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A closer look at Ryan Gibson

I wrote a lot this time. Sorry in advance.

We're getting some more nasty. Ryan Gibson reminds a lot of that guy up top.
We're getting some more nasty. Ryan Gibson reminds a lot of that guy up top.
Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Before we get into the tape, there's a couple of tidbits on Gibson to mention, beginning with the fact that he was rated at guard, center, and tackle between the four recruiting services. Of those four, Scout was the only site to project the Mississippi native at the position he'll eventually play at Cal. They have him as the 15th ranked center in the country, at least at the time that this post is being written.

[Other plug: Gorcey has a free interview with the 6'2, 270 pound Mississippi native available here.]

This is something else of interest to me, since Cal has had so little success with this position as of late. Take a look:

Chris Adcock

Projected at center by Scout, at guard by ESPN, Rivals, and 247sports

Matt Cochran

Projected at center by all 4 recruiting services

Jordan Rigsbee

Projected at guard by all 4 recruiting services

J.D. Hinnant

Projected at guard by ESPN, at tackle by Rivals, 247sports, Scout

Mark Brazinski

Projected at center by all 4 recruiting services (and as high as 2nd in the country!)

Among the players we've had snap for us, most seem to be making the transition to center only after high school, and many of them weren't expected to play there at all, with Gibson falling somewhere in between both extremes. Some of these guys were forced to move due to injury -- Rigsbee, for example -- but even the ones who projected at center -- Brazinski, Cochran -- have had trouble performing the basic demands of the position at the college level.

Is it because the guys we recruited did little shotgun snapping in high school, a skill they surely need to play in the Bear Raid? Is it an inability to do so while managing the increased demand of line calls and blitz pickups? Is it that center is inherently more difficult to transition to and project generally, and if so, why? Or, seeing as the problem has persisted for years and across several different OL coaches, is it simply Cal specific and them not developing properly once they get to campus?

These questions are worth worth keeping an eye on, and perhaps worth asking Coach about in the future, because Gibson is a bit of recent rarity -- a guy who was taken with the intent to play him at center. [Yes, I realize that this data is also somewhat impacted because there is only one starter at that position, compared to guard and tackle.]

Now, with that out of the way with, let's head to the film, keeping in mind some highly desired traits for linemen by our staff:

  • "Great motor" - Effort. Does he play whistle to whistle? Does he finish blocks? Does he look for additional defenders to take care of once his assignment is done? Does he keep moving at all times, or does he take plays off, coasting on his athleticism and size?
  • "Great drive" - I'm not completely sure, but I think this is separate from motor, and that Coach Yenser is deploying it to refer to a lineman's ability to consistently generate push, rather than as a synonym for desire. That would be redundant.
  • "Plays with a mean streak"- There isn't a single offensive line coach anywhere who doesn't want this quality out of their players. You have to be tough up front if you want to set the tone, because the offensive line does battle 70+ times a game. It takes a certain edge to not only want to win those matchups, but to keep winning.
  • "Great feet" - Lateral quickness, ability to get to the second level, general agility and ease of movement. This becomes increasingly crucial in the Bear Raid offense.
  • "Uses his leverage very well" - This one, I have less of a solid handle on explaining, so if anyone wants to show up with a better definition, please feel free to help out. The way I understand it, though, playing with leverage on the offensive line means being able to get in good positions/manipulate space, attacking opposing defenders/linemen at the proper angles, and keeping appropriate pad level. All of these factor into quality number two: drive.
To this list, we can also add high character and high intelligence, which we know from past conversations. I don't think Gibson's GPA has shown up publically yet, but I feel reasonably sure he'll do fine here, given that Yenser takes no at risk recruits at OL. [Also, part of this above section was made with reference from an excellent article on linemen scouting written by Danny Kelly over at Field Gulls. Don't be surprised if I refer to it again in the future.]

With this in mind, let's single out a couple of plays that appear to demonstrate what Coach is talking about. [As always, I am not a professional talent evaluator, although I will certainly explain whatever leads me to my opinions.]
  • 0:00 - St. Stanislaus runs a dash read to Gibson's side, and because the play is designed to leave Gibson's man unblocked -- or, "read" off of -- our new commit's assignment is play is to go hit a linebacker. And he does. Hard.  Based on how he bursts off the ball, you can already see "feet" at work, but it's worth noting how much he stands out in comparison to his teammates up front. None of the other red jerseys are seen knocking anyone several yards back on their ass, and then diving on them to make them stay down. I also think this is an example of good leveraging, because you see Gibson take that linebacker on from the side, rather than head on, making it easier to topple him over. For those keeping score at home, that's motor, drive, leverage, feet, all at once. It's not a bingo, but man, we're off to a good start.
  • 0:57 - Leverage -- or at least, what I think is leverage -- at work. Gibson carefully attacks from the guy's inside half, allowing him to drive the defender away from the gap and seal him to the outside. Pretty sure #60000nams could fit through the hole that follows. A lot of the runs on Gibson's film don't go for long gains, but I can't trace or attribute that to anything he's doing wrong himself.
  • 1:23 - HELLO, MEAN STREAK. Nice to meet you, motor. You don't need any extended explanations to love this bit, but that won't stop me from giving you one anyway. The fun starts after the pass has been completed, as Gibson runs harder than any of the other linemen downfield, continuing to look for work anyway. Taking care to make sure it's not a clip -- you'll see him take an extra step to make sure he approaches right from the front -- he finds it in the form of an unfortunate defensive end wearing a brown jersey, flattening that poor soul who didn't have his head on a swivel. Bonus points for it not being a cheapie, either.This is actually one of manymany plays on this reel -- plays where I'm begin wondering where Gibson is supposed to be, only to find him spotlighted later on because he's doing work blowing up defenders after his initial assignment.
  • 2:42 - One, two, then three pancakes of the same guy. Just stay down, 9. You got punked. Take it and move on.
  • 5:18 - There are only a few clips of Gibson in pass protection, but here, his initial punch just ends up stonewalling the opposing end. That suggests a good amount of strength as it is, although it looks like he does shift his weight and lean over a little bit at his base, which I don't think is preferred, since it leaves you off balance and susceptible to second moves, or being knocked over yourself. Here in this play, I think Gibson does a better job of keeping his base, safely riding the defensive end so far outside, he can't get pressure. Generally speaking, I've noticed that linemen tend to be much more advanced run blockers than pass blockers at this age, so that's not something to worry too much. He's going to get coached up by Yenser anyway.
I say often that I'm not a good evaluator of linemen, and I'm not, but I still like Gibson very much, particularly because of his knack to look for, and then find, extra work. That's the kind of asset even regular couch observers appreciate. Plus, I think he moves a little better than a couple of guys we recruited last year, perhaps in part because he plays defensive tackle, as well.

In an ideal world, I think we get him onto campus in '15, have him redshirt that first year, sit a second, then throw him in the mix with Hinnant at center after Cochran/Rigsbee/Adcock have all graduated. [Or heck, guard or whatever, even.]

Welcome to Cal, Ryan. We're glad to have you.