Look back through the history of Iowa football, and you will see name after name on the offensive line who made their mark in the NFL. Left tackle Brandon Scherff is the next Hawkeye you'll want to get to know.
With the 2015 draft still nine months away, Scherff has the tools, film and talent to be the top pick in the entire class. What makes this stud from Iowa so good?
Can Scherff be the next Bryan Bulaga or Riley Reiff? That's very possible given the football IQ (FBI), footwork, strength and upside he showed during the 2013 season. But now Scherff is back for his senior season after deciding to wait on the NFL—even though he looked like a sure-fire first-round talent after his junior season. The big left tackle went back to school to work on his technique, and along the way he has a chance to entrench himself as the nation's best tackle—and maybe the best overall prospect.
The Iowa schedule in 2013 put Scherff up against some of the nation's best pass-rushers, and he showed weekly why he's the best technician in the college game. Facing future NFL talents like Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Joey Bosa (Ohio State) and Danielle Hunter (LSU), Scherff made a name for himself as a top-tier run-blocker and athletic corner-stop in the passing game.
In the run game, Scherff is athletic enough to move around and dominate on the corner. He takes smooth zone steps and controls his shoulders and feet while on the go. He's also incredibly smart about knowing which man to block—no matter what the defense does. In five games viewed, not once did he miss an assignment or fail to adjust to the defense.
From his stance, Scherff is explosive firing out and doesn't let his pads get high. He is smooth, controlled and angry when he looks to attack his man in the run game, and his accuracy in making contact without lunging is impressive.
When engaging a blocker at the first or second level, Scherff has ideal pad height and really pops defenders. He looks for contact instead of waiting for it, and that's a key to a great run-blocking tackle. He also has that killer instinct you want from an offensive lineman. Look at the Ohio State game, and you'll see he ear-holed Michael Bennett (my top-ranked defensive tackle) when the quarterback rolled out of the pocket.
In the run game, Scherff is already established enough in his strength and technique to walk into the NFL as a high-level player. He's comparable to No. 2-overall pick Greg Robinson in this way—and may be even more athletic than the freak from Auburn.
In the passing game, Scherff had to do something the other top tackles from years past did not—protect a pocket passer. Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi all saw contain-style pass rushes with Johnny Manziel in the backfield. The same goes for Greg Robinson protecting Nick Marshall. Scherff must keep Jake Rudock. This puts Scherff on an island against a true pass rush, as defensive ends are trying to get to the quarterback instead of trying to hold the edge and keep the quarterback from running.
An offensive tackle's kick slide is crucial to be able to protect the corner, and Scherff can get a bit high-padded at times here. He makes up for that with a strong punch that will take the air out of defenders. If Scherff hits a speed rusher in the chest squarely, it's game over. His ability to identify the threat and adjust to help his guard is notable, because that's NFL-level blocking.
When a defender does engage him on the corner, or get inside his punch, Scherff does a good job of resetting his feet and adjusting. He's strong enough to lock arms with a defender and shut him down chest to chest, but he can struggle if the defender sets him up with a hard inside-outside move that throws him off his base.
A good offensive line coach—and Iowa has a great group there—will smooth out Scherff's kick slide and his ability to get smooth, clean depth in the pocket. His punch is long enough and strong enough to stun defenders on the corner, but heading into 2014 he does need work on a quicker pass pro set.
Scherff was recruited by Iowa when he was a quarterback (a 280-pound one), and his time at offensive tackle is limited compared to his peers. He is still learning how to play the position, and the hardest part of left tackle is making that kick step quickly and smoothly. The tools are there, he just needs time to mature into the technique of the position.
The former varsity-letter winner in tennis (as well as baseball and basketball) is a top-tier athlete and freak in the weight room. And thanks to the nation's best offensive line coaches, his pass pro will be much-improved in 2014.
If that doesn't blow your mind, this will from Bruce Feldman's "Freaks list" article that comes out each fall.
He can jerk 400 pounds over his head, vertical jump 31 or 32 inches and run his first 10 yards in 1.58 to 1.60 seconds, according to (Coach Doyle). (For comparison's sake on the 10-yard split, Auburn star Greg Robinson clocked a 1.68 at the NFL Combine while Michigan's Taylor Lewan—an old Freaks list guy—timed his in 1.64, and he ran the fastest 40 among O-linemen in Indy officially at 4.87.)
Scherff may not have the attention of the nation yet, but he will as soon as the season begins.
Comparison—Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers
Scherff is further ahead in his development right now as a run-blocker, but his strength and athletic ability are mouthwatering for scouts and coaches as a premier tackle prospect. He may be short-armed for some people at left tackle, but I would have no hesitation putting him on the blind side and letting him protect the franchise. Like Staley, Scherff can be an elite run-blocker at left tackle and a high-level pass protector.
Of course, scheme is everything for players to develop. The best-case scenario for Scherff is a system like San Francisco's, where he won't be asked to protect for long counts and seven-stop drops without play action (like in Arizona).
You might look at the 6'5", 320-pound Scherff and think he's too short-armed to play in the NFL, but his 33" arms are on par with Joe Thomas' 32 1/2" and Jake Long's 32 7/8" arms. That's the type of player Scherff has the potential to be and why he's a legitimate candidate for top prospect in the 2015 class.