In the Film Room: Lane Clelland

In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I don't have access to a ton of film on Lane Clelland. I do feel, however, that I have enough to give a good evaluation on him at this point. Since he is now a Notre Dame commitment, I will be sure to round up much more film on him by the time I write my post season evaluations.

It's obvious what kind of player Charlie Weis and his staff want on the offensive line. If you aren't physical, if you don't like to fight in between whistles, and if you don't like to smack people in the mouth, look elsewhere. You won't fit in on the Notre Dame offensive line. Lane Clelland fits that mold to a tee. That is absolutely the first thing you notice as you watch him play. This is a young man who looks to fight you on every snap.

The second trait I believe the staff is looking for is guys with good athleticism and good feet. I don't believe ND is going to be throwing too many slow maulers out onto the field. Although you could possibly throw Chris Stewart and Chris Little into that category, the overwhelming majority of the Notre Dame offensive line recruits were guys who could move. In the Notre Dame offense you need to be able to man block, zone block, pull, trap, and be effective on the perimeter in the screen game. The better athlete you are, the more effective you'll be in all of these areas.

Clelland shows very good athleticism. He is quick off the ball. He has very good foot/hand coordination. This simply involves a player's ability to fire off and use his feet and hands together to engage a defender. I would characterize Lane as a very explosive football player as well. Explosive isn't an adjective you often use to describe an offensive lineman, but I felt it was appropriate here. For such a light kid he really knocks people out. Watch as he engages a player. It's as if that guy is standing still and he is getting a five yard head start. It's that big of a disadvantage for most defenders. Where you really see it is when Clelland is pulling or trapping. He just explodes from the hip into a guy and crushes him without being out of control. He is much better here in the run game than he is as a pass blocker.

Let me also add that whenever a high school coach told me he had an offensive lineman who was a wrestler my attention was immediately peaked. I wanted to see that kid play. I love offensive lineman who are good wrestlers. There are two reasons for this. If a young man is a good wrestler he is obviously someone who likes to get after it and be physical. Secondly, and just as important, he is also probably a young man who knows how to play with leverage. Both stereotypes hold true with Lane. In his stance, coming off the ball at the snap, and while engaged in a block Clelland plays with great leverage. I also like the power with which he engages defenders. I'm not sure what his weight lifting numbers are, but he is really able to do damage with his initial punch. This also ties into the finish, which I discuss in the next paragraph.

Often times when you talk to an offensive line coach he'll talk about a guy's motor and finishing. They want guys who play to the whistle and keep working. I loved that about Clelland watching his film. He never stops working. He is also a great finisher. As mentioned earlier, he really gets a good initial punch on his defender. What I like about him is he doesn't stop there. He goes for the kill and finishes his man often times with a pancake. This is a guy who weighs about 265 pounds but plays like a guy who is 310 pounds. He really seems like a mean kid on the football field. I love it!!

As I've mentioned before in various posts this is a season, ND needs to be more concerned with a players upside than his ability to play as a freshman. With Sam Young, Paul Duncan, Matt Romine, and Taylor Dever all having eligibility remaining, Clelland will be given time to develop. There is some work to be done here with the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder. He isn't finished product at this point. There is nothing wrong with that. Obviously he will have to get bigger and stronger. But this "weakness" is one of the things that excites me about Lane. At about 265 pounds he plays so powerful, mean, and agile. As he continues to get bigger and stronger he will become even more dominant.

The first thing I noticed about Clelland is he has a tendency to be a bit wide with his hands when he initially engages defenders. You'd like to see a guy be a little more narrow and specific with his punch. This is something that can and will be worked on and corrected. At times he also allows his base to get a bit wide. This isn't something he does frequently, but enough for it to be something that will require coaching and correction.

Pass protection is where I see the most need for improvement. His technique will need some work. He delivers a very good punch during pass protection but needs to refine his footwork. One thing I noticed is it appears Clelland doesn't get quite as good of a jump at the snap during passing plays as he does in the run game. If it's a run Lane does a great job of coming off fast and hard. On passing plays he often seems a split second late. He tends to stop his feet at times while engaged, and also, as I mentioned previously, allows his base to get wide.

Earlier I used the word "project" to define Lane Clelland. I'm not saying this is a kid who needs to red-shirt and sit the bench three years before he is ready to play. Often times true projects have a limited ceiling. They can become solid starters but not much more. With Clelland, I simply mean he is going to need to get bigger, stronger, and refine his technique. His ceiling is very high. He plays the game mean, is powerful, has great athleticism for an offensive lineman, and appears to have the natural ability to be a left tackle in college. His offer list should give a very good indication of how highly regarded he is as a football player. Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Nebraska, Maryland, Boston College, and Virginia to name a few. I'm very excited with the commitment of Lane Clelland. He is the tackle prospect I have been waiting for in this recruiting cycle. Top Stories