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January 9, 2013
Grading four Cal targets at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl
After reviewing every snap the California commits played during the Semper FI All-American Bowl, we gave the same treatment to four of the main Cal targets that participated in the game: DE Austin Hooper, OL Brayden Kearsley (a BYU commit), OL Aaron Cochran, and CB L.J. Moore. Oh, and we have footage of the entire game:
Hooper was physical and relentless in the pass rush, and his effort was rewarded with 1.5 sacks and several QB hurries. At the end of the first quarter, Hooper beat LT and Michigan commit Mike McGlinchey to the corner and fought through a facemask to get around McGlinchey and bring down the quarterback, who had stepped up into the collapsing pocket. In the third quarter, Hooper beat McGlinchey in a speed rush again for a big sack. Aside from one instance where McGlinchey stoned Hooper at the line of scrimmage, Hooper beat him like a rented mule when the two faced off; bullrushing him back into the pocket and rag-dolling him to the ground on one occasion. I was very impressed with Hooper, who is long and lanky but far stronger than I thought. He gets off the ball well and is physical with his hands when he engages, with enough leg drive to put big offensive linemen on their heels. He can bull rush, but I also saw Hooper utilize an inside spin move a couple times. He plays with his head up and held contain in run defense on all but one occasion, when he was fooled by a misdirection run. He recovered and showed enough speed to chase down the ball carrier and almost make the tackle. Hooper had a great game.
Kearsley played right guard for the West, and did well there. He's tenacious in his blocks, keeping his hands active and playing all the way to the whistle (and a little beyond sometimes... which is awesome). One particular play that illustrated this happened in the first quarter, when East DT Justin Moody got outside of Kearsley and was about to get loose in the pocket. Kearsley kept his feet moving and his hands on Moody, and managed to recover enough to push Moody right out of the pocket. Thanks to a strong upper body and hands, Kearsley has a tendency to let the pass rusher come at him and then catch them at times, rather than firing out and engaging off the snap. He can mostly get away with it at the high school level, but will need to be more assertive in college against stronger defensive linemen. This, coupled with the fact that he plays a little high, was illustrated in the third quarter when an East DT with a lower center of gravity, Darius Paige, bullrushed Kearsley all the way into the backfield. I saw it again when an East outside linebacker came hard and low and got under Kearsley's pads, knocking him back and almost into the running back. This can be easily remedied with additional strength and coaching. Kearsley has good feet and moves pretty well, as we saw on a few throwback screen attempts. He's quick to the second level too. Kearsley carries his weight well and looks capable of playing either guard or tackle in college at 6'5" and 295 pounds. I see him as a nice fit in Franklin's offense if Cal finds a way to flip him.
The most easily spotted guy on the field, Cochran had a very up and down day. On his first snap of the game, Cochran was beaten by East DE and Wisconsin commit Alec James on a speed rush. The result of the play was a sack, though it wasn't James that got it. Interestingly enough, East DE Shaun McGee tried a speed rush to the outside against Cochran on the very next snap and Aaron was able to shove McGee to the ground and neutralize him. McGee did run right around Cochran later in the game though. For the most part, it was clear that Cochran struggled a lot with smaller, quicker defensive ends that were capable of running around him without ever engaging... which was really every defensive end the East squad had. If Aaron didn't get his hands on them, his feet weren't quick enough for him to recover. They were faster off the ball and he struggled to get out of his stance and engage them. When he did manage to get those big meaty hooks into a defender though, it was over. It was almost comical how he could just completely stop the momentum of a defender once he got his hands on them. Aaron looked a lot better in run blocking, as he moves pretty well in space for such a large human being and got to the second level and flats quickly on a few run calls. While he sometimes looked confused in pass protection, he fired out of his stance with a clear mission when run-blocking. With his incredible size and length, Aaron reaches too much with his arms and finds himself off-balance too frequently. If he plays with more bend in his knees and keeps his feet underneath him, he'll be able to fully utilize the physical advantages he has. The ceiling is high, but he's not there just yet.
Moore saw very little action from his cornerback spot, as his man was targeted just twice the entire game. The first came on the East's first offensive snap, with Oklahoma commit Jordan Smallwood hauling in a deep post over Moore. Moore was right in Smallwood's pocket and made a play for the ball, but Smallwood came down with it. The coverage was good and Moore never allowed Smallwood to get separation on the route, but it was a good throw and a great catch. The West corners were playing about 8 yards off the line of scrimmage almost all game, and that huge cushion allowed Moore's man to get open on a short out in the fourth quarter, but the ball was dropped. Those were the two lone occasions where Moore was challenged. The East offense was pretty ineffective for most of the game due to a relentless West pass rush. Moore looked long and quick when on the move, but there wasn't a ton to take from his game with such a limited sample size.