One of the questions that frequently pops in my head as I’m watching film is, “what kind of player would this athlete be if he played a different position?” I can’t help but ask it because I’ve seen so many players over years of watching football (which admittedly hasn’t been too long) struggle at a position. They may have struggled because they didn’t have the necessary talent to consistently perform the tasks required of them, or the tasks were simply far-fetched for the talent. Then I’m left asking another question: Why is this guy playing that position?
In this year’s draft class, there seems to be quite a few players who are ill-suited to play specific positions. It could be said that BYU defensive lineman Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah fits the category, as he’s played both nose tackle to outside linebacker. Ansah may be athletic, strong, and quick-footed, but he’s far from a nose tackle. Another prospect is Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who has also played all over the line of scrimmage.
Floyd is arguably the second best defensive lineman in this draft class, only behind Utah’s Star Lotulelei. Floyd’s played various techniques along the line, including the five technique. He’s not a bad player at the five technique, but he’s not quite a fit either. He’s a better fit at three technique, a position commonly named “under” tackle, because he makes his money shooting gaps. In the case of a three technique, the near gap is the B-gap.
He has startling quickness to win at the snap and powerful hands that can rock an offensive guard. He has yet to do this with consistency, however, because he has played the five technique at times, which has stunted his development. All you have to do is pull up one game of Floyd’s to notice the lack of development. The tall pads, lack of proper hand usage, and his jersey numbers being turned parallel to the sideline. These are all issues that have to be untangled and straightened out at the next level, which they likely will be provided he works hard and he spends at least the early part of his career playing on the interior.
Playing on the interior is best for his future because he has the ability to make mind-boggling plays like this one against Louisville.
He’s lined up across from the left guard and is down on all fours. His knees are bent and his right foot is lined up further forward than his left, a symbol of his forthcoming explosiveness. On the other side of the line of scrimmage is the Louisville left guard, who is staring straight into the eyes of Floyd as his left arm is in the ground and his right arm is bent just below his face mask as if he’s flexing his bicep.
At the snap, the guard gets off the line first and seems uncertain how to react. He first bends both arms and puts his fists together, then separates them, then extends them before finally reaching out to Floyd, who comes off the line with a forward lean, immediately raising his arms up and placing his hands just below the blocker’s shoulder numbers. Floyd continues forward, locks his arms out, and knocks the guard back.
As the play unfolds, Floyd exposes his own chest to the blocker. That’s one of the things coaches teach players not to do, but he has a valid reason for doing it: he’s going to single-highhandedly remove the blocker from the play so he can penetrate into the backfield to blow up a delayed handoff.
And then he does it. The guard can’t handle his power and quickness. The fullback can’t help with a lame chip block. And the running back can’t get out of the way.
You may have noticed in the images above that Floyd’s footwork was not quite masterful. That’s one aspect — along with the aforementioned weaknesses — of his game that needs improvement, which will hopefully happen when he plays at one position at the next level. Ideally, that position will be the three technique. After all, a one gap, three technique’s primary job is to penetrate into the backfield, which is what Floyd excels at.
So why was he playing five technique in a four man front again?