The Tape: The Hulking Black Duke, Pt. 1

The Sooners play at breakneck speed, and despite little success and the kind of disorder that screams Bob Stoops in a bowl game, Oklahoma had 16 offensive snaps in the first quarter. Ok, that's not that much. But Oklahoma did run more plays in fourteen games, 1,106, than the NFL leading New England Patriots did in 16 games, 1,095. Why is that significant? Because Duke Robinson is a gigantic offensive lineman knocked for his stamina, speed off the snap and mental lapses. I think those concerns are misguided.

This was Robinson's bad quarter. The quarter that knocked him down a round or three in your favorite mock draft. Robinson was penalized twice for a combined 25 yards. He's a holding machine. Robinson tries to be slick about it, but he has fistfuls of jersey almost every play. That's a red flag for me, because should pro officials be less lenient, Robinson could have to start over with his hand technique.

Eventually, that chicken came home to roost. Lawrence Marsh got up and under Robinson's pads, standing him upright and turning Robinson sideways. He then began moving around Robinson's left shoulder towards Sam Bradford. Robinson did the natural thing, got his hands under Marsh's pads and pushed him to ground as Marsh attempted to get free to the quarterback. I'm a bit ambivalent about this play. The hold was not egregious and ultimately Robinson pushed Marsh to the ground, not pulled or tossed. Nevertheless his hands were clenched around Marsh's jersey and the flag legitimate. But the flag isn't thrown if Marsh and Robinson stay perpendicular to the sideline. Once the two became parallel to the sideline, and their matchup splayed for the official, the flag was academic. If I may say so, Robinson has excellent "hold" technique. It would seem he has had plenty of practice.

Excepting that play, the one constant of Robinson's play is he's never overmatched. He toys with defensive linemen like a cat juggling a mouse. His push is repulsive. His drive block filthy. And when he angles someone it's Marcus Stroud executing one-armed Rob Sims. It's a burial without last rights.

It's hard to see how he works in the second level. It's a conundrum. He's very quick to the second level, and he's not (ever) a hat on man blocker - it's gravedigger or nothing - but I never actually saw him move laterally. That's something I'm paying special attention to. I wouldn't say it's the end-all-be-all of zone blocking, but you don't want a zone blocker that can't move laterally.

There's tedium to scouting an offensive lineman play by play. Most plays, it's sufficient to say "good push" or "pass block, kept defender at bay". So here's a few more global impressions after the first sixteen play.

Robinson ran someone into the pile well after the play had ended and was charged with a personal foul. I'm not sure how a four year starter still makes such boneheaded mistakes.

Two men penetrated past Robinson. One stunting around his left shoulder untouched by Phil Loadholdt (blown block on Loadholdt) and another where it's not entirely clear who messes up, but Robinson is caught looking left on a defensive linemen shooting the "1" off his right shoulder.

Two Sooner plays looked outright broken: Bradford naked bootlegged into a blitz, his only receiver well covered. The Sooner line allowing defenders through on what looks like a middle screen missing a target. Under heavy pressure, Bradford found his outlet, Ryan Broyles, for four on a third and fifteen.

It's hard not to love Robinson's potential, but something says he's just not safe enough for Ruskell. More to come.

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