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Quacking the Roster: OL Transfer Junior Angilau

Film review from Angilau’s three seasons as a starting guard at Texas before transferring to Oregon

Valero Alamo Bowl - Utah v Texas
Junior Angilau (75) of the Texas Longhorns blocks against the Utah Utes during the Valero Alamo Bowl
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Angilau was recruited to Texas in the 2018 class as a mid 4-star (.9458) in the 24/7 composite. He redshirted his first year, then started as a guard in every game for the next three seasons - in a peculiar twist, with almost perfect alternation between right and left guard spots. He started on the right as a redshirt freshman in 2019, switched to left in 2020, went back to right for the first six games of 2021, then back to the left again for the last six due to an injury to that year’s initial starting LG. Angilau was injured early in the final game of 2021, then hurt again in the first scrimmage of Fall camp in 2022 and missed all of last season before entering the transfer portal in December. Due to the NCAA’s covid holiday in 2020 he still has one season of eligibility remaining, and may be able to apply for a medical redshirt for the 2022 season to get another.

I charted the Longhorns’ entire 2021 season, amounting to 640 meaningful snaps for Angilau in 12 FBS games in which they went 5-7. It was head coach Steve Sarkisian’s first season in Austin, and as general context for his offense I found this project to be quite frustrating because Sarkisian’s blocking schemes are so unorthodox. I spent an awful lot of time figuring out what he was asking the line to do before I could evaluate Angilau’s performance within the scheme; I’ve since read a number of Texas fans and commentators expressing that they thought he was more interested in demonstrating cleverness than advancing the ball, and I can’t say I disagree (an early draft of this article contemplated three more videos solely dedicated to self-indulgent complaining about counterproductive play designs, which I’ve omitted for the reader’s well-being).

The 2021 season was also the first for new Texas OL coach Kyle Flood, who I think is pretty good at his job, and Texas media report a definite improvement in o-line performance by the end of 2022. But I think Flood had a lot of work to do in reversing poor development done for the previous three years by his predecessor, Herb Hand – within the film reviewer community there’s a list floating around of position coaches whom we can’t believe keep getting work, and his name is at the top.

To add to all of this, the skill talent at Texas in 2021 was as hot-and-cold as I’ve ever seen. They used two quarterbacks throughout the year, often switching during games, partly for injury reasons and partly for performance. I think both had a lot of raw talent but struggled severely with consistency. The Longhorns in 2021 featured a couple of spectacular players in wide receiver Xavier Worthy and running back Bijan Robinson, who frequently improvised on plays – which sometimes meant bailing Sarkisian out of a goofy playcall, and other times meant killing a drive.

In summary, Angilau’s tape stands out as a strong natural talent among a line that has frequent scheme and technique breakdowns, performing about as well as he could in an offense that struggled through injuries, inconsistencies, and identity issues. I don’t blame him for wanting a change in scenery.

Overall I graded Angilau at an 11.5% per-play error rate on my tally sheet, which in my experience is pretty good - much better than typical for the Pac-12 as I evaluate offensive linemen over the years, though just shy of the Oregon standard of single digits. He’s excellent in pass protection, better than 8.5% in dropback pass plays, but a fairly average 14.5% in run blocking. I think there are reasons to believe that some of the above issues played a role in those grades and Angilau could improve a couple points in a different scheme. The biggest blind spot on the tape is that Texas had very little in the way of deep downfield blocking in terms of screens or long runs and I don’t know much about his long-range footspeed (beyond pulling a couple yards), something historically Oregon linemen are asked to use pretty often.

Here’s a baseline representative sample of normal dropback pass pro, which Angilau handled virtually every rep without any difficulty:

(Reminder – you can use the button in the lower right corner to control playback speed)

  1. :00 – The notes field on my tally sheet for this play reads “Was that so hard, Steve?” indicating the relative rarity of a big gain on a standard out-pattern with plain old dropback pass pro, at which Angilau as the RG (#75) does great – good hand strike, dropping his base and re-anchoring.
  2. :12 – Now at LG and for the next two clips. The line is sliding to their right which they’re handling fine, good constant movement to keep center of gravity between the feet.
  3. :32 – This DT is trying a lot of different techniques here … a spin, hand swipes, outside motion. None of it is bothering Angilau, who’s keeping his feet constantly moving, his knees bent, and his weight properly distributed to strike with power.
  4. :43 – Just total control for a full five seconds while the QB extends the play, then lets the defender go (hands off, ref!) when the QB goes past to avoid a holding flag.

