Cassius Marsh is the prototypical Seahawks draft pick — a guy not rated very highly by the macro draft analysts but who offers very specific skills Pete Carroll and his staff think they can develop.
Viewed as a late-round prospect by media analysts — and probably by a lot of teams as well — Marsh obviously was a much more intriguing player to the Seahawks, who picked him in the fourth round.
You know they think he offers unique skills because they decided to take him with their first of three fourth-round picks, before they traded down and still got wide receiver Kevin Norwood, whom they also really wanted.
The Hawks love the fact that Marsh is a versatile defensive lineman who plays “with his hair on fire,” as West Coast scout Tyler Ramsey said when he was drafted. And Marsh did not disappoint during the three-day rookie minicamp last weekend.
Carroll said Marsh “was really flying the whole time” and was “by far the most active guy out there.”
His kamikaze style got him in trouble at UCLA at times, but the Hawks think Marsh will harness his energy with a positive charge in Seattle.
“He’s a really passionate kid, and sometimes he pushes the limit,” Ramsey said on draft day. “But he’s aware of it. He’s got it under control, and I think this is a great spot for him. It’s not something that’s going to be a problem.”
The Hawks see Marsh as a bit of a poor man’s Michael Bennett — capable of playing several positions on the line. Even Marsh sees the similarities.
“Oh yeah, I love his game,” the rookie said of Bennett, the versatile lineman who led the team with 8.5 sacks last season. “It’s like an advanced version of mine, I’d like to think.”
Carroll has said he wants Marsh to shadow Bennett, and he saw nothing at the minicamp that would alter the plan.
“He came in here in great shape,” the coach said. “He was really flying the whole time. He never showed any signs at all of wearing down. He’s very active, a very instinctive football player.
“He moved around to a couple of different spots here to give us some looks. That’s pretty exciting. It’s pretty exciting that he’s so active. The role that we kind of talked about, kind of like Michael Bennett, it looks like that might have a chance. We’ll take a lot of time to figure that out. But he looked very good, by far the most active guy out there.”
At UCLA, Marsh played as a 300-pound defensive tackle as a freshman and then lost weight and played outside as a 5-technique.
The 6-foot-4 lineman is listed at 254 pounds now, but the Hawks want him up around 275 — where Bennett is.
“We will beef him up a little bit,” Carroll said.
“He’s been as big as 300. … The 270s would probably be better,” Ramsey said. “He can do anything, and it’s pretty cool that he can shape his body however he wants.”
“I do need to gain weight,” Marsh agreed, “but I’m going to do it the right way and get with the nutritionist and the weight coach and work extremely hard and do the things I need to do. I don’t have any deadline for any particular weight. I’m just going to work hard and go from there.”
Everyone has stressed his quick hands, which Marsh said he developed during MMA workouts with Jay Glazer, the NFL’s unofficial MMA guru who moonlights as an NFL reporter for FOX.
“Pete always talks about the unique traits, and with Cassius it was the effort and the hand use and the versatility,” Ramsey said. “… Cassius is just kind of rare in his full set of skills.”
If Marsh works behind Bennett, it means he will be moving between 5-technique and 3-technique as he competes for one of the final two or three roster spots along the defensive line.
Assuming the locks to make the team are Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Greg Scruggs, Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa, Marsh will be competing with about nine other young players — five returning linemen and four other rookies — for the final two or three line spots. His versatility could give him an edge.
“They just want me to come in here and compete,” Marsh said. “They know that I’m a versatile player and I can play a multitude of positions — defensive end, rush from a three, play outside, play all over the place. And I think that’s what they expect from me — to just come in here and compete wherever I can.”
Coordinator Dan Quinn said they really like what he brings as an inside rusher.
“When we watched the tape on him, we really thought he had, No. 1, just great effort in the way that he played,” Quinn told KJR-AM this week. “We really liked that style. The thing we saw from him as an inside rusher: He had really quick feet and hands. We thought: ‘Can we help him develop in that role?’ Over the three days in the minicamp, he certainly didn’t disappoint in that way. We’re going to try to use him at both defensive end and defensive tackle and use that versatility that he has.”
Quinn said Marsh’s quickness inside is his best asset right now.
“Those guys are so hard to find,” Quinn said, “so when you get a chance to try and develop one, we’re going to take that as far as we can.”