by Grumpy Lindsay, GBN Editor and Publisher
While the top storyline out of last week’s Senior Bowl revolved around the number of defensive linemen, and especially the defensive tackles, who have emerged as legitimate first and second day prospects for the 2016 draft, in part as a result of their solid performances in both the practices and game in Mobile, the story for their counterparts along the offensive line wasn’t as positive. Almost certainly, any NFL team looking for a prototype LT prospect, even a developmental type, in Mobile likely came away empty handed. Indeed, several of the few OTs that at least held their own at the Senior Bowl are actually being looked at primarily as OG prospects.
LSU G/T Vadal Alexander of LSU, for example, was probably the most consistent OT in the Senior Bowl game. Alexander is a massive guy who’s one of those proverbial $10 taxi rides ($5 if you use Uber) to get around with a solid punch and decent feet. He’s not necessarily super quick or a great athlete, Alexander is very economical with his foot movements and plays with good balance and enough lateral agility to be able to plant and change direction; he also showed solid hand technique and gets good arm extension. And while Alexander will likely get his first looks in the pros at RT, there are a lot of NFL personnel people who figure he ultimately ends up as a 10-year started at OG.
There was a similar story for Baylor G/T Spencer Drango, who showed a very nice slide step and the ability to comfortably mirror the edge rusher in front of him; Drango also showed pretty good lateral agility and change of direction skills, plus he also got out into space made a couple of nice blocks in space. However, like Alexander, Drango doesn’t appear to be necessarily a great athlete and struggled at times to completely cut off the edge when dealing with a pure speed rush; he was also called for a couple of holds, although one appeared to be of the bogus variety. In fact, the best pure OT in the senior Bowl game may have been Georgia’s John Theus. Theus was really light on his feet and effortlessly was able to shift direction; he also showed good balance and textbook hand placement arm extension. However, even at 317 pounds, Theus did appear a little light in the caboose and did struggle at times to anchor against a straight bull rushes. (We also note in passing that none of Alexander, Drango or Theus actually had to deal with the Senior Bowl’s really electric edge rushers like Noah Spence or Dadi Nicolas; needless to say it would have been great in the game to see them go against those guys, but it didn’t happen as for the most part they were on the same team).
On the other hand, if there was an OT that really disappointed in the actual Senior Bowl game it was Indiana’s Jason Spriggs who came into the game listed as a potential first-round pick. Spriggs was reasonably quick off the snap, but he tended to play too high with a narrow base and was slow to come out of his initial set both while trying to cut off the edge, as well as replanting and coming back inside. He also got knocked off balance a couple of times and couldn’t recover. To his credit, Spriggs did appear to get better as the game wore on as he adjusted to the speed of the edge rushers he was facing, but clearly could not have been happy with the overall results. Spriggs, though, was hardly the only OT in Mobile to struggle with the speed of the game as Kyle Murphy of Stanford, Texas Tech’s La’Raven Clark, Cole Toner of Harvard and Willie Beavers of Western Michigan all looked totally overmatched at times and could very well be headed inside to OG at the next level.
One of the potentially more interesting observations from the Senior Bowl was, that at least in the game itself, the OGs may have played better than the tackles. Indeed, a pretty good case could be made that Stanford OG Josh Garnett was the most consistent offensive lineman in Mobile on Saturday. Garnett looked big and like most former Stanford offensive linemen appeared well schooled in the fundamentals as he showed good balance and the ability to anchor when bull-rushed; he also demonstrated a solid punch and good hand placement as well as decent lateral agility, although he isn’t necessarily all that nimble when he gets out into space and has to make a block on the move. Meanwhile, Notre Dame C/G Nick Martin, Michigan C/G Graham Glasgow and Kansas State OG Cody Whitehair also had solid games. Martin and Glasgow both moved extremely well for interior offensive linemen with quick feet and good balance and nice awareness of what was going on around them in the pocket; they were also both effective in space when asked to pull and make a block on the move, although both also had some issues with big physical bull-rushers. For his part, Whitehair, who is getting some late first-round props from pro scouts, was a little more physical at the point of attack than the former duo, but also showed some quick feet, good balance and solid technique. One also saw some flashes from several other veteran OGs in the Senior Bowl including Washington State’s Joe Dahl, Christian Westerman of Arizona State and Seb Tretola of Arkansas, but the consistency wasn’t always there as they would make 2-3 really solid plays, but then get burned.