The Midwestern Trenches
The second installment of our 2012 evaluations target two linemen from the Midwest. One, Nick Davidson, is a Minnesota transplant from the south who made a recent pre-Christmas verbal commitment to Stanford. The other is Nathaniel Lohn, a strong and stout defensive end from Missouri who at this time is still weighing his options. One uses brute strength and straight-ahead speed to overwhelm opponents regardless of their size, while the other erases opponents with his outstanding athleticism and very polished technique.
Nick Davidson, OT 6'6" 280 lbs (Eden Prairie High School, Eden Prairie, MN)
Rivals Ratings – 4*, 5.8/6.1, #38 OT, No National Ranking, #2 Prospect in Minnesota
Scout Ratings – 4*, #28 OT
ESPN Ratings – 4*, 79/100, #41 OT, #29 Regional Prospect, #3 Prospect in Minnesota
There isn't much publicly available video on Davidson, which is surprising for a prospect who is rated as highly as he is. From the small amount of video that I have seen, he looks like he deserves his strong rating. Given that there were a few plays in which he could've done a better job shuffling to regain position on a defender, I would be able to understand a somewhat lower ranking but only if many more of those types of plays were evident. Overall, Davidson's ratings and rankings look to be pretty consistent and accurate.
Nick Davidson has all of the desirable attributes of a "legacy" player - technique, athleticism and discipline. First, he has good technique, especially for a high school player. The first steps out of his stance in pass protection always have him in the right position with respect to pass rushers. He also shows very good athleticism which allows him to gain leverage on smaller, stouter defenders and drive them out of run plays. He has proper body position when engaging his opponent on every single play in his video, which is an example of his discipline. The video does consist only of highlights, of course, but there is little reason to believe that that part of Davidson's technique changes much, even on his non-highlight plays. That aspect of his game is even more impressive when his height comes into consideration. With a height listed as tall as 6'7", it is extremely difficult to maintain the knee bend, strength and balance to consistently have a lower pad level than shorter opponents. Davidson appears to handle that challenge extremely well in his video.
His foot work is very good in most areas, but may need a little work in one other area of his current game. In pass protection, after the initial contact, he also does a great job of re-setting his feet to stop the pass rusher's momentum. What he will need to work on is keeping his weight low and balanced to be able to rebound and reset against re-directing speedy rushers when he is not engaged. We know Nick Davidson has all of the pure football aspects of the game. He can take his game to the next level by using more basketball-like skills that will allow him to recover much easier against smaller, speedier pass rushers.
In the wake of his recent commitment, Davidson looks to be an offensive tackle at Stanford. His style of play, body type and skill set are much more of a fit on the outside than on the inside. I would not be surprised to see him get his feet wet on the interior in jumbo packages, however. Due to his father being a professional football coach and former player, we can expect Davidson to see playing time in his second year after he fills out. The learning curve will be much less steep for Davidson than for most other four-star offensive linemen.
Nathaniel Lohn, DE 6'3" 265 lbs (Staley High School, Kansas City, MO)
Rivals Ratings – 3*, 5.6/6.1, #44 DE, No National Ranking, #10 Prospect in Missouri
Scout Ratings – 3*, #73 DE
ESPN Ratings – 3*, 78/100, #53 DE, #96 Regional Prospect, #8 Prospect in Missouri
Rating the Ratings
In general Lohn's ratings look pretty consistent and accurate, as he fits the mold of a solid three-star prospect. The Rivals numerical rating does look somewhat low – he looks like he could be in the 5.7 range given his speed and strength – but that is just nitpicking.
Lohn is a high-energy player – he has a terrific motor. He looks to be very stout and tough to move. His compact size and strength may make him a better fit as a 3-technique, even if his weight suggests otherwise. He demonstrates his strength when he fends off blockers or carries them to the ball carrier, but he will need to learn how to disengage more quickly on the college level. The video doesn't show much with regard to pass-rush moves, but Lohn is very quick off of the ball – so quick that many of his opponents are beat at the snap of the ball. Agility and flexibility will need to be a point of emphasis for Lohn as they will be more tools with which to disengage from blockers, aside from his strength. Any type of shoulder-turn move such as technically sound "swim" move combined with his strength would take Lohn's game up a few notches.
If Lohn ends up on The Farm, he will likely be a more run-defense-oriented defensive end. He will not likely be able to gain enough size to play the nose in our 3-4 defense, so he will end up on the perimeter. Thus, in order to gain consistent playing time at that position, he will need to develop his pass-rush technique. Against the run, his strength and body type will give offensive linemen fits when they try to move him. Consequently, Lohn's earliest work on the defensive line will likely come in short-yardage situations. It will probably take him a couple of seasons to complete his game, so he may not be a complete full-time player until his redshirt sophomore or redshirt junior year. That notwithstanding, he has the motor and aggressiveness to be a terrific special teamer, and he may be able to use any special teams exploits to gain regular playing time by the end of his redshirt freshman year.
Do you have a "premium" subscription to The Bootleg? If not, then you are seriously missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest, broadest, and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!