Picking up blitzes, stunts, and twists requires recognizing where the additional pressure is coming from and handing off the initial block to deal with a new rusher. This requires attention, communication, and understanding your fellow linemen, and is why football commentators often talk about the hard-earned “gelling” process that o-lines have to go through (and why many, including myself, can be generally skeptical of immediate impact o-line transfers). But I think Angilau shows excellent skill in this area and may be an exception to the rule:

  1. :00 – At RG, this is a T-E twist on his side and he successfully blocks both with a proper handoff to the RT before catching the end. He even gets the other end, who’s beat the LT.
  2. :10 – This one’s an E-T stunt, so Angilau at RG has to not chase that tackle as he widens and instead look out for the end coming inside. When ends come at this steep angle it’s really easy for guards to draw holding flags grabbing as they run past, so this is good technique to shove then let go to avoid it.
  3. :24 – Now at LG and for the last clip. Really nice job handing off the first guy to the center then disengaging and getting the second tackle coming around behind him, that requires keeping his eyes up and not getting locked on.
  4. :37 – Here’s a blitz. That ILB crowding the line pre-snap looks like he’s going for Angilau’s gap, but instead it’s an overload to that side so he can loop to the offense’s right, and the OLB over the LT is backing out into coverage. That means Angilau has to work the big DE over onto the LT then form a wall with the C and RG against the nose and other ILB. The protection works out even if the pass doesn’t.

In fact, the most impressive thing that jumps off the film about Angilau over and over again is that he is constantly looking for work and trying to add to blocks of other linemen. If he’s not completely engaged with a defender, what I notice is his helmet constantly swiveling and looking to pick someone else up. Some examples:

  1. :00 – At RG. The OLB over the RT backs out and the DE slants to the offense’s right, so the RT has him now instead. The C, for whom this game is his first as a starter, is really struggling with the nose, something that would persist all season long. Angilau quickly re-assesses to help him instead, knocking the nose to the ground. The LG and RB both get embarrassed by the end on the other side but that’s not relevant for our purposes.
  2. :18 – This was during a window when a backup RT was in, and he really struggled with some edge rushers. Angilau seemed to be aware of this and was ready to hand off a block to hit a defender getting past the RT and buy the QB some more time.
  3. :36 – Now at LG and for the last clip. I have dozens of clips against a 3-man rush that look similar to this one, I picked Iowa St because their 3-down defense is so iconic and I’ve studied it before. As in all the rest, Angilau is one-arming the nose to help the center, but staring at the tackle to make sure he’s got his guy. As soon as it’s clear he doesn’t, he leaps into action and keeps the QB clean.
  4. :46 – Here the end is looping around from the far side. Angilau has his shoulder turned working the tackle over to the C and RG, but is aware of the end and picks him up, creating a running lane for the QB to scramble through since the LT has gotten beat again. The flag is on the defense for 12 men on the field.

By far the biggest issue on my tally sheet in pass protection was Texas’ frequent use of pull-protections, which have the guard crossing under the formation to act as the opposite tackle and everyone else shifting over a spot. The point is to help sell play-action and they did usually suck linebackers up, but the o-line as a whole essentially never executed them well, Angilau included. They’re just too complicated and the defense can attack faster than the blockers can get set up. Indeed, if these plays are excluded from the dataset, Angilau’s pass protection error rate improves to an elite 6.8% and his overall grade to 10.3%. Here’s a representative sample:

  1. :00 – Rice was quite possibly the worst team in FBS in 2021 and they made Texas look silly on this play because of this protection, although Angilau individually does fine.
  2. :18 – I marked this down as a negative for Angilau since I think he’s supposed to get that guy, but honestly I’m not sure and at any rate it’s the RT’s guy who whacks the QB’s arm.
  3. :31 – I’m more certain Angilau should have gotten this guy, I think the way this works is he gets the widest guy coming, but it’s not like the rest of the line is covering itself in glory either.
  4. :49 – At LG on this one. Good rep here, picking up two different guys.

