In the Film Room: James Hurst

For the second year in a row the State of Indiana has produced one of the nation's better offensive tackle prospects. Last season it was Notre Dame signee Zach Martin, who I believe was one of the nation's top offensive tackles. This season it is Plainfield High School standout James Hurst.

Like Martin, the Fighting Irish are going hard after the local product in hopes to keep one of the nation's top prospects in state.

Like Martin, the 6'5, 284 Hurst has a relatively thin and athletic frame. Unlike Martin, we see that Hurst already has a good amount of weight, as he weighed in at 284 pounds at the Army All-American combine. Hurst has long arms and a long frame and also measured a bit over 6'5 while in San Antonio. This leads me to believe that Hurst has the ability to gain a significant amount of size and strength as he develops. At this point Hurst has somewhat thin legs for a big player and will need to really build up his lower body.

Despite a relatively thin frame, Hurst does in fact have very good natural strength and shows good pop as well as the ability to finish his high school opponents. Hurst has a very good leg drive, never stops his feet from moving, and does a fine job staying engaged. As one would expect with a high school junior, Hurst certainly must increase his strength, especially his lower body strength. Hurst's lower body strength prevents him from anchoring against bigger bull rushers. This also prevents Hurst from driving bigger defenders off the ball and getting the kind of push he is capable of. When combined with his natural upper body strength, aggressiveness, toughness, and attitude the lower body improvement will allow him to potentially be a dominant run blocker in college. Hurst is a good overall finisher of blocks as well, although he'll need to continue to improve his consistency in this regards. The natural ability is certainly there, as we see from the several high school clips that have Hurst driving defenders 10 yards off the ball before burying them to the ground.

The Plainfield High standout is a solid overall athlete. While he doesn't have the pure speed that we saw from the 2009 Irish offensive line signees, Hurst does have very good foot quickness. He moves his feet well, gets off the line well, and is able to quickly get up to the second level. Although he could stand to improve his foot quickness (or perhaps be more consistent with his footwork), his natural athleticism is quite good. When he plays with the proper base you will see that Hurst has very good balance, which allows him to redirect well, adjust to moving defenders, and as I'll discuss later it also allows him to mirror quite effectively as a pass protector. Hurst will need to learn to bend his knees a bit more (which will allow him to sink his hips) as he plays. At this point Hurst has a tendency to get high at times, this also prevents him from consistently driving off the line with the kind of force he is capable of. He also has a tendency to lunge at times, and if he misses his initial target he will get beat. As mentioned earlier the talent is there, but Hurst will need to continue to develop better technique. This is not a concern of mine, as it is rare to find a high school junior who doesn't have quite a bit of room for improvement and growth. Hurst also needs to learn to use his hands better. He has good natural hand quickness, but he doesn't use his hands nearly as effectively as he needs to. Hurst must learn to shoot his hands a bit quicker, improve his hand placement (he tends to be too wide and too high), and learn to really use his hands to dominate opponents. Also, as Hurst improves his knee-bend (sinking of the hips) this will improve his quickness off the ball, but it will also naturally improve his hand play, as it will allow him to rip into a defender rather than the straight shot he gives now. When he develops these traits he could be outstanding at the next level. Hurst does play with a very sound base and stays square to the line of scrimmage.

At this point Hurst is a dominant high school run blocker. There are issues, as I have discussed, that he will need to improve in order to be as effective at the collegiate level. But there is no doubt that the talent is there. Hurst will need to play with better leverage and knee bend as I discussed, but he has the kind of aggressiveness, toughness, and drive to excel in the run game. When he doesn't lunge Hurst takes very good angles at defenders and is able to pick up twisting and stunting defenders. Hurst is also a very solid pass blocker, which isn't always the case with high school linemen. Hurst plays with a good base and keeps his feet at a good width. This, combined with his solid foot quickness, allows Hurst to be an effective pass blocker. Hurst mirrors well and is able to adjust well to double moves and adjustments by defenders. At times if he gets beat to the outside Hurst will lift up, cross his feet, and lose his base which causes him to get beat. This is a rare thing and is something that can be coached out of him. Hurst uses good technique when he anchors, but will need to develop his lower body strength in order to hold up against bigger defenders on the bull rush. Hurst also needs to learn how to reset his hands and use better hand placement on pass protection.

I'd say that Hurst is a relatively raw prospect at this time. He is far from a finished project and has to get bigger, stronger, improve his technique, and develop his overall game. But there is no doubt that Hurst has outstanding overall ability. He has no real weakness. Despite having areas that need improvement, there is no area in his game where Hurst can't be excellent. He is a dominant run blocker, he shows the potential to be a very good pass blocker, has an excellent frame, is an aggressive player, and is a fighter. As he develops his game I see Hurst coming out as one of this class' top offensive line prospects. Irish fans need to hope that the Notre Dame coaches can continue their outstanding offensive line recruiting and keep Indiana's top prospect close to home and wearing Blue and Gold. Top Stories