I’m running through a long list of names I’ve compiled over the summer. One player I particularly wanted to watch was Northern Iowa’s left tackle Trevor Penning.
He was highlighted by the Senior Bowl staff and this week I decided to watch some of his stuff rather than sift through the Clemson/Georgia or Alabama/Miami games again.
Penning is without doubt a name to monitor this year, all the way through to Mobile in January. It’s possible he could work into the first round conversation.
I’ve seen him listed at 6-7 and 320lbs and he certainly looks the part, with the apparent length to match.
So what does he do well?
What really stands out is the way he gets off the ball and plays with violence when engaging defenders. He doesn’t sit and wait for the block to come to him. This aggression might need to be tempered against the best speed rushers at the next level but it’s enjoyable to see a player just get after it the way he does.
Once he connects he doesn’t mess around. His initial contact is often a jolting punch that shifts a lineman off the spot and he’ll frequently knock someone out of contain in the running game. He’s a people mover. Penning appears to have extreme upper body power and the attitude to take advantage of that.
For a man his size playing at this level, he’s surprisingly mobile. He was asked to pull and connect on the run. He’s shown he can do that and had no problem locking on to targets in space. There’s clear evidence of him progressing to the second level and looking for someone to hit.
On one snap he even went as far as to run downfield and find an unsuspecting safety to dump on his backside. It was totally unnecessary and frankly, totally brilliant too.
He’s a finisher. In fact he’s one of the best finishers at tackle I’ve seen in a long time. When he connects there’s very little hand-fighting and calling it a day. Penning wants to drive you into the turf.
I’d love to know if he’s done any martial arts because the way he so often engages a block and then tosses opponents with a flick of the hips is extremely impressive.
His kick-slide is not the most fluid but then I struggled to find example where he’s flat-out beaten by speed. There were times where I thought he was a bit slow out of the traps but then he simply tracked the rush, engaged contact and finished. He handled the spin-moves well.
At times he’s maybe a little upright. There was one occasion where a defender got into his chest with a straight-arm and the initial contact knocked him off balance. However, he simply regained his footing and slapped the arm away, before ripping the pass rusher to the turf.
His ability to go really early is going to depend on how he tests athletically. Yet watching the way he takes on linebackers who come up to the LOS — just treating them with utter disdain — I would want this guy on my team. On a couple of occasions I saw a linebacker actively turn away from contact to protect himself as Penning was approaching. I’ve not seen that before.
Northern Iowa has developed a reputation for building strong, big offensive linemen from smaller athletes. Penning has set school weightlifting records. He’s listed on Bruce Feldman’s ‘freak list’ this year, with a reported 83.5 inch wingspan. He also broke the school’s squat record with two reps at 625lbs this year.
He can also do this:
Whether he plays left or right tackle or kicks inside — this is the type of player who will help you establish authority at the LOS. It’s all going to be on testing to determine whether his eventual future is in the first frame or whether he’s available later on.
Sometimes you watch a player and simply get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction seeing how good they are. Penning is the first example of that for me in 2021.
He’s one to track but it’s possible he’ll be long gone by the time the Seahawks pick next year.
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