In today’s Prospect Film Session, I sat down with Texas Tech offensive tackle Terence Steele to discuss his play ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. Steele was the rock of the TTU offensive line, manning the right tackle spot from his sophomore season on. He was a two-time team captain, two-time All-Big 12 honorable mention, and invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl following his final season.
Typically, I like to start these interviews by talking about some things the player has had to overcome in their college career or dig a little bit into their background. I felt with Steele, though, that any question I had regarding his background would be discussed over the film.
The one question I had before we jumped into the film was regarding matchups. In this Film Session, we actually discussed Steele’s 2018 film rather than his 2019 film. While this wasn’t the most recent film on him, it was good film because of who he matched up against. He faced TCU defensive end Ben Banogu and Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu in a lot of these clips, both of whom are finding success in the NFL. I asked Steele before we started this interview what the difference was going against the speedy Banogu and the lengthy Omenihu in games:
“Preparation on each guy is typically the same. I go in to watch film on them a week early to see what their strengths are, basically. Length isn’t really too much of an issue for me because I’m long myself, so I don’t have too much difficulty there. Charles (Omenihu) has some good length to him, but I was able to find my punches and land a lot of them. We were also used to seeing speed rushers all across the Big-12, so I got a lot of practice before facing a guy like Ben (Banogu).”
These clips probably don’t show it extremely well, but I am obsessed with angle sets and jump sets. Any kind of pass set that attacks the defender and puts the offensive tackle in an aggressive mindset is how I want my linemen playing, personally. To start this line of questioning, though, I asked Steele which type of pass set technique he feels most comfortable in coming from Texas Tech:
“I honestly like all three (jump sets, angle sets, vertical sets). I feel like in college in that air raid offense, we were vertical a lot of the time. We were able to fit in some jump sets every now and then, but I feel comfortable in vertical sets, aggressive sets, and even in 45 sets, so I think I could do well in any of them.”
One question I love asking offensive tackles is what determines their pass set. Do they have one typical set or does it change? I asked Steele if his sets would change based on play-call or what type of rusher he would line up against:
“Play-call for the most part; that’s at least how it was in college. From these clips above, I’m being a bit more aggressive, but it really depends where the ball is being released. Most of our pass plays and screens, it was vertical and then I get to rush up the field and run the hoop.”
I obviously couldn’t let go of my love for aggressive sets, so I did ask Steele one last question about them. I asked him, as an offensive lineman how it feels to switch it up to those kind of sets and attack defenders rather than being a bit on the retreat like they are on vertical sets:
“It is nice to be the aggressor a little bit. It catches them by surprise when you mix it in there with your vertical sets, especially with my length. I definitely like being aggressive. It is something I’m looking forward to doing more in the NFL.”
The biggest attributes in Steele’s game are his quick punch, length, and ability to control blocks once he gets his hands on defenders. So I wanted him to break this down step by step for me, starting with the punch. I asked him, particularly regarding the first clip, how important it is for him to get that first punch in there and utilize his length quickly:
“With that first clip there, I like to switch up my punches. Sometimes I’ll punch with my outside hand first, but in this instance here I did it with my inside hand, and I think it caught him off guard. Yeah, I pretty much stoned him right there and he didn’t do anything after that. That first punch is key, though, to catch the defender off guard and stop their rush.”
A major part of playing offensive tackle is winning the hand-fighting battle up front. There is so much hand-fighting in a lot of these clips, and I asked Steele just how important it is to be effective in this area and win your hand fighting with defenders:
“I think it’s important especially with tackles because we are facing some of the more athletic players on the field, and if you aren’t good with your hands, most the time you aren’t going to be successful. It is important to find that target. We were taught to aim small, miss small, so I think that lesson helped me out throughout my career.”
The final point with this clip is Steele’s length. It is easily one of his biggest strengths, as he measured with 35.125″ arms at the combine. I asked him just how important having that great length is to being a successful offensive tackle.
