2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes have made a habit of producing NFL talent at the linebacker position and the latest player making noise in Columbus is Ryan Shazier, a speedy playmaker from Plantation, FL. Shazier played in all 12 games as a true freshman and was able to break out this season as a starter at outside linebacker for the undefeated Buckeyes. Shazier exploded for 114 tackles with 17 for a loss and 5 sacks while being named to the 2nd team All Big Ten. He heads into the 2013 season with All American aspirations and back to back undefeated records squarely in his teams sights.

Vitals & Build

Shazier is listed at a lean 6’2, 222 lbs. He is built like a big safety but he does have the frame to add bulk and maximize his build. His long arms will serve him well in either coverage or while rushing the passer at the next level. He is a player who will benefit greatly from an NFL strength and conditioning regimen.

Tackling

Tackling is something that Shazier needs to clean up. Despite the fact that Shazier led a talented Ohio State defense in tackles with 114 and the entire Big Ten in tackles for loss with 17.0, his technique could use a bit of work. He is more of a big hitter than sound tackler, often lunging at backs and receivers rather than wrapping up and driving through the football. His ability to explode into ball carriers helped force 3 fumbles with one of them coming at the goal line against Wisconsin in the 4th quarter of an eventual overtime victory. If he can find a way to harness his big play ability to play within the scheme and keep his technique under control, he will be among the most sought after defenders in the country by the time the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around.

Run Support

Ryan Shazier is barely scratching the surface on his potential in run support. As of right now, he is a finesse player. He is not a stack and shed linebacker who can beat blockers at the point of attack and make plays. Shazier avoids contact and uses his superior speed to track down ball carriers in pursuit. His instincts set him apart from most athletic linebackers as Shazier does a terrific job in sifting through traffic towards the football. Once he has an angle on a running back he is as quick as any player in the country at closing and exploding through the ball carrier. Shazier primarily lined up at weakside linebacker for the Buckeyes but was moved around often. He lined up in the middle of the field quite a bit as well, which helped keep him clean and make plays sideline to sideline.

Coverage

Man to man coverage can eventually be an attractive aspect of Shazier’s game to NFL talent evaluators. Shazier has fantastic feet, as well as the short area quickness needed in man coverage. Shazier is capable of running with backs and tight ends with Ohio State occasionally matching him up with a slot receiver in press coverage. His long arms and athleticism make him a tough match up for any receiver in a jump ball situation. Shazier runs into trouble when matched up with physical tight ends and receivers and his lack of physicality is exposed.

Zone coverage is where Shazier can really thrive. Out in space and instinctively watching the quarterbacks eyes, Shazier is able to quickly locate where the offense wants to go with the ball and once he does, he closes quickly. His quickness and closing speed is often taken advantage of by double moves and pump fakes, but his fantastic recovery speed make his missteps a little more palatable. Shazier was in zone coverage when he read Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin’s eyes and took an interception 17 yards for a touchdown, breaking a 3rd quarter tie and swinging momentum as the Buckeyes went on to win 35-23.

Pass Rush & Blitz ability

Ryan Shazier is a terror when called on to blitz. Blitzing is the one aspect of Shazier’s game that is fully complemented by his skillset. He times his blitzes extremely well and instinctively shoots gaps and openings in the protection schemes on his way to the quarterback. His long arms allow him to not only get his hands up and block passing lanes but also help him to reel in an elusive quarterback who sidesteps his initial rush. Many of his 17 tackles for loss and 5 quarterback sacks came off of blitzes. Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell would line up Shazier all over the front 7 in order to free him up on blitzes, he is a player every offense on the schedule will be accounting for in 2013.

While a very effective blitzer, Shazier does not offer much in terms of rushing the passer. From a technique stand point, Shazier does not use his hands well and has serious trouble disengaging from blockers. Once a lineman gets his hands on him Shazier is often washed out of the play and put on his backside by bigger and more powerful players. Outside of a straight speed rush, Shazier does not offer an array of moves to get past lineman. If the path to the quarterback is not clear, Shazier will struggle to get there. Again, it is a matter of coaching and putting in the time to improve. Shazier has some upside as a potential pass rusher, he simply must improve his strength and bulk, while putting in the work to clean up his technique.

System Fit

Ryan Shazier is a weakside run and chase linebacker. His best schematic fit will come in an aggressive blitz heavy 4-3 defense like the defense that Jim Johnson ran in Philadelphia or Greg Williams ran in New Orleans. Shazier does have a similar body type and style of play to Daryl Washington who has thrived at the “will” inside linebacker spot in Arizona’s 3-4 defense, but as referenced earlier, adding strength and bulk will be a necessity if drafted to a team that runs a 3-4. In the end, Ryan Shazier is a football player, he has a nose for the football and will make plays no matter what defensive scheme he lines up in.

Schedule

Fri, Aug. 30 vs. Buffalo
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. San Diego State
Sat, Sept. 14 at California
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Florida International
Sat, Sept. 28 vs. Wisconsin
Sat, Oct. 5 at Northwestern
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. Iowa
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. Penn State
Sat, Nov. 2 at Purdue
Sat, Nov. 16 at Illinois
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Indiana
Sat, Nov. 30 at Michigan

Notable Games

While the Buckeyes do not face a terribly challenging schedule, they do have some intriguing match ups for Shazier to test his skills against. Obviously, the Michigan rivalry is always the most anticipated. But the Wisconsin game should present a strong challenge for Shazier as their powerful straight ahead running game is a tough match up for the speedy playmaker from plantation, FL. Dual threat quarterback Kain Colter for Northwestern will likely be shadowed by Shazier when the Buckeyes travel to Northwestern in early October, same goes for Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

NFL Comparison

The similarities between Ryan Shazier and former TCU Horned Frog and current Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington are plentiful. Starting with their measurable, both players stand at 6 feet and 2 inches. Both players weigh around 230 lbs. Shazier, like Washington before him was a finesse player who thrived playing downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage. Each player has long arms and impressive speed to cover a large amount of field on any given play, and they both possess instincts and a natural feel for the position. NFL teams must simply hope Shazier is a better decision maker than Washington who is facing a 4 game suspension due to substance abuse and was recently arrested on a separate assault charge.

Draft Projection

After a break out sophomore season, Ryan Shazier is looking to capitalize on his momentum and carry it over to another strong season in 2013. If he can establish a leadership role on the defense and help lead the Buckeyes to a successful season and clean up some of his deficiencies, Shazier could make some noise as a potential late first round pick. The most likely scenario is that while Shazier is a playmaker and tackling machine, linebackers who do not rush the passer are generally overlooked as first round picks and fall into the 2nd day. He will most likely land somewhere on day 2 and would be a surprise if he fell to day 3.

 

Topics: Arizona Cardinals, Inside Linebacker, Linebacker, New Orleans Saints, Ohio St, Ohio State Buckeyes Football, OLB, Outside Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles

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