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Hangartner is ready to be center of attention

The Buffalo Bills' new center knows exactly what awaits him in the AFC East.

Geoff Hangartner, who signed a four-year contract with the Bills on Saturday, spent the past four years playing for the Carolina Panthers. For three of those years, he went up against defensive tackle Kris Jenkins in practice.

Next season, Hangartner will line up against Jenkins in real games, because Jenkins is the Pro Bowl nose tackle for the New York Jets.

"Playing in the division is going to be a challenge every week," Hangartner said. "There are some great nose guards. But I really like that. I like the challenge of playing against guys who are Pro Bowlers. I know Kris really well from three years in Carolina together. He's a heck of a player. I know the other guys are, too. I'm looking forward to a challenge. It will be fun."

The Bills think Hangartner is the man to improve the middle of their offensive line.

Hangartner brings great intelligence to the position. He scored 47 out of 50 on the Wonderlic intelligence test before the 2005 draft. That's believed to be the highest score of any offensive lineman ever.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Hangartner also showed in Carolina that he is a good finisher in run and pass blocking, and he brings a feisty attitude onto the field. The Bills like adding more of that temperament to the line.

Hangartner got good reviews while making eight starts this season for the Panthers, who went 12-4 and had the No. 3 rushing attack in the NFL. He also started 15 games at center in 2006.

Hangartner has added some bulk to his frame the past two years. Proving he has the stoutness to handle Jenkins, New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork and Miami nose tackle Jason Ferguson, will be key to Hangartner's success with the Bills.

"When I came into the NFL I was right around 300 pounds, and it's been kind of a gradual increase, trying to get bigger and stronger," he said. "I probably put on 6 or 8 pounds last offseason, and I played last season at 315. That's what I'm coming in at."

Hangartner likes the idea of blocking for the Bills' tandem of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. He had a great tandem behind him in Carolina with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

"Those guys remind me a lot of the two guys in Carolina," Hangartner said. "[The Bills] have a good tandem. They want to run the ball. The guys are physical runners, run hard, make good cuts. That's an exciting thing as an offensive lineman to have two good backs like that."

He also said he liked the Bills' run-game philosophy.

"They run a lot of zone [blocking], which I'm comfortable with," he said. "They run some power, which I also think is a great play. A lot of one-back stuff, a lot of two tight ends. They have a good scheme. We talked a little about the scheme today and protections, and I'm really excited about working with those guys."

Hangartner turns 27 in April. He was a fifth-round draft choice out of Texas A&M in 2005.

He takes over for last year's starter, Duke Preston, who is a free agent.

"There's great young players here, great ownership, great management," he said. "I think this team has a chance to be really good and I'm excited about it."

The Bills now have filled two holes, with a new starting center and a new backup quarterback in free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick, formerly of Cincinnati, signed Friday.

Buffalo had no free agent visitors scheduled for today. Receiver Laveranues Coles, who visited Buffalo on Friday after being set free by the Jets this week, was believed to be visiting Miami today.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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