The season hasn’t begun, but I’m already looking at the best right tackle in college football. Maybe that’s premature at this point — after all, we’ve only entered the month of June. It’s football, though, and I can’t help myself.
Barely a month after the 2019 iteration, my scouting process for the 2020 NFL Draft has begun. Laying down the groundwork of finding out players’ nicknames and what other sports they excelled in high school is always fun. Nothing beats watching the film, though. Whenever you put on Iowa Hawkeyes tape, you instantly see classic, smash-mouth football riddled with all stars.
Their offense doesn’t start with the skilled players. Instead, it starts in the trenches. It seems like year after year, Iowa is producing quality offensive linemen. From James Daniels in the 2018 NFL Draft to Riley Reiff from the 2013 NFL Draft and Brandon Scherff from 2015, the list goes on and on.
In the 2019 NFL Draft they didn’t have an offensive lineman drafted, but it was incredible for the Iowa tight ends. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson were two talented players and were clearly the two best tight ends in the draft. Similar to 2019, Iowa will have some stars in the 2020 NFL Draft. This time, it’ll be take-your-pick at offensive tackle. Plenty will pound the table for left tackle Alaric Jackson, but Iowa also has the best right tackle in college football, Tristan Wirfs. Let’s take a look at why he’s just that:
Dominant Run Blocker
Like I’ve mentioned, Iowa will punch your defense in the mouth, and they will smash forward until they reach the end zone. That includes offensive series with nothing but running plays. In the run game, Tristan Wirfs is dominant in that regard.
As you can tell from the play above, Wirfs puts himself in great position with a reach block. Once he steps hard to his right, he gets into great position to seal off the defensive end. Hand placement is crucial, and he places it directly onto the chest plate of the defensive end. This gives himself great positioning and complete control. To finish the block, he wins with low pad level and tremendous leg drive. By keeping his steps short and choppy, he drives the defensive end into the dirt and helps create an opening for the running back.
Here’s another example of Wirfs being a dominant run blocker. Beyond just winning with power in his hands, there’s that consistent leg drive. On the play above, check out his right hand on the chest plate of the defensive end. This helps him steer the defender into the dirt and add another win to his résumé.
Adequate Pass Blocker
If you’re drafting Tristan Wirfs, you’re doing it for what he provides in the run game. However, he’s more than capable of winning as a pass blocker. I wouldn’t call him great, but I wouldn’t call him bad; he’s adequate in pass protection.
Foot speed is one area that he’s got to get better in when in pass protection, in my opinion. He’s got to find ways to counter inside moves from pass rushers with more consistency. Regardless, he’s adequate in pass protection and here’s an example of him with an aggressive jump set. Once he starts to lose inside leverage, he powers the defensive end to the ground with great upper body strength and hand placement.
As I’ve mentioned, he’s got to get better handling counter moves, and that’s primarily when he loses leverage from an inside move. From the play above, he does a nice job keeping the edge rusher one dimensional and prevents him from even considering an inside rush. Even with the edge rusher going with an inside swat and trying to redirect his rush to the outside, Wirfs does a nice job swatting the edge rusher’s hands away and stopping him in his path, then he takes him to the ground. Wirfs is in perfect position during his entire pass set. He’s got a solid base, proper knee bend and pad level, and has perfect distance between himself and the edge rusher. With more of these reps, he can help his draft stock drastically.
The Story Behind his Power
Ever since his days as a baby, everyone thought Tristan Wirfs was much older than he actually was. He’s always been one of the bigger kids in the classroom, on the playground, and on the football field. When he was playing dodgeball as a kid, he would get singled out because of his size. As the dodgeballs beamed him in the chest and sides, he would pick up one in frustration and throw it at kids. The only difference was that his throws actually hurt because he threw so much harder than everyone else.
This led to plenty of conversations with teachers and his mother, but eventually it led to Wirfs jumping onto the football field to play flag football in third grade. With little competition, he quickly made the jump to tackle football in the fourth grade. Since then, he’s never looked back. This led to him becoming a four-star recruit (via 24/7 Sports) for Mount Vernon High School (Mount Vernon, Iowa), and there he earned offers to schools such as Iowa State and Michigan State. Ultimately, he chose Iowa.
Beyond just football, Tristan was exceptional as a wrestler and as a track and field athlete. He won the state wrestling championship as a senior and state champion in the discus and shot put as a sophomore, junior, and senior. His career-best 66-3 1/4 in shot put ranked second-best all-time in the state of Iowa. It’s clear that his power and strength don’t just happen by accident on the football field. It happens everywhere, even in the weight room.
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) March 15, 2019
Wirfs is freakishly strong and athletic. No matter what he does, he just gets better and better. That’s exactly what’s going to happen for him during his junior season for the Hawkeyes. The 2019 season will be the year that really puts everyone on notice of how good he is. There were some times in 2018 that he needed to clean up his footwork and become more consistent with handling a counter move, but overall, the most powerful right tackle in college football is Tristan Wirfs. Beyond that, I think he’s the best all-around right tackle in college football, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be talking about him more during the 2019 season and approaching the 2020 NFL Draft.