It's obvious that the parents of Georgia Tech guard Shaq Mason are basketball fans: His full name is Shaquille Olajuwon Mason.
But Mason never truly took to basketball -- maybe because he grew to just a shade under 6-foot-2 -- and instead became one of the best interior linemen in the nation. He has caught the eye of NFL Media's Mike Mayock at this week's Reese's Senior Bowl practices.
Mason, who weighed in at 310 pounds on Tuesday, was a three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets and a key performer in Tech's triple-option attack. As you'd expect from a guy who played in a run-oriented offense, Mason has a ways to go as a pass protector. But he is a road grader in the running game and is used to getting to the second level to mow down linebackers and defensive backs.
Mayock said Thursday during NFL Network's telecast of Senior Bowl practice that Mason -- whom he jokingly referred to as "a stubby little guard" -- has improved daily in pass-protection drills this week. "He bent his knees and got under people" during those drills, Mayock noted, and said he thought Mason could play center in the NFL.
"He's a tough kid with really good leverage," Mayock said.
Mayock also said he thought Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio (6-5, 318) showed improvement in pass-protection drills. "He has extremely long arms," Mayock said, which always is a plus for linemen, and noted that coaches worked on some techniques with Kouandjio this week that improved his footwork and setup. His brother, Cyrus, played tackle at Alabama and was a second-round pick by Buffalo in the 2014 draft.
Fellow analyst Charles Davis said touted Florida State guard Tre' Jackson (6-4, 323) had shown well this week. Jackson was a three-year starter for the Seminoles, and Davis likes Jackson's run-blocking ability, calling him a "big, strong, physical guy inside." Jackson should be in the running to be the first guard chosen in the draft.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.