Notre Dame's 2014 recruiting class got a major boost on Friday afternoon as Tennessee offensive lineman Alex Bars announced his commitment to the Irish over Twitter.
"@Alex_Bars70 I have officially committed to The University of Notre Dame! #playlikeachampiontoday"
The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder from MBA Academy in Nashville is the 10th verbal pledge for the Irish in the Class of 2014 and fourth offensive lineman, joining Jimmy Byrne, Sam Mustipher and Quenton Nelson.
You can check out Bars' junior film for yourself here.
Here’s a big reason why Bars had more than 20 offers – he’s 6-foot-6 and weighs close to 300 pounds. He has the one thing that you can’t teach from a manual or show him on tape – size. He looks huge on film, but not overweight or uncomfortable in his own skin. When a 16-year old is that big you hope he can handle the weight and it doesn’t restrict him from being effective in any facet of offensive line play. For the most part Bars doesn’t seem like he’s held back in any way and is able to perform at a high level even with his size at such at young age.
He has NFL height right now and is creeping toward NFL girth. His frame could handle another 20 pounds as long as it’s good weight in the chest, arms, or legs. He may not be done growing vertically either. When he’s in his prime on the next level you could be looking at a offensive tackle who’s 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds.
Bars moves well for a big man and is an active part of the offense as a run and pass blocker. His footwork is quick and aggressive and gets him to where he needs to be on the field. He can open and run on the outside zone or get up to linebacker level quickly and without limitations. His pass sets are crisp and he’s out of his stance in a hurry when the ball’s snapped. There were a few clips of him pulling on a power play and he looked nimble while getting to the crease and up to the second level. There isn’t a block he can’t perform due to poor footwork – it’s a strength of his game that was impressive.
His high school statistics show that he runs in the low 4.9’s for his 40-yard dash time. That’s moving pretty well for a 300-pounder, but I have no reason to dispute that time. The occasions where he needed to be running full tilt showed an explosiveness that coincides with that type of speed. What really matters most for an offensive lineman is his first ten yards and what I can see from Bars shows an athletic and explosive player.
He has good strength to go with his size and he manhandles most of the players he gets his meat hooks on. It’s not dominant “drive you into the ground” strength, but it’s enough to be extremely effective when combined with his size and aggressive style of play. He boasts a 300-pound bench and a 425-pound squat, which will only increase and help his game more when he gets to the next level.
Bars gets off the ball low and quick, which is half the battle when you’re 6-foot-6. He rises up a little after contact, but he can get away with that in high school due to his size. I’d like to see him keep that pad level low throughout the entire block in order to help him maintain his initial leverage. One thing I always look for that he does really well is accelerate his feet after contact. I would venture to say just about every block I watched him execute his feet and legs kept driving – there was no pause after the initial jolt. This was also a reason as to why he’s able to get away with his pad level being a little high.
His physical nature shows with the way he finishes blocks and is always seeking out contact. I really like the way he runs his feet to the whistle and never gives the defender room to breathe. If he’s locked up on you he’s going to be a thorn in your side until the echo of the whistle. He keeps coming too – it’s not just one play here or there, but the entire game he seems as if he’s on a mission to take care of business. If he happens to knock a defender to the ground or hustle downfield he’s always targeting other players to initiate contact with. He’s an active, aggressive player who loves to get after it when the ball’s snapped.
Bars’ pass blocking needs some technical adjustments, but physically he’s more than capable of getting the job done. His set is fast and his initial punch is solid. The issue I have is, like most young tackles, he turns his shoulders way too soon after his initial set. Not only that, he also stays right on the line of scrimmage and there’s no kick-step or retreat to create space between himself and the pass rusher.
An offensive tackle has to keep his shoulders square at the snap and simultaneously move backwards while reading what the defensive end is doing. If the end decides to speed rush to the outside then the offensive tackle can turn his shoulders and run with him. An offensive tackle keeps his shoulders square in case the end decides to counter back inside, which is what Bars is vulnerable to if he continues to assume every end is going to use a speed rush. He also needs to create the space we talked about so he can give himself a chance to react and doesn’t get beat at the line of scrimmage against better pass rushers.
I believe Bars is a terrific prospect who is a welcomed addition to Notre Dame’s program and offensive tackle depth. He has tremendous size, but can also move really well. His athleticism allows him to make all the block necessary to compete at a high level when he gets to college. He’s a versatile lineman who can base block in a one-on-one setting or zone block in a combination situation. His pass blocking needs to be fine-tuned a bit, but his flaws in that regard are easily correctable. His physical nature and desire to compete are evident when watching him on film.
Size: 90 (big boy with room to grow)
Strength: 85 (good overall power)
Speed: 80 (can run well and get downfield or pull)
Athletic Skills: 85 (footwork is solid – agile and quick)
Technique: 80 (all run blocks are really good – rises up a bit, needs to fix pass protection)
Versatility: 85 (seems to be locked in at tackle – but athletically he’ll make all the blocks look easy)
Upside: 4 (cleans up his pass pro and he could be a good one)
Overall Grade: 4
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!