Cheat Sheet: Illinois-Nebraska
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Recruit Profile: Damion Daniels

February 01, 2017

Who Else Was Interested

Daniels finished his recruitment with an impressive 29 offers, including tenders from recruiting powerhouses such as LSU, Florida, Michigan, USC and Texas. Despite a surplus of competitors, Nebraska quickly emerged as one of the main schools for Daniels due to his connection with John Parrella. Daniels took an official visit to Nebraska for their season opener against Fresno State and was blown away, placing Nebraska firmly in the driver seat for his commitment. Despite late charges from Colorado and Texas – San Antonio, Nebraska was able to win out and reel in the talented nose guard prospect.

Eye Test

 Daniels measures in at 6-1 and 315 pounds and has the ideal frame for a nose guard, as he has a powerful base and barrel-chested upper body. The one noticeable issue with Daniel’s frame, his lack of ideal height, actually helps him tremendously, as it allows him to play with a low center of gravity and fantastic leverage. Daniels won’t grow much larger, as he is very well developed for a high school senior. When Daniels is finished filling out, I would expect him to measure in at 6-1 and 325 pounds, perfect for playing either a two-gap position in a 4-3 or a nose guard in a 3-4.

http://www.hudl.com/video/3/3917165/57e17f15688ec337d01f09c2

Strengths

His natural size/strength: You can’t teach size, and Daniels has it. Daniels brings a natural size that Nebraska hasn’t had at defensive tackle since Vincent Valentine declared for the NFL Draft. This size makes him a load in the middle of his defense, as he will be difficult to move off the line of scrimmage with just one blocker. Daniels complements his natural size with tremendous strength, making him a tremendous fit for the middle of the defensive line. Daniels has the size and strength to play immediately on Nebraska’s defensive line, a big help for a defensive line that needs to replace Kevin Maurice.

His leverage/quickness off the line of scrimmage: If Daniels rose up at the snap and played high, his natural size and strength would mean nothing. Luckily, Daniels does a tremendous job of exploding out of his stance low and staying low through initial contact with the opposing offensive linemen. Daniel’s leverage and quickness, combined with his strength, makes him a tough assignment for even the best offensive linemen.

His pass rush potential: Daniels is still raw as a pass rusher, but he has the tools to become a great pass rushing presence from the nose position over time. Daniels currently relies mainly on his bull rush and swim move, and both have proven to be effective at the high school level. Daniels will need to expand his pass-rush repertoire to continue to be effective in college, the bull rush won’t be able to cut it against big ten linemen, but he has the strength and quickness to become a very effective pocket pusher from his nose position.

His football IQ: Daniels is a smart kid with solid football pedigree, and it shows with his ability to recognize plays and get into the correct position. Daniels shows solid play recognition at the snap, as he rarely gets suckered into coming up field against trapping offensive linemen. Daniels also recognizes screens quickly, getting into position to get involved in the tackle instead of wasting his pass rush. Daniels football IQ will allow him to progress quickly in fall camp, making him a prime candidate to play as a true freshman.

Weaknesses

Staying low in his pass rush: During run plays, Daniels demonstrates tremendous pad level and leverage throughout the play, allowing him to consistently win at the line of scrimmage. On pass plays it is a different story, as Daniels has a tendency to raise up during his pass rush, especially when he attempts a swim move. This forces Daniels to play from a less powerful and less athletic position during his pass rush, making him a much easier blocking assignment. As a nose guard, Daniels will never be a guy to get 10 plis sacks a season, but he can become an effective pocket pusher if he plays lower. Daniels will likely improve on this skill once he goes through fall camp, as he will no longer be able to get away with his bad habits at the college level.

His hand placement/hand use in the run game:
Daniels plays with tremendous strength and leverage in the run game, which makes him a good run defender already. But if Daniels wants to become a great run-stopper, he will need to improve his hand placement/hand use. Daniels has a bad habit of missing with his first hand punch attempt, allowing opposing offensive linemen to get inside of his reach and into his chest. This forces Daniels to play from a less powerful position, leading to Daniels being a less effective presence against the run. Parrella proved that he could coach up defensive linemen last year (just look at Kevin Maurice’s improvement), so watch for Daniels to improve on this area quickly.

Keeping good weight on his frame: Daniels has a fantastic frame for a nose guard already, but with all defensive linemen, he needs to make sure he keeps good weight on his frame in the future. If Daniels stays diligent in the weight room and the training table, this should be no problem, but with all young kids it is something worth monitoring going forward.

Conclusion

This was a huge win for Parrella, both figuratively and literally. Parrella was one of the first coaches to go all-in for Daniels, and his early work paid off for the talented tackle. Daniels is a player that could have gone anywhere he wanted, and that’s a caliber of player that Nebraska has struggled to land in recent recruiting classes. This gives Parrella a tremendous four-man defensive line class, a tremendous effort for his first recruiting class as a Nebraska coach. Watch for Daniels to play as a true freshman in 2017, as his size and strength make him a solid fit for Nebraska’s goal line defense packages, Also, he is a fantastic fit at nose guard for a 3-4 defense.

College Comparison: Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson

Pro Comparison: San Diego Chargers nose guard Brandon Mebane

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