Name: Sam Hubbard
School: Ohio State
40 Time: Didn’t run it!
Class: Redshirt Junior
Awards: 2017 – Second-team All-Big Ten. 2016 – Academic All-American.
Games Watched: vs Illinois, vs USC, vs Penn State, vs Iowa (all 2017)
Native of Cincinnati. Hubbard was, depending on your high school scouting site of preference, a three- or five-star recruit out of high school. Hubbard actually first committed to Notre Dame to play lacrosse. That didn’t last long before he ultimately committed to Ohio State football at first at linebacker and eventually at defensive end.
Hubbard is incredibly technically adept, particularly in his hand and arm usage. Time and again, a snap is characterised by him derisively swiping a tackle’s hands away, throwing them off balance. Hubbard is going to have a lot of fun in the NFL with that, particularly as he’s adept at positioning himself to get underneath a tackle, helping him drive up and giving him momentum in his swipe.
That arm placement applies when he’s not swiping. Against Penn State he regularly got his hands perfectly placed against the right tackle to stop him using his strength and balance. Sure enough, that tackle was put on skates by Hubbard – a slighter and not massively athletic player.
Hubbard’s not just technique. He’s not lightning fast but he’s quick enough to have success on stunts coming inside. He doesn’t have amazing bend so he can stutter step inside to get a headstart on a tackle coming inside. Or if he times the snap well (which he often does) he can get up to a decent speed quickly enough to blow by a tackle. He’s going to have a lot of success taking advantage of the moment a tackle lets his guard down (no pun intended).
Oh, and he has a tasty inside spin move too. Yum.
I don’t feel like Hubbard really stands out athletically. You can note that no matter how much he develops technically, he’ll never have the balance of proficiency and athleticism to beat top-end tackles. He’s quick but not super-quick, which limits the sort of stunts you can use him for. This shows up all the more with regard to his first-step and snap reads. Often he’s a split second behind the rest of the line in getting forward, and I worry that he’s a bit leaden footed. Hubbard mitigates that by being an adept reader of snap counts – using his nous to make up for athletic shortcomings is a bit of a theme.
Lack of elite physical traits shows up in strength too. Against Illinois he often got a bit lost in the wash trying to muscle through inside. Against USC, right tackle Chuma Edoga dominated him for strength. That’s not a surprise – Edoga is strong – but again, it shows that Hubbard will have to keep working out new ways to beat those he is physically outmatched against.
There’s also a bit of concern over production – 3.5 sacks in 2016, 6.5 in 2017. Those aren’t big numbers. Positive spin? It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as an effective lineman who doesn’t get talked about as elite (think Brandon Graham, Super Bowl stripsack notwithstanding).
The T.J. Watt comparison that’s been bubbling around Hubbard is an interesting one. I think Watt was a quicker player, but a bit slighter. Hubbard, like Watt, is a great technician, a smart reader of the game and a hard worker. And will probably have a lot of seasons with 6-10 sacks and maybe a few outliers without ever dominating the sport. But there’s a lot to be said for that, and having a reliable, smart presence who can play the pass and the run would be good for any defensive line, no matter what the talent around. A team won’t regret adding him to their roster, you’d think.
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Sam Hubbard Scouting Report.