We have found more cow bell.
Before getting into the breakdown of Notre Dame Fighting Irish commit Matt Bauer’s film, I think its important to reveal a benefit he brings beyond film. The 6’3” 208 pound LB from Erie, Pennsylvania is a catalyst and leader on defense. This is what I mean when I label Bauer a “bell cow,” a term Keith Jackson used to interject in his ABC broadcasts regarding the leader of the pack and the guy that the other guys would follow on the field. Coaches attach it to players like Bauer, who rally a group and pretty much fire ‘em up to beat someone’s ass. You must have a bell cow on defense, and you really like it when its one of your middle linebackers. They see and direct your defense, so the title and responsibility should mesh at that position.
Bauer does both and fills that role to perfection.
Matt Bauer is a middle linebacker situated in a 3-4 concept for his high school squad. He owns a quick first step on the blitz and hits the gap fast and with his head always up to adjust as the flow of the play changes. He rushes the B gap (between Guard and Tackle) without hesitation and has no wasted movement. This is essential to Bauer’s game, as it doesn’t give anyone in the backfield time to react accordingly. Linebackers who juke around, much like a running back who will not hit the hole, waste time and wont make a play due to wasting too much time deciding what to do. Bauer doesn't waste time, he reads and attacks.
He exhibits good strength, especially in his lower body, to drive into blocks and his tackling prowess. These are all perfect traits for a linebacker to possess. Bauer has terrific balance and footwork. He doesn't get caught leaning forward or back while making his read, thus allowing him to always play under control. Bauer maintains this balance throughout the play, which gives him the natural ability to transition his read and react method with speed.
On running plays in particular, Bauer tracks the ball well and doesn't get lost on a fake. He tackles square to the ball carrier, meaning his body angle is correct to get into the offensive player and finish the play. Bauer finishes his tackles with aggression- another trait you want in a defender. His pursuit angles are effective in that he doesn’t overrun or take aim to far inside. This indicates Bauer is mindful of the overall scene going on around him and limits a decent gain from becoming a huge run.
He attacks isolation blocks with his inside shoulder forcing the run outside to where he has additional help. What Bauer does extremely well, and is rare to see in a player of his young age, is his ability to read the offensive line’s tendencies. Bauer uses his instincts to follow the guards to lead him to where the ball is going, especially when facing the zone-read option. Again, this shows he is a smart football player, one who takes what he has been coached and applies it to the game.
On zone-read plays Bauer’s reaction is excellent. He attacks both A and B gaps well, disrupting the mesh in the backfield. He sets his feet, and not only looks to see if the ball has been left with the back, but also visually notes how the QB is reacting to the defensive end. What makes this so impressive, and I saw it several times on his film, is he is essentially playing two reads at the same time. His instinct and reaction to the game comes natural to Bauer and is something you can’t coach. His coverage in the passing game is sound as he doesn't drift to far back in his zone and will not get drawn in too close to the line of scrimmage. Bauer is disciplined in this part of his game by showing he grasps the concepts of what his coverage responsibility is and doesn't freelance himself out of a play.
Bauer is definitely a north-south player. His vertical speed and quickness is very evident. However, Bauer is still developing his skills in pursuing with a burst with his horizontal pursuit. Bauer angles to these type of plays are indeed adequate, but he is still developing his side-to-side ability to not only limit plays, but cut them down in immediate fashion.
Bauer will need to get a little thicker in size to be better able to handle the size difference he will see in college. Also, along with this, when attacking the line he will need to utilize his quickness more to split blocks more than just pushing them aside. The level Bauer is moving to when he comes to South Bend will not be as easy to physically dominate and requires more technique in engaging 300 pound offensive guards. In truth, this will improve as his physical abilities mature in the years to come and he adjusts to his competition.
Being as smart of a football player as Bauer is will allow him to not only beat you with muscle, but with his smarts as well. But more importantly, this may indicate what position he is destined to play in the future when you mix his overall design as a football player.
Matt Bauer is a middle linebacker. Make no mistake, he can play outside if needed, but this kid is made of the stuff that great tackling machines in the middle possess. In MIke Elko’s scheme, he needs his two inside linebackers to do all the things Bauer does well.
Bauer can play both role’s inside, strong or weak side. He has the ability to read both tendencies and formations. This evidence resides in the above mentioned ability to read the guards. Elko’s concept has his ILB’s watch the guards and if they pull, the backer attacks the A gap that they left open. Bauer excels in this process and is not afraid of the contact it brings. Elko preaches to his ILB’s to scrape tight off the defensive ends outside hip to contain outside run plays and turn them inside. Bauer does this with authority. His balance is the key, in the 4-2-5 ( which with Elko is a 4-4 in concept) your 2 linebackers in the middle must start in a 30 technique on the outside shoulder or guard and be able to react quickly within a 5 yard radius. This is much more of the north-south reads that Bauer is proficient in doing.
By getting Matt Bauer as a member of the 2018 recruiting class, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish gained an outstanding middle linebacker prospect. He is a linebacker that will remind us of those bell cow guys we used to watch on Saturday’s.