Notre Dame is in a critical phase of spring evaluation with offensive linemen after receiving a verbal commitment from tackle prospect Cole Mabry (Brentwood, Tenn.) on Valentine’s Day, followed by a guard pledge six weeks later from John Dirksen (Maria Stein, Ohio).
Those two, along with five other prospects, were recent names offered by Irish Illustrated on its offensive Master List.
Jamaree Salyer (Atlanta, Ga.) is a rare five-star offensive guard prospect. The massive Salyer – listed as high as 342 pounds – expressed his respect for Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. But prying him out of ACC/SEC land will be no small feat.
Which brings us to four-star Nick Nick Petit-Frere, a 6-foot-6, 258-pound tackle from Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla., and four-star Warren Ericson, 6-foot-4, 317-pound guard from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga.
Normally when you see a player of this stature with a frame that needs filling out, there’s a tendency to mention the need for development and the raw nature of his game. To be sure, Petit-Frere is undoubtedly 40 pounds minimum from the weight he’ll ultimately play his college football.
But if one could draw up a natural offensive tackle prospect, it is the bright, mature Petit-Frere, who pulled a bit of a surprise by traveling from Tampa to South Bend this spring to check out Notre Dame.
What an athlete! A common phrase used today in analyzing football prospects is “twitchy,” as in an athlete has fast-twitch muscles that allow for quick movement. Petit-Frere is twitchy as hell!
Snap after snap, Petit-Frere is rapid-fire quick, immediately getting into the body of the defensive lineman. Sometimes that quickness can lead to imbalance for young, long offensive tackles, but not with this kid. He bursts off the snap and rarely lunges or flails in his attempt to stay on a block.
Petit-Frere has outstanding balance. He keeps his pads underneath him, playing with the coveted combination of aggressiveness and body control. He runs like a deer for his size. He drives into and lifts his block of a defender, which he does despite still needing overall physical strength (although that rarely shows on the prep level).
Petit-Frere starts balanced and stays balanced. He doesn’t over-reach, partly because he doesn’t have to with his long frame, but also because his technique keeps him out of lunging tactics.
In terms of left tackle fit, this kid is the prototype. Long, quick, under control, and at all times, actively aggressive. His quick engagement into a defender, mixed with the solid technique, make him fully equipped for the left tackle position on the next level. Add more weight and strength and you have the potential for stardom.
SINCLAIR ON PETIT-FRERE
“At 6-foot-6, 270-pounds with long arms and a sky-high ceiling, Petit-Frere has gathered all the big boy offers. Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Auburn are in the mix but don’t count out Notre Dame. The top tackle in Florida enjoyed his visit to South Bend on March 24, goes to a Christian prep school, and loves Harry Hiestand.”
Ericson comes from the tutelage of 15-year North Gwinnett High School offensive line coach Chuck Allen, who has helped produce Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), a first-round draft choice by the Miami Dolphins in 2014, and Austin Shepherd (Alabama), who was chosen by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round two years ago.
Also on Allen’s developmental ledger are left tackles Orlando Brown (Oklahoma) and Mitch Hyatt (Clemson).
“He’ll probably end up being one of the top two guys I’ve coached,” said Allen of Ericson to Irish Illustrated in February.
Although the word around Suwanee, Ga. is that Ericson, despite his massive size, has the athleticism to play tackle on the next level, that would be force-fitting a guard into a position that requires a whole bunch of work in open spaces. His limited change of direction is a detriment at the tackle position.
This is a hoss who will do his best work on the next level between the tackles. It’s obvious how much this young man loves offensive line play. He is relentlessly aggressive. He uses his hands almost like a martial artist. You have to get past Ericson’s in-fighting before you can attempt to work around him. He is tenacious.
Ericson has active feet. He shows a solid slide step. But this is where he has the greatest difficulty.
He’s a load who is built for interior line play. He’s a blue-collar worker who is best suited for the blue-collar world of offensive guard play.
Ericson needs work in a few other areas. He pops up out of his stance and plays with a high pad level. He has active feet, but he sometimes wants to drive with his upper body instead of his backside/legs. He needs more bend to fully maximize his size and strength.
Ericson will allow his upper body to get out in front of his lower body in his desire to be physical. This leads to some balance/lunging issues.
But there’s a lot to work with in Ericson’s game once he learns to get more bend in the knees and play underneath his pads. He will lean on you from first snap to last. You know you’ve been in a battle with this guy when the final whistle blows.
SINCLAIR ON ERICSON
“Already drawing comparisons to current Notre Dame mauler Quenton Nelson, four-star offensive lineman Warren Ericson visited South Bend on Feb. 18 and was rewarded with an offer. Word is that Notre Dame is recruiting him hard and Ericson is very interested. This one is far from over, but Harry Hiestand is gaining momentum.”