Even though Shaq Mason started at right guard, the USA Today first-team All-American might be a better fit as a center in the NFL, reminding a lot of scouts of former Falcon Todd McClure for his squat frame, above average lateral agility and quick hands. Mason was a valuable reserve as a true freshman, but started at right guard vs. Utah in the 2011 Sun Bowl. He moved into the starting lineup at left guard for the final 12 games on the 2012 schedule, as he posted 82 knockdowns and eight touchdown-resulting blocks.
Mason was twice named Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week (vs. Duke and North Carolina) in consecutive 2013 September appearances as the right guard delivered 103 knockdowns to help the Yellow Jackets rank sixth in the nation in rushing offense. Two more Lineman of the Week honors came his way in 2014, as Mason had 114 knockdowns, 16 touchdown-resulting blocks and led a front wall that led the ACC and ranked third in the nation for fewest sacks allowed (0.77 pg).
Mason does a nice job of playing on his feet and maintaining balance. He shows good body control with some quickness to get through to the second level. Despite lacking ideal speed, he can get out of his stance and adjust on defenders working in the second level. Even for a player of his girth, he can bend his knees and play at a good pad level to prevent defenders from attacking his feet.
Mason has good natural balance, which allows him to play with his feet underneath him in pass protection. When he gets position on his man, he will sustain and finish. His strong leg base and arm strength keeps the defenses constantly aware of his abilities. Even though he does not have great speed, he will flash aggression with his hands into the defensive tackle and has more than enough pop and strength to consistently put his opponents on their backs.
The thing that really stands out when you watch film of Mason is his exceptional strength. He exhibits sudden force with his hand punch and while he will not win foot races in the second level, he’s can maintain his balance and strike into his defenders in the short area. His problem arises when he starts to lose his stamina late in games, as he will revert to leaning and pushing rather than gaining position.
As for a possible shift to center in the NFL, Mason has the thick, squat frame associated with the pivot position. He plays with a wide base and has a very strong lower body. His upper body strength is above average and he possesses an explosive initial punch to knock defenders back.
As a guard, he has adequate-to-good initial quickness to get out front on traps and pulls, as he does a solid job with his first step, but he lacks ideal change of direction skills, making him better off in the middle, where he would be responsible for just short pulls. I just think that despite good initial straight-forward speed, his feet are a bit too slow when moving laterally. The more space he's in the less effective he becomes when redirecting.
Mason shows very good overall awareness. He keeps his head on a swivel and does a great job of helping his center and tackle when uncovered. He does an effective job of using his hands to feel for stunts or delayed blitzes on the backside. His experience really shows with his angles and pre-snap line calls, as the coaches had enough confidence to allow him to handle blocking assignments.
Mason shows adequate quickness in his short set as a pass protector. He rarely loses to a quick-first step by a nose guard or defensive tackle. He can be very effective when helping other interior blockers and in confined areas working head-up vs. a nose guard and he does a nice job of anchoring vs. the bull rush. However, he will get in trouble when asked to cover a lot of real estate. Rush ends and quicker defensive tackles with fluid spin or double moves will exploit his poor lateral mobility, as he struggles to redirect once he is set.
As a run blocker, Mason has good initial quickness firing out of his stance. He takes very effective angles and can generate a solid surge when he gets in position on time. He comes out of his stance low, playing with good overall leverage and he gives a great effort. He can occasionally reach the second-level on time but not consistently enough to feel good about releasing him with any regularity. He also really struggles to hit the moving target in space.
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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