In the Film Room

I've said before how much I value having versatile players on a football team. Over the last three years we've seen the number of that type of athlete on the Notre Dame football roster increase. The commitment of Nyshier Oliver gives the Irish yet another versatile football player for their already potent offense.

What I like about Oliver is that he is a natural running back who has the skills to play wide receiver, cornerback, and return kicks. Oliver should give the Irish coaches a lot of options from a formational standpoint as well as versatility on how to get him the football.

Oliver is an outstanding all around athlete. He isn't a blazing fast athlete but he does have good speed. He also is able to get to top speed very quickly which helps him maximize his speed and allows him to play fast. This will especially help him as a kick returner and punt returner. The St. Peter's Prep standout also has outstanding footwork. His feet are extremely quick and he is able to cut into holes and away from defenders as fast as any player in this current group of Irish commitments. His body control is excellent and this adds to his ability to make defenders miss. Oliver is also a smooth athlete, shows outstanding balance, and in all facets of the game shows outstanding instincts. He reacts quickly to what is happening around him and this also makes him tough to get a solid shot on.

The first thing I noticed about Oliver's ability as a running back is that for a back with his skill set he is a north-south runner. He shows excellent ability to make defenders miss in open field but through the hole he is very much a "one-cut-and-go" type player. When he does make moves inside the tackle they are efficient and he makes a quick more and immediately gets vertical again. Once he breaks through the first level he'll get looser with his cuts and will juke more but he still stays true to his north-south tendencies. I really like that.

Oliver also has tremendous vision with the football in his hands. From the backfield he makes decisive cuts, making defenders miss that it would seem hard for him to actually see much less make a move on. He sees holes open up that are tight and quickly bursts through them. He's a relatively patient runner out of the backfield and lets the play develop. There are times where he'll go to the cut back a bit too soon but overall he's solid in this regard. Oliver also shows a knack for "getting skinny" as he bursts through tight holes, which allows him to get through them untouched and quickly get to the second level. I also like the fact that once he takes his initial steps he is very efficient with his technique and running style. He doesn't waste a lot of motion, attacks the line quickly, and maximizes his speed and quickness. Oliver also shows a good spin move. He's quick with the spin move and he doesn't over use it.

Oliver doesn't have great size or great strength, which is my one concern about whether or not he could be a 20+ ball carrier in college. He runs hard and he is absolutely not afraid to lower his shoulder and attack a defender. The issue, as I mentioned, is that he isn't real powerful at this point so I wonder how he would hold up after a lot of carries and hits. For a smaller back he shows a good leg drive upon contact and when you combine that with his balance it gives him the ability to gain a good amount of additional yards after contact. The majority of the high school running backs I've evaluated over the last three years had issues, at least as I see it, with how they carried the football. The majority of those players didn't have an issue that was so severe that it would lead to career long fumbling problems, but it was a concern that when they were hit hard or in traffic they could lose some balls. Oliver doesn't appear to have that problem. I really like the way he carries the football as he runs. He keeps the ball in tight to his body, rarely lets it hang, and as he runs through the line and when contact comes near he will tuck the football tight into his chest.

Oliver also shows good hands out of the backfield or when the ball is thrown to him downfield. He catches the ball away from his body and is able to catch the football on the run. He also shows, as mentioned earlier, good body control and is able to adjust well to the football. One area where he will need to show me something is his ball skills on downfield throws. Its one thing to be able to adjust your body to a poorly thrown football but it's a completely different thing to go up after footballs in traffic. I'm not saying Oliver can't do this. I'm saying I don't know if he can and I doubt, as a running back, that he's been asked to do this in college. Early in his career this might be the one thing that might limit him a bit as a wide receiver.

Oliver also has the foot quickness, athletic ability, and instincts to play cornerback. His film as a cornerback is limited but he did show good quickness. Where he would need a lot of work as a cornerback is in run support. He'll need to get good work in the Notre Dame strength and conditioning program and learn to be more aggressive attacking ball carriers.

Nyshier Oliver is a very good pickup for the Irish. Like incoming classmate Cierre Wood, Oliver has the straight line speed, burst, vision, and quickness to make an impact as a kick and punt returner from day one. I'm not sure whether Notre Dame will use Oliver as a running back, wide receiver, or cornerback. Notre Dame has good depth at all three of those positions so the Irish coaches should have the luxury to play Oliver where they see him having the greatest need rather than having to move him to a position based on need. Personally I'd like to see the Irish find ways to get him carries at running back while really developing him as a wide receiver. He'd be dangerous in the slot but also a player the coaches can have fun with as far as finding ways to get him touches. Perhaps the Irish coaches could go find some film from the 1989 and 1990 seasons and see how Lou Holtz and his staff used #25. No, Oliver isn't that good, but he has that kind of versatility. Tennessee's loss is absolutely a big gain for the Fighting Irish.


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