Welcome to the 'Big Boys Club O-Line Draft Academy'
By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
When I retired and was able to consume more football media, including social media, I realized there was a massive need for education about the offensive line.
It’s a nuanced position that requires knowledge about technique, scheme, assignments and more in order to understand what is happening in the trenches. I made it my mission to educate, teach and inform football fans about the offensive line.
That's why I’m so pumped to announce the "Big Boys Club O-Line Draft Academy," a show dedicated to my passion: teaching y’all about the position.
If you thought I loved the offensive line, I’d like to introduce you to my partner in this process, my best friend, Duke Manyweather. Duke is the premier offensive line guru and has dedicated his entire life to mastering his craft. He trains the top prospects at the position for the combine and entry into the NFL.
Duke has worked with more than 40 NFL guys, including All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl champs. They all come to Dallas each offseason to hone their craft.
NFL teams routinely use Duke as a resource and rely on his advice on how to build the offensive line unit. Duke also hosts a weekend for the big boys called "OL Masterminds," where the best in the profession – past, present and future – come for fellowship and education.
"Big Boys Club O-Line Draft Academy" will make you a smarter football fan. We will take you behind the scenes to follow five top prospects as they prepare for their upcoming rookie seasons.
Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Creed Humphery, Trey Smith and Quinn Meinerz join me to discuss their passion for the position, their love of the game and their NFL aspirations. I’ve got them on the whiteboard discussing their favorite plays, and we watch their film. If you are an Xs and Os junkie, this part is for you.
If you’re interested in learning about the personal lives of each prospect, including their upbringing, what motivates them and their college experience, we have you covered there with extended interviews. Lastly, Duke and I sit down to discuss each prospect and our friendship.
Here's a little bit about each lineman:
Sewell, the Outland Trophy-winning offensive tackle from Oregon, is a unicorn. It’s hard to find another example of a player this outstanding and this young. He will play the first month of his rookie season at 20 years old! We’ve never seen a player this talented with this much upside at the position. Sewell has a rare blend of power, strength and balance, and he can still grow into his body. He’s only going to get stronger and refine his technique.
When you watch Sewell play, the first thing you notice is the explosion out of his stance. When the ball is snapped, he’s off. Sewell plays with violent intentions, always looking to move his man from point A to point B against his will. He studies his opponents and understands angles in the run game and out in space.
In pass protection, he’s still learning how to use his hands properly at times. That's just a matter of reps. But when his hands are on you, the rep is over. Sewell’s ability to recover is top-notch. Because his functional balance is the best in the draft, even when he's wrong, he makes it right with his ability to reset his hips and hands.
Beyond the film, Sewell possesses an inner drive to be successful, coming from his upbringing in American Samoa. Sewell and his siblings made the most of their lack of resources on the island, creating a football from whatever materials they could find around their one-bedroom house.
Sewell’s family moved to Utah when he was 12, and his football journey officially started then. He was a highly sought recruit and became the first true freshman offensive lineman to start the season opener in Oregon history. He has an extremely bright future in the NFL.
Two years of film, and sometimes all it takes is a single matchup to propel a player to the top of the first round. That's what happened to Northwestern offensive tackle Slater, who has the "Chase Young game" on his résumé.
In 2019, Slater was matched up against the Ohio State star, who went on to be named 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Slater dominated the matchup and kept Young away from his quarterback the entire night, making it look easy.
Slater has a beautiful pass set, with no wasted movement. His ability to use independent hands – meaning he isn't using both arms to punch – is top-notch technique. By the way, this is why the arm-length conversation is silly. Just watch the film. His arms are plenty long enough.
In the run game, Slater possesses the ability to move fluidly to the second level and understands when to use his hips to finish blocks. Against down linemen, he’s precise with his hand placement and works to finish, using the leverage he has created with those hands.
He needs to work on his timing with his hands and hips at the second level when he has squared up a linebacker. It’s not an issue of strength, but rather knowing when to unload his hands and hips. If you draft Slater, you get a polished player who will immediately excel at tackle.
Not only is Slater a baller on the field, but he’s also mature off it. He grew up with a father who played professional basketball for 10-plus seasons, and he learned how to deal with the stresses of playing away from his family.
