The Best of the Best: Louis Nix III

We’re now three days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part eight of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  This isn’t necessarily a prediction of where I feel they will be drafted, but more my thoughts on where these 10 rank against all other college players.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number three prospect, Notre Dame Defensive Tackle Louis Nix III.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’3″

357 lbs

Career Numbers

95 total tackles

12 tackles for a loss

2.5 sacks

1 forced fumble

6 passes deflected

Let me just get this out-of-the-way.  Louis Nix III is big.  The Notre Dame Nose Guard is a massive player at 6’3 357 pounds (31 pounds heavier than last season), which makes him a very good player at his position.  He’s big, incredibly strong and hard to move.  Yet he is surprisingly athletic and somewhat nimble for his size.  He’s been a standout for the Irish anchoring their three-man defensive front, and had he come out last year probably would have been a top 20 Draft selection.  He came back for his Senior season though, and with the added bulk he’s put on could be even harder to deal with in 2013.  So lets take a look at what makes Nix one of the Best of the Best.

Explosive

  • One of the things that instantly jumps out to you when watching Nix, is that for a 326 pound man (listed playing weight last year) he’s extremely explosive.  He bursts off the snap, at times making it impossible for the Center to block him.  I want to point out a few instances of this.                  Image
  • On this first play against Purdue we’ll see Nix fire off the ball so quickly that the Center isn’t even able to get a hand on him.                      Image
  • Even at his massive size, Nix is able to explode out of his stance so quickly that he’s able to actually run right by the Center barely touched.         Image
  • Nix makes the wrong read on the Quarterback keep, but the quickness with which he gets back to the mesh point is almost shocking for a player his size.  Image
  • Again we’ll see the same thing, except this time against much better opposition.Image
  • Once more it’s surprising how quickly Nix fires off the line.  Notice the lineman to his right with the yellow box hasn’t even gotten out of his stance fully, and Nix is already up field engaging the blocker.                     Image
  • Due to his quick reaction to the snap, Nix is able to easily dominate the Center and get into the backfield.                                       Image
  • He finishes the play by making the stop for no gain.

Strength

  • Nix is one of the strongest players in the country.  When he utilizes his strength correctly he’s able to overpower blockers, dictating where they go on the field.  It also allows him to anchor against the run, at times becoming an immovable object.                                                Image
  • Here we’ll see a powerful bull rush against Stanford, where Nix is able to collapse the pocket.                                                       Image
  • When Nix gets out of his stance he’s actually not looking to good.  He wasn’t as quick off the ball, and he’s not extending his arms to keep his blocker off his frame.  But it’s what he does next that’s so impressive.            Image
  • With pure strength he’s able to power straight through the Left Guard, and get a lane to the Quarterback.                                                           Image
  • Nix is able to run through the blocker completely and get to the Quarterback.  This forces the QB to throw the ball before he’s ready.  The result of the play is an interception for Notre Dame, caused by Nix’s pressure.          Image
  • Against Alabama we’ll see a similar result.  At the start of the play the blocker actually has good positioning.  He’s gotten into Nix’s frame which should impact Nix’s ability to make the play.                                     Image
  • But again we see Nix bull right through the blocker, and finish the play in the backfield.                                                                Image
  • Nix’s strength also shows up in his tremendous anchoring ability in the running game.  Here Nix gets a good burst off the snap and gets up field quickly.     Image
  • Nix’s strength causes problems for the blocker immediately who isn’t able to move him even an inch backwards.  In fact, Nix begins shoving him back into the Running Back who is taking the hand off.                      Image
  • Nix drives the lineman back, and is able to free one arm to get a hold of the ball carrier and slow him down.  This allows his teammates to get to the RB and clean up the play.

