Football is finally back in the Sunshine State and this past Friday night I had the opportunity to evaluate Tampa (Fla.) Blake 2016 defensive end Shavar Manuel. He’s already a five-star recruit and the country’s top rated defensive end on Scout in the next class.
On this night Tech beat Blake 20-6. They did a nice job of scheming Manuel. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Cain froze Manuel on a zone read option and scored on an 80-yard run.
Last season Manuel led the state of Florida in sacks with 20. You can see why. This kid has very good size and gets off the ball well. He’s well put together, both up top and in the lower body. And when he fires off the ball, he stays low. Many high school kids, especially at his age, have a tendency to come off the ball and bounce straight up. Not Manuel. He plays with very good leverage.
I do believe he has good speed and explosiveness off the edge but I don’t see that as the strength to his game. Rather, it is his strength and sheer power. This kid is strong and he already uses his hands. There were times on Friday when he would just toss offensive lineman or would-be blockers around. On certain plays he would come off the ball and stun whoever was trying to block him with just an initial punch or blow to the opposition’s chest. That initial pop or jolt is just enough to get the lineman off-balance. When that happens it’s feasting time for Manuel.
I also like how he plays in control. A lot of guys at this stage just want to get up field and after the quarterback. It appears that Manuel shows some patience off the snap, waiting to recognize and diagnosis what’s happening. Then he shows the short area burst and quickness to the ball whether it’s the run or pass.
Manuel shows speed, agility and flexibility to get up the field and around the edge. Manuel can move down the line and make plays laterally and on the back side.
Like I said, this kid is already very powerful, plays with good leverage and has violent hands. He’s good against the run. He commands double teams. On this night I thought the Tech offense played him well, ran away from him a lot and did a nice job of keeping hats on him. Having said that, I didn’t see anyone beat up on Manuel. Not one time would I say he lost a rep.
Certainly I see things that he must continue to work on. He can always get bigger, stronger and faster. Manuel can play a little harder. At least for the next two seasons he will constantly see double teams and teams running away from him. There are plays to be made on the other side of the field. He can get there. Of course Manuel can continue to work on his technique. Heck, I already think he does a nice job with it. He has several moves already in his arsenal. Credit his work ethic and desire to improve his game each and every day. This is a very coachable young man that wants to be great. And he gets some outstanding coaching from former NFLer Anthony Davis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle).
This young man has a very bright future. He’s so young and still has two full high school seasons in front of him. My big question is how will he physically develop and where does he ultimately play on the line of scrimmage? At least right now I see him as an ideal five-technique in a 3-4 scheme. In this defense you need big and strong defensive ends that have the ability to control two gaps. You need a powerful end that knows how to use their hands. This is what I think Manuel will be.
I could also see him growing into a defensive tackle [three-technique]. There was a time or two he moved inside against Tech. He would need to add weight but that’s going to happen anyway. He’s going to be a 280-300-pounder before it’s all said and done.
In a few weeks Blake will take on Seffner Armwood. Armwood features another five-star defensive end from Tampa in Byron Cowart. The two are very close friends and even went on a few recruiting trips together (FSU and Alabama). Speaking of recruiting, everyone in the SEC and ACC has offered Manuel. So has Ohio State, USC, UCLA and many others. His first offer was from the Gators last November.
Below are some highlights of Manuel against Tampa Bay Tech from this past Friday.