At 6'5" 265lbs, Gabe Cherry, the Cal commit out of Centennial High School in Bakersfield is as intimidating as he sounds. Strong and physical with arms reminiscent of Popeye, Cherry is no stranger to lighting up the line of scrimmage, described as a player with "old man's strength." Did I mention that he's only a junior in the Class of 2017?
Here are his rankings from the major recruiting services.
Rivals: 3 stars
24/7 Scout: 3 stars, 48th at his position, 90th in his state
ESPN: No Ranking
Not going to lie - there are some things Gabe has to work on, but he's had all spring and soon all summer (not to mention his entire senior season) to build his body and game. That being said, he has raw talent and power with a promising upside. Let's get to the tape.
- I pity the fool who tries to stop Gabe Cherry off the edge in pass-pro. The very first play of the tape shows Gabe shedding the right tackle and tearing through the poor halfback like a freight train through dry wall. After blasting through what I believe was an attempt by the running back to slow him down, he drills the quarterback, who is to be commended for stepping into that throw. While Cherry's bee-line through the pass protection is impressive, a flaw to note is his speed off of the snap - or lack thereof. He's the last one off the line, which is significant in a game of inches and milliseconds. It's very noticeable at 0:38, but it works out into a sack because he's untouched in that play.
- In the second play, we get an impressive display of explosive strength as Cherry lines up at tackle and blasts his offensive counterpart on his back. However, despite the embarrassment, the offensive guard did his job - he sealed the inside and opened up the B-gap for the ball carrier. If Cherry can learn to use that strength of his to forcefully close gaps and force the runner directly to him or a teammate, his game will elevate to a whole new level.
- I really like the play at 0:18. Gabe seals the outside edge and raises his hands, pressuring the quarterback into tucking the ball. A well-timed swim (which could be cleaner) places him right where he wants to be: on top of a wide-eyed quarterback.
- The play at 0:25 shows textbook run defense at defensive tackle. He blast forward and then edges outside, simultaneously taking away the cut-back lane and lining up the tackle.
- Cherry puts on some great pressure in the play at 0:33, but he needs to be faster if he wants to be an effective defensive end at the collegiate level. That being said, he is strong and versatile enough to take multiple reps at defensive tackle, making top speed less of an issue.
- At 0:50 he does a great job of shedding the tackle and stops the pulling guard dead in his tracks, forcing the runner to bump outside right into a tackle for loss.
- Beginning at 1:00 we are treated to two consecutive plays that raise some concerns. Cherry likes to arm tackle. While that is sometimes necessary and effective, it's not ideal. A defensive lineman's greatest assets are quick feet that get his whole body where the play is going, not just his arms.
- Overall Gabe has a ton of raw strength and skill that could take him far. His strength is evidently dominant at his current level and will only increase with more training. His size makes him a huge presence in a quarterback's periphery, literally and figuratively. With some work on his mental game with strategic positioning, he has the potential to knock passes out of the sky before they even have a chance. He is versatile and clearly comfortable at either end or tackle. However, I see his relatively low quickness and top speed as a significant road block if he wants to play and excel at end at Cal. He needs his steps to be more agile and explosive at the snap, with top speed to catch or at least pressure some very mobile Pac-12 quarterbacks. Even if he commits to playing tackle, he'll need quicker feet to assert his position in the line more effectively so he can stop runners with his frame as opposed to his arms. If he irons those things out, Gabe will be the Cherry on top of any roster.
I had to.
Welcome to the family, Gabe - and Go Bears!