Observations and analysis from the 12th week of the college football season, including thoughts about some of the nation’s top offensive prospects.
Texas Tech offensive linemen don’t meet NFL standards
Brandon Carter, OG, 6-6, 344
Please, make no mistake. I have nothing personal against Carter, the mammoth-sized guard from Texas Tech. I love the guy’s passion, and it’s obvious he enjoys playing the role of intimidator on the Red Raiders’ offense. However, Carter simply lacks the type of athleticism to hold up in space, and although he has the girth and power to anchor at the point of attack, he’s heavy-footed and is slow to slide his feet laterally in pass protection. He struggled mightily all game trying to match up with Oklahoma’s athletic defensive tackle tandem and gives up too much penetration inside. On top of that, he lacks a burst off the ball in the run game, seems content to lean on opposing blockers and doesn’t consistently drive his man out of the play. There’s no denying his size and power, but I can’t say I’ll grade him out any higher than a backup-type interior lineman.
Marlon Winn, OT, 6-5, 290
As I’ve stated in the past and still believe, if an offensive tackle lacks base strength, he will make every opposing defensive end he faces look like a good pass rusher. That’s exactly the case with Winn, who struggles to play with any kind of a pad level off the edge and consistently gets bullied at the point of attack. He was routinely rag-dolled in the pass game this weekend vs. Oklahoma and fails to bend his knees, sit into his stance and anchor on contact. He’s a decent athlete who can get his feet around defenders and seal in the run game. However, he lacks the type of power to hold his own at the next level and isn’t nearly ready to compete for an NFL roster spot.
Some size inside
Mike Iupati, Idaho, OG, 6-5, 330
Believe it or not, if you want to see one of the most dominant offensive linemen in the country right now, you need to travel to Idaho. Offensive guard Mike Iupati is a massive interior lineman who not only has the ability to engulf opposing defenders at the point of attack, he’s also a gifted athlete in his own right. Iupati does a great job keeping his pad level down, generating impressive power as a run blocker, and can smoothly slide laterally in pass protection. He does a great job getting under the pads of opposing defenders and has been absolutely dominating for the most part this season. He isn’t the most technically sound lineman and isn’t quite the type of Velcro player you’d expect for a guy his size, but I can see him maturing quickly with good NFL coaching and nailing down a starting spot in the NFL early in his career.
John Jerry, Ole Miss, OG/RT, 6-5, 350
Ole Miss RB Dexter McCluster has been absolutely brilliant in recent weeks running the football effectively between the tackles and creating big plays once he reaches the second level. But none of McCluster’s success would be possible without the Rebels offensive line, especially the play of OG John Jerry. Jerry was absolutely dominant at times this weekend vs. LSU, not only sealing defenders away from the play but also consistently creating a great initial push off the ball and driving opponents down the field. His ability to routinely open up run lanes as an in-line blocker is one of the main reasons I think the guy is an ideal fit at offensive guard at the next level. However, he’s also shown an ability to play right tackle as well, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him starting there at next level. Either way, Jerry looks like a Leonard Davis type of player to me and has the ability to be effective in both the run and pass game in the NFL.
Experiment paying off
One guy to keep an eye on as draft time approaches is Pittsburgh offensive guard John Malecki. Malecki is a former defensive tackle who made the switch to offensive guard in 2008 and ended up starting 13 games for the Panthers last season. Now in his second season of playing on the O-line, Malecki has shown quite an improvement from a year ago. He’s a bit undersized at 6-2, 285 pounds but showcases a good first step and plays a lot stronger than his frame indicates because of his ability to gain consistent leverage. He does a good job getting into blocks quickly and displays the type of nasty demeanor you would expect from a former defensive lineman. He still has a way to go and is far from a finished product, but Malecki has come a long way in two years and looks like a guy who could definitely draw some interest as a high-upside, developmental-type prospect.
Battle of the best
One matchup I really enjoyed breaking down was North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin vs. Boston College center Matt Tennant. Austin had a good day, finishing with three tackles, 1½ tackles for loss and a sack, but for the most part, whenever he matched up with Tennant one on one inside, it was Tennant who was the victor. Austin looked more explosive off the line and did a great job initially getting into the body of Tennant, but, it was the taller, thinner Tennant who did a better job getting his hands under the pad level of Austin, anchoring in the run game and using his length to stay on his blocks through the play. Tennant wasn’t real powerful initially at the point, but he did a great job quickly gaining inside leverage and sealing Austin away from the ball. Plus, Tennant plays with a real mean streak and took pleasure working till the whistle and finishing his blocks. In what looked like a big test for Tennant, he faired quite well vs. the caliber of athlete he’ll be facing on a weekly basis in the NFL.
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