Preseason Top 5: Pac-12 Offensive Tackles

Photo: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 does not have the best EDGE rusher in college football. Oregon's Jalen Jelks is a great player, but he ain't top shelf.

We don't have the best RB either -- even though Heisman odds love him -- Stanford's Bryce Love just ain't that dude. Safety is kinda close, but I'm not sure Washington's Taylor Rapp has the juice to take the premiere spot clearly.

QB is a conversation: I like Oregon's Justin Herbert a good deal and he's QB1 for many folks -- but there are legit questions I have with his tape. Even if he is QB1, it's not a strong QB1, and there's a case that can be made for Drew Lock and Brian Lewerke, among other names.

But the best offensive tackle in the class? We got 'im. And he's a freakin' stud.

1) Trey Adams, RS Senior, Washington (6'7 327)

The word that kept popping to mind when watching Trey Adams was unfazed. He just couldn’t care less about what you’re trying to do to him. You’re coming with speed around the edge? He’s long and unafraid to meet you late at the corner and steer you past the QB. Power right for his chest? He knows he’s too big and balanced for that nonsense. Trying to work the hands to soften the edge? Adams will wait for you to declare and then lock you up. You don’t impress him.

It’s irregular to find an offensive tackle as patient and balanced in his kick-slide as Adams; who has the poise to handle the expected and unexpected as it comes. That calmness out on an island at left tackle is a trait I can’t remember seeing so clearly in recent prospects. Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk is a decent comparison, in terms of that smooth and steady play style, but Ramczyk wasn’t this poised. Adams is also a larger and more powerful player, which shows up in his powerful punches and ragdoll grip strength. Adams will frame you effortlessly at the snap, hold his punch until the last moment, and then stun you in a flash. Once you’re stuck trying to win on second-effort rush moves, you’ve lost. He’s too big, balanced, and quick.

Adams looks ready to play in the NFL, frankly. He isn’t going to get more athletic, and his technique is pretty much where it needs to be. His snatch-and-trap could use a little work -- but if we’re complaining about a college OT’s snatch-and-trap, that should tell you everything we need to know.

What to watch for in 2018: Leverage. At 6’7, Adams’ size can prove an issue for his game play. He struggles to get his pads and hips underneath down blocks, and as such can’t generate true displacement power in the running game. That uprightness also hurts him when exploding out of his stance and into his pass set, as true speed rushers at the 7-technique or wider can threaten him early in reps with explosiveness. Adams must show he can play with flexible hips for four quarters to protect his large body from getting out-leveraged.

2) Kaleb McGary, RS Senior, Washington (6-6 318)

Oh, what have we here? Adams’ running mate, McGary. As of right now, there are only two sure bets at offensive tackle in the Pac-12, and they both play for the Huskies. Go Dawgs!

McGary is the blunt instrument to Adams’ precision handiwork. That’s not to say McGary isn’t technically sound -- he is -- but what jumps off the tape is his power. He can uproot defenders from a wide variety of leverages and hand placement, and has the core strength to really wrench bodies to and fro at the first level. As a pass protector, he’s the aggressor: he’s gonna jump set you, put his paws on you, and ride you into the dirt. With disciplined feet, he excels at riding rushers wherever they want to go -- inside or outside -- and taking them far beyond the quarterback’s set point.

What’s most exciting about McGary’s length and power, however, is how it impacts his ability to recover. His kick-slide doesn’t gain great depth, and he can be caught leaning on his hands/relying on his length too much, thereby surrendering an easy corner. However, his explosiveness from his lower half and ability to deliver a two-handed shot has saved him from more than one sticky situation. For his size, his short-area burst is really something to behold.

What to watch for in 2018: Kick-slide. As we discussed above, there’s depth issues -- and I think they’re rooted in vision and understanding of angles, not any athletic limitation. McGary is a better run blocker than Adams, but the difference in pass blocking is what really decides the rankings. It’s all rooted in McGary’s willingness to let speed threaten his outside shoulder. He has to hinge open and becomes exposed to inside counters. If he cleans up his kick-slide and eliminates that speed threat...wheew. Ceiling might be higher than Adams'.

3) Casey Tucker, Graduate Transfer, Arizona State (6-6 315)

Tucker is a huge wildcard in this group. His name is quiet in most NFL Draft circles right now, but he has real NFL talent...last we saw him.

