Notre Dame continues their assault on Midwestern offensive linemen as class of 2014 tackle Jimmy Byrne enters the film room. Byrne has been offered by the Irish as well as Illinois, Ohio State, and West Virginia. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder is on Michigan’s radar, but has not been offered by the Wolverines at this point and time.
He hails out of St. Ignatius in Cleveland, Ohio and does a number of things quite well. His pass blocking skills are well above average and, although he needs some technique sharpened, his run blocking is respectable as well.
Byrne has been listed from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-5, and anywhere from 260 to 285 pounds, depending on what site you look at or what roster you come across. He’s got the frame to put on at least another 30 pounds and considering he’s only 16, that’s a definite possibility before he even enrolls in college.
Looking at him on film, and grant it, it’s not up close and personal, he carries himself well and looks fit and strong. He also has two more years in the weight room before college, which will add to his bulk and power.
He’s fairly light on his feet and moves off the ball with pretty good quickness. I would like to see his first step be consistently fast, as there are times where he doesn’t fire it forward like he should.
His feet help him with his pass sets and are the reason he’s proficient at this task. His kick-step is, for the most part, explosive and he stays well balanced throughout the play giving him the leverage needed to fight the defender. He does get caught flat-footed at times, but he’s able to recover due to his size and strength over what usually are smaller defenders.
SKILLS AND TECHNIQUE
I know I’m a stickler on pad level and that’s never going to change, and Byrne, like most talent I evaluate, needs to stay lower more consistently. There are times when his fit on the defensive lineman is perfect - however, he has a tendency to rise up a bit on contact which causes him to lose power during the block.
(NOTE - When an offensive lineman is fit into a defensive player correctly there should be three “Power Vs” – ankle and foot form one V, knee joint forms the second, and finally, hips form the third. When a lineman stays low, those Vs stay in place and he has power, but when he rises up after contact the Vs disappear and with it all their power.)
As mentioned he has a nice, quick pass set and takes away the inside rush very well. He also shows excellent patience when waiting for the defender to make a move and doesn’t get overexcited or overextended too early in the block. A good defensive lineman will count on the offensive lineman to become overaggressive and use that flaw against him when deploying a pass-rush move as they try to get to the quarterback. Byrne stays patient though and waits for the defensive end to make his move before he commits to the inside or outside.
He’s a very good hand-fighter as well, constantly trying to establish inside hand position when he’s challenged by a defensive lineman. This is a direct result of good coaching and having the desire to be a great pass-blocker.
He has a slight habit of false-stepping on one-on-one base blocks. False-stepping refers to a lineman who doesn’t step forward at the snap of the ball and instead steps backward, giving the defense the advantage in the neutral zone. Every step a run-blocking offensive lineman takes after the ball is snapped should be ground-gaining and any step backward is a no-no, unless of course, they’re pulling or trapping. Byrne makes up for his false-step with his size and strength, but on the college level, he’ll end up in a stalemate or worse.
His steps are great when he’s double-teaming with a fellow lineman or getting up to linebacker level. He takes a confident step in those cases and gets where he needs to be in a hurry. This tells me that he may tense up a bit when he’s in a one-on-one situation and he doesn’t want to miss the block, which is common on the high school level.
There were a few instances when his feet stopped after he made contact with the defender. This takes away all the momentum he had from the snap and essentially makes him start all over again. If anything, an offensive lineman’s feet should accelerate on contact, not slow down or stop. But again, due to his size and strength, he’s able to control the defender regardless of whether his feet stop on contact or not.
Don’t be confused when I say he doesn’t finish blocks. He blocks until the whistle and gives effort until the play is over, but he needs to develop more of a chip on the field. In other words, he needs to develop an attitude and finish blocks more aggressively and with more violence. I’m not suggesting dirty play, but rather an approach to the game that will benefit him down the road.
With the pass-happy direction college football has taken in the past 15 years, Byrne will fit in quite well with any college that has that run-and-gun style. He is an excellent pass-blocker who shows technique beyond his years.
That being said, all his run-blocking needs is a few tweaks here and there to become just as solid as his pass-blocking. I’d be interested in viewing his senior film to see if he fixes any of the minor issues he has in run-blocking.
Quite honestly, Byrne is somewhat of an anomaly, as high school lineman usually excel at run-blocking and seem to have to work on their pass-blocking. I’m not discounting him as a run-blocker by any means, but that just tells me he will be a well-rounded lineman when he enters college in 2014.
Size: 85 (Height and weight will not be an issue)
Strength: 80 (Shows decent strength but can get stronger)
Speed:75 (Not lighting fast)
Athletic Skills: 80 (Light on his feet and fairly quick)
Technique: 85 (Pass-pro is excellent – run blocking will follow)
Versatility: 75 (Could play guard or center if run-blocking improves)
Upside: 4.0 (Waiting to see if he becomes a dominant run blocker)
Overall Grade: 4.0
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
OVERALL/UPSIDE GRADE KEY
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is not going to bring in anyone with a one!!