You hear a lot about Ronnie Stanley, Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin and a few others.
Not enough people are talking about Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman.
That’s a surprise given his amazing backstory (Coleman beat cancer before winning a starting job with Auburn). He’s certainly making up for lost time in 2015. For me there’s no doubt Coleman warrants a high first round grade and he might even be the best offensive tackle in college football.
He has everything you want in a NFL starting OT. He’s too powerful for college defensive linemen — when he locks on it’s over. He doesn’t get beat with the bull rush. He drives people off the ball in short yardage situations. He has that nasty element to his game you want to see — and he LOVES to get to the second level. He can kick-slide with fluidity, takes good angles and he isn’t troubled by speed off the edge. He has a very natural shuffle and mirror and he maintains balance at all times.
I’ve watched several Auburn games this season and I’m struggling to find many flaws.
He’s a monster.
Last night against Kentucky it was more of the same and another masterclass. He played both left and right tackle (and showed no trouble transitioning between the two). For the first two drives he began protecting the blindside and moved to the right side in the red zone. On both occasions Auburn ran to the right and scored touchdowns. On one red zone block he drove a defender deep into the end zone and stuck him on his backside (and let him know about it too).
With 8:39 remaining in the first quarter Kentucky’s #91 shapes to stunt inside from the edge but goes on the outside. Coleman’s kick slide at left tackle is excellent, judging the angle perfectly. If #91 went inside Coleman was just going to stand up and shut him down. He goes on the outside and Coleman doesn’t break sweat with the counter. He engages at pad level and it’s over. He stones #91 dead and finishes the block. He’s just too powerful — #91 can’t get away. He can’t even get his hands up to offer a counter. It’s an absolute pasting as a 1v1 match-up. Auburn’s freshman quarterback has all the time in the world to stand in the pocket and throw downfield for a 41-yard gain.
With 3:21 left in the second half Coleman is lined up at right tackle. From the snap he darts to the second level and connects with the middle linebacker, creating a canyon sized hole for the running back to convert a 2nd and 4 into a first down. On the same drive with 3:05 left in the half, Coleman again explodes to the second level and hammers the middle linebacker, driving him backwards ten yards. The rest of the O-line gets minimal push and it’s a short 2-3 yard gain for the running back. It was funny to see one white Auburn jersey so far downfield, having destroying the linebacker.
His overall technique has improved every single week. He’s delivering a powerful jolt to the chest on most blocks, keeping the defender in front. The footwork is masterful — he’s the prototypical dancing bear. There’s plenty of attitude to his play — he chirps at defenders after successful plays. Coleman frequently puts a guy on the deck, finishing the block.
I’m convinced he can play anywhere on the line. He might start at right tackle and move to the left. He’d be a superb guard. Shon Coleman could be the best 2016 eligible player nobody talks about. He could be the best O-liner in next years class. Coleman is the real deal — and has to be on the radar for any Seahawks fan interested in the draft. They’ll be lucky if they have a chance to select this guy.
Tomorrow’s game to watch
The game of the day for me is Ole Miss at Memphis. This is a major opportunity for Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch to show he’s the best in the 2016 eligible class — superior to Jared Goff and co.
Lynch has really impressed so far this season. He’s yet to throw a touchdown (he’s had a couple of close calls) and he’s been generally very accurate. He has the kind of arm you’d expect for a 6-5, 235lbs quarterback but he also throws with nice touch and varies his throwing speed. Most impressive is his mobility — he runs the read option with relative ease and is a threat in the running game.
Teams will look at the quarterback class overall and pick holes with every prospect on the board. There’s no Marcus Mariota here, or even a Jameis Winston (sound tape but with character flaws). Every prospect is a project or just average.
Lynch has a skill-set, however, that a team can work with. He can be the big pocket passer but he’s not a statue. He can be elusive, he can run the read-option. It’s not unfair to suggest he could be a poor man’s Cam Newton.
Like Shon Coleman he’s not generating much publicity — but a big performance against a team filled with future NFL players will change that. The only chance Memphis has in this game is if Lynch keeps them in it. Memphis are unbeaten but their defense has conceded a lot of points. Their quarterback has simply scored more.
Ole Miss are a threat to put +40 on the board with Laquon Treadwell back to full speed and a supporting cast good enough to make up for an average quarterback. Lynch will have to be at his best to put pressure on the Rebels and keep this from getting out of hand. He’s good enough to do it, even while facing the likes of Robert Nkemdiche.
He doesn’t have to win the game to make a statement. He just needs to play well. Continue to make big plays, continue to throw accurate passes and try to avoid turnovers. If he makes this a game it’ll go a long way to cementing his place as the top QB for 2016. Don’t be surprised if he’s the toast of social media on Saturday afternoon.
Why not also watch LSU vs Florida? Compare cornerback Tre’Davious White to Vernon Hargreaves. One will be a top-15 pick (White). One will not go in the first round (Hargreaves). My prediction.