Let’s finish-up on the skills, abilities, and techniques that NFL scouts tend to look for when they’re scouting centers.
Again, the list of skills and abilities that we’re going to look at will come from some extremely credible sources; a 3-time Super Bowl Champion head coach, a gentleman with nearly 30 years of scouting experience at the NFL level, and a man with 17 years experience coaching at a major D1 program.
Of course, I’m speaking of the late-great Bill Walsh, Greg Gabriel from the National Football Post, and Bill Conley, from Scouts Inc. If you want to personally check out their articles on the topic, check out Bill Walsh’s How I Evaluate Each Position: Center and Gabriel’s Scouting the Offensive Line from the National Football Post, and an article from Espn.com by Bill Conley entitled Mobility a hallmark of top 2009 interior offensive linemen, which touches on the main traits Bill looks for in offensive linemen.
Leader. The center is basically the quarterback of the offensive line. ‘Nuff said, right?
Intelligence. I looked up the Wonderlic on Wikipedia, and I found out that centers have the second-highest average Wonderlic score (25) of all positions.
Gabriel on the importance of center’s being smart:
The one common trait, no matter what the offensive line position, is intelligence. As a whole, offensive linemen are very level-headed guys, and may have dominant personalities.
Explosion. In his article, Bill Conley breaks the analysis of a center’s explosion down to two simple questions:
Do they (the center) finish their blocks? Do they play low and show some pop at the point of attack?
Pass-blocking technique. When analyzing pass-blocking technique, Bill Conley says that he pays attention to how quickly a center gets into their pass blocking setup after the ball is snapped, along with their footwork and ability to adjust and mirror the pass-rusher.
Instincts. In the NFL, you don’t have time to think and be a robot. Blitzes and d-line stunts happen way too fast to think. You’ll find that the best centers can apply
the right techniques and make the right decisions seemingly on-the-fly.
Greg Gabriel on the importance of instincts, intelligence, and leadership at the center position:
The center in many cases is the leader of the offensive line group. He is the guy who makes the line calls, so he has to be intelligent and instinctive. He has to be very aware in pass protection because he is called upon to help both guards and needs to be able to read stunts and blitzes.
Balance. Gabriel’s take on the importance of balance:
Balance is extremely important. You can’t play the game on the ground. When I am scouting an offensive lineman that is one of the first things I look for. If he is on the ground a lot I refer to him as a “ground hog” and really lower his grade.
Ability to Sustain. Scouts pay close attention to center’s ability to show athleticism and the strength to maintain contact and finish blocks all the way into the second level.
I’ve heard some coaches say that offensive linemen should try to hold their blocks for at least six seconds.
Hands. Scouts want to see quick, violent hands that are consistently placed inside the hands of the d-lineman.
When it comes to battles at the line of scrimmage, the first player to get his hands on the other usually gains a big advantage, so quick hands are critical for centers.
Quickness. Bill Conley on the three questions he asks when analyzing a center’s quickness:
Are they quick when coming off the ball? Do they have good footwork? Are they faster than the defensive line?
Observing the Skills In-Action
This film is in another language (I think it’s Spanish), so if you find it annoying, you may want to turn the volume down. David Baas has the kind of quickness you want to see in an NFL center. At the 2:46 mark, check out how quick the guy moves for a guy his size as he executes his run block.
That same play shows his ability to sustain blocks. . In this play, David’s stance, positioning, and ability to fire off the ball helps him sustain his block long enough for the running back to get to the second level.
I’m sure you remember Greg Gabriel speaking on the importance of the center being smart. David Baas scored a 37 on the Wonderlic coming out of college, which is twelve points better than the average for centers, who already score the second highest on the test of all positions on the field.
Baas is pretty good with his hands. It’s kinda hard to see in the video unless you focus, but Baas does a decent job punching with his hands at the snap of the ball to develop some momentum in his run blocking. He does a pretty good job of locking out his arms with his punches in pass protection as well.
He displays above average balance too. He’s definitely not a “ground hog” as Greg Gabriel calls o-linemen that are on the ground too much. Out of all the plays on the film, he’s on the ground only three or four times.
He’s known as being an instinctive player that plays with good reactions and awareness.
Pass plays like the one at the 2:08 mark show his solid pass-blocking technique. Check out how fast he gets-into his pass blocking stance after snapping the ball. He mirrors the d-tackle well, and maintains pretty good form, keeping his back flat, and his knees bent.
His footwork is pretty decent as well. He doesn’t take big steps; his steps are short and choppy as they should be.
David’s pretty explosive as well. Running plays like the one at the 3:17 mark show the “pop” on contact that Coach Conley mentions in his article.
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