story of the second half
I’ve been sitting on the film for this post for a while as I worked to finish off some other projects, mostly because I knew putting the film together for this post was going to take forever. Aidan Hutchinson doesn’t just play one way. He doesn’t play two ways. He plays three ways. As if that wasn’t enough, he doesn’t play one position in each phase of the game. By my count, Hutchinson lined up in seven different spots against East Lansing: NT (on a three-man line!), 3T, 5T, WR, TE, H-back, and long snapper. Yeah, he’s even their long snapper, and he’s good at that, too. Like his father, though, Hutchinson shines on defense.
Aidan Hutchinson Every-Snap Film (Defense)
[After THE JUMP: scouting and more film]
Hutchinson committed in February with the expectation that he would be a strong-side end who needed a couple of years to develop his strength before seeing the field, and that’s generally the feeling with which I left this game. Hutchinson is an advanced player vis-à-vis field awareness, particularly against the run. He has a very good sense for which direction the run is going and also knew when to abandon a pass rush and get downfield. When he did get downfield, he did so in a hurry; his motor stood out across all defensive plays.
Some of the older (pre-senior year) scouting reports I read noted Hutchinson’s lack of explosiveness, but I thought he showed very good burst off the line in this game. He has a very quick first step off the line (00:50), and while he isn’t a pure speed rusher he was able to make the quarterback uncomfortable when lined up on the edge (see 00:40, for example). Hutchinson doesn’t yet have an array of pass-rush moves, but he did break out a spin move to varying degrees of success.
Even so, turning Hutchinson into a speed rusher seems like a worst-case, can’t-gain-enough-weight scenario. He was at his best when he was taking on double teams, repeatedly disengaging from blocks, escaping, and either tackling the back or forcing him to help. Probably the best quick summary of what Hutchinson can do right now is from 1:25 to 1:55 in the film above, and if you’re only going to watch one play, make it the one that starts at 1:45: Hutchinson wedges himself into his gap as if the chip is nothing, burrows through, and chases the running back down from behind. Hutchinson was even able to regain his footing and tackle the back two gaps over (2:00) after the one instance where a double team was able to get under his pads and turn him.
I know that film’s a bit boring considering the lack of targets but, uh, every-snap and all. The main takeaway as I see it is just that Divine Child uses him in routes a lot. Hutchinson’s speedy and athletic but would have a fair amount of work to do as a blocker should he ever find his way to tight end.
The other item of note from the offensive film is the hit Hutchinson took at 3:40. He was clearly hobbled after that—look no further than the picture at the top of the page, taken after he tried to warm up after the half and couldn’t fully do so. The second half starts around 3:15 on the defensive film; the plays where it looks like he’s loafing when the ball isn’t near him dovetail with the hit.
As was the case when he committed, much depends on how much (good) weight Hutchinson’s lanky frame can hold. He looks like a future strong-side end, though I think he has the athletic ability to evolve into a weak-side end with a lot of extra seasoning. That being said, that should be nothing more than a backup plan. Hutchinson’s strong enough to take on double teams frequently, excellent at reading the field and diagnosing where the run is going to go, and shows the ever-running motor that coaches rave about. He has a strong lower body that’s also twitchy, so he’s able to fire off the line quickly as well as keep his feet moving when doubled. As far as hands and footwork are concerned, there’s room for improvement in his hand placement that’s currently compensated for by very good feet.
I think Hutchinson’s ceiling is highest at strong-side end primarily because of his lower body strength and run-game acumen. With Rashan Gary in the fold for one more year and Carlo Kemp starting to come on as his backup, Hutchinson should be able to redshirt his first year on campus to bulk up before seeing the field as a backup in his redshirt freshman season.