April 20, 2006

Paskorz puzzle

One of the most intriguing prospects in the nation is Pittsburgh (Pa.) Hampton athlete Steve Paskorz. While Paskorz's talent is abundant, what position will the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder play at the next level? Due to an ankle injury last season, Paskorz played almost exclusively as a running back leading to questions about his projection as a linebacker. Here's my breakdown...

Paskorz is a talented running back with excellent speed and great athleticism. As a runner, he reminds me a little bit of former Don Bosco Prep (and current Boston College Eagle) Brian Toal. Paskorz uses more speed in his game than Toal did at tailback and isn't quite as physical, but both players developed the skills in high school to play tailback for a major D1A team if that's the path they chose.

But, unlike Toal who was an accomplished linebacker as well, Paskorz has played sparingly on defense of late. As a junior, he worked in at defensive end, linebacker and strong safety here and there but his focus was on offense because of his injury. Paskorz recently had surgery to fix a damaged ligament in his ankle and is expected to be 100 percent well before next season, but he will miss all camps and combines it seems. That will lead to more questions from some teams about his projection at linebacker.

Watching Paskorz play linebacker as a sophomore (there is limited film available right now), his instincts are clear and he's an aggressive defender. He takes good angles to the football and his speed makes him terrific in pursuit. He's surprisingly strong for a soph and it's clear he could project as an outside linebacker even without junior film. But where would he be most effective?

"I don't have a preference," Paskorz said. "I'll play offense, defense or whatever. Some schools are recruiting me as a running back, some as an H-back and some as an outside linebacker. I played only sparingly on defense last year because of my ankle, but I can play linebacker. I did it my sophomore year."

If Paskorz were to play running back in college, he'd have to make sure he picks the right offense. He's made for a power running game, one that focuses on smash-mouth football between the tackles. He'd also be effective out of the backfield with his ability to get upfield quickly. However, despite his good speed he likely won't be a breakaway guy in college and any team that likes speedier backs might make him a fullback or H-back.

I think Paskorz, despite a lack of recent experience, is an outside linebacker in college. His size and quickness are more rare at linebacker than they are at running back, similar to Toal. But like Toal, Paskorz could also be used as a short yardage back in college in addition to his linebacker duties if he bulks up a bit more as expected.

Some teams won't go on Paskorz because he doesn't fit their offense and they can't project him on defense. That will be their loss based on what I've seen. But schools like Michigan, Pitt, West Virginia and Virginia see his potential on both sides of the football right now and realize that Paskorz is a hard-nosed kid with a motor and great athletic ability. Simply put, Paskorz is a football player and could be a special linebacker in college.

Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com



 

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