In many areas of the country there is great pride in your community. People like to cheer for “one of their own” so when Jedrick Wills was rated the top college football recruit in the state of Kentucky many (including Jedrick) thought he was going to be a University of Kentucky Wildcat. He thought he was going to be a basketball player before that. Wills was a star in the sport at Lafayette High School in Lexington.
“I always was a basketball player,” said Wills. “I thought I could be a point guard one day. But everybody was telling me how good I was (at football).”
In his sophomore year he broke a bone in his foot, so he made the choice to concentrate on football rather than basketball. Two years later Wills was the number one player in Kentucky and a top 40 recruit nationwide in 247Sports’ composite rating.
Back in 2014 when Wills was a freshman football player he had the opportunity to meet the number one rated high school player in the state of Kentucky, Damien Harris, who was from Berea. Harris had scholarship offers from 29 major universities including UK, but he had committed to the University of Michigan to play football. Harris would eventually flip his commitment to the University of Alabama to play for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
The desire to stay home for Wills was strong. The community wanted him to stay in state as well. He went on eight recruiting visits to the University of Kentucky, a school that was only 5 minutes from his high school.
“Being from Kentucky, there’s not really too many people who go outside the state and go to real big schools, seeing Damien (Harris) had that opportunity kind of opened up my eyes. I could see I had the chance to do the same thing” Wills said.
Still the lure of playing close to home was tugging on Wills’ heartstrings. “It was real close,” he said. “I took an official visit right before signing day that weekend. It kind of got me thinking about it a little bit more, but I felt like this place was better for me. … Just the opportunity I had to play, and I knew it was going to be one of the best teams in the country, just like always.”
One week and four days after he committed to Alabama, Harris hosted Wills on an official visit to Tuscaloosa. He watched as the #1 team in the nation (Alabama) put a ribbon on its season with a win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Wills was part of the 2017 recruiting class. Unlike most incoming freshman at Alabama, he had a chance to compete right away for a starting spot on the offensive line. “I came in hoping I’d have the possibility to earn a starting job,” he said. “I didn’t quite make it, but I’m still playing a whole lot. I still get a whole lot of reps and everything. It’s all good.”
As a sophomore Wills actually played some guard in the spring, but when the 2017 starter at right tackle Matt Womack broke a bone in his foot not once but twice during the offseason the the door swung wide open to allow Wills a starting gig.
His first year he had to settle in to his new role. “When you first step on the field, after that first play the jitters go away, and after that first play you get very comfortable. I feel like from game-to-game I’ve been very comfortable just playing,” Wills said.
Tight end Hale Hentges was impressed right away. “He’s a really explosive athlete. Obviously a guy that plays with a lot of power, a lot of smarts, too, and he plays with a lot of poise for being young. Me personally, being side by side with him every day playing tight end and tackle, he’s done a really good job, and I can tell you firsthand that he’s very experienced and going to do a good job for us” Hentges said.
Wills was the starting right tackle at Alabama for 29 games including the last 28 of his career. He earned Second Team All America accolades from the AFCA, Associated Press, The Sporting News, and Walter Camp. He was selected by Pro Football Focus as a Third Team All-American at tackle, named to the All SEC First Team by the Associated Press and league coaches, and voted a Second Team Midseason All American by the Associated Press.
This first clip is Wills as a sophomore in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma. He is going up against a veteran defensive end Amani Bledsoe who is a 6’ 5” 290 lbs defender.
Wills comes out low off the snap. He uses excellent leverage to quickly drive Bledsoe from his spot over to the #70 Alex Leatherwood who takes over from there. Wills next sets his sights to the second level of the defense by walling off the safety (and team captain) Kenneth Murray. Wills shows superior power and on this play.
Two plays later on 3rd and 6 Wills shows some acuity in a pass set which is impressive for a first year starter. Wills realizes his team is working on the 11 yard line, and he also knows the play is a fade pattern to the left corner of the end zone.
