Sam Hubbard is an EDGE defender I have been studying for the 2018 Inside The Pylon Draft Guide, who really intrigues me for a few different reasons. He was an outstanding lacrosse player in high school and had to decommit from Notre Dame, in order to become a Buckeye. The fascinating aspect of his development is not just limited to the fact that he is turning professional in a sport that was not his initial choice; it is also focused on the fact that Urban Meyer recruited him to play safety, but as he grew into his body and maintained a high level of athleticism, Meyer diverted from the original plan. Hubbard was a key chess piece in the trenches for defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s multi-dimensional front, which features a lot of twists/stunts and puts players in advantageous positions. One would think that Hubbard is incredibly raw with his hand technique, probably struggles to shed blocks at the point of attack, and has an undeveloped pass rush plan because he is so new to playing in the trenches, right? Well, no that is entirely incorrect.
He will bring excellent versatility to whatever team decides to draft him. He can set the edge, with good functional strength and excellent balance, while possessing the upfield burst/speed through tight angles to excel as a 4-3 base end. Splitting him out in a Wide-9 alignment gives him that much more of an angle to soften the edge, where he can swivel his hips to become square to the pocket and use his violent hands, burst, very good lower body flexibility/bend, and an array of different pass rushing moves. He has good fluidity to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB and he possesses a motor like the Energizer Bunny. Hubbard thrives on stunts, with rare change of direction and acceleration to burst into the backfield, while maintaining excellent timing to maximize the play design. Hubbard uses very good mental processing to key & diagnose what is going on in the backfield, and reacting accordingly. He utilizes rips, subtle push-pulls, and will over extend blockers and hit them with quick inside counter moves that you can see below. Check out this quick video of how he utilizes these traits.
In his 3 years at Ohio State, Hubbard recorded 116 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, and 17 sacks. Due to the circumstances, he is much more polished than expected. He can still work on his bull rush technique, and his ability to convert speed to power didn’t jump off his tape, but this is a player I would be very excited to have on a team I pull for. I have little doubt that Hubbard will be a productive member of whatever team is fortunate enough to draft him come draft day.
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