Small school, big talent..
John Dirksen became the 12th commitment for the 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish recruiting class, and is the 2nd offensive line commit.
The Fighting Irish got a good one in Dirksen. Don’t be too concerned about the “quality” of his offer list. A coach like Hiestand couldn’t care less, and is more concerned about what he is looking for in terms of potential. Dirksen has room to grow both physically and technique wise over the next few years. He has qualities you can’t coach, and will become much more visible this year as he develops. Last year, injuries hindered Dirksen’s progression and limited his exposure. I think that will change in 2017- along with his offer list.
Dirksen is a 6’5” 275 pound offensive tackle/guard prospect out of Maria Stein, Ohio. Currently rated as a 4 star prospect, he is viewed as a offensive guard prospect at the next level- but I wouldn't be so quick to assign that position just yet. A big kid with wide frame, it is very likely he can add 20 pounds to his stature once in college and not lose any of his agility.
Offensive line coaches look for 4 things in determining a kids ability to develop into a dominating player: shoulder and hip width, legs, ass and foot placement when moving.
- The width of the shoulders and hips tell you what proportions you have to work with in physical growth.
- Legs and muscle development from the waist down tell you what the prospect was born with and that he already a base to work with in explosive run blocking.
- If a lineman moves using the front part of the foot rather than flat, it means he has agility to adjust his footwork quickly which is valuable in pass protection. Dirksen has all of these qualities and this is why Harry Hiestand is ahead of the curve on the offer list. Essentially, this means when you get the kid on campus you can focus on the more technical part of his game as his physical traits are already there.
Dirksen overwhelms the opposition with superior natural size and strength. He has good balanced width in his stance to both run and pass block. He doesn’t get crossed up in movement as he moves with his weight positioned correctly on his feet- again, something he does naturally. Dirksen plays with intensity, engages and moves quickly to another block once he cleans his guy out. This shows an aggressive attitude and mentality that has him play to the echo of the whistle.
Dirksen has an explosive first step to get appropriate angle on his blocks, and generates a good punch on his second step to get into his block. His ability to get to the second level is key here. In Chip Long’s version of the spread, his lineman have to get downfield more, rather than side to side. Dirksen reaches the linebackers quickly once having chipped off his initial block. You can see his athleticism in his movement, and his leg movement is solid, rather than being clumsy or uncoordinated.
The film on him is mostly from his sophomore year, which makes it even more impressive. Dirksen bodies bodies up well on pass blocking and does not get pushed back into the pocket. Collapses the edge and provides the QB with a good sight line on his part of the line. He uses his hands well, keeping them between the shoulders to limit grasping at the defensive lineman. Dirksen gets into the body, which will enhance his overall power and eliminate holding calls.
Dirksen plays in a smaller division of competition in Ohio, which I think plays into some of the weaker areas of his game. Being so dominant against the people he lines up against allows him to just lean and push guys out of the way. In doing this, it causes him to play with an upright style that will not translate well onto the next level. When I say this I literally mean “causes” him to play up. Dirksen has such a tremendous advantage that it can lead to a bad habit or two. In practice, I’m sure he works on staying low and is taught to drive into the block. But in a game where the guys are that much smaller, it is only natural to realize leverage is not going to develop because its not needed.
When Dirksen is in a three-point stance you can notice he is somewhat hunched up, meaning his back is bowed more upright than it should. Once again, this indicates he is attempting to come out of his stance low and realizing just how low he will have to get to achieve this technique. It won’t happen. Dirksen will lunge into his blocks at times, pushing his guy out of his position. I believe this is more of an indictment on the level of competition and not his ability. When Dirksen faces more quality opposition he will transition into the drive blocking needed with good leg placement and explosion. I saw this on enough plays watching the film where he was matched up with a more skilled athlete.
Dirksen will improve even more as his level of competition improves, I believe this is what Coach Hiestand notices most of all.
Earlier in the write up, I mentioned that Dirksen might not just be a offensive guard prospect. In fact, I think he has the makings of a dominant right tackle. The key to Dirksen’s game, based on what I’ve seen, is his ability to move and generate power at the same time. He incorporates strength into both parts of his line play, be it run or pass blocking.
Dirksen’s drop step on pass plays in very fluid and a natural reaction. One I’m sure he has been taught, but a move that is a genetic trait born into his game. He has the power to collapse the defensive end inside and agility to step out and cut him off on the edge. He is a mauler for sure, aggressive and attacking inside on his run blocking.
In the end however, Dirksen has natural build and motion of an offensive tackle in the long run. He seems comfortable in his upright posture and in my years of experience, looks more at home on the edge. I’m sure Dirksen could play guard for Notre Dame in the future, but my gut tells me he will be a tackle for the Fighting Irish. That, and those 4 things O-line coaches look for in their prospects.