The Fullbacks and Running Backs: Dragons Football Signings Scouting Overview

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By: Griffin Nelson, nelsongr@mnstate.edu

Sports Editor Griffin Nelson provides his analysis of the newest Dragon recruits who signed on for the 2019 season on Wednesday, Feb. 6:

FB Hayden Boll: Hankinson High School/Hankinson, North Dakota

Hayden Boll’s Senior Highlights courtesy of Hudl.com

Measurables:

Height: 6’ 0”

Weight: 235 lbs.

72 carries, 422 yards and one touchdown.

Analysis:

Hayden Boll plays mean.

Lining up as a fullback and a linebacker for Hankinson High School, there’s a clear disparity between Boll and the competition on film. On both sides of the ball, Boll stands out with his imposing stature and motor. It’s worth noting Hankinson plays nine-man, small school football, accentuating Boll’s presence. He looked like a man among boys—maybe because he was just that.

Regardless, at six feet tall and 235 pounds, Boll boasts prototypical size for a gap-stuffing inside linebacker or bruising fullback.

A team captain, Boll displays an impressive motor, finishing plays and blocks consistently. His physicality masks surprising athleticism, on display during an acrobatic, instinctive interception in the backfield (1:18).

Turning to his snaps as a fullback, the position MSUM currently has Boll listed as, he continues to show his capacity to finish plays downfield. He demonstrates an ability to swallow smaller defensive backs with blocks and refuses to let up until after the whistle blows (2:55).

Hankinson rarely operated out of the shotgun, so pass protection is a missing aspect of Boll’s tape. Judging by his linebacker film, I’d expect the Dragons will look to sure up Boll’s footwork and ability to recover upon impact before entrusting him to protect the quarterback.

With the ball in his hands, Boll is tough to bring down. There’s nothing shifty to his running style. His explosive plays were powered by ever-churning legs and a slew of hapless arm tackles. He runs with high pads, able to bully smaller defensive backs with a formidable stiff arm. He’ll have to work to gain lower leverage in short yardage situations at the college level.

Though used sparingly in the passing game at Hankinson (94 receiving yards his senior year), Boll demonstrates soft hands and could become a sneaky third-down weapon out of the backfield in a spread offense.

Bottom Line:

From a physical standpoint, Boll will look the part at the college level almost immediately. The climb in competition and lack of a discernible positional share in the offensive attack might set Boll back. Gone are the glory days of Mike Alstott and Lorenzo Neal, as effective as they were.

However, Boll’s motor may catapult him to immediate contributions on special teams.

And with a need for linebacker depth, Boll could see time at the position that garnered him Hankinson’s Defensive MVP honors.

 

RB Jeff Ekiyor: Marantha Christian Academy/Dayton, Minnesota

Jeff Ekiyor’s Senior Highlights courtesy of Hudl.com

Measurables:

Height: 6’ 1”

Weight: 205 lbs.

142 carries, 1106 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Analysis:

What stands out initially on tape is the size of Jeff Ekiyor’s legs. He has tree trunks for thighs. He must squat well over 400 pounds. With his unique frame for a running back, Ekiyor could become an even more daunting physical presence, given time to grow within a college weight room regimen.

Ekiyor is what scouts refer to as a one-cut back. He possesses enough straight-line speed to break into the secondary and beyond. He runs with long, galloping strides that sap some elusiveness from his game but churn him downfield with power.

Ekiyor doesn’t run you over, but he doesn’t go down without a good fight.

Ekiyor’s shifty, but it’s in subtleties. He’s not going to break ankles with regularity, and he doesn’t have the “stop-start” agility smaller running backs will boast. But he does have a powerful burst out of his plant foot and can change direction just enough to beckon arm tackles while in full sprint.

Ekiyor breaks his long runs by exhibiting the ability to locate and through holes in the offensive line with haste. It should be noted Marantha Christian runs a predominantly pro-style offense, allowing Ekiyor to gain a head of steam before the handoff.

This luxury is not afforded in the shotgun spread offense that MSUM employs. But, there are plays Ekiyor demonstrates patience in the backfield and the acceleration necessary to thrive as a shotgun running back (1:34).

 

Jaydin McNeal: Horlick High School/Sturtevant, Wis.

Jaydin McNeal’s Senior Highlights courtesy of Hudl.com

Measurables:

Height: 6’ 0”

Weight: 210 lbs.

942 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns

Analysis:

Another big body in the backfield. Jaydin McNeal will step in able to handle the physicality of the next level.

Though listed as a running back, he played halfback/winger in Horlick High School’s variation of the old-school Wing-T offense.

This position actually translates better than you would expect to the Dragons’ spread look as a running back. It utilizes sweep-like runs that allow the backs and pulling blockers to reach the edge of the defense.

This is where McNeal thrived in high school—getting to the outside, finding a crease, and bowling through smaller defensive backs (1:05).

He shows a definite quickness in his runs with a few flashy moves. He keeps his legs churning and always seems to fall forwards when being brought down on tape (0:27).  His “change of direction” skills are on display from the first clip, able to stop and start with cut down strides while sifting through traffic.

Once he hits open field, he’s a full blown track sprinter. It’s difficult to grasp how fast he’s traveling from the tape. There are a few times he’s tracked down by a defender, but he’s also seen breaking away from the pack for long touchdowns (1:14).

There are limited clips displaying McNeal’s involvement in the passing game. He shows nice hands and with his experience in open space could become a nice outlet for Dragons quarterbacks.

Bottom line:

Despite the thin similarities between Wing-T and Spread offensive schemes, McNeal is entering an entirely different world of football with MSUM. It will take time to digest the playbook, get comfortable with a slew of formations, and become a proficient pass protector.

That being said, there’s nothing but positives from the tape. McNeal runs behind his pads and possesses enough of a burst to break into the open field, where his agility makes him nearly lethal. In time, McNeal could become the centerpiece of the Dragon offense.

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