UCLA offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo turns 23 in January. Normally that would be cause for cake and presents, but for NFL scouts it could potentially be a cause for concern should Su'a-Filo declare for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Su'a-Filo signed with the Bruins and started all 13 games at left tackle as a true freshman in 2009 before leaving on a two-year LDS mission. Since returning to UCLA in the spring of 2012, Su'a-Filo has started all 27 games, alternating between left guard and left tackle.
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks told College Football 24/7 that age would be a factor in evaluating Su'a-Filo should he bypass his senior season, but is unlikely to be held against him.
"Scouts will downgrade older guys in the process because they will worry about a prospect maxing out in college," Brooks said. "The scouts will debate his upside if he is significantly older than his peers at the position. In Su'a-Filo's case, his age isn't at the point where it will impact grade. Scouts will place a greater emphasis on the performance this season, and simply make a note of his Mormon mission in meetings."
Su'a-Filo is hoping to hear the same when he receives feedback from the Draft Advisory Board.
"I'm not getting any younger," Su'a-Filo told the Daily News. "All of my classmates or those guys who would be in the draft this year, I'm the same age as a fifth-year senior. I'll have to see how much that really does factor into the opinions of those NFL guys."
Likely to project to the next level as a guard, Su'a-Filo (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) has solid footwork but has struggled at times to hold the edge against elite pass rushers. Stick him inside, however, and he shows the toughness and intelligence to match up with anyone.
Su'a-Filo actually credits his time at tackle for making him a better interior lineman.
"It shows a little bit of versatility on my end," Su'a-Filo said. "I feel like I've actually improved at being a guard by playing some tackle this season."
That game tape is likely to matter more than Su'a-Filo's birthday.