Hulking David Yankey's size helps counter initial technique lapses
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MANKATO, Minn. - David Yankey casts a shadow that nearly engulfs a golf cart sitting outside of the Minnesota Vikings training camp.
Yankey, 22, has the size (6-foot-6) to be an effective offensive lineman in the NFL; that's why the Vikings thought him a steal in the fifth round (145th overall) of May's NFL Draft. But a week into camp, he's utilized his size to make up for the technique lapses that stem from missing all but two days of Organized Team Activities in June.
"You want to make [size] count," Yankey said after Friday morning's walkthrough. "I think I have good size. Hopefully we'll convert that, with good technique, into becoming a good player."
A unanimous All-American selection at Stanford, Yankey helped solidify one of college football's top offensive lines for the Cardinal during his senior season. Stanford's relatively unique offense utilizes multiple pro-style formations, including shotgun, I-formation and pistol looks.
For Yankey, the knowledge base of an offense like Norv Turner's is there - it's the specified technique that he couldn't work on while finishing his college degree in June.
"It is definitely technique, especially for rookies," Yankey said. "You haven't played football since January, December last year. The vets know how to do it, they know how to do the offseason and stay sharp."
Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson visited Yankey once in June to walk through game and practice film, as NFL rules do not allow any field work while rookies are finishing college.
"I went out there and spent a pretty good portion of a day going through all the installs," Davidson said. "Showing film, talking through things on the board. He's a really smart guy and that helps at that position."
Though Yankey also played tackle in college, he's solely taken snaps with the second-team offensive line at guard along with Vlad Ducasse. As of right now, the Vikings' starting line doesn't have much competition, per Davidson, but he stressed it's early in the process.
Yankey played at around 313 pounds in college, but checked into training camp at 308. The limit he and the Vikings have set is 315 pounds, which is what he's listed at. While he's listed as the second-heaviest guard on the team next to Ducasse (325), it's his 6-foot-6 height that can provide the most trouble while learning the adequate pad level needed to succeed at the next level.
"We couldn't do any field work...so we had a little bit of catch-up work, and still do," Davidson said. "Yankey has shown what we drafted him for...certainly with technique stuff, there's a lot of things we work through here."
The Vikings return their starting offensive line for the third straight season. However, it's also the second year in a row in which the team drafted a guard. Davidson didn't work out Yankey before the draft, but his son, Nick, was a teammate of Yankey's at Stanford -- which helped give the Vikings' coach a good glimpse of what they were getting.
"Heard a little bit about him at that point," Davidson said. "I try to stay out of my son's business there. I think I knew enough because I talked to [Nick] about the guys that were in the room there with him."
While Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson haven't given up any first-team snaps, the coaching staff keeps a steady message for young guys like Yankey.
"Your job is to challenge for one of those spots," Davidson said. "We're always looking for guys to compete to become starters for us."
Additional listening: ESPN's Ben Goessling joins the Purple Podcast with Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore to talk about why Adrian Peterson was unhappy at the end of last season, and why he's in a better place now.