O-D Bowl: Checking in with the linemen

With four practices under their belt and players beginning to get comfortable, it was time to check in on the linemen for the East and West heading into Saturday's Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Penn State commit DaQuan Jones was one of a few standouts, but who else is catching the eyes of the offensive and defensive line coaches?

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – With a quick swipe of his right hand, DaQuan Jones pushed past the left guard and was in the backfield in an instant. A play later, Jones pushed off a block with his left arm and again got into the backfield.

They were practical applications of Wednesday's lesson for the East's and the West's defensive lines at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, and nobody took to it better than the Penn State-bound Jones.

The 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle for the East excelled in individual drills, and could only be stopped in team drills when he was blocked by two or more players.

"He really started to understand it, and you could see the difference it made,'' said East defensive line coach Tom Pratt, who had 34 years of NFL coaching experience. "It is something that is really going to help him. He was quick off the ball and you could really see how well he took to it.''

It was definitely a day the defensive lines of both squads as the offense lagged behind in preparation of Saturday's game, which kicks off at 5 p.m. EST at Myrtle Beach High.

It didn't help the East side was missing Virginia Tech commit Caleb Farris and Michigan State commit Skyler Schofner, who were out with illnesses, and Clemson commit David Beasley because of headaches.

And the West was missing Oregon commit Nick Rowland, who strained his shoulder but is expected back at practice today.

Shawn Green
But the absence of those players didn't factor in Pratt's analysis of Jones, nor with the performance of Florida commit Lyndon Trail. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Trail was effective in pass rush drills, getting up the field quickly, but there is another area of his game that needs work.

"He always wants to get up the field,'' Pratt said. "I told him there's more to it than that, but he is a tremendous athlete. He is going to make a college coach very happy.''

Defensive tackle and Georgia Tech commit Shawn Green, who is listed at 6-1, 285 pounds, used his quickness and strength to disrupt plenty of plays, and caught the eye of Pratt.

"He may be a little undersized for the (NFL), but he was really impressive and should do a good job at Georgia Tech,'' Pratt said. "He was another one who used good technique. It was a good day for the defensive tackles.''

The East's offensive line was patchwork because of the absences of the aforementioned players, and at times it looked like it. There were a few times were players were asked to give more effort, but one who excelled on the day was Cincinnati commit Kevin Schloemer.

Schloemer consistently pushed the defensive ends to the outside and beyond the pocket during one-on-one drills, and stayed on his block during the inside running period.

"There are probably four or five of those kids who will play at the next level,'' said East offensive line coach Jim Erkenbeck, who has 55 years of coaching experience, including 25 in the NFL. "The skill level is above my expectations. Their pass protection skills are a little better than their run-blocking skills at this point, and that's a surprise.''

Usage of the hands to fend off blocks and create leverage was also a teaching point for the West defensive lineman.

Defensive ends Justin Utupo, a Notre Dame commit, and Henry Anderson, a Stanford pledge, both caught the attention of West defensive line coach Lorenzo Bromell.

"(Anderson) has something,'' said Bromell, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins and played for four NFL teams. "He's got a good upside, and whenever he ties all the moving parts in and gets a better handle on things, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.

"He showed me something (Tuesday); a very quick and powerful pass rush. I looked at him and said, ‘If you do that every day, every time, you'll have a lot of sacks.''

Bromell said he was impressed with the athleticism of Oklahoma State commit Chris Littlehead and Missouri commit Lucas Vincent, both of whom are defensive tackles.

"Hands and feet are the reasons why a defensive lineman is going to be successful, mediocre or below average,'' Bromell said. "Most kids don't get that until they're at a major university.'' Another technique Bromell was teaching was snap movement.

Erik Kohler
"I told those guys, ‘let me see your stance until you get off the ball,' ‘' Bromell said. "None of them were shooting their hands, which is a Cardinal sin. You can't play defensive line without controlling the line of scrimmage. Now, they're coming off the ball with the proper technique.''

The West's defensive line domination in practice was easily noticeable, and offensive line coach Tom Lovat said his unit lacked urgency. Furthermore, complacency crept in, but he added there was enormous potential on the roster.

Perhaps the most ready to play in college is Washington commit Erik Kohler.

"I think he's probably the closest,'' said Lovat, who has 23 years of NFL coaching on his resume. "From a technical aspect of football, I think he's at that level right now.''

Lovat also said he was impressed by Oklahoma commit Austin Woods.

"He's going to be all right,'' Lovat said. "I like him. I think he's got good feet, he's smart and pass protection-wise, he uses his hands well.''

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