Santa Ana (Calif.) Foothill’s Chris Yaghi -- California’s latest commit -- is a tough, bull-strong defensive tackle with a lot of lower body strength and long levers, and I got the chance to see him in person at Sunday's satellite camp, where he earned his offer from Fred Tate.
“I’ll be honest: I didn’t watch much Cal football last season,” says Yaghi, who will nevertheless be a key addition to the 2016 class, because of his work ethic, and because he’s the type of defensive tackle who can cause major disruptions on the interior of opposing offensive lines. His swim and rip moves are particularly polished.
“Coach Tate, he liked how I could adapt to his type of play, and when I did something he didn’t quite like, I would be able to fix it,” says Yaghi, who camped with the Bears on Sunday at Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian.
Watching Yaghi up close, he still needs to work on his footwork, and he’s still a bit on the stiff side, particularly through the trunk, but he’s got good get-off, and explosion, which he puts to good use as a road-grading fullback. He just likes to hit things. At 6-foot-3.5, 264 pounds, he’s imposing without carrying much bad weight, if any. He also has a very broad frame on which the Cal strength staff can pile a lot of muscle. As strong as he is now, once he gets into a college weight training program, he’s going to be a monster, just like fellow defensive tackle commit Russell Becker.
“Well, my coach realized that I could basically manhandle some people at the high school level, so he said, ‘Why not be a fullback and create some holes?’” Yaghi says.
And make holes, he did. Yaghi only had nine carries for 82 yards on the season, but in part thanks to him, the Knights ran for 2,188 yards last season.
But it’s his work in the middle that got him to this point.
“I know how to engage and follow the ball, and shed blocks,” Yaghi says. “I’m not really about holding up people. It’s all about engage-and-release.”
While he’s able to bully opposing offensive linemen because of his strength, his frame is going to allow him to put on enough weight to ensure that that advantage won’t go away once he faces a higher level of competition. You just can’t teach the kind of natural strength that Yaghi has. Taking a look at opposing guards trying to cut block him, he just doesn’t go down. That kind of balance and stability doesn’t come around very often. Because he’s able to stay on his feet so well, disengaging from blocks and following the ball carrier – and having enough get-up-and-go to bring him down from behind – isn’t a problem.
Yaghi plays in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but because Foothill has changed defensive schemes on a season-by-season basis, he’s used to playing defensive tackle, as well as nose. Looking at his highlights, more often than not, he’s essentially playing a 4-3 defensive tackle position. Those long arms of his are going to create problems for opposing quarterbacks, as well, as he gets into passing lanes, as he does several times, early in the third minute of his highlight tape.
“We go season-by-season, so last year, we were also a 3-4, but we always had an outside linebacker, the strong side, coming up to the line, so we would all slant over to the weak side,” Yaghi says.
Part of his ability to be a punishing force on both sides of the ball is due to attitude.
“I think I bring some confidence to the table. I try to motivate people,” says Yaghi.