Leading up to the 2017 college football season, the CFB Film Room Scouting Dept. is putting together a summer scouting series. We’re focusing on the top draft-eligible prospects entering the 2017 season and will be reviewing their strengths and weaknesses from an NFL scouting perspective.
Among the defensive line standouts heading into the 2017 season is Michigan’s Maurice Hurst Jr. The redshirt-senior has played in 33 games thus far in his career, with only 4 starts, but his production on the field and tangible traits make him a big-time prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.
As he enters his final season in Ann Arbor, Hurst will take on a larger role along the defensive line for the Wolverines that saw significant turnover to the NFL. Maurice will look to improve upon his 2016 campaign where he compiled 31 tackles, including 10 stuffs and five sacks.
Below, we take a closer look into the traits that make Maurice Hurst Jr. such an effective defender.
Arguably the quickest interior lineman in the college ranks, Maurice Hurst Jr. has rare explosiveness off the ball. His quick first step creates immediate strain on opposing offensive linemen where he is able to generate pressure while using low pad level with an impressive ability to maintain speed while shrinking his profile through the gap.
Perhaps the most impressive byproduct of an explosive pass rusher is Hurst’s discipline to avoid jumping off-sides, further proving he is quick off the snap and not just guessing the snap-count.
The primary key for any successful defense is to stop the run. To that effect, the Michigan defense finished the 2016 season with a top-15 rushing defense, surrendering only 3.2 yards per attempt.
Hurst’s ability to diagnose the run and shed blocks was an important part of that success. Maurice displays the ability to extend his arms to create space while using his hands to disengage or knock the blocker off balance, creating the ability to leverage multiple gaps if asked. Hurst used this skill set to make an impressive 48.4 percent of his tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2016.
When facing double teams, Hurst shows good competitive toughness and functional strength as he displays the ability to maintain ground, allowing the linebackers behind to remain clean and make a play.
Hurst uses elite explosiveness and good pad level to stress the gaps and create pressure on the quarterback. The Michigan senior was responsible for 14 quarterback hurries in 2016, tied for most on the team, despite only playing roughly 30 snaps per game.
He utilizes speed, quickness and an effective bull rush versus the pass, but will need to improve upon his pass rush repertoire to win consistently at the next level. As you will see in the clips below, Hurst does a nice job of maintaining awareness, making a number of plays by quickly diagnosing the play and changing course.
An undervalued aspect of Hurst’s game is his ability to mental process the play as it unfolds, showing a good ability to read and react. Maurice takes that a step further as he consistently displays good effort in pursuit, whether it be staying with a play as a backside defender or chasing a play downfield. It remains to be seen if an increase in snaps will effect his effort level, but based upon his 2016 film he shows no signs of taking plays off, something NFL decision makers will appreciate.
Overall, Maurice Hurst Jr. is a terrific prospect who is making a case for being the top defensive tackle off the board in next year’s NFL Draft. The three-time Academic All-Big 10 honoree possesses the quickness and agility, as well as a polished technical use of his hands that will translate well at the next level.
He will likely face an unfair narrative that he lacks the prototypical size of an NFL caliber 3-technique despite his overall skill set resembling Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams. Hurst may not run a 4.68 40 yard dash like Donald, or have the length to be considered for 3-4 defensive end, but he will be a steady contributor within the interior of a 4-3 defensive scheme.