Position: Defensive end
Recruiting situation: Committed to Nebraska
Opponent: Union City (N.J.) High
What to Like
I've seen Slade play in person four times in the last two years, and he has made enormous gains. He is athletic, and considering he is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, it is impressive with the way he moves in short spaces. He can run plays down from behind and also can break down when he gets to the ball carrier and make the play.
He is long, and able to extend his arms and wrap up ball carriers. He is a good tackler and he plays with a low pad level and has good knee bend when dealing with blocks. He does an adequate job of disengaging offensive linemen and chasing a play down, and he doesn't get caught off balance very often.
He is patient in the running game and understands his assignments, and he has decent strength. Slade is also a good student and smart player, and he has a strong work ethic and leadership skills.
What Needs Work
Slade is a very good player, but not a frightening one for opposing teams. His gaudy sack total (23 ½) is partly a product of Montclair's potent attack, and the need for teams to throw often because the Mounties built so many big leads so fast. The Mounties has two games decided by less than 23 points.
The two areas of improvement that stand out the most are for Slade to be more decisive at the snap of the ball and also to play faster. He has the explosion, but sometimes he plays on his heels and doesn't attack the play enough. Instead, he takes a lot of small steps while waiting to make a move.
Another area of improvement is in his technique. Slade relies heavily on his speed off the edge, but he rarely uses a bull rush, swim move, a rip or a spin. Part of it is development, and the need to add to his array, and since he is a hard worker, those things should work itself out over time.
Slade dominated against lesser competition, and was inconsistent against better competition in playing for the top public school team in the state. As he gets more comfortable in his role and gets his technique fine-tuned, he has a chance to become a very good player in the Big Ten.
He will need to learn to play more physically, but his athleticism and his build add versatility. His quick first step, his length and is ability to drop into coverage make him the type of defensive end who could also stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, which will give the Cornhuskers flexibility in different packages as Slade's career progresses.
The intrigue with Slade is the untapped potential, and if the Cornhuskers staff can dig it out, it will be a real steal for them to pluck him out of the Garden State.