“It definitely catches a lot of players by surprise. I hear all the time during games like, ‘woah I didn’t expect your arms to be that long’, but yeah, I definitely use it to my advantage. God blessed me with this gift and I just use it to my full advantage.”
On this next clip, we will be discussing a certain technique called the snatch-and-trap. While Steele’s technique isn’t perfect, he has the core understanding of the technique to use the defender’s leverage against them to put them into the ground. This technique, however, is fairly rare for college offensive tackles, so I asked him when and how he picked up this technique in college:
“I picked it up after my sophomore season. I was just talking to my o-line coach and seeing what I could get better at, and he told me to go watch some NFL guys. So I started watching Tyron Smith, and that was one of the things I saw him do, and he was effective with it. He gets his hands in there quick and uses their momentum against them and gets them in the ground. I started practicing it a lot after that, and I’ve had some pretty good success with it.”
The biggest challenge with this technique, though, is that it is a tough play for refs to read. It looks a lot like a hold from certain angles, and if you don’t time it right as a lineman, it can actually be an illegal take down. I asked Steele how tough it was for him at first to navigate that line and not draw unnecessary holding penalties with this technique:
“It is pretty funny that you’ve said that because I’ve had refs tell me to watch my hand placement in games and that they may call it a hold next time. One thing I did to combat that was that I tried to make it more quick to where they really couldn’t really tell that I was snapping them down. I got better at the technique over time for sure and it’s just about being quick with your snap and keeping your hands up so you aren’t dragging the defender down.”
This technique is great and it really establishes a tone as a pass blocker, but obviously, it isn’t something a lineman can do on every play. I asked Steele what the defensive lineman does that sort of gives him the idea that he can do this technique on them:
“I don’t know, it just feels natural. My hand is usually in the perfect spot right in their pads and in their chest pads, and I can feel their weight leaning in on me a little bit, and I don’t know, it just feels natural to snap down on them. It has worked out so far, so I’ll keep refining it and using it in the future.”
The most enjoyable aspect of offensive line play is finishing blocks and establishing a tone. Body blows have been a hot topic of debate between analytics people and football-minded people. I asked Steele if he believed that finishing blocks and leveraging body blows on his opponents has an appreciable effect throughout the game:
“I think it has more of a psychological effect than a physical one. I mean … you don’t want to get hit again, right? It has them double-guessing sometimes and getting them out of their gap, so yeah, I think it definitely plays a psychological game in the long run.”
I then asked Steele if he thinks that establishing those body blows and finishing blocks is a big part of his overall game:
“We have to be bullies out there, especially at the tackle position protecting the QB. You just can’t allow shit to be going on. You have to be an enforcer out there.”
For this final clip, I wanted Steele to give me a self-evaluation of his reps at the Senior Bowl. I put two clips from his Senior Bowl in this one above, one against Alabama defensive end Terrell Lewis, and the other against Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson.
I first asked him to break down his rep against Robinson (first clip):
“I only got two kicks in here, where I typically like to get one more because he is a speed guy. I do like, though, that I flashed my outside hand, and I think that it threw him off a little bit. Then I finished it at the end, so that is what I like about that one.”
Then I asked him about the rep against Lewis (second clip):
“I like my outside punch there. I got to his chest plate pretty quickly. I stiffened up a little too much, though, after contact and got knocked off balance a bit at the end, but I think I recovered pretty well from that.”
The final question I had in today’s film session is the one I ask all the players I interview. In this loaded offensive tackle class, Steele has put himself on the map with a good career at Texas Tech, a solid Senior Bowl showing, and a great NFL Combine. I asked him what my team would be getting both on and off the field if they spent a draft pick on him in this 2020 NFL Draft class:
“On the field, I was a two-year captain in 2018 and 2019. I was a guy that people really look up to, and I stepped into that leadership role to be the best teammate that I could be. In practice, I just suit up and do my job and I have no off-the-field issues. I’m the hardest worker and you can ask anyone who knows me; I’ll outwork everyone. I take coaching very well and they will all tell you that I work my butt off. Just an all around good player and I won’t settle for anything.”