Arlington Martin defensive end Myles Garrett showed why he is a five star caliber prospect in the first half of the game when he registered four tackles for loss and a sack. Physically, Garrett has all of the tools you're looking for in someone who can play strong or weak end and perhaps even three technique tackle. He's got great get off and length and has the frame to probably get as big as you want him to.
One thing that's really appealing about him are his quick hands and long arms. He gets his hands up very quickly regardless of whether he's using them inside on the blocker or to the outside on his shoulder pads. Because of this, he wins first contact and then can extend his long arms to keep blockers away from his body. In addition, he has a nice shoulder slap that has something behind it so that he can push the blocker to the inside and provide a lane for him from the outside.
Most of all (from a physical standpoint), Garrett has great change of direction. He can face up in space against smaller personnel, not lose them, and then wrap them up with his superior reach as he did during his first quarter rampage.
But Garrett isn't just a physical specimen needing a lot of tutelage in order to make an impact. He already has multiple moves available in his arsenal; the shoulder slap on the outside rush, a spin move to the inside where he sets the blocker up with the outside rush, and even a bull rush where he gets his hands inside quickly and pushes the blocker backwards. He doesn't overrun plays or lose containment like you might expect from someone with his range.
He even showed off his speed in the fourth quarter when he chased down a kickoff returner from behind. That's right, a 6 foot 5, 250 pound defensive end made a hustle play on special teams in an all star game. He just doesn't take many plays off.
Garrett didn't have as big of an impact in the second half as the opposition started running away from him and also started running influence plays at him, leaving him unblocked with flow going the opposite direction. Nonetheless, Garrett was by far the best defensive player in the game and should be able to make an impact as soon as he arrives on campus.
-While I've seen Myles Garrett in person, today was my first chance to see New Orleans Edna Karr receiver Speedy Noil. The 6 foot, 161 pound Noil played quarterback in high school so it was going to be interesting to see how he handled playing receiver and if he played inside or outside.
But before we go into an analysis of him, let's talk about what Noil's decision means for A&M. Noil is the first Louisiana prospect that represents the first head to head victory for head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff over in state LSU. You don't realize how big this decision was until you realize that with all of the pressure that such prospects face to stay in state and all of the national success that the Tigers have had in recent years, LSU loses very few battles within its own borders on prospects that they had offered. In fact, most of the ones that they had lost in recent years had been to schools that had won national championships such as USC, Auburn, and Alabama. Gerald Willis III picked Florida today and although the Gators were not very good in 2013, they won a national title not long ago. Nonetheless, their hit rate on four stars in state was typically 80% to 90%.
Up until today, every Louisiana prospect that the Aggies had signed from Louisiana (regardless of star ranking) did not have a LSU offer dating back to…well, we honestly can't tell you….maybe the 1980's and certainly not until since the 1970's when A&M snagged running back Johnny Hector. For the Aggies to be able to pull this is a real tribute to Sumlin and his staff, especially as A&M's primary recruiter in Louisiana, defensive back coach Marcel Yates, is leaving to go to Boise State. Most programs can't handle losing a primary (area or position coach) recruiter but the Aggies were able to do it because the seeds of his commitment were planted last year when A&M landed high school teammate Noel Ellis in the 2013 class. The two were close and today Noil publicly gave credit to Ellis for his commitment. Tactically, it was a great move by A&M to recruit and land the four star as it gave them a shot at Willis III (Noil's current teammate) and Noil himself.
Now, back to Noil's abilities.
As we said earlier, Noil played quarterback in high school but projected as a receiver in college. In addition, he's not the biggest player on the field so it was going to be interesting to see if he translated to an outside receiver or a slot.
Well, Noil left no doubt that he could play outside as he lined up as the Z receiver on the right side. He's got a little length to him and has long arms which enable him to play taller than his listed height. Even though he is nicknamed Speedy, I'm not sure that's his best attribute. He's got really quick feet and is very elusive; twice he got the ball on reverses in the backfield where the defense had gotten penetration. Most times, this would mean a loss as defenders were actually waiting for him when got the ball. On the first play, he eluded guys in his face that were three yards deep in the backfield. He made the first guy miss who was face to face with him, cut inside of him, and made contact to drag multiple guys for a five yard gain. On the second play, two people had a shot at him deep behind the line but he made both of them miss, accelerated outside, and turned a potential disaster into no gain.
He also caught two passes, one for an 18 yard gain and another for a 64 yard touchdown. The 18 yard pass was on a slant route where he caught the ball just past the line of scrimmage showed off his elusiveness, balance, upper body strength (two would be tacklers grabbed him around the shoulder pads and he shrugged them off), and ability to make yards after the catch in traffic. The 64 yarder showed off his hands, separation skills, and speed; he beat the corner down the field with his burst off of the line, got his hands on the defender to gain an advantage and get separation, and then extended his arms to catch the ball with his hands, gather himself, and continue on in for the score.
Noil simply has everything you could want from an athletic standpoint and not just wheels. He has great hand/eye coordination and catches the ball with his hands rather than his body which is the main thing that I was wondering about coming into the game. He's versatile in that you can throw it to him down the field or on hitches and screens and let him got to work. His skills came in handy on special teams as he not only returned kickoffs but also played on coverage and picked up a fumbled punt which set up a field goal.
Overall, both Garrett and Noil are great athletes with change of direction and speed; they also play with great intensity. These things make them impact players who can change a game in an instant. Noil looked like A&M slot Quiv Gonzalez on his handoffs except he's a little bigger; Garrett really doesn't have a peer in the program right now. These are types of players that A&M's been lacking (especially on defense) and based on what we saw today there's no reason to think that both won't be contributing in some manner next fall.