Even in an all-star game setting, Texas commit Hassan Ridgeway was one of the most physically impressive prospects (Photo by Wescott Eberts).
Name: Hassan Ridgeway
High School: Mansfield High School, Mansfield (TX)
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
Texas (Committed 2/16/2011)
An offer that was met with some skepticism at the time, Ridgeway looked athletic but not particularly dominant as a defensive end. Many fans chalked the offer up to minimal defensive end depth and struggles in the recruitments of the more heralded Mario Edwards and Devonte Fields (myself included). And then his senior film was released. Whatever looming questions may have been there before quickly vanished and Texas fans were instead left to conjecture just how high Ridgeway's stock would go up by the final rankings. This one turned out to be one hell of an evaluation from the staff, so mad kudos to them for getting on Hassan early and minimizing whatever doubts possibly crept into his mind about taking further visits (there was some talk he was intrigued by A&M for a while, and would check College Station out).
Hassan Ridgeway (senior highlights) (via 247SportsStudio)
- Bull rush: Hassan has serious beast strength for his age, which allows him to blow opposing tackles back at the quarterback while he's trying to take his drop, or merely toss them out of the way en route to the ball carrier. Once he locks his long arms onto you and gets his feet going, it's basically over. Very Alex Okafor-ish.
- Frame: The dude was simply made to play football. He has an Adonis-like build that should be able to carry as much weight as the coaches could conceivably want to put on a defensive end. He's already big, but I expect him to pretty easily put on enough weight to be able to swing inside and play defensive tackle on passing downs. Some sites are saying he's a future DT full time, but I think he'll make his money on the edge.
- Football IQ: Ridge seems to be a very smart football player on film. He takes great pursuit angles, never seems to overrun the play, and looks good in the zone read game—a common weakness exposed in young defensive ends and a primary point where he'll be tested in a spread-happy conference like the Big 12.
- Athleticism: Just a joy to watch in the open field. That may seem like a funny comment to make about a defensive lineman, but the kid can really run in space, changes directions rather seamlessly, and just explodes into ball carriers in the backfield.
- Holding the edge: Obviously if I think he has the potential to sometimes spin down to DT, it's assumed he's pretty good in the running game. Long arms, brute strength, and patience are all prerequisites for not getting blown off the ball while not necessarily trying to beat your opponent at the LOS. Hassan has all three.
- First step: I don't think anybody would ever qualify Ridgeway as a speed rusher or a weakside defensive end. That's just a waste of his skill set and not where he excels. Like with Mario Edwards, it's hard to ascertain how often a player is asked to hold his ground and contain the QB, and how often he just isn't that quick off the ball. I tend to think that if a player has a decent first step, their coach is going to showcase it. Ridgeway is more fast (at least for a DE) than quick, and this is an area where he could become more consistent.
- Pass-rushing diversity: Right now, like many high school linemen, Ridgeway has the bull rush and not much else in his repertoire. He did show a profound ability to "get skinny" and split a double team with ease in the Army All-America Bowl, however.
Hassan's athletic ability and speed, combined with his natural strength and frame, are what make him, in my opinion, a special talent. This is the kind of guy that the SEC dominates college football with. Bigger than you. More athletic than you. Plays like he hates your guts. Texas has been missing these kinds of BAMF's under Mack Brown, but we seem committed to SEC-style defense now and Ridgeway provides just that with run-stuffing ability and versatility in droves. Manny Diaz wants to "stop the run" first and "hit the quarterback" second. That's Ridge in a nutshell and Diaz will have some serious fun tinkering with his natural abilities.
BFLT and I have been discussing UT potentially moving to this new style of DL that are athletic and big enough to both pass-rush and stop the run—basically four hybrid lineman that can seamlessly line up on each spot on the line. Think Marcell Dareus or South Carolina's Melvin Ingram. The other three on that line were supposed to be Arik Armstead, Javonte Magee, and Mario Edwards, but 1/4 ain't bad, I guess.