Alabama is never short on defensive talent for the NFL Draft, but it is something when one of their players ends stands out among that field because of their potential. Adrian Hubbard, an outside linebacker and defensive end, has a combination of athleticism, size, and strength that could be a tremendous player once he figures himself out and everything he can do. Hubbard had a small amount of buzz at the end of the year last year as far as potentially declaring for the NFL Draft, but smartly went back for another season.
Hubbard was able to come up with 24 solo tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in his sophomore season with the Tide. He has demonstrated ability, particularly as a run defender, but he is just starting to figure it out when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Hubbard came on at the end of the season, but if he can pick up where he left off and continue progressing, he could be a scary player in both aspects of the game. He needs to continue developing physically and fill out his frame as well as working to improve on his technique to take advantage of his incredible physical ability. As it is, he looks like a Top 75 player but he should be able to work his way into the top 50 and more likely than not the first round as he gets stronger and more consistent, should he decide to come out after this year.
Vitals & Build
Hubbard is listed at 6’6” 248lbs with impressive raw strength and athleticism. In many ways, he still seems to be figuring out what he is doing as he will demonstrate destructive power and speed to make plays, but has issues with consistency and will also be overpowered at times. Hubbard still seems to be growing into his immense frame and between his speed, quickness and still developing strength combined with some long arms, his physical potential is remarkably high.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
It really depends on his stance, but overall his first step ends up inconsistent. From a defensive end position with his hand on the ground, Hubbard can get off the ball in a hurry. He is explosive with all of his motion going forward with tremendous leverage for his size and length. If no one is front of him, he can end up getting too tall as he goes up the field, but he is a natural bender at the waist. Hubbard has a great three point stance with his good balance and a flat back, so he fires off the ball extremely quickly and has a first step that eats up some ground while helping him gain momentum. He is able to put opponents at an immediate disadvantage from this position.
Out of a two point stance, his first step will show glimpses of being good, but overall he seems to end up hesitating a half beat. He is not often coming up field from the two point stance as he has a variety of responsibilities in the Tide defense, but he just does not seem to have all of his weight going forward so it is almost as if he is coming up the field and reading, even though he has a designed rush. It ends up hurting his ability to anticipate the snap and his first step. When he does anticipate the snap well from his two point stance, his first step is picking up his lead foot and just setting it down as he leans forward and pushes off of his back foot. In other words, he does not really have a first step when he is coming from a standup position and needs to get in a stance that is more comfortable for him to make a decisive step up the field.
To this point, Hubbard is not doing anything particularly fancy when it comes to defeating blocks. He will use his strength and simply toss guys aside or use a rip move on occasion. When he is able to get his arms extended, he has the room to escape blocks one way or the other and Hubbard has shown the awareness to set up offensive linemen at angles so that he is able to get out of the block at an angle that is beneficial to allow him to get position to attack the football. This is another area where he is still a work in progress but shows glimpses of the future that look bright.
Hubbard has shown he can be a destructive force in the running game. He can be extremely stout at the point of attack, has long arms, and his athleticism gives him exceptional range. When he has leverage and is in good position, Hubbard has demonstrated the ability to collapse the pocket and close down running lanes by collapsing the tackle into the guard. When he does this, he ends up perpendicular to the line of scrimmage which puts him in a great position to make a play on the ball carrier. His acceleration and quickness along with his length and his reach make it so he can cover a remarkable amount of ground and he seems to catch ball carriers by surprise at times.
The problem Hubbard runs into is that he can get too tall or simply overpowered between his height and his lack of weight, so when he takes a bad position, he can get overwhelmed quickly. He gets knocked off balance and then ends up getting moved out of the way or knocked back so he has to re-anchor to hold up against the run. As he gets stronger, heavier, using better technique and does a better job of maintaining a good pad level and leverage by extension, this will become less of an issue. There are plays where Hubbard will drive the opposing tackle into the play and completely disrupt the play and times when he will get beaten out by a tight end, so that is the disparity and level of inconsistency to this point.
Hubbard will be able to show off his explosive power more often and get in position to bench press offensive line back into the backfield, which makes him a tremendous asset on the edge. Hubbard has also demonstrated that he will not give up on plays and there are situations where he is completely out of the play on the other side of the field and will chase a ball carrier down from behind who has been corralled and forced laterally by teammates.
Hubbard has demonstrated tremendous awareness of gap integrity and will hold his ground, attacking from the outside to avoid giving the ball carrier a running lane to the outside. He will wait until the ball carrier declare, usually to the inside to avoid Hubbard and then crash he will crash down down as necessary to make a play. Hubbard seems to do a fantastic job of staying in his lane and maintaining outside contain.
Hubbard is still a work in progress and inconsistent as he will flash moments of brilliance and show evidence of a young player still developing, but as he has shown the most polish and talent as a run defender, so he could be scary if he can continue improving his technique and body.
