Every team in football has a player who sets the tone. More often than not, we call that player a tone-setter. While the term seems simple, the path that Kary Kutsch took to play for the Colorado Buffaloes was far from it. In fact, he gambled on his worth. Kutsch felt like he was worth more, and he’s starting to find out that he was right.
Coming out of Shasta High School in Redding, California, Kary Kutsch was 6’4″ and over 250 pounds as a sophomore. People knew he was the real deal, but unfortunately, the only college team that gave him a scholarship was an FCS program, Sacramento State. Most kids would have jumped at the opportunity to go play more football and get a free education, but like I said, Kutsch knew he was worth more.
Rather than signing his letter of intent with Sacramento State, he didn’t sign with anyone on National Signing Day. Instead, he went to a junior college: Butte College. Eventually, the gamble paid off for Kutsch. He was facing the chance of having to play another season at Butte College, but in the spring of 2018, Colorado lost offensive lineman Isaac Miller to a career-ending knee injury.
The Colorado coaching staff knew about Kary Kutsch, and despite being in a scramble for another offensive lineman, they liked what they saw from him. They offered him a scholarship to play at Colorado. Now that he’s in his second season with the team, he’s setting the tone for the Colorado offense with his powerful hands and aggressiveness on the offensive line. Let’s see how Kary Kutsch has become that tone setter!
Good Finish with Reset of Hands
Is there anything better than offensive lineman burying defensive lineman into the ground? On a football field, not really. The battle in the trenches is physical — that’s no secret. The physicality that Kary Kutsch possesses is one of the better-kept secrets in the Pac-12.
On the play above, you’ll see Kary Kutsch (LG #58) engage on the 2-technique aligned across from him. Once the defensive tackle begins to penetrate the line of scrimmage, Kutsch will disengage quickly and reset his hands before finishing his opponent to the ground. Granted, the defensive tackle looks to have tripped over another lineman’s feet, but regardless, Kutsch sets the tone up front and helps slow up the back-side defensive end that begins to leak through. On this play, he got two for the price of one.
Drive For Five
There’s a motto on the offensive line called ‘drive for five’. The other one is ‘block until the whistle blows’ but either way, you get the point. For Kary Kutsch, he’s like a defensive lineman with a high motor, but he plays on the offensive line. He gives every play his all, and when gets underneath a defender’s pads, there’s a pretty good chance he will use his power to drive for five.
You’ll see on the play above some really great leg drive by Kutsch. Meanwhile, his pad level is good and his hand placement is even better. By getting underneath the defensive lineman, he’s able to turn (steer) and control him during the entire play. This leads Kutsch to driving the defensive lineman into the pile but prevents his key (defensive lineman) from making a play on the football.
Hand Placement, Control, and Anchor
I can never preach it enough, but having good technique is key to being a good player. For offensive linemen, they have to find ways to have good hand placement and be under control. If they’re not, they can draw penalties or lose their one-on-one battle with whatever defender they’re facing. Meanwhile, they have to find ways to match the power and strength of defensive players by anchoring before pressure is generated on the quarterback.
On the play above against Colorado State, Kutsch shows good control and the ability to anchor once he loses ground. His initial hand placement looks a little high, but he does a good job keeping his hands inside. He keeps good control through the entire rep, and once he knows he’s about a yard into the backfield, he anchors and sustains himself against the pressure. This allows an opening up the middle for the quarterback (Steven Montez, #12) to get free into the open field and pick up positive yardage.
On the next play, there’s some pros and cons to the technique on display from Kary Kutsch. For starters, you’ll like his hand placement and pad level. He has good footwork with his base being shoulder width, and that allows him to keep his ground and keep the defensive lineman in front of him, and this slows up the defensive end that’s looping inside. During the play, you’ll notice how Kutsch doesn’t look like a natural knee bender; that could hurt him against faster competition.
Reach Block with Ability to Steer
Reach blocking is one of the most common blocks for an offensive lineman to execute. When doing so, you have to be quick off the ball and have good lower body positioning. This helps you control the defender and win plenty of match-ups.
On the play above, Kutsch steps to his left, as does the entire offensive line, once the ball is snapped. Everyone is reaching to their left and, with nobody on his outside shoulder, Kutsch takes the guy that’s aligned in front of him. Thanks to the chip from the center, the defensive lineman positions himself towards the outside of Kutsch so he can see the backfield. This allows Kutsch to lower his pad level, position his hands on the defender’s chest plate, and steer him through the entire rep. Once the defensive lineman is sealed, plenty of room is created for the running back.
Lastly, we all know how important it is for an offensive lineman to protect his quarterback. If you allow pressure on your quarterback, eventually there will be pressure on you. If you can’t overcome that pressure, you won’t be needed on a starting offensive line for long. It’s important for an offensive lineman to not cross his set foot with his post foot. Having low pad level will be important, and finally, sustaining consistent hand placement is always a plus. That helps create separation and puts you in position to keep your target in front.
You’ll notice on the pass protection rep above how well Kary Kutsch handles himself against the spin move. He keeps his hands in front of him as he prepares for the pass rush, but you can see some hesitation by Kutsch with his initial punch. Meanwhile, his feet aren’t as fast or athletic as you’d like for them to be. However, he keeps his target in front of him while staying under control and he never crosses his post foot with his set foot. This allows him to stay square when the defensive tackle tries to execute the spin move.
There will be some more footage needed to establish an overall grade for Kary Kutsch, but I got excited with what I saw from him through three games. At this point, it would be safe to assume that he could be a day three pick for the 2020 NFL Draft, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return to Colorado for next season to try to improve his draft stock.
Initially, I loved his aggressiveness and it stood out from the first snap. His hand placement is relatively consistent, but his hand speed could certainly get faster, and so could his foot speed. Even though he’s not a natural knee bender, Kutsch finds himself in good position with his pad level being low, and this helps him either anchor, steer, or control defenders.
Whether we see Kary Kutsch in the 2020 NFL Draft or the 2021 NFL Draft, he’s certainly worth watching on a Colorado offense that has some skilled players like wide receivers Tony Brown and Laviska Shenault Jr. Listed at 6’5″ and 310 pounds, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Kutsch on some radars in NFL Draft circles. After all, he is a tone setter for the offense on the Colorado Buffaloes.