As a former NFL head coach, Jim Mora Jr. likes his offensive linemen with plenty of seasoning.
At football’s highest level, there’s no substitute for experience in the trenches.
To that end, Mora has reservations about Oklahoma offensive tackle Adrian Ealy being an early contributor in the NFL.
“He’s a monster,” Mora told SI Sooners. “He’s a 6-foot-6, 327-, 330-pound guy who is still a little bit raw. I think he would have benefited from coming back and getting more snaps and working on fundamentals.”
The former 4-star recruit signed with the Sooners out of Gonzalez, LA. After redshirting in 2017 and playing five games as a backup in 2018, Ealy was a two-year starter at OU in 2019 and 2020. He started 22 games at right tackle and one at left tackle, but Mora thinks another year in Norman would have raised his draft stock next year.
Ealy is athletic for his size, and that’s “apparent,” Mora said, “but athleticism seems to go away when you play high, and he plays a little bit high. If you can’t bend, even at offensive tackle … you have to bend so you can move quickly. So you negate a lot your athletic traits when you play high, or you get forward a little, or your hand placement isn’t perfect.”
Mora who coached in the NFL for 21 years as an assistant coach and four years as a head coach before leading UCLA to a 46-30 record in six seasons, is now an analyst for ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
Mora listed the numerous ways offensive tackle in the NFL is similar to playing cornerback.
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“Fundamentals are so important; you’re protecting the two most important assets on the field, and that’s the quarterback and the end zone; there’s typically nobody outside of you to help you, so you’re on an island much of the time,” Mora said. “So that ability to change direction, move in space, get your hands on people and retreat a little bit … and keep your balance, that’s so important — and I don’t see those traits (in Ealy) quite yet.
“I do know this, he’s powerful in the run game. I think the teams are gonna look at the size, look at the athleticism, they’re gonna say ‘Hey this guy’s raw, but he’s the type of body and the type of athlete we want in our program. We wish he’d have gotten more snaps in college … but we’re gonna give him snaps here.’ ”
Mora said he anticipates Ealy will be an early candidate for the practice squad and will be able to develop his fundamentals there.
“I think he’s a guy that can develop into a real good player in the league just becuase of his size and athleticism — and nastiness in the run game,” Mora said.
One area in which Ealy may have a built-in advantage: OU lays strong claim to the NFL’s “O-line U” nickname. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has five recent pupils starting on NFL rosters (Orlando Brown, Bobby Evans, Cody Ford, Ben Powers, Dru Samia), and the Sooners have three other starters (Lane Johnson, Daryl Williams, Trent Williams) who played at Oklahoma before Bedenbaugh arrived.
“At Oklahoma, when you’re an offensive lineman, you’re well coached,” Mora said. “You’re challenged every day in practice, you’re challenged on the field on Saturdays, you’re playing at a high level, there’s a lot of pressure on you. So all those things contribute to your success at the next level.
“I think it’s just a factor of how quickly he can pick up his fundamentals, how quickly he can learn to lower his center of gravity so he can move better and learn to access that athleticism he has.”