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A closer look at Austin Aaron

Finally, a recruit!

There are some similarities. This picture wasn't selected randomly.
There are some similarities. This picture wasn't selected randomly.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the board. The ugly total of zero 2015 commitments is now gone, thanks to Napa wide receiver Austin Aaron, and you know what that means...

TAPETAPETAPETAPETAPETAPE. [Besides Monday postgame during the season, this is my favorite thing to do at CGB.]

As you may already have heard, Aaron's backstory is special -- he's not only a third generation Cal Bear, but a fantastic student as well; the kind of guy the staff has been angling hard to get under Sonny Dykes. With the team needing several receivers this cycle-- Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler, Trevor Davis, and Chris Harper are all draft-eligible after this season, and it is fair to assume that they'll lose at least one -- Aaron seems a lock to be only the first of the bunch, not the last.

You can bet Rob Likens has more coming.

The rankings

ESPN - 3 stars [NR]

Rivals - 3 stars, 62nd rated prospect in California

247sports - 3 stars [89]

Scout - 3 stars

It is worth noting that these are all early rankings, and his final star count could be change drastically with a strong senior season/summer camp circuit. Don't take them as gospel, but rather, as an indicator that he's been identified as a clear talent.

The tape

As always, I am not a professional talent evaluator; just a dude with some thoughts.

Well, you know what they can't teach height. Austin Aaron just happens to have a bunch of it, checking in at 6'5 and 200 pounds. Now, I know that talk of dimensions and height have shown up in my previous scouting reports on guys like Drake Whitehurst before, and I also know that, for all of his 6'6 frame, Drake Whitehurst didn't accomplish too much last year.

Still, if given the choice, you'd want a big receiver more often than not, especially one with a reported 31 inch vertical leap already. Chalk it down as a plus.

As for the tape...

Some of it isn't particularly useful, in my opinion.

The first couple touchdowns don't really tell too much, for example, because he's just straight outrunning most dudes down the field, with 0:45 and 2:03 being egregiously bad defensive plays. He should be doing stuff like that, and he should outspeed other defenders. That is basically a minimum requirement to play D1 at a skill position, and more often than not, helped by the level of competition a guy faces, or doesn't face.

If you see me continually downplay a player's speed on tape often going forward, it's because I strongly believe in the aforementioned reason; the only exception is really if the player shows a transcendent, eye-popping, world-beating athleticism. Think Jadeveon Clowney, or even De'Anthony Thomas and Speedy Noil -- you take a look at any of those guys, and you know instantly that everything is translatable to the next level.

While solid and workable -- probably one of my most commonly used words about recruits -- his reported 4.6 40 isn't really much to write home about. To me, these are the more telling things and observations from Austin Aaron's junior tape, with pre-selected example clips to show what I mean:

  • Starting at 1:01, we get to see a bit more, and it's our first look at a guy who can go up and get the football. Some guys go up and get the football. Others -- like Aaron -- straight up pluck it out of thin air at its highest point, where punier defensive backs can't hope to reach. That's where that frame (watch THIS one) comes into play. You'll see it again at 1:11.
  • Yes, that skill also translates to Aaron being a red zone threat. Napa certainly uses him that way; I counted six red-zone TDs on this film, plus three more from the 22-25 yard range. Straight beastly in this regard.
  • One hand, two hands, whatever. Throw it. He'll catch it. Highly recommend you guys take a look at these two plays.
  • Aaron's going to provide some tactical flexibility for Tony Franklin, I'd expect. He has some experience with his hand in the dirt as a more traditional tight end. [Oh look, a red zone touchdown!] It would not surprise me to see him used that way in special packages once he gets here next year, or even getting some run in some of the alternative Bone looks, especially if he's able to put more weight on. Think Richard Rodgers, the way he was deployed in the 2013 Stanford game. If you've somehow managed to already forget that he lined up inside for a significant portion of that one, then I curse your good fortune.
  • It's a small sample size, but he looks like he can use his frame a bit -- not as well as Rodgers, who weighed anywhere between 30 and 70 pounds heavier than Aaron in his time in college, but a bit -- both as a blocker and to beat up on pressing defenders. More often than not, though, he's not being tackled much, so opportunities are understandably limited for him to show off his physicality. Here's one more play of this in action. Hamilton Anoai reminds me much more of Rodgers than Aaron does, though, and our new 6'5 recruit could certainly stand to put a few pounds on.
  • A point of concern based on strictly on the tape available is that it doesn't show him running a lot of different routes. To be clear, this doesn't at all mean he can't -- he's a junior, he'll have another year to see his role in the Napa's offense grow, and of course, he'll have the coaching of Likens when he arrives on campus -- but a lot of what is shown here is fades, streaks, and sluggos (slant-go) alone, and a bit more diversity in the tree is almost certainly going to be necessary at the next level. That being said, he's sure to have demonstrated more than that at camps, seeing as he's won winning a NorCal Rivals MVP at an event earlier this spring. All I'm saying is it's just not on tape yet.
  • More data to support that last observation: I charted out 42 different plays (39 passes) on this reel, and on at least 21 (53.8%) of those passes, Aaron ran what I would group into as one of the above three routes.
  • Keeping in mind that the names for routes are not universal and that some of them were difficult to classify, this is what I have written down for the rest of the plays, if you're curious:


    4 (2:045:075:106:04 -- he ran a couple other curl routes that he turned around and went vertical on, which I filed under "go".)

    Screen (smoke/middle)

    3 (3:105:596:31)


    2 (2:395:20)


    2 (6:396:46)


    1 (4:56)

    Option route

    1 (7:01 -- he settles down in a curl only to find a defender there, so he continues moving and turns it into an out route, which is why I separate this from the curl section)


    1 (7:24)


    1 (6:20)


    1 (3:24)


    1 (4:27)


    2 plays showing off run blocks (4:485:29); 1 option pitch (5:55)

  • Another question to be answered in the future: can he create after the catch? That's a crucial skill to keep the Bear Raid chains moving, and the tape is kind of inconclusive here, for me. This play shows him in space a bit, but he has a convoy already set up ahead. They run the same one again later -- different game, same play -- and it shows a bit more. Wouldn't call it a strong suit of his game, though. Right now, Aaron's game looks to be tailored more toward the deep route/jump ball more than anything.