ALAMEDA – Maurice Hurst is familiar with Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme and his role in it. That knowledge didn’t originate from the Raiders offseason program, or sleepless post-draft nights studying the playbook.
Hurst studied it first at the University of Michigan, focusing on one of planet Earth’s best at his position.
“I’ve been watching Geno Atkins since I was in college,” Hurst said Wednesday. “He’s always someone I’ve had my eye on.”
The veteran Cincinnati Bengal is an elite defensive tackle both stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks as a three technique, working a scheme Guenther coordinated the last four seasons. Hurst shares similar size, traits and explosiveness off the ball, making Atkins a proper athletic role model. He's a good one, with 61 sacks and six Pro Bowls to his credit.
Time watching Hurst was extremely well spent. The Raiders drafted Hurst in the fifth round – a health issue torpedoed this first-round talent’s draft stock – and paired him with Guenther, who came to Alameda this offseason to coordinate Jon Gruden’s defense.
The Raiders certainly hope Hurst can be like Geno in time, because a dominant interior pass rusher is vital to Guenther’s scheme.
“(Atkins is) strong and he’s fast,” Hurst said. “Those traits translate well in the NFL. He’s able to be very disruptive and get after the quarterback. The three technique is the penetrator of our defense. You have to have someone like Geno to make the defense go. That’s a major part of Coach Guenther's scheme, and why he brought in me and (second-round defensive tackle) P.J. Hall. We have Mario (Edwards). We have a good group of guys who can do what he expects us to do.”
Hurst has immersed himself in Guenther’s scheme since joining the Silver and Black. The Michigan man prides himself on scheme study and proper application in practice, but his head start may have helped. Having an inside man didn’t hurt. Fellow Wolverines defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow was drafted by Cincinnati last season and watched film with Hurst during the offseason.
“I had a pretty good idea of what the defense was like and what coach was expecting,” Hurst said, “from watching film with Ryan and talking to him on FaceTime.”
Hurst likes Guenther’s scheme, and his possible role playing three technique – lining up off the guard’s outside shoulder – for the Raiders.
“It definitely gets me amped up,” Hurst said. “The Bengals, their best player was their three technique. That’s the focal point of their defense, and that’s what Coach Guenther is used to getting, and what he has got his whole time in the NFL (with Atkins). He drafted Geno, and it says something for him drafting me and P.J. I think he expects a lot from us and expects us to fill that role he had with the Bengals.”
Hurst and Hall join Edwards as interior linemen with pass-rush ability. It’s unfair to heap expectations on a rookie and the Raiders won’t, but there’s optimism Hurst will make an instant impact.
He can’t make one right now – he hasn’t put pads on as a Raider – but believes he made a solid first impression during the now concluded offseason program.
“I handle those situations pretty well,” Hurst said. “I try to keep my knowledge of the game up, and I’m always on top of my plays. I’m making sure I always stay true to myself and stay true to the game by working hard and putting in a lot of effort. That’s what can set you apart, being reliable.”