Welcome to the latest installment of our new series, “Welcome New Bulls!”. This series is devoted to discussing each position group in the USF recruiting class of 2019 and my expectations for each player as they prepare for their first collegiate season adorning green and gold for our beloved Bulls. While it’s difficult to predict exactly how much each true freshmen will contribute on the field in year one at the collegiate level, I’ll take a stab at it based on the most current USF roster available. Without further ado, let’s get the show on the road!
As the season inches closer and closer to the Wisconsin game on August 30th, let’s take a closer look at the class of 2019 OL room consisting of Joshua Blanchard (D1bound_Jb), Matthew McDuffie (bcot62), and Dustyn Hall (lump73_hall). In the following paragraphs, I’ll do a brief breakdown on each player along with my expectation on what 2019 (and beyond) holds for lineman.
Let’s start with 6-3, 330 LB OT Joshua Blanchard out of Norland High School in Miami, FL. According to 247, Blanchard was rated as a two-star recruit with a three-star 247Sports Composite rating. During his recruitment, Blanchard received offers from Florida, Bowling Green, and Jackson State.
As we step into the film room, the first thing you notice about Blanchard’s film is his ability to run block and pancake defenders on the line of scrimmage. It starts with a powerful punch and then finishes with overpowering the defender with his size and strength at the position. The punch that I mentioned is crucial for every offensive lineman to have, but even more crucial for offensive tackles when pass blocking against a DE or LB coming off the edge. With that in mind, Blanchard is also successful as a pass blocker because he is able to “wall off” the defender from getting into the backfield. As a coach, you would tell your OL to use their size to prevent defenders from getting around them, especially if/when they have the size advantage over the guy across them. It seemed as if Blanchard mastered that aspect of the position at the high school level and the hope is that as an OT, he continues to utilize that ability as one of the guys on the outside of the line for years to come (They say that the tackle position is a lonely place sometimes…)
As of August 19th per Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times, “Backing up Atterbury will be 6-3, 330-pound freshman Josh Blanchard, a three-star prospect from Miami Norland.” With this in mind, I expect Blanchard to redshirt in 2019, holding down the backup spot behind Billy Atterbury barring any injuries or lineup changes throughout the season. Blanchard should see meaningful snaps throughout the year, but I would be surprised if he saw action in more than 4 games so that the staff can redshirt him.
Looking past 2019 lands us in 2020 where both Atterbury and Marcus Norman will be moving on to bigger and better things. In the same article by Joey Knight, offensive line coach Jeremy Darveau commented on Blanchard as a player, saying that “He’s got a big body, he’s long. He learns the plays quick and he’s gonna be a special, special player. Y’all can put my mark on that, check up with me in about a year and a half. He’ll be a pretty good player.” There will be other offensive tackles fighting for the open LT spot in 2020, but as for now, expect Blanchard to be the favorite to win the job next season if he continues to perform at a high level.
Next up, we have 6-5, 326 LB OT Matthew McDuffie out of Baker County High School in Glen Saint Mary, FL. According to 247, McDuffie was rated as a three-star recruit out of high school, holding offers from Appalachian State, Cincinnati, FIU, FAU, Georgia State, and Mercer.
As we step into the film room, the first thing I noticed from McDuffie’s film is his ability to run block at the tackle position. Just after watching the first minute, McDuffie seems to embody the right tackle position who is frequently asked to be effective in the running game as teams tend to run the ball to the right side of the line. This isn’t to pigeon-hole him into one spot on the line, but merely point out a strength in his game. During the running plays on film, McDuffie did a fantastic job of exploding off the line, keeping his pad level low, and driving through the block, often pancaking the defender in front of him. Whether pass or run blocking, another consistent theme in McDuffie’s film was his constant motor and high effort at the position. As a pass blocker, I thought that McDuffie did a good job of being a wall between the defense and the quarterback, often having to extend himself against speed rushers off the edge to keep the defender away from the QB.
As for the 2019 season, per the Joey Knight article mentioned above, “Junior Jarrett Hopple, a 6-7 Virginia Tech transfer, will back up Norman.” With that in mind, expect McDuffie to redshirt with both starting and backup tackle positions currently being filled at this time. This could always change as the depth chart (especially at the two-deep spot) fluctuates weekly, but I’ll stick with the current backups for now until new information comes out.
Looking past 2019, the presumed favorite for the right tackle spot would be Jarrett Hopple as the current back up to Norman. As with every position battle, anything could happen between now and this time next season. Look for spring camp next year to give us a better idea on who has a firmer grip on the right tackle position heading into the 2020 season. I like McDuffie at the RT position down the line, whether it happens in 2020 or after the position opens up again come 2021 when Hopple graduates (If Hopple wins the job next seeason). Regardless, this is a player to keep an eye on as the position will have some open spots in the next few years.
Last, but not least, we have 6-3, 308 LB OL Dustyn Hall out of Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, FL. According to 247, Hall was rated as a three-star recruit out of high school, holding offers from Virginia, Louisville, Kentucky, UCF, and Cincinnati to name a few. Prior to committing to the Bulls, Hall was committed to the dark side (UCF) before flipping to USF in December.
As we step into the film room, it doesn’t take long to identity who Hall is as an offensive lineman: a mauler blocker. Hall is a player that lives in the trenches and explodes into the defender with great speed off the line, often knocking back the defender right at the point of contact. It doesn’t just stop there as once Hall engages with the defender, the player on the other side is often blown back and driven into the dirt, resulting in #Pancakes. Speaking of #Pancakes, you’ll see a lot of them in the ten minutes of film in the link above. Another thing to note from the tape is Hall’s consistent motor and effort from the snap of the ball to the whistle at the end of the play. Hall locks in against the man in front of him and doesn’t stop working until the whistle blows, something that you don’t see from offensive linemen often, especially at the high school level. Charlotte High School seemed to be a more run-oriented team, but during the few passing plays that I saw, I thought that Hall did a good job in pass protection, showing good technique and a great punch at the point of contact to effectively stall the DL/DE at the line of scrimmage.
As for the 2019 season, I expect Hall to redshirt with the starting five offensive linemen firmly entrenched into their starting roles heading into week 1 against Wisconsin. With Blanchard and Hopple as the confirmed backups behind the starting group, I’ll be curious to see who fills in behind Demetris Harris, Brad Cecil, and Donovan Jennings. Based on the article mentioned earlier, it seems like Michael Wiggs will be the backup center behind Cecil, so now it’s a matter of who will be the guy behind the two guards heading into the season.
Looking past the 2019 season lands us in 2020 where the only open offensive linemen positions will be the two tackle spots with Blanchard and Hopple being the two current favorites to win the job. With Harris, Cecil, and Jennings only being juniors heading into the 2020 campaign, guys like Hall that call the interior of the line their home will have to patiently wait for an opportunity to open up in the coming years.
Leave your thoughts and comments below and be sure to tune in next week when I discuss the Class of 2019 DL room!