Lou Eliades, Offensive Lineman, 6-foot-4, 297 pounds
Rated a four-star offensive lineman prospect by Scout in the Class of 2006 Eliades was pursued by programs like Miami, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Known for his aggressive style of play and intensity, Eliades has turned some heads in practice this past year.
Footwork: Eliades has good footwork and showed "grace with his feet when he arrived on campus. He has a spring in his base which helps him get off the snap quickly." As another observer put it, "he's big, but he's not sluggish coming out of his stance - he engages quickly and sometimes catches assignments off guard."
He sets a "strong base - gets his feet aligned with his shoulders." He is also said to continually move his feet, "he gets his legs going and keeps them moving, that makes it tough for the opposing guy to catch a break."
Fundamentals: Aside from his base and footwork, he tends to focus on his technique. "Most of these young linemen try to depend solely on their strength - which worked for them in high school since they could dominate at that level with out much technique. Lou is good about using his technique, which is a testament to his early coaching."
He gets his center low, although he needs to square his shoulders more consistently since "he sometimes likes to lead with a shoudler which can pull him off balance easily."
Approach: although he is quiet, he "plays nasty" and "is mean on the line." His aggressive style of play has drawn comparisons to a fellow offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley. As one observer said of the two, "These two could change the face of the line in the future. If Rich [Ohrnberger] can get his game down and Dennis [Landolt] continues to come along you'd see a line that isn't afraid to throw some punches."
Although Eliades' aggression is viewed all-around as an asset to his game, there are times where he loses control of it. "There was one practice where - I think it was Jay [Alford] - simply side-stepped Lou's lunge off the snap and went right around him," as one observer shared.
Position: This is a point of debate among observers. "Lou's a tough customer; he looks like he has the size to play guard, but the more I see him the more I think he has the footwork and agility to play tackle — he can move," one observer explained. Eliades has split his reps at both guard and tackle, getting most of his work with the third team in practice this season.
His height would suggest tackle, but given the departure of Levi Brown and Chris Auletta at tackle and Robert Price and Greg Harrison at guard, it seems that this debate will continue since both positions could use his services for added depth.
Condition: Eliades is "good shape" and has solid endurance "thanks to his game motor." His height is impressive and he does "well on runs," something he had to work in the pre-season and early practices to build up.
Overall: Eliades' aggression, technique and endurance are building a buzz around him making an impact on the two-deep this off-season. Observers like his style of play and his overall build, although whether he ends up at tackle or guard will continue to be debated.
He has excelled more at opening up run lanes than pass protection this season, but he has "shown consistent improvement with both areas this year." All in all, the redshirt has reportedly served him well in refining his game.
Evan Royster, Running Back, 6-foot, 208 pounds
A three-star Scout prospect who was a high school All-American in both football and lacrosse, Royster has been considered by many to be a "sleeper" of the Class of 2006 considering he averaged a stellar 9.5 yards per carry and rolled up 2,161 rushing yards during his senior year. Given this it was not surprising that he had offers from programs like Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.
Fundamentals: Royster has a sound general technique. He takes hand-offs well and has good footwork, "he doesn't dance." He squares his shoulders well in the lane and will drop a shoulder to take on a hit.
He's been working on running lower in traffic to make him a smaller, more difficult target to take down and "keeping his legs moving through the whistle."
Running: Royster "runs smooth; he glides and makes sharp cuts," one observer explained. Royster has been working with the veteran running backs this season, particularly with Tony Hunt, who has been reviewing what to look for with the blocking schemes. "He realizes holes open and close much faster at this level - he's adjusting to that."
One area Royster that focused on is the height of his frame on runs. The coaches have had "him focusing on sitting lower off the blocks and running with his pads more out and down — this will make him a challenge to take down." Royster took some tough hits due to this early on and sustained a shoulder injury in the process. "He got planted in some drills - if you extend your frame you make yourself a big target and the vet players look for that to make a big hit."
Speed: He has good 4.50 range forty speed and "hits a hole hard." The area the veteran players and coaches have focused on with him this season has been with his patience. "He gets the ball and doesn't see a hole so he'll force his way into the pile and get nowhere. He needs to scan the entire scope of the line for holes that may not have been planned to appear," an observer shared.
Royster also needs to use his blockers more. Early on he was running "away from rather than towards [his blockers] on north-south runs. This may only be a difference of a few feet distance from the blocker, but that can make a big difference on whether a tackler can get to you or not."
Size: Observers like his build and feel he has the frame to add some size to it. "He is big enough that he is tough to take down, but a couple more pounds would help him on picking up those extra yards on wrap ups." He has "powerful legs" which are "probably his biggest weapons on runs - he just needs to keep pumping them, even on a hit."
Vision: As mentioned previously, the speed of the game and hole development has required an adjustment, which is not a rarity for a young player and he needs to scan the entire "engagement zone" for unexpected holes, but Royster is "good at anticipating a designed hole and hitting it hard."
Strength: Royster's strength and athleticism were strong selling points to programs out of high school with his ability to bench press 315 pounds and squat 405 pounds. He has a good balance of upper and lower body strength, "drawing a lot of power from his thighs on runs."
He has tackled the conditioning program head on and has worked to improve his arm, shoulder and back strength to "make lowering his running height easier. This can put a lot of strain on the back."
Overall Like Aaron Maybin, Royster's dedication and all-out play earned him spots on the travel roster this year to Columbus against Ohio State. This is impressive given that he was expected to redshirt for the better part of the season, but still took one of the valuable, limited travel spots. Royster has received a lot of praise throughout the season and has an impressive attitude that has observers calling him a "coachable" and "dedicated" player.