Over the next few months, we are going to start to profile NFL Draft prospects who have caught our eye, and today I wanted to highlight redshirt senior left tackle Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia as the Mountaineers prepare to take on the Oklahoma Sooners tonight at 7 P.M.
Year: RS Senior
Weight: 322 Pounds
Hometown: Hollywood, Florida
Cajuste is tasked with protecting the blindside of West Virginia’s star quarterback Will Grier in Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid system. Grier’s successful 2018 campaign has a lot to do with how well Cajuste and his linemates have performed. “They’re doing a really, really good job,” Grier stated, “and we have to continue to challenge that group and continue to get the leadership out of some of those guys up front to finish the season off strong.”
Yodny Cajuste is a five-year member of program, including a three-year starter who is making his 30th career start tomorrow evening. Yodny is one of the top offensive tackles in the nation and has already graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Thank you Yodny! pic.twitter.com/RlIRABuYWU
— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) November 22, 2018
Cajuste suffered two knee injuries in his time at WVU. Back in 2016 during the 1st quarter of the game against the Missouri Tigers, Cajuste tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. It was the second time he had injured his knee, so that is a major concern. But when you fire up the film, you really can’t tell that he was ever injured.
The Hollywood, Florida native has experience with jump sets, angle sets, and vertical sets, and looks comfortable executing all of them. When he gets his mitts on a pass rusher, it’s over. His hand placement, grip strength, and smooth footwork can shut down rushers with no pass rush plan.
Textbook angle set by LT Cajuste
Speaking of his hands, they got Cajuste some national attention back in September.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 29, 2018
Cajuste “is a good foot athlete with a nasty streak. He got recognition earlier this season when a video of him dodging a punch from a Texas Tech DL went viral. What scouts saw in that clip was very good hand and reactive quickness” stated Jim Nagy, Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
“Good foot athlete” is on full display here, as Cajuste quickly executes an angle set versus a defender who is in a wide-nine alignment. He waits for the perfect moment to shoot his hands, lands them on target, then just steers the rusher wide.
For playing a limited number of games, he has shown an innate ability to recognize delayed rushers. It’s the sort of mental processing that you typically see from guys who have started four years.
The defense sends a corner blitz, also known as a ‘cat’ blitz, from the boundary, and Cajuste recognizes it immediately after the ball is snapped. But he doesn’t leave his teammate out to dry; he helps protect the inside gap, then kick slides wide to stone the blitz. Grier trusts his protection and completes it for a first down.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 20, 2018
His hand usage works better independently. When Cajuste is the aggressor and tries a two-handed punch, defenders can see it from a mile away. He loses hand speed, and it can throw his balance off and defenders are able to swipe and turn the corner.
In the run game, Cajuste uses his knee bend and strength in his hips on combo blocks to help generate movement in the offense’s favor. We see that here as WVU runs a counter trey. Cajuste and left guard Josh Sills are responsible for executing the deuce block at the point of attack. That’s how you re-establish the line of scrimmage.
He’s not an overly physical specimen. He doesn’t display the type of strength that overwhelms defenders. Especially when talking about his lower body strength, he rarely drives guys off the ball in 1-on-1 situations. Instead, he looks to win after the initial combo block. After overtaking the combo, Cajuste relies on his quickness, hand placement, and leg drive. But then another side of the soft-spoken man takes over. He shows his nasty side and drives defenders into the turf. He definitely exhibits the physical toughness that you want in an offensive lineman.
I'm three games in and I really like LT Cajuste's game. Athletic dude, good feet and very good balance. Deuce block and finish here. pic.twitter.com/14m3LWHAFM
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 19, 2018
Overall, run blocking isn’t his forte. At times, you will see him fire out with low pad level but fail to engage properly, especially on runs where he’s firing out vertically. He is much more comfortable executing down blocks or combo blocks than he is working 1-on-1 in drive blocking situations.
Many have him transitioning to guard, but I believe that is more of a fallback plan. I believe he can play tackle. He has all of the tools you want in an offensive lineman.
In the run game, he is more effective working combos and double teams. They allow him to create vertical movement before overtaking the block and finishing with a nasty mean streak. His comfort level also shows when asked to down block on gap or pin-and-pull runs because he is quick off the snap and flashes that tremendous knee bend and base to seal the edge, reminiscent of a power forward setting a pick at the top of the key. But his athleticism does come in hand when asked to pass set to invite rushers upfield where Cajuste then can lock on and shuffle his feet into position to gain the leverage needed on draws or isolation plays.
But his calling card is in the passing game. Cajuste’s hand placement, grip strength and torque are highly effective to the point that they frustrate opposing rushers.
I’m not sure of his arm length, but he uses it effectively, and that ability flashes particularly when pass rushers attempt to counter him. He is able to slide his feet, reposition his hands, lock out, and ride defenders wide. He very rarely gives up the quickest line to the QB because his sets are consistently anchored at the necessary junction point, putting himself between the rusher and QB and exhibiting tremendous ability to maintain his balance when locked on.
At times in 2017, Cajuste took false steps laterally before gaining depth in his vertical set which former Bills offensive lineman Eric Wood called ‘swooping’ and Wood stated that the shoddy footwork can often lead to an offensive lineman getting “blown up when a pass rusher converts speed to power.”
The slight false step causes his feet to be narrow, and his pads a tad high for a split second which could very well be an issue at the next level, but is easily correctable. But it showed up on film less in 2018. He can be tested when he encounters speed rushers because they challenge his stride length, especially if they have a stutter rush, also something that is very correctable. It can cause him to cross his feet, but he usually overcomes it with his hands, length, and good feet enough to ride pass rushers wide. When he flashes his aggressiveness, he can get into trouble, so teaching him when to ‘fire’ his two-handed punch will be something NFL coaches will need to refine.
Cajuste has a few minor technical issues to iron out, but nowadays that is the norm at the College level. But Cajuste has flashed the tools and consistency to contribute at the next level.