WHAT TO LIKE
Nathan Niehaus showed his willingness to "take one for the team" last year as a junior, as he moved in to play tackle at times after playing much of the season as a tight end. He filled an injury gap admirably for Colerain High School -- so much so that it boosted his offers appreciably since the end of his junior season. With offers from schools such as Louisville and Illinois, as well as others from MAC programs, Niehaus was making waves on the recruiting front, and an offer and subsequent commitment from West Virginia punched his ticket to the Big 12.
The first thing that jumps off Niehaus' video is his footwork. Leading out to block from his tight end position, he covers ground while keeping his balance, and usually winds up driving his opponent either to the ground or out of the range of the ball. With his wingspan (he stands six feet, six inches), Niehaus engulfs edge rushers and linebackers, and rarely lets them get into his body or employ leverage against him. He also stays with blocks well and stays after his opponent until he is sure that he's out of action.
Obviously, the fact that Niehaus doesn't have a ton of snaps under his belt as an offensive lineman is a concern. He'll have to learn some of the ins and outs of line play that only come with experience, such as how to diagnose and counter the moves of defensive opponents. How he'll match up against big down linemen weight 300+ pounds will also be an early item to watch, as he is still a range player more defined by height, frame and wingspan than actual bulk. Developing the latter will take time, but it's certainly not an insurmountable task.
Niehaus' video doesn't show a lot of snaps as a pass blocker, as Colerain tends to cling to the ground on offense. That has to leave some question about the number of reps he's gotten in pass protection, but that's also offset by his mobility and footwork. As noted above, Niehaus moves well, and easily gets downfield to engage secondary defenders or stay with his primary assignment. While the kick step and back pedal are a different matter, he has the base skills to punch, move, and keep his foes at bay.
In adding a third offensive lineman to the class from the heartland of players who toil in the trenches, West Virginia continues to build its front with competitors who know what its like to line up and pound away at opponents. While Pennsylvania and Ohio lineman may not have the market cornered on such skills, there's a lot to be said for the history of schools such as Colerain, which feature great coaching and a history of developing players who move on to Division I. While Niehaus may have some developing to do before he challenges for a position on the offensive line, it's safe to say that he has been well-schooled in football fundamentals, and that he will have the ability to adapt quickly to the demands of blocking along the offensive front.
From a physical standpoint, Niehaus has about everything except another 40 or so pounds, and if he can add that and keep the mobility and quickness he shows on his high school video, he will have a chance to be an anchor on West Virginia fronts of the future.