Not many college athletes can say that they’ve never missed a game due to injury. Even less can say they’ve been a starter since their very first college game. Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo fits into that small minority. Castonzo got his start playing right tackle for Boston College and worked his way to the left tackle spot, which is a more natural fit for him. As a true freshman, Castonzo started his career at only 260 pounds. Since then, he’s bulked up to 308 pounds (according to the Boston College team website) and honed his skills as a blind side protector.
Castonzo has the perfect build for a finesse left tackle. Tall and lean, he has long arms and quick feet. Castonzo isn’t going to beat defensive lineman with overpowering strength or shear ferocity. Castonzo is a true technician, not a mauler. He’s at his best when facing speed rushers that love to run the arc. Castonzo easily pushes the pass rush to the outside, keeping his quarterback out of harm’s way.
Draft analysts have fallen in love with Castonzo and not just because of his physical attributes. Castonzo is known as a hard worker and an intelligent player. A biochemistry major at Boston College, Castonzo has the aptitude to grasp any NFL blocking scheme. Experience? Check. Measureables? Check. Intelligence? Check. Character? Check. However, I’m not the only one expecting big things from the BC tackle. National Scouting gave Castonzo the highest preseason grade of any offensive tackle prospect. While this offensive line class isn’t the deepest, Castonzo seems to be the most promising of the bunch.
Like most prospects, it’s not all gumdrops and lollipops for Castonzo. It’s easy to see that Castonzo could stand to add a little bit more weight to his frame. He doesn’t possess optimal strength in the upper or lower body and has to rely on technique and athleticism to make his blocks…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Castonzo also has problems with strong bull rushers that can knock him out of his stance, leaving him struggling to recover. He also has a habit of not dropping his hips against strong pass rushers which leaves him tall and off-balance.
To examine Castonzo closer, let’s take a look at two games from the 2009 season. The first game is against Florida State where he faces a relatively average pass rush. In the second clip, he faces off with one of the better pass rushers in the country, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn.
Castonzo vs. Florida State
On the very first play, Castonzo shows perfect form. He quickly gets back into his kick step, keeping his hands in front of him and his head on a swivel. Castonzo identifies which rusher to take on and rides the defender out of the play. The defender even makes a feeble attempt to throw Castonzo off with a spin move, which is easily handled. On the next play (:08), you can see where a strong pop can knock Castonzo off balance. He recovers on this play but it’s something to keep an eye on for later. There are great examples of Castonzo using his excellent footwork and technique to ride the pass rusher out of the play. Take a look at :37, :54 and 2:01. With his athleticism, Castonzo can usually get to the 2nd level in his blocks. A prime example of this comes at 2:51. Watch as Castonzo chips on the defensive end, identifies the location of the linebacker and puts on a great angle block to create a huge hole. Castonzo tends to struggle a bit in run blocking, especially in longer developing runs like a draw play. Take a look at :28, 1:03 and 2:22 for good examples. Throughout the clip, you can also see Castonzo struggle at the point of attack in the run game, which is an area that he’ll really need to focus on when making his transition to the NFL.
Castonzo vs. Robert Quinn of North Carolina
The game against North Carolina is one that the entire Boston College offense wishes they could forget and Castonzo has to be among those making that wish. There were times when Castonzo was able to handle Robert Quinn but other times, Quinn absolutely abused him. In all fairness, Quinn has the potential to be the first defensive end taken in the 2011 NFL Draft if he declares. However, this clip seems to say more about the ability of Robert Quinn than it does that of Anthony Castonzo.
On the very first play in the clip, Quinn delivers a nasty pop on Castonzo, knocking him off-balance. Quinn does a nice job throughout this game of changing up his pass rush moves, going from bull rushes, spins, rips, outside speed rushes and change of direction moves. Castonzo finds himself guessing a few times throughout the game, which we’ll get to later. At :11 seconds in, Quinn rushes fast to the outside and he’s too quick for Castonzo, allowing him to get the sack. At :44 seconds, we can see one of the times where Castonzo guesses what Quinn will do. Quinn fakes inside and runs right around Castonzo to make the tackle. It’s not all bad for Castonzo, though. At :54, 1:58, 2:16 and 2:57 you can see Castonzo get properly set and he does a nice job keeping Quinn out of the play. The lack of upper body strength for Castonzo is on full display at 1:19. Watch as Quinn engages Castonzo and then rips right under him. In fact, it looks like Castonzo may have got away with a hold on that play. Castonzo is caught guessing again at 2:47. Here he expects the outside rush from Quinn. When Quinn sees how fast and deep Castonzo starts dropping, he shoots to the inside, almost making the sack.
It’s clear what parts of the game Castonzo has to work on and the game against North Carolina only magnified those issues. However, Castonzo’s work ethic and intelligence are second to none and he’ll do everything in his power to further develop. You can bet that Castonzo will be the first one in the film room each day and will more than likely have a nice, long NFL career. He may never be a true superstar, but he should be a consistent starter at the next level.