Austin Blythe is the third prospect in our 2016 “The Guys No One Is Talking About” series. You wont find a smarter, better coached, or more technically sound lineman in any draft class. Blythe has started 44 consecutive games for the Hawkeyes at both guard spots and at center.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been turning out NFL ready offensive linemen for years. If you don’t have a real deep understanding of how football works in the trenches, you will immediately fail Austin Blythe off of the eye test alone.
I started this series years ago while doing fan blogs at dallascowboys.com. Following a highly successful track record, it has become a cornerstone here at YDCFF and produced numerous NFL success stories. In this post I am profiling Iowa Center, Austin Blythe.
Will all of the players we profile in this series become Pro Bowl players or even solid starters in the NFL? Absolutely not. Some may become solid special teams guys, backups, or not make final cuts in training camp. Others may have to begin their careers in another league such as the CFL. One of our previous candidates who has become a star in the NFL, Andrew Sendejo, started his career in the UFL.
We are firm believers in the Landry three year rule. Some of the players from “The Guys No One Is Talking About” series will need some time to develop, so please reserve any negative opinions on these guys until they have had a chance to do so. However, for those of you who are familiar with the series, you know many have gone on to have solid careers in the NFL. This series is about getting these guys some recognition.
Height|Weight: 6-2 291
Arms: 30 1/4″ (Not a misprint)
40 time: 5.36
20 yard shuttle: 4.53 (Top Performer)
Bench Reps: 29
In the sports world, Iowa is primarily known for two things: producing NFL offensive linemen and high-level wrestling. Blythe, a Williamsburg, Iowa native, is a perfect example of how those things go hand-in-hand. He was a two-time all-state pick in football (123 career tackles, 40 for loss, 14 sacks) and three straight heavyweight wresting titles (setting a state record with 143 pins) in a state that takes the sport very seriously. He put those skills to use in his redshirt freshman season, starting nine games at right guard but missing two due to injury. Blythe didn’t miss any more games during his three final years with the Hawkeyes, starting all 40 games at center. He gained recognition for his play each year, garnering consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore and second team All-Big Ten accolades from the league coaches in 2014 and First Team All-Big Ten by the coaches in 2015. Blythe was even named as a Rimington Trophy finalist this season. (NFL Combine Bio)
(The Dave Rimington Trophy is awarded to the player considered to be the best center in college football. Dave Rimington was a center who played at the University of Nebraska from 1979 to 1982.)
- Austin Blythe has a short, thick, powerful frame that screams I will win leverage battles. Upper body, lower body and overall functional strength is off the charts.. Mauler with some nasty that explodes out of his stance with a powerful first punch that stuns defenders and knocks them backwards. Keeps his legs churning and drives his opponent into the second level. (as you can see, numerous times in the video above he muscles his opponent to the turf.) Short arms rarely affect him because he uses his quickness to get his powerful hands placed first, locks on to his opponent, uses his natural leverage ability and controls the line of scrimmage. Good motor always plays through the whistle.
- Austin Blythe has a strong base and plays with good knee bend that allows him to anchor well against the bull rush. Very athletic, moves well laterally when pulling and always hits his target dead center with a good pop: many times sending him to the turf. Used as a lead blocker and punishes LBs at the second level. Despite being a mauler he has excellent agility and understands angles to cut off defenders in space and create running lanes. Agile, plays with good balance and has quick feet to mirror his opponent despite appearing a bit stiff in the hips. Excellent outside zone blocker. Uses his quick feet and upper body strength to direct guys shooting the gap away from his QB. Plays with NFL ready technique, High Football IQ, and he’s a natural leader with good character.
- .Austin Blythe has experience at both guard spots and center: usually that type of versatility would be very appealing to scouts, but his size and length limit him to the center position at the NFL level: preferably in a zone blocking system. Despite his good feet, he is a bit stiff in the hips which limits his ability to change direction and/or redirect. It doesn’t happen often, but his short arms are a disadvantage for him when quick twitch defenders with long arms get their hands placed first. Will need to get a better understanding of NFL blitz packages. Despite his power and good technique, his lack of mass and weight could cause him struggle when covered up by the mammoth 3-4 NTs at the NFL level… NFL Comparison: Mark Stepnoski
Overall, Austin Blythe is a powerful, smart, dependable and technically sound football player. You often hear of offensive linemen having to double team pass rushers, but as you can see in the image above, defenders often double teamed Blythe. He just happens to lack the ideal size and length scouts look for at the NFL level. I had to grade the player which is why I put a 1st round grade on him. Unfortunately, his measurables will cause him to fall to the late rounds.
That sports fans comes as a blessing to the Cowboys. With Mackenzy Bernadeu moving on to Jacksonville in free agency, they no longer have a backup center. Austin Blythe is a perfect fit in the Cowboys scheme and NFL ready. With his athletic ability, I would plug him in as a blocking TE which would prevent Jason Witten from having to stay in and block. He could also be used as a FB in goal line and short yardage situations. The good news is: in the event the salary cap wont allow the resigning of both Zack Martin and Travis Frederick, Austin Blythe will be developed and ready to take over as the starting center if need be. If I have to choose, Martin gets a deal over Frederick.