Cal Loses but Tyson Alualu Wins Respect and Recognition

Halfway through the third and with the fetid air of hopelessness washing over San Diego Bay, I decided it was time to finish this up. I understand NFL prospect Tyson Alualu. From elation to dejection to acceptance, Alualu proved his wares and limitations and, I think, his potential.

Alu was a centerpiece defender in the Golden Bears system. He played nearly every snap and was moved around regularly. Tyson played primarily at left and right defensive end, but saw time at left outside linebacker and two snaps at inside or middle linebacker. Curiously, he dropped into cover on both snaps. He looked capable, as capable as a defensive linemen dropping into cover can. What he should have done and where he should have played is at pass rushing defensive tackle. That's where he'll play on Sundays.

He can be very good. Alualu has something that's rare for the position: size, stoutness and agility. He has wide hips and good feet and fluidly moves left and right. That allows him to stay involved in plays snap to whistle. He's a defensive coordinators best friend. The type of player that improves the play of others around him by influencing blockers, shutting down passing lanes, forcing rushes wide and hustling down field on otherwise lost plays. Alualu also has one of the best pass rusher profiles of a great defensive tackle class.

Alualu can bend around a tackle and attack inside or out against a guard. His lower body bulk makes him seem sturdier than his weight would indicate. He also has good upper body explosive strength to separate and a decent if sometimes clumsy looking array of pass rush moves. Alualu relies on his club on most plays. He doesn't get lost in the blockers body but dictates position and action. Alu plays in the backfield. He also has a nice bull rush and given his overall strength profile, one I think he could improve on. He flashed a tight spin move in the second half that looked promising if unfinished. It surprised Zane Beadles, but Beadles took a step back and resumed blocking. That is, it didn't work, but it's within his repertoire.

Most of my concerns about his conditioning were absolved after the second half. After looking gassed through the Utes hurry up sequence, Tyson played every snap in the second half and provided strong effort throughout. Some of his slower launches might have been confusion; Alualu reading run and control on a play where he should be attacking. He's very aware, but not perfect, and playing end in a rather timid 3-4, was asked to do all without always having a clear idea of what to do. In a 4-3 system, he could refine his jump by simplifying. Sometime the best coaching is simply "attack!"

He lacks great straight line explosiveness and, of all things, might be a bit of a long strider. Funny as it sounds, where he looked slow sometimes between the tackles, on a wide receiver screen pass to David Reed, the Utes burner and supposedly a 4.5 forty guy, Alualu turned on the jets and kept pace with Reed for 25 yards. Only when his weight started to get in front of him did he stumble and fall back. Given his short lower body, I find it very strange to think he would be fast at distance but slow at accelerating. Maybe this is yet another product of playing end in a 3-4.

That's what makes Tyson Alualu so enticing. He's a lot better than most realize. Mismatched at end, he nevertheless excelled, but mismatched he was. When asked exclusively to pass rush, it was fireworks, and I think there's special potential within Alualu. He's stable, a father of two, but beastly on the football field. A real warrior to dabble in the vernacular. The kind of guy that could peak at 5+ sacks from the interior, that contributes doubly as a run destroyer, and that's downside is locked entirely within health. When you've played in 51 games, started 39 and started 38 straight, your health profile is as sterling as a prospect's can be. That means he's low downside, good upside and likely available deep into the second.

Tyson Alualu is a fantastic value in the third and every bit worth trading into the bottom half of the second for. He is not a centerpiece player in the pros, but a complementary player. Teamed with Mebane, he would create an ideal set of interior power/pass rushing tackles that could attack a gap, widen a lane for a blitz, collapse the interior,  maximize edge rush and hard scrabble a few sacks of his own. Unlike Mebane, he doesn't have the overall power profile to consistently stand up against double teams, but whereas Mebane is a hustle pass rusher that collapses into the quarterback, Alualu can negotiate a pile and drop a ball carrier in space. A certified defensive tackle, but with the length to play the five tech in situational 3-4 looks, Tyson Alualu is going to make the team that drafts him very happy for a very long time.

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