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Chiefs take tackles

April 28, 2012

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When offensive tackle Jeff Allen arrived at Illinois as a wide-eyed freshman four years ago, veteran Jon Asamoah was there to show him the ropes.

Looks like Asamoah will be doing the same thing in the NFL.

Not just for Allen, either.

The Chiefs picked the four-year starter from Illinois in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night, and followed by selecting Oklahoma offensive tackle Donald Stephenson in the third round, building up depth for a unit that struggled mightily much of last season.

“We’ve created more competition on our offensive line, and depth,” general manager Scott Pioli said, “and there’s going to be a lot of players fighting for positions.”

Allen was picked with the No. 44 overall selection, while Stephenson went at No. 74.

The two will join an offensive line expected to pave the way for running back Jamaal Charles, who showed flashes of brilliance two years ago before a knee injury in Week 2 put an early end to last season. The Chiefs also signed veteran running back Peyton Hillis this offseason.

Allen started 47 games for the Illini, playing right tackle as a freshman and moving to the left side as a sophomore. But at 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, Allen also has the size and ability to play at the guard position, which he tried out for scouts at the Senior Bowl.

“It’s just like the transition I made from high school to college,” Allen said. “Jon was one of the guys who took me under his wing, showed me how to work and how to perform at a high level. I see it being the same in the NFL, someone to look to and someone who can give me advice.”

The 6-6, 312-pound Stephenson became a starter at Oklahoma as a junior, but didn’t truly shine until his senior year, when he was part of an offensive line that allowed 11 total sacks.

“Wherever they put me, I’ll take it,” said Stephenson, who grew up in Kansas City and played high school football in the suburb of Blue Springs. “I just want to come and work hard and find a way to get on the field and help this team out.”

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was quick to offer his praise.

“We take a lot of pride in the way we protect our quarterbacks,” he said, “and Donald had great responsibility while playing left tackle. He grew into that role and handled it well for us, and I think he’ll continue to grow as a professional.”

With recently signed Eric Winston and veteran Branden Albert at the tackle spots, the best chance for either player to get on the field this season could be inside. Asamoah solidified his spot last season, but Ryan Lilja struggled with injuries and inconsistency at guard.

Albert and Lilja are also in the final year of their contract.

“I think they’ll come in and compete immediately for positions,” Pioli said. “Both of them have great deal of versatility, so the good news is they’ll be able to compete and push the guys ahead of them for jobs right away.”

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