LSU looks to have the makings of another BCS title contender again in 2012. Leading the way for the Tigers, are the two stout bookend tackles Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst. Hurst looks the part of a NFL Right Tackle, but has some technique flaws and footwork issues that need to be corrected.
Size: Watching the tape on Hurst, there is no doubt that he is the makings of a NFL RT. Standing at 6’6 340 Hurst shows to be a guy who is able to lock on a defender and move him out of the way. He truly is the definition of a power scheme guy. He’s not going to wow you with his foot speed, but he’s going to take his man and move him out of the way or down the field. If anything Hurst could stand to lose about 10 pounds as long as it helped his mobility and didn’t negatively impact his strength.
Technique: This is was one of the more confusing things to watch with Hurst. Numerous times I’d watch him make a very nice block using sound technique. Then you’ll watch a play where he just has bad footwork and technique and is absolutely embarrassed by a DE. Watching the film though, the biggest concern is that he doesn’t play with a consistent base. Watching Hurst against Alabama in the BCS national championship game, he was easily beaten by Courtney Upshaw on a number of plays. When replaying that film, it seemed mainly due to an improper base from him having his legs too close or too far apart. This technique flaw will have even greater consequences in the NFL when going against designated speed rushers who will be lined up against Hurst just to tee off on him. Of all the things I scout and evaluate with OL, this was the biggest negative I saw in his game.
Pass Protection: Going back to what I mentioned earlier, the biggest concern with his pass protection was the footwork. On one play in the national title game, Hurst used footwork that was so poor, he actually ended up falling down and the DE had a free shot at the QB. The footwork issues are something that can be corrected though. In terms of hand placement, Hurst does a good job keeping his arms at a good length and not trying to overextend against pass rushers. When using proper form, he’s able to take the DE out of the play and open up an effective lane. What worries me with Hurst, is his ability against speed rushers. Against Florida, Hurst was not able to matchup against Florida’s speedy DE’s and as a result Florida was able to generate consistent pressure. You have to wonder if Hurst will be able to neutralize speed rushers in the NFL. All of the tools are there when watching Hurst, I just worry about his foot speed, his footwork and technique issues.
Run Blocking: This is what I’d consider the strength of Hurst’s game, and it mainly comes from his size and ability to lock onto defenders and move them into the 2nd level and create those big holes. Hurst is truly a drive blocker, but also has the athleticism to maneuver and wall off or stalemate the defender to allow the RB to get to the next level. He does keep his pad level low for the most part, although it could be improved on. Seems to be more of a knee bender on film, than a waist bender. Sometimes does miss a block or two, but makes up for it by finding another player to block instead of looking just lost. Does do a good job getting to the 2nd level, but doesn’t always locate LB’s or Secondary players well. For a guy at 340 pounds, Hurst does fire off the ball pretty well and get to the defender fast. Needs to work on mostly footwork in the run game as well and go for more short choppy steps instead of trying to stride. Will be an issue if he continues to have this type of footwork in the NFL. Does finish blocks well and seems like a feisty player who will be a tough one to face in the NFL. Has good enough athleticism to get out on screens, but not the best athleticism compared to other OT’s in this class.
Overall: Hurst is one of the more maddening prospects at the OT position, because you know right away he’s going to be limited to being a RT in the NFL, but he’s so raw that teams are going to be shy about taking a developmental prospect like him. The reward though could be very well worth it as I see him having a Tyson Clabo type career if the technique and footwork issues can be fixed. There will be questions raised if he can stay at OT in the NFL, and they are valid concerns, but I feel you need to let him start at RT and if he continues to struggle even with the technique changes, then move him to the interior OL where he could become a very good player as well. If he had to move into the interior OL, I very well could see him being able to be successful as long as the footwork is corrected and improved on. Right now have him with a pre-season 3rd to 4th round grade based on upside, but the concerns will be heavily noted on him as well.