This week in the Good, Bad and Ugly series we get into my favorite group, offensive guards. These are the guys not pretty enough to be a tackle but nasty enough to take on 300+ pound defensive tackles. This year's crop of guards has some exciting talent in it. Let's take a look at Will Hernandez from UTEP and Cody O' Connell from Washington State.
Will Hernandez (OG, Sr(R), UTEP)
THE GOOD: As you can see above Hernandez is a massive individual. His large size does not affect his movements while in space or moving laterally. When he moves he looks fluid and quicker than expected. He squares up well when taking on 2nd level defenders and will use his body to seal off running lanes. Hernandez shows off elite strength when in-line run blocking. His grip is also very strong and when he locks out on defenders they usually stay neutralized. He has also been known to throw defenders to the ground using one hand.
THE BAD: Hernandez struggles with keeping his pad level low. While he looks to have fair flexibility in his knees his upper body is usually in poor position to take on defenders. He will either be leaning too far over his feet or completely upright. His stiffness hinders him when he is attempting to block on the second level. There were times where smaller unclear LBs were able to avoid his block by slipping under his hands.
THE UGLY: A troubling flaw in Hernandez's game is his inability to explode off the snap. Time and time again Hernandez was the last man off the ball. By doing so he allows defender deep into his chest before he can react to them. Luckily for him Army's defenders are undersized and he was able to use his upper body strength to recover and stop the defender. He is also hindered when trying to perform combo or pull blocks. The slight delay will throw off the timing of the play and his assignment will beat him to the spot.
IN THE END: Hernandez definitely looks the part. Big, strong and mean is his calling card and he uses it well. His movement skills will also open his scheme options at the next level and raise his raft stock. With some polishing he can be a dominant player in the NFL. He may be at his best in a power man offensive scheme, but like I said, he is versatile enough to play in a zone scheme. His game play compares to Matt Slauson. I expect him to be selected between the late 1st round and early 2nd round of the NFL draft.
Cody O'Connell (OG, Sr(R), Wash St.)
THE GOOD: If his listed size doesn't make an impression on you, O'Connell's nickname is "the continent". His nickname is fitting once you see him compared to the other players on the field. He stands out among the giants as soon as you turn on the tape. I was expecting too see a lumbering lineman running around the field but I was surprised to see him move well. By no means is he flying around the field but he also is not stuck in cement. O' Connell is also very consistent with his hand placement. He is quick to engage defenders and will keep his hands centered to the chest area.
THE BAD: O'Connell is a "catch and grab" type lineman. He does not perform well when asked to power run block. He is not going to be a lineman that will blow open a hole nor will he move piles. Rather he will occupy his man enough so as to not affect the timing of the play. He will also get off balance and fall off his block when trying to power block.
THE UGLY: Despite being an intimidating figure on the field his play does not intimidate his opponents. When you watch O'Connell in both pass and run blocking it is obvious that he has a severe lack of play strength. In pass protection he is regularly driven back into the quarterback. While run blocking his defender is able to maintain his ground and stay alive on the play. When blocking man to man he lacks the explosion to drive his man out of the hole. Even while blocking from angles, like in down blocks or pull blocks, he will get minimal push on the defender. His lack of strength will also show up in his hand usage. As I said, he is quick to get his hands engaged on the defender but he struggles to maintain grip on a defender. His hands are easily knocked off by the defender in both run blocking and pass protection.
IN THE END: O'Connell's effectiveness is one dimensional and scheme limited. This should undoubtedly hurt his draft stock. His lack of play strength is going to be troublesome at the next level. It is hard to imagine him being effective versus larger and stronger defenders in the NFL if defenders are barely budged when he engages them now. He has some tools that can be built upon but he will be a project OG. I expect him to be taken in the 5th or 6th round of the NFL draft.