Offensive linemen are often the forgotten men.
In a game where statistics and accolades can draw your attention toward certain players, it is often those that do the blocking for the guys racking up the statistics who go unnoticed.
However, it’s difficult not to notice Northern Illinois offensive tackle Max Scharping (#73) and not just because he is listed at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds. For the past four years, he has been quite impressive on and off of the field. Here are a few of his stats:
- 53 consecutive starts over the last four years at right tackle, right guard and left tackle.
- Did not allow any sacks or pressures versus Utah, BYU or Florida State in 2018
- Allowed 1 sack over the last three seasons (vs Iowa 2018)
- 2018 Finalist for the William Campbell Award recognizing an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete. Sometimes referred to as the Academic Heisman
- A Wuerffel Trophy Known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service.”
- 4-time Academic All-MAC
- 2-time All-MAC selection
- Master’s Degree in Kinesiology (which is the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. Pretty good thing to know for then offensive lineman.)
- 2015 FWAA Freshman All-American
That’s pretty impressive for a lightly recruited 2-star player coming out of high school.
What I liked
Hand strength – Whether he’s run blocking or in pass protection he is be able to control the defender.
Assignment sound run blocker – Knows his role and is effective in getting to his spots and executing his role. Hip to hip with teammates on double team blocks, good timing on combo blocks and does a very good job of staying between the runner and the defender.
Balance – Plays under control with a good base, making him hard to move off of his spot.
Sand in the Pants – Against power rushes, long arms to his chest, whatever they throw at him, he’s able to set up and stonewall pass rushers with a very good anchor.
Demeanor – Plays very calm, you don’t see a lot of emotion positive or negative throughout the game. Until a teammate scores and then he is consistently one of the first to celebrate with the scorer.
Play Strength – You don’t see him get overpowered and he is able to control or turn defensive lineman very successfully.
Where to improve
Kick step and footwork – Its more lateral than back limiting the depth he gets initially which could make him less effective against speed rushes and a target for counter moves to the inside. When really threatened to the outside he will cross over his feet to catch up.
Twist/Stunt awareness – Buffalo threw a bunch of twists late in the MAC Championship game at the offensive line and initially there seemed to be some confusion with him and the left guard. But each time he saw it, he seemed to adjust a little better to it.
Grabby instinct – On the occasions he does get beat in the run game, he instinctively grabs at the missed defender. Saw it a couple times vs Florida State.
Leg Drive – Doesn’t really move defenders as much as you’d like to see. Better at using angles and getting in position to wall off would be tacklers.
Lateral Agility – Ran mostly zone runs so didn’t get to see him pull that often but doesn’t have ideal quickness to execute reach blocks.
Finish – Against Toledo, outside zone left, stalemates with the defender but sustains the contact as they work to the outside until he feels the defender stumbling and shoves him to the ground.
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Walled off – Against Toledo, the defenders hesitation reading the tight end gives him just enough time to let him get to the outside and he uses good footwork to turn and stonewall the defender. Once he gets you where he wants you, you don’t go anywhere.
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Recovery – Against Toledo, he’s stunned initially and gets knocked back a yard but is able to anchor and gain leverage which allows him to eventually push the defender five yards downfield.
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Second Level – Versus Buffalo in the MAC Championship, this a simple concept executed really well. He releases to the second level on a Quarterback designed run. He squares up Khalil Hodge (#4) using a wide base and good hands to again wall off the defender for a big gain.
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Work up the arc – Versus Florida State, facing off against one of the nation’s top edge rushers Brian Burns (#99). Despite his short kick step, he’s able to slide and mirror up the arc and keep himself squarely between the rush and the quarterback.
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Stay Here – Once again facing Burns, he gets the initial contact with his right hand to the chest, which Burns unsuccessfully tries to swat away. From there it’s just a mirror with constant foot movement and the defender is easily thwarted.
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Consistent, quality play is what you see from Scharping from game to game, season over season. He is reliable, as shown by his ability to start every game for 4 years. He’s had success against all levels of opponents and only gave up one sack, one, in three years. He plays under control, balanced, and with a high football IQ. He has played multiple positions along the offensive line. He has some area to improve but don’t we all.
There are some voices out there that say the quality of offensive lineman coming out of college has declined a bit. Depth is a huge need for every NFL team. The next man up needs to be able to fill a role and do it well.
This is guy you want to have on your roster come game day.