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Cincinnati HC: Cunningham’s ‘natural abilities’ will help in jump to NFL

Cincinnati's Ryan Leahy (73), Tyler Cogswell (18), and Korey Cunningham (71) celebrate a touchdown by Cogswell against Miami during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 34-23. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

The route to becoming an NFL offensive tackle hasn’t been easy for Arizona Cardinals seventh-round draft pick Korey Cunningham.

Recruited as a tight end out of Montevallo, Alabama, Cunningham made the switch to the offensive line when he arrived at Cincinnati under head coach Tommy Tuberville, also experimenting at defensive end along the way.

But by the time his senior season came along under new head coach Luke Fickell, the 6-foot-6, 311-pound frame Cunningham possessed allowed him to become one of the more dominant offensive tackles in the country.

That, along with his natural athleticism, makes his former head coach believe his transition to the pros won’t be as difficult as it would be for others.

“His ability to continue to develop in the game of football is where I think that his end-point has lots and lots of room,” Fickell told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf on Friday. “His athleticism would be more in the pass-pro. I think that is where you are initially going to see him which is great for that league and the game because you’ve got to be able to do it.

“His development as a physical guy is where, I think, he is going to take the next step.”

Cunningham specialized as a pass-blocker during his senior season at Cincinnati, leading the nation in the amount of pass-blocking snaps by a tackle without allowing a sack.

Fickell described Cincinnati’s offense as up-tempo, relying on the run/pass option with the quarterback working out of shotgun rather than under center.

One instance of this type of play was seen in Cincinnati’s game against Temple last season.

A swing pass to the running back in the flats allowed Cunningham to get out in front and block a would-be Temple tackler.

Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said they will lean towards a traditional offense behind quarterback Sam Bradford, a slower style of play than what Cunningham is accustomed to.

But even so, Fickell believes that is where the rookie will have the most development.

“To have the true drop-back, seven-step drop isn’t something that was big for us,” he said. “Understanding the depth of where the quarterback is in that league, we are a little more even, quick-game stuff. The depth of the pocket may be five, it may be seven yards.

“It’s getting a feel for what kind of space and room you have with those things.”

Drafted No. 254 overall in the seventh-round, Cunningham’s odds of securing a roster spot is more difficult than others drafted in the earlier rounds.

But Fickell believes his work ethic in the weight room and overall energy is something both fans and members of the Cardinals’ coaching staff will enjoy.

“He is a fun, fun guy,” Fickell said. “He always has energy, always has a smile on his face, just a guy you want to be around. He’s physically a weight room guy, he works at it.

“You’re going to love that about him.”

Doug & Wolf

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