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Nwaneri's time has arrived


The path has been cleared for Uche Nwaneri. The rest is up to him.

Nwaneri is competing with veteran Maurice Williams for the starting left guard job. The position came open this spring when Vince Manuwai, a five-year starter at left guard, was moved into the starting job at right guard.

"I'm a natural left guard. I felt like that was a sign for me," Nwaneri said. "Mo (Williams) is a great player. It's going to be tough but I feel like I have all the ability in the world."

Williams proved last year that he can play guard as well as tackle. A four-year starter at right tackle, Williams lost his starting job when Tony Pashos was signed in free agency, but Williams' value resurfaced midway through last season when starting right guard Chris Naeole was lost to a leg injury. Williams stepped into the starting lineup and played well enough to cause the Jaguars to re-sign him this past winter.

Nwaneri, a fifth-round pick out of Purdue last year, is considered the future at left guard, but first he's got to win the job. Williams' value is as a swing man. He gives the Jaguars veteran depth at no fewer than three positions.

"I feel like I have an opportunity to step up and win the starting job. There's a learning curve. I stayed in my playbook (last season). I feel 10 times more comfortable now," Nwaneri said.

He impressed coaches with his play late in last summer's preseason. In the regular-season finale, he was put into the starting lineup against the Texans, which allowed Nwaneri to be evaluated with the future in mind.

"That was my coming-out party; that I could compete for a starting position. I think the coaches saw it that way," Nwaneri said. "I have to get better every day. I have to play loose. I feel like I'm there already."

The Jaguars conducted their final practice of this week on Friday morning. It rained early in practice but conditions improved and allowed for a spirited passing drill to end the practice.

J.T. Townsend, a local high school player who sustained a spinal cord injury that has left him in a wheelchair, was an invited guest of the team at Friday's practice. Townsend and his family were greeted by the team following practice.

Players are off until Tuesday and the Jaguars will practice three times next week.

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