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Cal football scouting report: AJ McCollum

Cal picks up a JC lineman at a position of need.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

In a system where the center is a pivotal part of the offense, such as the Bear Raid, there needs to be some semblance of depth. With the recent departure of Matt Cochran from the football program, that depth is lacking, with Addison Ooms and Michael Trani making up the two-deep. Cochran was the prospective starter, and neither of those two guys have had a D-1 snap. While nothing can be done about that in the current year as far as replacements go, the coaching staff has made strides in bringing in a potential replacement in the class of 2016.

Enter AJ McCollum. Listed as the number 1 JC center in his class, McCollum will make a relatively short trek from City College of San Francisco to Berkeley. Some other transfers who found success at Cal include Lavelle Hawkins, Desmond Bishop, and Jonathan Makkonen. McCollum is listed at 6'2 and 280 lbs currently. McCollum will most likely have the opportunity to win the starting job in 2016, barring a breakout year from one of our offensive linemen

  • First and foremost, in his Hudl section, he has a video called "Nothing but Cakes." It's four and a half minutes of him putting dudes on the ground. That's definitely a plus in my book
  • First impressions watching his tape are that I like his feet, especially in pass blocking. They're always moving, and he mirrors the defensive pass rusher very well. His feet seem fast enough to play at a high level when he gets to Cal.Also, something simple that he does well is snap the ball in the shotgun. For some reason over the past few years, that's been a bit of a struggle, and it would be great to have someone who puts it in the right place for the quarterback consistently. He's also got some long arms that help with his leverage in pass blocking sets.
  • McCollum is a power blocker, but he doesn't take out guys by being unbalanced in his stance. Take 1:44 for example, where McCollum gets out of his stance relatively decently, gets downfield and makes an excellent block to free up the running back for six. At 2:05, he shows that he can move the line of scrimmage, moving the defender back a good ten yards or so. He takes another guy back a good five yards during the play at 2:12, pushing him way away from the area of the play. The feet don't stop, and his burst off the line is fantastic.
  • At :30 in, the rusher gets a step on McCollum, but he doesn't panic. Instead, he stays with his block, slides with the defender and knocks him down to give his quarterback space to get in to. That kind of recovery is impressive. He recovers well on a run play, at 1:33, where he can't quite turn the corner on a reach block, so he locks up on the guy from the side and pushes him over. He does this without holding. He also recovers well at 1:40 in, as the defense sends a blitz at him. He doesn't panic, slides back to match the defender and takes him out of the play. It's strange to call a lineman this, but he plays with a certain smoothness.
  • One of the times I saw him pull in this video is at :50 in. He stays on the rails in getting the linebacker off his feet and onto the ground. He has a good initial punch in taking out the gap-filler and getting into him. He follows through his block to the end. It's a great example of how to pull. He makes another excellent pull at 1:00.
  • At :54, you can see how McCollum mirrors the defender on the pass rush. He doesn't let the guy get a beat on him. The other impressive part about this is how much help the center usually has on a pass rush. Taking on a guy one on one is rare, but McCollum acquits himself. With any number of defenses set to send blitzes at the center in the Pac-12, the one on one blocking skills will be very welcome.
  • To summarize, McCollum is very polished at this point. Being at a JC has helped him showcase his skills in moving on to the next level. He can put on another 20 lbs or so, and will be effective at the DI level.