Moroski on Cory Lekkerkerker: "Coach's dream"

The Chargers sure like themselves some big players. With the exception of Darren Sproles, who stands only five-and-a-half feet tall, all of the Chargers draft picks are six-foot-three or taller. Continuing their affinity for the "bigger is better" theory, the Chargers signed rookie free agent Cory Lekkerkerker, a six-foot-seven, 324 lb. offensive tackle from UC-Davis.

Cory Lekkerkerker brings more than just size to the table, and I'm not talking about his appetite either. He is a natural athlete who has a good feel for the game and strives to excel at it. Seconding that notion is Mike Moroski, the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at UC-Davis.

"He was great, a coach's dream," recalled Moroski. "He loved to study the game. He was very receptive and really very intuitive, and he picked things up quickly. We run a pro-style offense here, so that will help him out quite a bit."

If it sounds like Lekkerkerker is a natural when it comes to the game of football, it is because it runs in his family. Two years ago, as a junior at UC-Davis, Lekkerkerker played on the same line as his brother Brad, who spent last year on the Raiders' practice squad. But while the Raiders were the first to snatch up one of the Brothers Lekkerkerker, it appears as if the Chargers got the more accomplished player.

Last season Cory was an All-Great West Football Conference first team selection. Also, in 2003 Cory was named the recipient of the Jim Ferrier Award, given as the result of outstanding play by a transfer student. But besides garnering more accolades than his brother, Cory was also recognized by many to be the better pass protector, a vital skill in today's pass-happy league.

"He has pretty good feet," Moroski said, "and that improved while he was here. He also has long arms and a good frame for the position. He has a good feel for the game. Plus he has a good body and impressive skills for a man his size."

Even with such praise in mind, Lekkerkerker has much work to do if he is to carry his success over to the professional level. First he has to work his way up a depth chart loaded at the tackle position. Roman Oben and Leander Jordan each have five or more years experience in the league, and Courtney Van Buren, Shane Olivea, Carlos Joseph and Wesley Britt are all fairly recent draft picks.

Even if Lekkerkerker can beat those odds, he will still need to continue working on his game to harness his raw yet considerable skill set.

"The players in the NFL are so much more explosive and faster," admitted Moroski. "Cory is going to have to match that and be that much faster and more explosive. He'll also have to work on staying balanced and maintaining leverage, which is tough for a big man like him. But he has the ability to do all of those things, which is why teams like the Chargers were interested in him."

While many can and will argue whether Lekkerkerker is talented enough to earn a spot on a deep Chargers roster, there is no arguing that a player of his character would be a welcome addition to the locker room.

"He never caused us to worry," Moroski said. "He just hung out with his small group of friends and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, most of which centered on football: studying tape and working out and things like that."

While there is more studying and working out to do, and much left to prove out on the field, Lekkerkerker appears primed to earn some recognition. If he can play consistently and improve on his technique just a little bit, he may warrant a spot on the practice squad.

"Personally I think he has a great chance to improve," Moroski predicted.

For a team like the Chargers, a team that loves players with size and potential, an improving player like Cory Lekkerkerker might just be worth keeping around. The question is whether they have that time to invest in a project along the line.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net

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