This is another area where Hubbard is inconsistent but started to show glimpses of what he could be in the future as the season progressed. Hubbard is at his best out of a three point stance because he is explosive off of the snap and able to get up the field quickly. From there, he has shown a few different options in terms of how he goes about getting after the quarterback. When Hubbard gets up the field, he will square himself to the quarterback and ideally take on half of the offensive tackle, in which case he is able to continue around the edge with the ability to easily bend, change direction and secure the sack.
Hubbard has also demonstrated an effective shift from speed to power as he will attempt to get his opponent off balance and then uses his brute strength to collapse the pocket, which creates opportunities for himself and teammates to get a hit on the quarterback. With his strength and arm length, it has the potential to be tremendous with continued work.
Hubbard has also shown that he is willing to sell outside before trying to go inside with his quickness and using his arms to try to rip through the tackle to get to the quarterback. The fact that Hubbard has shown the willingness to attack inside and outside as well as having the ability to go straight at the offensive tackle is good and as he is able to improve and refine his technique and body control, his production should pick up from where it ended up last year and potentially make a big leap forward. There are also times where he is indecisive on what he wants to do and ends up going half speed. Hopefully, he can get more comfortable and improves his instincts as a pass rusher, so eh can eliminate those times when he hesitates so he can attack with everything he has.
Hubbard is used in coverage a surprising amount in Alabama’s defense and while his wide body and athleticism suggest he could do well there, it is a struggle. He is inexperienced and looks uncomfortable in that situation. Often in man coverage but has played zone as well, he has the quickness and speed to keep up with guys but he gets crossed up on cuts and allows a great deal of separation. He is not overly fluid when it comes to flipping his hips on wholesale changes of direction, which causes him trouble. While Hubbard can certainly improve in what he is able to bring in coverage, he only managed to get one pass break up all of last season and anytime he is not attacking up field seems like a gift to the opposing team.
Hubbard has shown he can drop and can get to a spot with the ability to catch a team by surprise not expecting it, but he seems better off worrying about getting to the quarterback. Still, with a player like Dion Jordan last year going third overall, having a linebacker the size of Hubbard who can help in the slot has its advantages. It will be interesting to see if this is something he continues doing or if he is more focused on being a pass rusher this year.
At this point, Hubbard’s best fit appears to be as a defensive end in the 4-3 who could play on either the left or the right side. He is just incredibly natural there and can be a force against the pass and the run from there. Hubbard possesses the quickness to play on the right side and with further work, will have the bulk and strength to play consistently on the left.
Long term, his potential might be greater as an outside linebacker but he definitely projects as a strong side outside linebacker in the 3-4. With all of his physical gifts, he has a tremendous amount of range and possible versatility at the next level. He can run into some leverage issues but he seems able to avoid them with good technique and bending naturally. Hubbard appears to have the capacity to do a number of different things in a 3-4 scheme to keep opposing teams honest against the run and the pass, so he could end up being attractive to just about every team in the draft. Not everyone likes having their outside linebackers as tall as Hubbard would be, so there would be a few teams that would probably not be interested in Hubbard such as Pittsburgh but he might be tantalizing enough to where they like him as well.
|Sat, Aug. 31||vs. Virginia Tech|
|Sat, Sept. 14||at Texas A&M|
|Sat, Sept. 21||vs. Colorado State|
|Sat, Sept. 28||vs. Ole Miss|
|Sat, Oct. 5||vs. Georgia State|
|Sat, Oct. 12||at Kentucky|
|Sat, Oct. 19||vs. Arkansas|
|Sat, Oct. 26||vs. Tennessee|
|Sat, Nov. 9||vs. LSU|
|Sat, Nov. 16||at Mississippi State|
|Sat, Nov. 23||vs. Chattanooga|
|Sat, Nov. 30||at Auburn|
Week two has the makings of a huge matchup between Hubbard and Jake Matthews as he makes his move to left tackle. Hubbard plays on both sides, so it stands to reason that he will see some snaps against Matthews. Tennessee is another great matchup as their offensive line is full of prospects including Antonio Richardson and JuWuan James that should provide a great test no matter which side of the line he is playing. The following week Alabama plays LSU and Hubbard will be looking to put pressure on Zach Mettenberger; a team which Hubbard had success against last year.
Based on what he has done so far, Hubbard looks like Brian Orakpo of the Washington Redskins. Like Hubbard, the former Longhorn is a terrific athlete that is a huge outside linebacker in the Redskins systems and gives them a lot of options in terms of playing the run and rushing the passer. Hubbard appears to have more potential at this point in the process, but it will be interesting to see where he ends up when he is ready to enter the draft.
Based on his size, athleticism, and potential, Hubbard looks like a top 75 player but has the opportunity to improve his draft stock dramatically this year. The more he grows into his body, the better he gets at using it, improving his instincts and technique, Hubbard could be a scary player. For what he was able to do at Alabama last year, he seemed to be just scratching the surface and he appears able to be the most talented pass rusher Saban has had since arriving in Tuscaloosa with continued work. If and when the light goes on for Hubbard, he could dominate in college football and become a first round pick.