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. Our latest report features Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
The story of Sam Hubbard starts off at Archbishop Moeller where he played safety and—as you’ve probably heard once or twice—was a standout lacrosse player. But four years and 40 pounds later the redshirt junior is now considered a potential late first or early second round prospect as a defensive end.
Because of this athleticism and versatility, he will be asked to contribute as both a lineman and a linebacker in 2017, and will be a key cog in what should be another dominate defense for the Buckeyes.
Hubbard saw an increased role in the defense last year and took advantage of it with 47 tackles, 11 run stuffs, and the second most quarterback hits and hurries on the team with eight and 17, respectively. Arguably the most impressive stat of Hubbard’s 2016 campaign was his zero missed tackles.
In the next part of our summer scouting series we dissect Hubbard’s game and highlight a few of his strengths and some weaknesses he should try to improve upon.
Athleticism and Versatility
Hubbard clearly has NFL size, standing at 6’4” and weighing over 260 pounds—and is extremely athletic for his size able to hold par with even the most athletic ball carriers in college football. As an edge player, Hubbard found himself in plenty of one-on-one situations and continued to hold his own.
In both of these plays Hubbard finds himself on the edge of two of college football’s most dynamic athletes, Jabrill Peppers and Saquon Barkley. And not only does he keep up, but he forces a loss on both plays.
As was mentioned earlier, Hubbard came to Ohio State as a safety and has since been developed as a specialist on the edge. Because of this, he has plenty of experience at playing both as a stand up 3-4 OLB or as a 4-3 end with his hand in the dirt. With the way NFL defensive schemes have progressed, this versatility is very appealing to teams at the next level.
Against the Run
Hubbard’s main role for the Ohio State defense was to set the edge against the run and force the ball carrier back into the middle. Hubbard excelled in this role, demonstrating the ability to keep his outside shoulder free and pushing upfield to get the runner to turn up.
Not only is Hubbard good at setting the edge, but he also does a nice job at reading plays and staying home if the play is to the opposite side. Here, Hubbard reads Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, stacks the linemen, and makes an excellent play.
However, there are times were Hubbard can struggle to get off blocks, which is surprising given his excellent hand use. This next play was the play before the tackle on McSorley, Hubbard loses the battle for the edge which allows for a big run by Barkley.
Against the Pass
Sam Hubbard has proven to be a serviceable pass-rusher, capable of generating plenty of quarterback pressures (30 in 2016, including five sacks). Hubbard has been able to generate these pressures mainly due to his use of hands, an area in which he is more developed than most pass rushers at this stage.
In this video Hubbard’s hands are lighting quick—so fast so that the lineman has no chance to engage. He may not have finished the sack, but Hubbard’s pressure was the main reason the sack occurred.
This next video is just another example of how Hubbard uses his hands to keep the lineman from engaging and forces McSorley to scramble for his life.
Although his hand use is excellent, that is about all Hubbard can do. He will need to develop more moves if he wants to take the next step as a pass rush specialist.
Final Thoughts on Sam Hubbard
Sam Hubbard’s versatility, athleticism, and hand usage make him an exciting prospect. Those things are hard to teach and can make an edge player very appealing. However, there are plenty of things for Hubbard to work on if he is to become a first round draftee.
For one, Hubbard must develop more pass rush moves; simply boxing the lineman will not get the job done at the next level. Next, Hubbard will need to continue to build strength so he can improve against the run by not allowing offensive linemen to bully him or take him out of the play.
Given the interesting start to Hubbard’s career, scouts will be even more intrigued to see how he continues to develop in his third year on the field as a defensive end.