”
Garcia exuded similar confidence when asked to describe his playing style.
“I would say physical, athletic (and) just nasty,” he said.
The Patriots’ line improved immensely this past season, with Solder rebounding from an injury-plagued 2015 campaign and Cannon turning in easily the best performance of his career, earning second-team All-Pro honors and a five-year contract extension in the process. It likely will be a while before Garcia unseats either of those mainstays, but he can’t wait to get started.
“I’m just super excited,” Garcia said. “It was a great feeling to hear my name be called and see my name go across that screen. I’m just super thankful, and I’m ready to contribute to the team to the best of my ability.”
Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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