The University of Iowa under head coach Kirk Ferentz has produced a good amount of talent along the offensive line over the years, including recent first round picks Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, and All-Pro offensive guard Marshall Yanda. Brandon Scherff looks to continue this trend of Iowa linemen in the NFL.
Brandon Scherff was a 290 pound high school quarterback as a junior before he switched to the offensive line as a senior. A three-star recruit as a out of the state of Iowa, Scherff chose to sign with his hometown team. His first year on the team in 2010 he used as a redshirt year. As a redshirt freshmen in 2011, Scherff played in 11 games as the Hawkeye's left guard, starting three of them. He was moved to the left tackle position in 2012 and started his first seven games before a broken fibula ended his season. He return better than ever in 2013, earning a 1st team All-Big Ten and 2nd team All-American honors. To the surprise of many Scherff decided to return to school despite being projected as a top 50 selection in for the 2014 draft.
It became clear he made the right decision. He started every game at LT while garnering unanimous 1st team All-American and 1st team All-Big Ten selections, and was awarded with the 2014 Outland trophy (given to the nations best interior linemen) and the 2014 Rimmington-Pace Award (given to the best offensive lineman in the Big Ten).
Scherff measured in at the NFL Combine measured at 6-foot-5, 319 pounds with 33 3.8 inch arm length. In the weight room Scherrf is a freak. Video of him cleaning 443 pounds three times went viral and in recent interviews at the combine he claim he is now cleaning a max 480 pounds. He isn't just weight room strong as Scherff's strength is clearly visible when watching him on the field.
Power isn't the only thing that defines Scherff, like most Iowa linemen, he is also very technically sound. His hand placement is consistently inside his opponent, he rolls his hip through contact and he feet don't slow down when engaged.
On this play Scherff's primary responsibility is to seal off the backside defender to create a cut back lane. He does the job well, engaging the backside defender with a low pad level. He keeps his hands inside driving the defender a yard off the line and then turns the defender keeping his body between the defender and the cutback lane. This is one of those plays that go unnoticed by the casual fan but is the primary reason the running back is able to cut the run to the left and get a first down. Backside blocking is an area Scherff improved on tremendously from his junior year.
Scherrf also possess sneaky athleticism making him scheme diverse. (He ran a 5.05s 40 yard dash at the combine, the 4th fastest of the offensive linemen) He was used as the lead blocker on screen passes frequently and because he had a tight end lined up next to him he was ask to pull on outside runs more often than a usual tackle. The are however he shows off this sneaky athleticism the best though is on zone plays where he has to get to the second level.
Scherff (at LT top of the screen) does a nice job of chipping the linemen in front of him while using his eyes to locate the linebacker in the second level. He releases and gets down the field, engages the linebacker with his hands inside, rolls his hips and doesn't slow his feet and takes the linebacker for a ten yard ride through the whistle. (For those of you who don't recognize the Ohio State linebacker, he is Pittsburgh 2014 1st round pick Ryan Shazier). This is just a beautiful play that highlights Scherff's technique, decent athleticism, and his demeanor as a blocker.
One of my favorite things about Scherff is that when he gets the chance to finish a block he will. In both his junior and senior games he knew how to finish his blocks pancaking defenders. He should make a defenders in the NFL frequent visitors to IHOP as well.
As a pass blocker Scherff does a nice job recognizing stunts and delay blitzers. He knows how to communicate and passes players off to his guard when necessary. His balance through contact his very good and he keeps his pad level low. Scherff also keeps his back flat and delivers a very strong punch to oncoming pass rushers.
When you watch Scherff play his biggest weaknesses show up in pass protection. He has an awkward pass drop motion which resembles more of a shuffle than a kick-slide. He has below average foot quickness and has a bad tendency of setting on heels which leaves him very susceptible to inside moves. Sherff too quickly turns his shoulders parallel against speed rushers losing his advantage of body position and giving up a lane to the QB. This is more commonly known as "opening the gate". More worrisome is than his worst games as a pass protector came against the better competition he faced in both his junior and senior year.If any one play highlights all of Scherff's weakness as a pass rusher it is this one against Maryland's true sophomore Yannick Ngakou. Here Scherff comes out wide on the snap placing him at a disadvantage. He immediately has to turn his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage to try and make up ground. The defender uses a stab move with his long arm and Scherff can get a his own hands on him to adjust his pass. (This is where arm length matters). Since Scherff "opened the gate" the defender has a lane to the QB. He continues to work past Scherff until he gets to hits the QB. In the run game Scherff needs to work on keeping his legs churning. At times he gets too focused on pushing his man rather than driving him. He needs to do a better job of maintaining his blocks at the second level. Unless he is head up the defender he too often gets only one good shot on the second level defender and allows the defender to try and get back into the play. He will also whiff in space on some of the quicker defenders.
Brandon Scherff looks like an ideal candidate to move inside at the NFL level. He is powerful blocker with deceptive lateral movement ability and excellent hand technique. He is one the most technically sound players in run blocking in the draft and has experience with both zone and power scheme. Just as important for coaches he is a tough player who could add some grittiness to an NFL offensive line room.
Scherff 's deficiencies in pass blocking though will be the main reason why he should be moved inside. He lacks the foot quickness to match NFL speed rushers and too quickly turns his shoulders giving pass rushers a lane to the QB.
Scherff actually reminds me a lot of Cowboy's 2014 1st round draft pick Zack Martin. Scherff and Martin share many of the same similarities in their game when leaving college. Like Martin, I believe Scherff is a Pro Bowl caliber player if a team switches him inside to guard. If he is available with the 22nd pick in the 2015 draft, Pittsburgh would be stupid not to consider him.