Not surprisingly, in a game that ended in a 10-3 score with the only TD coming in the 4th quarter, the offensive lines at the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg were hardly blowing people off the line of scrimmage. The OTs, in particular, really struggled at times, and while the interior blockers held up a little better it may more a reflection that there wasn’t a whole lot of quickness among the DTs on the other side of the ball.
In fact, regarding the offensive tackles, one really had to look very hard to find anyone at all at the position in St. Pete who looked like they could actually handle the outside at the next level. That said, a couple of OTs did hold up well enough to at least get further looks at the position. In fact, Oklahoma State OT Victor Salako was actually one of the better players overall in the actual Shrine game. Salako, who wasn’t all that highly regarded coming into the Shrine week was really light on his feet all afternoon; he set up quickly, did a nice job absorbing initial contact and redirecting his charge, as well as used his arms effectively to cut off the edge. And while Salako still needs to work on keeping his pads low and his footwork was a little choppy as the play developed, bottom line is that Salako kept his side of the pocket really clean on Saturday.
Vanderbilt G/T Will Holden also had a very nice game. Like Salako, he appeared to be light enough on his feet for a big guy, was very smooth in his backpeddle and nicely balanced in his set. Holden also used his arms effectively to redirect his opponent to the outside and showed the agility to plant and and respond to a counter move. Holden also showed plenty of versatility as he was used at both tackle spots, as well as inside, where he may very well end up at the next level, although there clearly is OT potential there.
On the other hand, several other better known OTs did not appear to help their grades at all at the Shrine. Massive (6-10) Dan Skipper of Arkansas, for example, did indeed appear to block out the sun at times and was a full fare cab ride around, although he actually has a rather small wingspan for such a big guy. However, Skipper just couldn’t move his feet once he set in the pocket and really struggled to cut off the edge; he also really couldn’t respond to quick counter moves, and actually struggled at times to anchor against good bull rushes as he just couldn’t keep his pads done. There was a similar story for Erik Magnuson, a battler with decent length who showed a devastating punch, but was far better working in a small space at OG rather than outside at RT. Meanwhile, Utah’s Sam Tevi showed some ability as a drive blocker as he was quick off the snap and played with good pad level, but got pushed around too much in pass pro as he just didn’t have the strength and technique to effectively anchor.
In many ways, though, the most disappointing OT in the East-West game may have been Florida International OT Dieugot Joseph. Joseph came into the game regarded as one of the more underrated players at the position with the chance to push his grade up with a solid outing, but was consistently slow off the snap, played too high and struggled to anchor, and on too many plays was pushed deep into the pocket. At the same time, the hardest OT to grade in the St. Pete game was Texas A&M’s Avery Gennesy. Gennesy had one strike against him already heading into the game and when he measured in at just 6-3, and then looked completely lost on his first series; he couldn’t cut off the edge, he couldn’t anchor against a bull-rush, and he couldn’t react to an outside-in mover. However, as the game wore on, Gennesy was much more confident and aggressive and showed really athletic feet, got good arm extension and played with excellent pad level. Go figure.
At the same time, a number of OGs held up reasonably well in the Shrine game including Auburn’s Alex Kozan, Kyle Kalis of Michigan, Adam Pankey of West Virginia and Missouri’s Chase Roullier. They were all battlers with decent strength and balance who more than held their own dealing with the opposition interior defensive lines. However, what gave us pause was that in one instance, WVU’s Pankey, who may very well have been the best OG in St. Pete, made like a turnstile on the one play when he had to face Arkansas DE Deatrich Wise.