Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu may be entering the 2014 season’s most decorated center. After three years being selected to various All-American lists including a 1st-Team selection by Sports Illustrated and SBNation as a junior, Grasu is also perhaps the most anticipated center prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Despite the accolades, Grasu opted to return for his senior year, which only got slightly less attention than did teammates quarterback Marcus Mariota and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. In spite of the high praise and awards he has been given by some media outlets, Grasu is a marginal prospect for this year’s class and had he declared last year, there was a good chance he would not have been selected.
Grasu is a good fit in Oregon’s scheme because he has the stamina and athleticism to play in their fast paced scheme. He has the ability to get to the second level, move the protection and adjust to blitzes and stunts. Grasu will also have the benefit of playing 40 straight games in a streak he will continue as a senior.
The issues Grasu have to improve dramatically start with his ability to bend with his knees, get leverage and maximize his functional strength. While he is a good positional run blocker, he is extremely poor when it comes to out muscling opponents and creating space. Not only has he struggled to create space, he has had issues avoiding being driven into the backfield and having plays blown up before they develop.
Vitals & Build
- Date of Birth not listed
- 6’3″ 297lbs (Listed)
Grasu has a decent amount of pure size, but is not overly strong. His raw weight room strength is probably better than it looks on the field, but a regrettable lack of functional strength really makes Grasu look underpowered.
Grasu is not a good knee bender and does a poor job of getting any power or leverage from his hips and his legs. Additional flexibility would do wonders for Grasu and improve his functional strength as well as give him far better leverage.
Grasu has the stamina to keep up with the pace of the Oregon offense, but he does not give a ton of effort from play to play, gearing down as soon as he feels his job is done and moving onto the next play. His aggressiveness tends to come in spurts.
The frame should certainly allow Grasu to continue adding weight, but as much as he will want to do that, simply improving his overall body chemistry would make a great deal of difference. Grasu could use some additional mass but he just needs to get substantially stronger. In the long term, Grasu probably has a decent amount of physical potential but he has to be able to show a good deal of improvement this season and in the draft process for him to get much consideration for teams to want to invest in that long term potential.
Grasu has the movement skills to be effective. He has pretty good feet and is able to get to just about any spot on the field. Oregon has used Grasu both in getting to the second level as well as pulling and moving the pocket as a pass blocker. In terms of movement skills, Grasu has everything the Ducks like in a center.
- Grasu shows how light on his feet he can be and how effective he can out and pull here.
Grasu is an effective positional run blocker. He is light on his feet and is able to get down the line, hit the second level and shield opponents from the play. On the move is where he is at his most effective, because he gets some momentum but does a good job of settling to adjust to a moving target, avoiding loss of balance or potentially overextending to make the block.
- Grasu makes sure teammate Hamani Stevens has his block secured and comes right off of his hip, attacks the up field shoulder and shields Shayne Skov out from having a chance to get involved with the play.
- Grasu gets to the second level quickly, neutralizes and drives the backer down the field, showing a little bit of mean at the end.
When it comes to creating space and just using power to move the opposition off of the line of scrimmage, Grasu struggles for a few different reasons. First and foremost, his leverage and pad level are terrible. He is not effective at bending his knees or sinking his hips, so he has trouble generating any power from that part of his body. His overall strength is underwhelming and then having to try to work from the higher position leaves him at a terrible disadvantage.
- Grasu gets no leverage, gets driven off the ball, opening the lane for Skov to get in the backfield and blow up the play. David Parry absolutely dominates him on this play.
- Grasu tries to get going to the right to show a play fake as the run actually goes left but Scott Crichton (defensive end lining up inside) drives him three yards into the backfield. The only thing that stops him is the fact that Delva realizes the play went the other way and decided he had humbled him enough.
- Grasu is beat to the punch by Crichton, who leans on his shoulder and works into the backfield, making the play for about a 7 yard loss.
When Grasu played opponents where he could be the low man, he was a different player. He not only minimized the amount opponents were able to collapse the pocket but got some push and the Ducks were able to run near the goal line. If nothing else, it shows that if Grasu can get better with being a natural bender, he can look the part of a good center.
- Grasu gets off the ball well and is able to drive the opponent backward, opening a hole for Byron Marshall who goes in for the touchdown untouched.
Grasu’s effort can waver, will give up on plays early, and relies on Oregon’s speed and misdirection to give him an opportunity to succeed. Some of this could be due to the fact that he is deliberately trying to conserve energy as Oregon aims to run at least 80 plays in a game and has gotten to 90 at times. Nevertheless, Grasu was arguably the weakest link of the Ducks’ line when it came to creating space and was pushed into the backfield far too often in a few different games.
Grasu does not always demonstrate a killer instinct, looking to finish opponents. It tends to come in small stretches. When he does get an opponent on the ground, it is usually a linebacker.
When it comes to winning at the point of attack, he has got to become a more natural bender and get more out of his hips and legs. In terms of winning on the move, he just needs to ensure he is taking on the proper shoulder and consistently eliminates opponents from having a shot at making a play. He is able to win in that part of the game but can just get even better at that part of his game. Without significant improvement, Grasu cannot be reliable as a run blocker and would be a liability on an NFL roster.
Like with his run blocking, Grasu works on being a positional blocker as opposed to being someone that can overpower opponents. When opponents come at him, he will try to hold his ground, but often ends up parrying them. Grasu is smart enough to know that what he lacks in pure power and winning at the point of attack, he can direct opponents out of harm’s way and just roll with them and keep them out of the play and away from the quarterback.
- Mauro rushes inside and Grasu just goes with his momentum and parries him outside and rides him out of the play.
One of the areas where Grasu does excel is picking up stunts and blitzes. Despite the fact that he snaps the ball as he raises his head, he is able to adjust and pick up opponents trying to time the snap and take them out of the play at a high clip. The way Oregon snaps the ball makes it more difficult for Grasu to do this as well. If they were more inclined to mix up their snap count or Grasu was able to stop with his head up and scan the field, it would be easier for him to make the judgment and how to address it.
- Grasu does a nice job picking up the A gap blitz here effectively and erases him from the play.
- Grasu slides to the right to move the pocket and then takes an off balance Mana Rosa and simply buries him.
- Grasu is caught flat footed by Josh Mauro here, does not move his feet and barely gets a hand on him. The only reason a sack is averted is because of the running back coming up and making the block.
Grasu’s technique tends to be a mixed bag. He does a pretty good job when it comes to getting his arms extended, especially in pass protection and keeping opponents out of his body. Grasu can also do a great job of positioning himself to completely shield opponents out from running plays especially in space.
The biggest technical flaw comes down to his lack of flexibility with his knees. In the running game, he struggles to get leverage and in the passing game, he can have trouble anchoring and sitting down when opponents come with power. It just short circuits how much functional strength he can muster and makes him look out of his league at times.
Grasu has great feet. He is agile and is able to cover a good deal of ground. The issue for Grasu is that he is unable to trust his power, so he seems to be forced to overcompensate by stopping his feet and then reaching for the opponent. As a result, there are plays where Grasu looks like he could easily slide in front of opponents and does not in what appears to be a fear that he will simply get knocked backward or thrown out of the way.
Grasu is efficient with his pulling, has good balance, and is efficient in getting off of the snap when getting to the second level. In many ways, he can be a clinic in just how to get out of the center spot and get to his assignment efficiently and with quickness, but it can get lost in the fact that he cannot always trust himself to slide. Occasionally, his angles get out too wide and he is forced to make a relatively drastic cut to get to his spot.
The clips were provided by DraftBreakdown.com