Not many linemen get to play with a single Heisman winner, let alone two of them. Oklahoma center Humphrey, a two-time All-American, got to play with two Heisman winners and a national champion transfer in Jalen Hurts.
Humphrey anchored an offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award – a collegiate award given annually to the best offensive line in the country – while making sure everything ran smoothly. He was in charge of making the linebacker identification on both the run and pass games, which is unique for that position. He will do less in the NFL, as the quarterbacks are part of the pass-protection identification.
Watching him play in Lincoln Riley’s diverse scheme was a joy. Unlike a team that might major in one running game concept, the Sooners ran gap and zone alike. Humphrey had to back block, blocking the defensive tackle to the backside, on the Sooners' guard/tackle counter. On the next play, Humphrey might've blocked the frontside defensive tackle on a zone run.
Humphrey's ability to adjust on the fly, whether changing blocking assignments before the snap or moving efficiently post-snap, is next-level. He never panics. In the passing game, he understands how to finish blocks with his hands and hips.
When watching Humphrey play, it’s easy to see his wrestling background in his ability to finish blocks. Finishing a block isn’t about a pancake. In essence, it’s moving a player from point A to point B against their will. But when that’s difficult, it can be leveraging your hips with your hands to move a defender away from the runner or quarterback.
Humphrey's father was a multiple-time collegiate wrestling champion, and he passed on those skills. Humphrey wrestled all through high school, and there’s no one better at his position in this draft at finishing with his hips, looking like a wrestler getting ready for a takedown.
It can be difficult for high-profile high school recruits to live up to their star rating. Pressure, stress, overvalued recruiting rankings, injury and scheme are all factors when players do not achieve the success people assume they will in college.
When Smith, the overall No. 1 recruit in the nation, signed with Tennessee, he came with high expectations. It’s hard to argue he did not live up to them, starting with his first game and second play of his college career. He started at right guard, pulled around the corner and destroyed a poor safety. From that point forward, Smith was the rock of the Vols' offensive line, even while dealing with personal hardships.
After Smith’s outstanding true freshman season, there were high expectations for his sophomore year. The big fella entered the season playing left tackle after starting his career at right guard, a big adjustment that showed his natural talent for the position. Unfortunately, after seven games, Smith had to miss the rest of the season after doctors found blood clots in his lungs. He healed in time to play left guard in 2019 and made first-team All-SEC.
There was speculation that Smith would enter the NFL draft after that season, but he made a promise to his late mother – who died when he was 15 – that he would graduate from college.
While Smith excels on the field, his work off the field is what makes him special. He has been a vocal leader for social justice in the Knoxville community, making his voice heard during rallies and marches. He won the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award in 2019 for all of his community work and overcoming the adversity he has been dealt in life. You root for people like Trey to succeed at the next level.
Playing favorites would be unfair, as I love all offensive linemen equally. However, when this project was given the green light, there was one name I knew we needed to have on: Meinerz from Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Meinerz’s story is what most dream about – hard work, determination, no days off, an unwavering belief in one's self and making the most of your opportunity.
Meinerz had to pay to play college football. No, not just pay for school, as scholarships in Division III don’t cover the same expenses as in major college football. He had to pay for training camp so Whitewater could afford food for the team.
Unlike most players who make the journey from a lower division to the NFL, Meinerz was this size coming out of high school but didn’t get noticed. He used that slight as motivation to push himself to become the best player he could at Whitewater. He was voted the team MVP in both 2018 and 2019, a remarkable achievement for a lineman. When the 2020 season was canceled, he thought his chances at a pro career would be hampered.
Meinerz took the initiative to train with Duke in Dallas when the season was canceled. Duke sent a video of his workout to Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, who invited Meinerz to the game. Meinerz got his chance to prove he belonged with the big boys.
In Tuesday's show, you will hear his roller coaster of emotions heading to his first Senior Bowl practice. He went from Division III competition straight to the big boys without any fall football.
There are no adjectives that can do Meinerz's journey justice. He went from a canceled D-III season to playing against the top talent in the country. Just like in a movie, Meinerz played well. He was physical. He showed an understanding of how to use his body. He had never taken a single rep at center until this week, and without any practice at this position, he held his own.
Even after breaking his hand in a late-week practice, he taped it up and continued to battle. Meinerz earned himself a Day 2 selection, and I can’t wait for you to hear his story.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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