Tucker’s most recent tape comes from a 2016 season in which he battled injury -- and switched sides -- for Stanford’s offensive line. A five-star recruit, Tucker was a strong starting offensive tackle for the Cardinal as a sophomore in 2015; enough so to make him a preseason Pac-12 second-team offensive lineman coming into his junior year.

But the big question mark is what ailment actually capped Tucker’s efficacy in 2016; and how much did it factor into Tucker’s gap year in 2017, in which he didn’t play a single snap? The player on tape -- however healthy he was -- frames rushers well with active feet and a powerful upper body; fits his hands very nicely as a run- and pass-blocker; has the core strength to uproot defensive linemen. He’s a strong candidate in power blocking schemes as a guard or tackle.

What to watch for in 2018: Health, first and foremost. But after that: hips. Tucker can take square pass sets that leave his outside shoulder susceptible to speed and force him into late and over-dramatic hinges to protect himself. If it’s technique, we can fix it; if it’s hip tightness, he should likely be evaluated as a guard prospect moving forward.

4) Chuma Edoga, Senior, USC (6-4 295)

Here’s the thing about Chuma: Sometimes, it looks like he has just no idea what to do. He false-steps out of his stance and crosses his feet in his pass set; he’ll swipe at rushers before they even get near his frame. His kick-slide, at this point, doesn’t exist; a frantic backpedal appears in its place.

But jeez, that frantic backpedaler sure can move. Chuma excels on an island, handling two-way goes with excellent footwork and great energy. He’s a mirror drill expert who isn’t terrible with his hands and packs some good power behind them, doing well to recruit his entire body when exchanging power because he’s a little slight overall. All of the angle issues that arise out of his poor set, he can solve with length and quickness -- which is bad, in that it doesn’t incentivize he breaks the habit; but is good, in that he rarely surrenders pressure.

What to watch for in 2018: Technique? Chuma will fall under the “project” umbrella with his current tape. He needs to show that he can read alignments and hit consistent landmarks, over and over and over again, for NFL OL coaches to trust him as a known quantity. He has the profile of an elite pass protector if he takes the necessary strides.

5) A.T. Hall, RS Senior, Stanford (6-5 297)

Another player, another project. While Chuma needs work everywhere in his pass sets, Hall has a decent foundation. His best reps come with early and aggressive hands, using his combination of length and off-ball explosiveness to stun rushers before they can begin executing the rush plan.

And that makes sense -- because Hall can’t really handle their rush plan. His hands are all too easily drawn out on 45 degree and vertical sets, which leave him highly vulnerable to stutter steps and inside counters. (Inside spin moves especially.) When he does land hands, he leans like a major news outlet, and he’s all too easy to discard for rushers who know how to use their hands. To his credit, he takes away B-gap rushers well, and has a good athletic profile to recover -- but as of right now, there’s just a few too many ways to beat him.

He impresses as a run blocker, as he’s an excellent space player with good angles, great tenacity, and a willingness to work and rework his hands. He can generate some good rolling power with flexible hips in the first level as well, though he’s a bit light (~300 lbs) and will struggle against larger interior players. Zone blocking schemes make a lot of sense for him -- he can execute reaches on wide zone fairly well.

What to watch for in 2018: Timing. Hall’s mess typically stems from over-eagerness as a pass protector. He needs to improve his ability to read different rush plans, so that he knows where he’s going, and learn how to maximize his physical tools to stun that unique rush plan. It’s a tall task -- the task of all OTs -- and Hall will likely be considered a project because of it. But that athletic profile sure does entice.

Keep an eye one

Andre Dillard, RS Senior, Washington State (6-5 306)

I struggle with these Wazzu guys, and their weird vertical sets and unwillingness to be the aggressor. Dillard is an active and dynamic mover who can ride rushers along the track nicely, and when he activates his hips, his power is serviceable. But as of right now, he wants to play the entire game at his fingertips. Screen the rusher away, play the mirror drill, rinse, repeat. When he’s challenged with power, it’s a problem. If he puts on mass and begins exchanging color in the trenches, I'll get interested.

Notable omission

Calvin Throckmorton, RS Junior, Oregon (6-5 307)

Tape doesn’t live up to the name, unfortunately. Throckmorton is a lumberer, folks: he’s late off the ball, tries to win every block with his upper half alone, and can’t execute any reach blocks or climbs to the second level. Teams will love the presumed guard/tackle versatility, but his pass set at tackle never seem to get the appropriate depth. He’s a straight-line rumbler, and that leads to some good reps, but at this point, the inability to win through angles makes him a very, very limited player.