Let's talk about interior linemen
Answering your latest draft questions: Anthony Richardson, O'Cyrus Torrence, and the center class
It’s time for a draft mailbag. If you have questions for next week, drop them in the comments section below or reply to this email.
You mentioned a mid-round crush last week. Who is a crush you expect to go late in the first round? – Benn Davey
How about O’Cyrus Torrence, the top interior lineman in the class?
Torrence is such a complete, all-around player that, in this year of minimal blue-chip prospects, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see him land as a top-8 across-the-board player for the league — perhaps the top-five if a team removes the QBs from the proceedings.
Torrence played center at Louisiana-Lafayette (where he was responsible for setting protections and adjusting the blocking mechanisms vs. fronts) before moving to guard and then transferring to Florida. All the intel out of the staff he worked with him in both spots is that he’s ranges somewhere between Allen Turing and Will Hunting on the genius-ometer. Once he’s seen a front, structure or pressure path once, he’s got it banked.
Torrence is a craftsman in bully's clothing. He has the measurables and the feel of a pound-them-into-the-ground interior lineman. And that’s true – the torque off the ball is there (#54).
But Torrence is so much more than that. He has worked to refine issues within his game; he spent the past year working on the usage of his off-hand in the run game, and how to block to the running concept rather than just womping defenders for fun, as he outlined in a conversation with Brandon Thorn on Trench Warfare.
Torrence sits at the neat intersection where a genius athlete devotes themselves to mastery of the art rather than floating by on their physical prowess — only he has all the physical tools to execute whatever the hell he likes. Twisting and contorting a lineman, using length to stun then turn defenders, can be as effective as sending them to mars, depending on the concept called.
Torrence knows how to use his combination of snap speed and length to fracture the line of scrimmage without only driving dudes back.
The in-line brutality still exists. Unlike a lot of this year's class, who shine when they skip step or wrap around, Torrence creates a vertical surge at the point of attack.
He always plays with balance – he plays with balance when initiating contact; he plays with balance when he absorbs contact.
You maybe want to see him deliver more death blows. I get it. For someone of his size, it would be nice to see him cleaning out the club a handful of times a game. Instead, he has spent time working on the subtleties of the position, technical adjustments that will serve him better at the next level.
Florida’s staff worked with him to ‘restart his feet’ on contact, according to Torrence’s conversation with Brandon Thorn over at Trench Warfare. Rather than delivering the initial punch and then working with his upper body to shift and cajole players, Torrence has worked on re-establishing his lower half, on keeping his legs churning, and delivering power from the ground up once engaged to deliver a second drive. It’s worked:
A worker in the run game, Torrence is a thumper in pass pro. That’s when the frame and hops and foot speed and arms and mitts take over:
Hooy boy. Everyone take a moment to shake it out. If you need some time to gather yourself, now is okay.
Torrence conceded zero sacks or hits as a gator. He allowed only eight hurries across the season despite the leap in play from the Sun Belt to the SEC. There was no bedding in period; he was as dominant from the jump as he was at Louisianna Lafayette. Across his last three seasons as a starter, bouncing between positions, he has conceded zero sacks, one hit and 14 hurries across a combined 1,082 pass blocking snaps, per PFF. That means he conceded a pressure on just 1.2% of his college snaps. ONE PERCENT! I mean, holy smokes.
It’s tough to move Torrence off his spot. Anyone capable of wracking up some degree of success against his combination of size and quicks had enough in-out twitch to drive one way before dive-bombing the other. It’s a short list of players with those kinds of in-out chops, playing at an acceptable weight, walking around the NFL.
Once engaged, he’s able to cinch defenders, big or small. He can dance with the best of them, always maintaining width and balance with his base (Anthony Richardson!!!):
He is always alive to stunts, twists and pressures arriving from depth (Anthony Richardson again!!!):
There are details to clean up. Torrence can be antsy to get off double-teams. He wants to go and hunt more. Sometimes, as a lineman, less is more. The key to a successful double-and-climb is timing. You want to strike on time, never early or late. Catching a ‘backer flowing down and slipping off the double as your running back climbs is more productive than rushing up to the second-level. Patience is key. There’s no need to chase the second-level. Torrence is always in a hurry to get started.
Once you’re digging through those smaller details — correctable details — you know you’re on to something pretty bleeping good. I wouldn’t be stunned to see Torrence go in the top-15 picks, but he likely winds up somewhere in the 20s because of his positional value compared to the glut of corners, edges and tackles available in the first half of the first round.
Torrence tops my current interior o-line board, comfortably. Here’s how the rest stacks up:
O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida
Steve Avila, TCU
John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
Luke Wypler, Ohio State
Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
Nik Broeker, Ole Miss
Emil Ekiyor Jr., Alabama
Andrew Vorhees, USC
(If you view Peter Skoronski as a guard, slot him in at #2)
Still to get to: Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan; McClendon Curis, Chattanooga; Antonio Mafi, UCLA; Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame.
“As a Panthers fan, I'd be happy to end up with either Young or Stroud, but I slightly lean Stroud. Just seems like the better scheme fit, and I can't suppress my concerns about Young's frame. But if we take Richardson, I'll be flabbergasted. I can't see Tepper being on board with the idea of a project QB after the Matt "7-Year-Plan" Rhule fiasco. I would've been okay taking him at 9. Heck, at 5. But to trade up to #1 for him? Eek.” – Alex Watson
I get it. When I published that initial overview piece on the class, the intel on the Panthers was that they did not view Richardson as a project. And as I also outlined in that piece, I agree with them — to an extent.
The idea of Richardson as a ‘project’ goes back to the consistency of his footwork and his overall base. There are issues. But I bump against the notion that Richardson is some thoughtless bomber with little feel for the position. Rather, he’s a player who’s shown he can do all that’s asked of a quarterback – traditional or otherwise – just that stuff is interspersed with a ton of bad football.
That’s different from someone who isn’t sure what they’re doing.
Richardson’s footwork is fine in spurts, too. When he is rushed or hurried, magic can happen. He can either conjure something out of nothing or deliver accurate fastballs on-time and in-rhythm.