DE PERE – Thoughts and opinions on De Pere 2017 defensive lineman, and Wisconsin commit, Aaron Vopal following the Redbirds’ 27-10 loss to Green Bay Southwest in a Fox River Classic conference game Friday.
Listed at 6-7, Vopal’s tall frame and upper body strength allows him to make good first contact, shed his blocker and make his way into the backfield. The Trojans’ up-tempo offense and quick passes neutralized Vopal’s skill set to a degree, but he seemed to have a hand in every play that went between the tackles or were extended. I had Vopal at roughly seven tackles on the night – impressive considering he didn’t see many plays run at him – and could be credited for a safety. On a high snap that caused the ball to be loose in the end zone, the Trojans quarterback decided to fall on the ball instead of try to make a play when he saw Vopal running him down.
He’s listed at 290 pounds but I think that’s generous. Even so his long, rangy frame is a huge asset to his game no matter if he was lined up at end or nose. There were several times when he would make contact with a lineman around the player’s shoulder pads, a huge advantage when combined with his first step off the snap. Those were usually the instances when he delivered a tackle for little to no gain.
Areas of Improvement
Green Bay Southwest would either straight double team him for the entire play or send a second lineman to chip him at the snap before moving on to another target. Usually it would be against a couple stocky 6-1, 300-pound linemen. A handful of times that wouldn’t be a problem but others saw him get stuck with his footwork and neutralized. To his credit I never saw him quit on a play. Other than that, it was hard to point out any glaring problems with his defense.
Vopal also played right tackle and a couple snaps at left, largely in part to his size. It’s not his biggest strength, as he struggled with protection and with quicker players. Again that position is not in his future.
Like I said, this was a hard matchup for Vopal since the Trojans ran a no-huddle, fast-paced, quick-throw offense that didn’t allow him much opportunity to get into the backfield to make plays. Against an offense that likes to run a lot of plays between the tackles, I’d love to see how Vopal would respond.
With Wisconsin defensive line coach Inoke Brecketfield in attendance for the first half, Vopal’s biggest strength was his conditioning. Save for kickoff coverage, Vopal never left the field. He played every offensive snap and every defensive snap until there was eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and the game had been decided. Considering the Trojans didn’t pause long enough for the Redbirds defense to catch their breath, that’s really impressive.
Likely the only defensive line commit in this class, Vopal is a really solid player with a lot of intangibles that stand out. I’d be shocked if he didn’t redshirt next season. After all UW has tremendous depth at the position and Vopal doesn’t appear physically ready to step on the field. Even so, this is a solid three-star prospect who fits the mold of what Breckterfield is looking for from his ends – tough, blue-collared and athletic.