By Matt Bressington
For the fourth instalment of this series, I wanted to go to the Offensive line. Out of the 360 international players I found that played college football in North America during the 2022/23 season, 64 were classed as Offensive linemen. Just behind the Defensive line with 65 and the Punters/Kickers on 202 respectively. These positions alone make up 74% of the international athletes that I could find. The point is that the lines are a hot commodity, and I believe that the player featured today shows as much potential value as almost any young linemen in Europe today. Noel is a product of the highly respected 5x GFL Champion Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns. Although they’ve lost a lot of coaching and player talent to the ELF, they’ve had a focus on getting in young and GFL rookie players. The piece I believe to have the highest potential is Noel Portjagin.
Offensive Guard – Germany – Noel Portnjagin – Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns
Straight away his size leaps off the tape, 6’5 320lbs is already bigger than the average Offensive Lineman in the NFL and he’s only just coming into his first year of Senior football. It’s not just size without substance however, his first contact is explosive and aggressive, often sending the smaller man 5 yards back or crumbling them and leaving them completely neutralized. I mean this in the nicest of ways, he’s a nasty blocker when he’s in open space, I believe he is one of the best prospects from a pulling position that Europe has to offer. His athleticism is shown with his first step outside, and it continues to shine when he can get up to the second level. There is also a variety to his pulling, playing often as a Left Guard he is able to go away to form essentially a Left Tackle or go across the Centre to become the lead blocking on the right. His long arms allow him to entrap players and simply shove them out of the path he is creating for the carrier. Once he does get his hands on his target it is extremely hard to remove them, his elbows are solid, his hands are strong and he is active with his feet, driving the defender back and giving them no chance to break free until the play is over.
His hand placement is at times wide on the shoulder pads, which will be exposed when he sees his step up in competition. As a taller player, he can struggle with pad level, this is made more obvious with his stance, favouring a two-point from the guard position. Effectively giving free leverage and relying on his strength. He shows a bit of his inexperience in his eyes once his initial block is complete, he is rarely seen looking to add more to his reel, even if the play is still developing. He can be seen either looking back towards the play or simply standing over the opposition. There is also little to show his pass-blocking effectiveness, he can be beaten by a quick step and it’s clear he is much more comfortable moving forward than backward. As an interior lineman at the next level, it’s imperative that he can pass block to a high standard, with rush players like Max Parkinson and OJ Thompson possibly on this season’s schedule it’ll be very interesting to see how he can adjust.
Play Style Comparisons
Predicted Possible Landing Spots