One of the neat things about being part of SB Nation is the access we have to their various experts throughout the network. If we want more details about the Chicago Bears' next opponent, we'll talk to one of our sister sites. If we want the skinny on the NFL Draft, we'll hit up our draft editor. And if we want some insight on the latest rookie class for the Chicago Bears, we'll go straight to the site that has covered their entire collegiate career.
Recently we had the chance to talk with HawkeyeFrog, Associate Editor of Frogs O' War, the SB Nation site that covers the TCU Horned Frogs, about undrafted free agent James Dunbar.
Windy City Gridiron - Dunbar seemed to come out of nowhere as a 5th year senior; is this just a case of him being a late bloomer or were there other reasons he didn't play much early on in his collegiate career?
Frogs O' War - Dunbar did indeed come out of nowhere, but not exactly in the way that you think. Dunbar is actually a bit of a redemption story, as he actually played in every game for the Frogs during our undefeated year in 2010 as a reserve lineman, then filled in well as a spot starter in 2011, which gave us high hopes for him bookending a young line in our first Big 12 season in 2012. Instead, ten days before the season opener it was announced that Dunbar was off the team for academic reasons, and the line suffered from his absence, but eventually two tackles grew up over the course of the season.
As the 2013 offseason progressed, Dunbar was the furthest thing from our minds, despite the fact that he had earned his way back onto the team. Then presumed starting tackle Tayo Fabuluje left the team to go back to BYU just before the season opener (Yes, we have a lot of August drama with our linemen. In yet another twist, Fabuluje will be back again next year) and the young line was thrown into a reshuffling mess and Dunbar slotted into guard to start the season before taking back over the left tackle spot later, in both places he was pretty much the only good player on the line.
WCG - He played left tackle and left guard last year; was his shuffling due to inconsistent play or did TCU need him to move around?
FOW - I addressed this a bit in the previous question, but the TCU line was in chaos last year after one of our starters surprisingly quit at the start of the season, and we were quite fortunate that Dunbar was available to settle things down. Dunbar did a pretty impressive job at left guard, but eventually a sophomore slump by starting LT Aviante Collins necessitated Dunbar moving back out to his natural tackle position, where he again performed pretty admirably.
I'm the film guy at Frogs O' War, so I watched a lot of our line to try and identify just why we were performing so poorly, and there were times when Dunbar got turned around a bit, but that does tend to occur quite a bit when a line doesn't have any consistency- I give James the benefit of the doubt on things like missed assignments because I had very little confidence in the man next to him.
WCG - What do you feel is the best aspect of his play, and the worst?
FOW - What's impressed me most about James even more than any of his physical attributes is his attitude in his return to the team in 2013. Instead of transferring out to a less challenging school for a scholarship and immediate playtime Dunbar re-enrolled at TCU, paying his own tuition and walking back onto the football team even though the starting spot that should have been his in 2012 was now filled.
That's putting the team first, and it showed me that he's matured a great deal, so I have every confidence that James will do absolutely anything asked of him to make the team. Physically, Dunbar has a quick first step and has nice instincts to not bite too hard on pass rush moves, but he needs to work on using the length of his arms better to keep rushers out of his chest.
WCG - To make it as a reserve linemen in the NFL you need to be versatile; did Dunbar see time on the right side of the line or at center?
FOW - Dunbar hasn't played center, but he has played every other line position in his time at TCU with some success, so flexibility is definitely one of his perks. There are two situations where coaches shift linemen around during games: It's a blowout and you want to see how guys do in different spots, or your line is a disaster and you're hoping that some other combination will work out. In his time at TCU Dunbar has been in both situations quite a bit, so he'll be comfortable wherever you put him.
WCG - Bottom line, do you think Dunbar has what it takes to make an NFL roster?
FOW - Yes, but possibly not right away. Dunbar will put it maximum effort, like any former walk-on, and his versatility and size (6'5", 311) are definite pluses, but he's not the physical freak that fellow former TCU flex guard/tackle Marcus Cannon was, and he needs some polishing. He may start off as a practice squad guy the first year, but I definitely believe that Dunbar will earn his way onto a roster by year 2, and could be a serviceable starter down the line. He's a great guy and an easy one to root for, so I hope he sticks with y'all.
Thanks again to Frogs O' War!