The SEC treated draft analysts like myself to a heavyweight dandy in the trenches in the Kentucky-South Carolina game on Saturday. Wildcats right tackle Darian Kinnard, all 6-foot-5 and 345 pounds of him, touched gloves with Gamecocks 6-foot-4, 260-pound edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare, who had six sacks and seven tackles for loss in eight games last season.
Because of Kentucky's run-heavy philosophy, we didn't get many one-on-one pass-play reps between the two, and often there's a giant gray area as to who "wins" on a run-play battle, therefore I felt in unnecessary to assign wins and losses. Instead, let's just dissect each of the battles for scouting purposes.
The first clash of the night -- bottom of the offensive line -- was a sign of things to come in this heavyweight battle. Kinnard made first contact to control Enagbare, but the South Carolina edge rusher reminded the Kentucky tackle he wouldn't be tossed around.
Enagbare's hands are often shocking to blockers, and they certainly were to Kinnard on that play.
A little later in the first, Kinnard, now fully aware of the inherent pop Enagbare possesses, attempt to lean his massive frame into the defender to no avail. Enagbare's pull-down move certainly aided in Kinnard losing his balance.
After a rough start, on two run plays, Kinnard demonstrated how difficult he can be to move in pass protection, which of course is far more important than anything that happens on a run play.
Had the ball come out on time, it would've been a clearly positive rep for Kinnard, but the Kentucky quarterback decided to try to sneak past Enagbare, who boasts such a long reach and high-level awareness that he was able to detach with one arm to make the tackle on the scramble attempt.
Late in the second, Enagbare demonstrated another example of his block-defeating abilities along with power I cannot even fathom a human being having in his upper body. After the initial grapple with the 340-plus pound Kinnard, Enagbare tossed him like a teenager throwing a dirty shirt on his bedroom floor.
After elementary rushes, Enagbare mixed in an inside counter before following the escaping quarterback to the outside. In doing so, he drew a holding call on Kinnard. At this point it was blatantly obvious -- for as wide and strong as Kinnard is, he doesn't have the foot speed or twitch to recover against a high-level rusher.
Then on one of Kentucky's 22 pass attempts, we got a clear as day one-on-one matchup. Another win for Enagbare. Again with sheer power. You'll notice at the end of the play Kinnard and the quarterback got their feet tangled, and the Kentucky blocker sat out a few plays with a lower-body injury.
That bull rush was also a fine demonstration of how leverage and center of gravity work in the trenches. The 6-foot-4 Enagbare sunk his pad level to get up and under Kinnard to put him on rollerblades into the quarterback.
It wasn't until the third quarter that we saw an obvious pass-protection win for Kinnard. And it came on a play in which Enagbare attempted a pass-rushing move.
While just one rep, it did hint at one problem with Enagbare's game at this juncture -- his hand-work is in its infancy stages.
With under five minutes to go in the third, in the red zone, Kinnard again tried to lean into Enagbare to generate force into his frame. The keenly aware Enagbare got skinny and swam underneath the blocker to scrape toward the football on the inside run.
(Bottom of the offensive line)
The next play was and ugly-but-effective win for Kinnard.
The waist-bending will plague him during the pre-draft process when the masses dig into his film, but at least he kept his feet moving to widen the arc Enagbare had to run around to get to the quarterback.
Kinnard was able to withstand Enagbare's jolting swipe move and keep the quarterback clean.
Midway through the fourth, Kinnard finally showcased more patience and better center of gravity to get under Enagbare and move him on a run play.
Instead of lunging, Kinnard got relatively low and drove his momentum upward to displace Enagbare and create a running lane for the Kentucky runner.
However, Kinnard wasn't able to keep the momentum against Enagbare. As a late fourth-quarter run play, he was against tossed aside by Enagbare's swipe move.
There was one more "draw" for a ground-game rep -- Kinnard controlled Enagbare initially, then the South Carolina star peeked into the backfield and was able to pitch in for the tackle on the inside.
Despite not keeping "score" in this marquee matchup, it was clear at the end of the outing -- Enagbare was the more prepared and effective player. His length, pop, and block-shedding capabilities were on display all evening,
He isn't a polished hand-work magician yet. He is effortlessly strong, with quick play-processing skills, and the twitch to react in real-time to make plays against the run after setting a Kevlar edge. And his bull-rush is very close to being NFL ready.
As for Kinnard, his pad level needs to lower and he must play with more patience at the point of attack. He's not a nimble, quick-set type of blocker on the edge and is still a load to move. If he can brace for the power he's going to see from the SEC's best edge rushers, it'll help him stay on balance through the rep.