The offensive line dominos are falling as Notre Dame picks up another verbal commitment from New Jersey tackle Quenton Nelson. This marks the third offensive line commit from the class of 2014 and applies a bit of pressure on the uncommitted prospects as the Irish will take one, or perhaps two more big boys up front before it’s all said and done. First things first though, as we take a look at what we can expect from Nelson when he arrives in South Bend next year.
The Red Bank Catholic standout has great size at 6-foot-5 and nearly 300 pounds. By no means is he overweight in the traditional sense of the word as his thickness is evenly spread from his head to his toes. This isn’t a kid who has trouble moving around because he can’t handle his weight and the hope is that he’ll eventually grow into his body. He’s readymade to compete at a high level from the moment he puts on a gold helmet.
I’ve loved the way Nelson runs since I first watched him on film. His ability to dominate outside the tackle box is one of his strong suits. He can pull or get downfield on screens without any limitations and he looks completely comfortable blocking on the run. Some big guys have enough trouble just getting themselves out in space and end up barely making a block – not Nelson. Once he gets to his destination the second half of his job is just as productive as a straight-ahead base block.
His feet are quick and allow him to make all the blocks. I want to stress he has a high level of athleticism in everything he does. Never once do you watch him and think, “I wish he did (insert technique here) faster or quicker.” He can combo, base, and reach block, as well as rip to linebacker level, very swiftly and explosively.
I like Nelson’s run blocking a lot. He’s a straight-up finisher of blocks who doesn’t stop until the echo of the whistle. He’s aggressive and keeps his pad level low throughout the block. There are times when he takes advantage of his size difference and figures he doesn’t have to move his feet after contact, but that’ll be something Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand will fix in no time flat. Once those feet start accelerating on contact 100 percent of the time you’ll see a more dominant run blocker with near perfect technique.
His pass blocking technique is good for the most part, but there’s one thing he’ll have to tweak down the road. The set out of his stance is quick and his hands are in good position to punch the defender. He does a nice job of moving his feet and staying in front of his man with hands inside and extended. What he needs to work on is his over-aggressiveness at the snap. He attacks the defender a little too much in drop back situations and he must learn to sit back and create some distance between himself and the pass rusher.
I know that Nelson may already be destined to play tackle with the Irish, but I firmly believe he can play guard as well. He moves well enough to play both positions and that really adds to his versatility of being able to perform any task in Notre Dame’s offense. He’s an aggressive run blocker who knows how to finish blocks. He has all the physical tools to be tremendous pass blocker - he just needs to work on one aspect that I just covered. Overall I believe the Irish have roped in another tremendous offensive line prospect. And once again, any lineman who Alabama wants and Notre Dame gets is a good thing.