The Miami Hurricanes had a good amount of talent on the offensive line, but issues had it shuffling often, within the same game on plenty of occasions. The player who stepped up and did the moving was Brandon Linder. While he was the team’s right guard, he also played a substantial amount of right tackle when they took Seantrel Henderson out of games. While not an ideal situation in terms of continuity, Linder was able to make the move and play effectively at either spot. Linder has a ton of experience, having played right guard for the vast majority of career, but also with experience as an added lineman in jumbo packages in his first season as well as tackle this year. In all, Linder played 49 games for the Hurricanes in four seasons.
Projecting to the NFL, Linder is a big bodied offensive linemen that seems to excel when it comes to understanding angles, shielding opponents from the play and holding up against power. Linder has solid athleticism, but can have problems when it comes to redirecting and has trouble unlocking functional strength in the running game to create push. He still has a good amount of potential and his versatility could make him an intriguing option for the NFL Draft. Linder projects as a day three pick and looks like he is best suited to play guard, but could potentially play left or right guard and provide depth at right tackle, which would make him a valuable commodity for teams with roster space at a premium.
Vitals & Build
Linder is listed at 6’6” 319lbs with a relatively lean build and tremendous length for the position. He looks pretty good and does not carry a bunch of weight around his midsection. Linder shows some good strength and power at times, but the key with him is being able to consistently take advantage of his functional strength, which can be difficult for him. He shows pretty good feet. Linder still appears to have a substantial amount of room on his frame and how he approaches adding strength to it could ultimately depend on which position he plays at the next level.
Linder looks the part when he is able to operate in a straight line. He moves well, is light on his feet and has pretty good range. Linder has far more trouble when it comes to redirecting, planting and shifting his weight, which can get him in trouble both at the line of scrimmage moving laterally, but also when it comes to blocking out in space.
Linder does a good job in the running game when he is able to shield opponents from the play. He thrives at being able to slide his feet in position and just take away lane for the defender. Between his length and overall size, he is difficult to move and is able to hold his ground well. He knows where he needs to be, keeps his feet moving and maneuvers as the play develops down the field.
Linder is far less comfortable when it comes to drive blocking. A combination of issues cause Linder to have some problems. The first is his height and having trouble getting behind his pads consistently. Especially when playing guard forces, his length forces him to bend at the waist to generate power and make the most of his functional strength. The result is that he can get off balance and lean too far forward, making it so opponents can take advantage and shoot past him or just take him to the ground.
His overall functional strength is a work in progress, so while he has the ability to hold up well when opponents are coming at him, he has a much more difficult time generating power and going forward. When he is able to do it well, he has shown to be able to get push and when he locks on, he keeps driving and will push opponents down the field. The times when he is wrong, he ends up on the ground, off balance or just ineffective.
One of the ways that the Hurricanes tried to keep opponents guessing with Linder to help him create push was by having him cut block. The problem is Linder really has trouble making those blocks land and ends up missing too often, falling short and basically just falls on the ground. He just looks awkward and uncomfortable as he does it, like he would rather just play his man straight up and win or lose.
Linder has shown he can pull and get to the second level. The consistency and the angles of his blocks on the move can be inconsistent. There are times when he takes a clean, tight route and is able to get to his spot quickly, but has occasionally shown some looping pulls that need to be cleaned up and eliminated. He is athletic enough to get to his spots, but he can have some problems with angles and when he misses it, he has some trouble recovering to make the proper block.
Linder looks better getting to the second level and really moves well going forward in that respect. Again, his angles can be somewhat problematic at times, but he can do a good job of changing his path mid play as long as he does not have to stop and change direction. In that respect, he does a nice job of hitting his marks and making the block, shielding the opponent off from the play.
On the whole, Linder is at his best when he can shield opponents from the play, use his range and athleticism to move and reach opponents. If he can do a better job of getting lower, bending his knees and increasing his functional strength, Linder can improve and be more of a power player.
Linder is an effective pass blocker in a phone booth. He has experience at both tackle and guard, but looks far more effective on the whole in tighter quarters. Linder has an effective base, anchors well and can absorb power well. He does not get surprised, is able to set himself and avoid getting driven into the backfield.
Linder can be effective sliding and protecting in space, staying controlled with his upper body and not losing his technique when it comes to blocking. He does a solid job of mirroring and with his reach, he is able to corral opponents and ultimately stop them.
When opponents are setting him up one way and then switch, he can get caught oversetting and have trouble planting and redirecting. Those are the rare situation where Linder looks heavy footed and slow. Normally, while he is not an extraordinary foot athlete laterally, he is capable of operating in that respect for the guard spot without issue.
Linder keeps his head on a swivel for the most part, but some of his choices on when and who to help on blocks can be a little perplexing. Some of this might be due to the fact that could be uncomfortable when he is not blocking. In those situations, he needs to do a better job of holding his water and trusting that an opponent will show up for him to block.
His experience at tackle certainly has benefited him and seems to make him confident as a pass blocker inside. There is a matter of being able to focus on one spot and really master it, but the versatility and experience at a few different spots will certainly pay dividends for him moving to the next level.
Linder does a pretty good job with his hands. He has a solid punch and seems to get control of opponents quickly. Linder has shown that when he can get ahold of an opponent, they have a difficult time getting out of his grasp. He is confident enough in his technique and keeps his feet moving where he is not forced to hold, but erases the moment of opponents and can get them to go where he wants to escape.
Linder has the feet to do the job at guard and can demonstrate the ability to pull and get to the second level. The issue that he needs to work to clean up is how he can get caught oversetting one way and get beat when opponents switch direction.
Linder needs to make his path on pulls more consistent and take better angles to make the right blocks. This also applies to him going to the second level. Again, he has trouble redirecting and changing his momentum.
Linder seems like his best would be in a system that wants linemen to be athletic and be able to get out in space and block. He needs to clean up issues with redirecting, but he has shown he has pretty good range and can pull as well as get to the second level. At the same time, if Linder can get better as a knee bender and keep adding strength, there is no reason to suggest he can play in more of a power based scheme as well. He has played virtually his entire career at right guard but his traits suggest he might be better suited to play left guard. His experience at right tackle is also not be taken lightly as he should be able to help with depth there. Linder looks like he is likely to be a backup initially, but could develop into a longtime starter.
Linder’s game might be similar to that of Chris Williams of the St. Louis Rams. The former first round pick out of Vanderbilt was initially drafted to play left tackle by the Chicago Bears before ultimately moving inside to guard. Williams has some of same tweener traits that Linder has, but Linder may end up being the better player if he can continue his development.
Brandon Linder has a lot of traits that make him an attractive player. His length and athletic ability combined with a substantial amount of experience at multiple spots should look good in the eyes of NFL teams. Linder uses good technique, has a decent punch and keeps working his feet to stay in position. He can work to maximize his functional strength and having better success when it comes to redirecting momentum. Linder projects as a day three pick that looks like he would initially start out as depth potentially at both guards and right tackle, but with the potential to become a good starter in the league. It is possible he could slip into the top 100 because of his versatility and upside.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com