So instead of taking a normal pass drop he short sets his opponent who is a 300+ lbs defensive end. Then he lays a a powerful two handed punch going from low to high just under the shoulder pads. This surprises the end but also takes away all his momentum by lifting him slightly off the ground. With the ball coming out quickly, this pass rush is over.
This next clip from the same game is a goal line play with Oklahoma desperate to keep Alabama out of the endzone. Look how every man on the defense attacks the line of scrimmage. The QB goes the opposite way. If this had been a fake he walks into the end zone all alone.
But the QB doesn’t keep the ball. He hands it off to fellow Kentuckian Damien Harris who walks into the end zone. Harris is only slowed by running into his own man at the goal line. Wills is uncovered on the play. He must stop the inside linebacker who is looking to fill the hole in a run fit. Watch as the ILB gets just stoned at the goal line then is pushed back into the end zone. This is not a second tier school Alabama is playing. This is the #4 team in the country. Neville Gallimore is on that line. He is sure to be a 1st round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
This next clip is from the 2018 Iron Bowl against Auburn (who always has a staunch defense). This is just an incomplete pass, but Wills does his job on the play.
Wills is in a 3 point stance which gives the impression of a running play. As Wills comes off the ball ,he is not frantic. He waits for his defender to make the first move, but his base is wide. With Wills strength, he could stop a bull rushing rhino with that set. He gets full extension with both arms, centers the man directly in front of him, and stops his progress. Wills does get overanxious, or overset himself getting into position. He does a solid job, about the best you can do in this situation.
This next play gives you a better idea of Wills’ movement skills in a game setting. In this set the man Wills needs to block is the defensive end. The problem is he is playing as a 6 or 7 tech position which is well outside of a normal defensive end’s location. Wills wants to “hook him” which means get to the outside of his left shoulder so he can push him back inside. This way the RB can get out wide unimpeded.
Wills quickly steps back and to his right trying to get depth to make the block. As the defensive end is rushing he is moving to his left making the block more difficult. Wills never makes it completely where he wants to go but does make enough of a block to keep the defensive end out of the play. This is all you really want. What is impressive about this is Wills outweighs his defender by about 75 lbs. You just wouldn’t know it by their movements. This is also the kind of block you see tackles get called for holding. Wills is clean on this play, though. He does a nice job on a block that is much harder to make than it looks.
This next play is a double team block with Wills as the second man in. Wills is the type of player who probably dreams of these opportunities. He is a nasty, intimidating, just plain mean player when he is on the field. If he feels you are in trouble he will double his efforts to get you to surrender for the day. Wills is the type of offensive lineman who wants to dominate you all day long. He is best “finisher” of blocks by any tackle in this class, and it’s not close.
You can see on this play it is 2nd down and 6 to go/ Wills comes in to destroy the defensive tackle. The play is not even over, and you can see Wills pushing his man at least 2 yards beyond the first down yellow stripe.
This next play is from the first game of the 2018 season against Louisville. This is an RPO (run-pass option) play with Wills to the play side. The usual blocking scheme for RPO is for the playside offensive linemen to block like it’s a run and the backside linemen go into pass sets since no one knows what kind of play it is going to be.
The QB decides what kind of play it will be. As he makes the handoff/playfake he is looking directly at the OLB #13. If he comes down into a run fit he leaves the passing lane behind him wide open. That is the case here. Wills buries his man inside which leaves the entire right side of the line open. No matter what the OLB does, this is going to be a successful play because of Wills’ devastating block. So Wills crushes his man. Ghe OLB comes down for the run fit. The QB throws the slant route to Devonta Smith. Alabama has a big play.
This next play against South Carolina shows you a little taste of the nasty in Wills game. His man on the play is playing off his inside shoulder on an inside running play so this is sort of a short reach block for Wills.
As the defensive tackle keeps sliding over towards the play Wills can’t get a great angle to put a proper block on the elusive defensive tackle. Once the right guard (Landon Dickerson) is able to hold up the flowing tackle, Wills is able to get a better hold on his man. Wills just throws his man down in a bit of frustration over the play. Wills is a ornery dude, but he usually keeps his cool. In this case he let his emotions get the best of him.