Transitioning to run blocking, while I thought this playbook was curiously light on RPOs, I did notice one thing out of Angilau that Oregon could stand to improve on: staying within three yards of the line of scrimmage while run blocking on a potential pass play to avoid an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. Some examples:

  1. :00 – Can’t go past the 43 here, good job by the whole line working the defense back three yards and then turning to avoid a flag, including Angilau taking on the nose while the C combos with the LG.
  2. :07 – The timing is crucial here, Angilau is responsible for getting up to that backer but not going past the 31 until after the ball is released from the QB’s hand. He cuts it close but turns his body to avoid the flag, and doesn’t chase until after the pass ought to have been thrown.
  3. :15 – At LG here and the last clip. Angilau had this defender pretty well handled all game long so if he wanted to take him straight back I believe he could have. Instead he moves him laterally and away from the play.
  4. :27 – Here it’s a double team with the LT, and they really could have taken this defender down the field. Instead they’re patiently keeping him right at the line of scrimmage the entire play.

I thought Angilau’s biggest asset in the run game was pure physical strength. Most of the Big-XII defenses he faced at Texas — as will be the case with Pac-12 defenses at Oregon — were 3-down fronts, and a guard is typically facing a giant nose tackle to help the center with, big B-gap clogging tackles, and backers trying to knife through. Angilau’s job on most run plays is simply to get low, drive his legs, and dig them out. He excelled at that:

  1. :00 – At RG. The DT that Angilau is driving five yards downfield and turning away from the play was a 4th-round draft pick and played in 13 games his rookie season, albeit for the Browns.
  2. :13 – At LG and for the next two clips. Here he’s clearing out the defender with one arm and turning him away from the play, or at least where I think the play would have been if the QB hadn’t dropped the ball.
  3. :20 – The nose here is projected to go in the 3rd round next month, and Oregon was after him hard in recruiting. Angilau does a pretty good job getting him off the center.
  4. :27 – Just walking a big DT three yards downfield and turning him away from the play.

Wide zone and outside power were fairly rare in this playbook, and even when they were called it was an adventure to see where the running back would take the ball. These have been much more common in Oregon’s playbook and so I paid extra attention when Angilau was given the opportunity to make the pivotal block on outside run plays:

  1. :00 – On this play the end is aligned over the RT so Angilau really has to hustle to get his hat on the outside of him so he has the right leverage for the back to cut around him and get downfield.
  2. :08 – The ILB he has to block here is faster than he is so he has to hit him square, too far one way or the other and he can get past to the back. Clean hit and then another shove for good measure.
  3. :22 – At LG and for the last clip. The LT is supposed to get the end, then hand him off on his way up to the backer, but it’s complicated when he loses his footing. Angilau takes it over like a champ so the back stays clean for a TD.
  4. :39 – Angilau has to ride the nose all the way to the sideline on this toss play; the latter is clearly not happy about it.

There were a lot of pulls in this rushing offense and Angilau grades out pretty well in initial speed to the block, though I have pretty limited data in controlling his man all the way through the play. Some examples:

  1. :00 – Double guard pull to Angilau’s side, and he’s blocking the OLB 15 yards downfield before the camera cuts it off.
  2. :09 – Just clean, efficient footwork here, no wasted steps.
  3. :17 – The ILB that Angilau is blocking starts out just inside the hashmarks so this is pretty good short-area speed to catch him just past the line of scrimmage.
  4. :24 – Now at LG. Pulling to lead block on this play, strangely fairly rare for an o-lineman in this offense. He gets through the hole after shoring up the H-back a little, then sends the ILB backwards a few steps.

Finally, what I have the least amount of data on is the type of play that Oregon has made its bread-and-butter for the last 20 years, which is inside zone with linemen converting combination blocks at the line into second-level blocks to open up chunk-yardage rushing for the back. The limited sample I have shows that Angilau knows his assignments on such plays, but I don’t have a single truly satisfying play over the entire season, whereas a typical Oregon starting guard would have dozens. Here’s a representative selection of what there is:

  1. :00 – If this backer is going to crowd the line, he’s going to get taken 10 yards downfield.
  2. :17 – At LG and for the remaining clips. Iowa St’s defense is notoriously difficult to run against despite the deceptively wide spaces because of this wide overhang backer, it requires precise timing for the lineman to get up and block him. After chipping the LT’s guy, Angilau nails that backer just at the right time, though he doesn’t control him through the play.
  3. :24 – Little chip on the DT, then downfield to the ILB, but he really should be hustling more, there’s a lot of distance to close and he’s barely making it to the backer before the ballcarrier does.
  4. :35 – Here’s a downfield block on a run play with a wider aiming point. The contact is fine, nothing illegal about it as the replay angle shows, but Angilau is a little too far downfield and has to turn and shove instead of cleanly controlling.