Athleticism

  • Nix isn’t just a strong mauler though.  He’s got a rare mix of athleticism that you don’t often find in the Nose Guard position.  Not only can he fire off the ball quicker then most, but he also has quick and nimble feet, good ability to react and knock down passes, and surprising sideline to sideline ability.     Image
  • On this play against Stanford we’ll see Nix show a good level of lateral agility and foot speed to slide to the right side of the offensive line and help make the stop on the goal line.                                                      Image
  • Nix does a good job sliding to avoid the cut block as the play begins, and has good recognition to see the run is designed to the right side of the field where the offense is lined up in a heavy formation.                    Image
  • Nix is able to slide across the goal line, demonstrating good foot speed to shuffle laterally.                                                     Image
  • Nix quickly gets across the line, then launches himself into the pile and at the ball carrier making sure that he can’t extend the ball across the pylon in overtime.  This was a critical play as it set up the final play where Running Back Stepfan Taylor was denied on the goal line again to seal the Irish’s victory, and keep their perfect season in tact.                                                                                                                   nix leap 1
  • Nix’s athleticism also shows when he utilizes it to leap up and bat a pass down.  He’s actually very good at timing, and reacting to the pass for a player his size.

Ability to Make Plays While Engaged

  • The last thing that really stands out to me about Nix, is his ability to make the play despite being engaged with a blocker.  He’s shown a knack for being able to use one arm to bring down a ball carrier, despite the blocker having his hands on him.                                                  one arm bama1 1
  • Against Alabama Nix was able to demonstrate this ability several times.  Notice how Nix is blocked out right now by one of the best Offensive Lineman in the nation, Barrett Jones.  Not only does Jones have a solid block on Nix, but he’s also in on his frame and has leverage.  Nix certainly doesn’t look like a player who’s about to make a play.                                                                                                                     one arm bama1 2
  • However Nix is able to somehow get his one arm free, and grab onto the Running Back Yeldon as he goes by.  Nix is an incredibly strong player, and is able to slow him down enough with his one arm to let his teammates clean up.                                         one arm purdue 1
  • And here’s the same kind of play vs Purdue.  Again, one arm enough to create the opportunity for teammates to clean up.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Nix improve in 2013.

Gets Turned Easily At Times 

  • At times Nix can get turned around fairly easily at the line.  When this happens it almost always takes him out of the play, and creates opportunities for the other team as Nix was the anchor of the Notre Dame Defense.                                                                           nix turned 1
  • Here we’ll see this happen against Oklahoma.  As the ball is snapped Nix tries to get inside the Guard, but turns his shoulders too much.        nix turned 2
  • As a result, the Guard is able to turn Nix’s body 180 degrees so that his back is to the ball carrier.  Not only does this make it impossible for Nix to get to the ball carrier, but it also makes him easy to deal with for the Guard.                                                                 nix turned 3
  • As a result Nix is a non factor in this play, getting pushed up the field with ease.

 Relies On Physical Ability Too Much At Times

  • This is nit picking, but at times Nix can be caught relying on his physical ability to make plays, and have lapses in technique.  Nix is pretty athletic for a player of his size, and he’s incredibly strong.  This leads to him being able to overpower or out hustle other players at times.   Nix appears to get comfortable at points in games, and when this happens he can have lapses in technique relying on physical skills to get the job done.  This can create problems with leverage, shedding blocks, finishing plays, as well as fighting through double teams.  While he makes the play many times due to raw ability, he will need to consistently utilize proper technique at all times to be the kind of impact player he has the chance to be.

Final Thoughts

Nix is the prototypical Nose Guard prospect in every way.  He’s a massive body in the middle, and when anchored properly can be a brick wall for the opposition.  He’s got great strength that he uses to regularly overpower blockers, but also a surprising level of athleticism.  He has a very explosive first step, at times getting into the backfield before the Offensive Line can react.  He’s got a good closing pursuit to the Quarterback and ball carriers.  He reacts to passes well, showing the ability to fill passing lanes, and deflect the ball at the line of scrimmage.  He also shows nimble feet that allow him to move around the line, and pursue ball carriers.

One of his greatest strengths, is the tendency he shows to make plays while engaged with blockers.  Even when he looks out of the play, he’s able to get one of his long arms out and slow down or drag ball carriers to the ground with ease.  He also shows good play recognition, finding the football fast and reacting.  He can get turned around at the line at times, and he also has lapses on his technique because he’s able to lean on his physical gifts and still be successful at the college level.  Going forward, he has a chance to be a very special foundation for an NFL teams Defensive front.  He reminds me a lot of a guy like Haloti Ngata.  Someone who has great strength and can be an anchor against the run, but also has the athleticism to play on the edge, and get to the passer at his size.  When you watch him play it’s easy to see why he’s one of the Best of the Best.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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