Two plays later we have a roll left throwback right to the running back off a play fake. This is a nice adaptation to a standard “wheel route.” When you fake to a player the defense thinks he is no longer in the play then usually leaves him alone.
Wills just has to hold his edge and keep his QB clean while the RB goes by him into the clear. You can see Wills in his nice wide set with the strong anchor with the DE squared up and the arms fully extended to keep his man far from the play. While only 2 plays ago Wills seemed frustrated. It didn’t affect his technique or his demeanor. He didn’t try to crush the guy. He didn’t look for revenge, he just did his job.
This next play shows the only worry I have with Wills’ game which is facing a speed rusher with great length. Those types of players give every offensive tackle problems, but we need to look under every rock to find clues for every prospect.
You can see that Wills understands the threat as he is up quick and into his slide step right away. With OLB Darrell Taylor in a sprinter’s stance you understand why. Now Wills does a great job on this play as he makes the necessary blocks. Wills does have great movement skills, but his slide step is a bit choppy. He makes about twice the steps he should need to gain the ground because he doesn’t cover enough area with each step. A slide step should be gaining a lot more grass under Wills than it does here.
Now can a offensive line coach makes some slight adjustments to improve this? I am saying yes but how much without reworking his entire routine? This also begs the question wheter he can play on the left side of the line. He has never done it so this is an unknown.
I am sure I am just nitpicking here as no other “experts” have brought this issue up, but that is the way I see it so I report it. Remember none of these college edge rushers are anywhere near the abilities of Von Miller or one of the Bosa brothers so it is definitely something to consider.
This last clip is what we all came to see, POWER by the offensive tackle in this draft who has the most by a significant margin.
This what the quintessential right tackle is supposed to do, blow his man off the line. This is why most teams are right handed runners. The left side of the line has better pass blockers, and the right side has the maulers. Wills blows his man 5 yards off the line before he allows the tight end to finish the job. Then he goes hunting for more prey. In this play the running back isn’t touched for the first ten yards.
What is funny is the guy getting pushed around like a tackling dummy actually gets in on the tackle only 12 yards downfield, and he just basically falls on the running back as he is already going down. Yet it goes down as an assisted tackle. Stats can be deceiving.
This was my initial scouting report (partial) on Wills:
Wills is a powerful man who likes to impose his will on defensive ends and outside linebackers. He is absurdly strong with a powerful form that moves defenders off the line and keeps moving them. He has a huge mean streak with the nastiest finishing attitude in this class. His pass set are wide with good balance and a strong anchor against any bull rush. His punch is solid and accurate stopping defenders in their tracks. He uses good (not great) leverage in his initial attack. He is much more powerful than he looks, he uses no nuanced blocks. He uses a sledgehammer of an attack which only increases when he feel he has his opponent beat. He squares up his defenders especially in pass set with a high degree of regularity. He is fairly quick with his feet but he moves well enough to control his right edge without letting himself to get beat inside. His feet are peaceful as he never gets frenetic. He stays under control. He appears to have the length to be an edge protector in the NFL. He is not elite going to the second leve,l but he is efficient and lowers the boom once he gets there. He is the offensive lineman who is the closest in play, demeanor and the kind of player who could command an offensive line room like Quenton Nelson. He will be the Alpha male on any line he joins in short order. He is a tone setter for the offensive line as well as the entire team. Wills is the type of aggressive leader who in short order could make each player on the offensive line better.
Wills has All Pro potential and is a lock to be selected in the first 15 picks. I have a mid 1st round grade on him which may be a tad bit low.
The question that surrounds Wills is can he play the left side of the line since he has never done so before. I say it should be a moot point because I would keep him right where he is. He is the paragon of a right tackle so why not keep him where he is best suited? He would be a revelation to any team in the run game as his power translates to any style. He is quick enough to play in any scheme so he is a fit for every team.
My guess right now is that he will be available at #11 for the Jets once the Draft gets here.
That is what I think.
What do you think?