Backyard Ballers: Furman's Dakota Dozier

Hey gang. So far in our "Backyard Ballers" we've had two from S.C. and just Monday my fellow friends here at C-cubed did a great job interviewing Wake Forest WR Mike Campanaro.

Today I'm going to take a look at a guy who has a lot working against him - small school, unsexy position, and learning a new position in the NFL.

Dakota Dozier played left tackle at tiny Furman University - it's a small school in the upstate of South Carolina which has actually been a powerhouse over the years in their area of the pond.

Like many smaller-school tackles, Dozier is a guy who projects as a guard in the NFL. Remember, Amini Silatolu was the same way from Midwestern State and each season the NFL sees several college tackles coming in being drafted as interior linemen. 

Most get "kicked inside" because of a lack of a particular skill that tackles must have in the toolbox - especially left tackles, but the same goes for the right side as well.

Dakota's case is fairly typical of the experience. He projects as a very good run-blocker with a bit of a mean streak, which is pretty much a prototype rookie guard. Good run blocking, needs work on technique in pass blocking and in playing in space.

Dozier's no different. At 6-4 313 lbs, he has decent size for the position but could be asked to add 10 or 20 pounds depending on the scheme.

The scouting reports on him are mixed. CBS says he has good agility, athleticism, footwork, and a nice kickslide. says "Raw technician. Footwork is not clean. Shuffles instead of kicksliding and can get overextended attacking defenders."

Okay, so the reports are very conflicting. However, a few things are clear. He IS a good, athletic young man - usually those smaller-school tackles have raw athletic ability of some sort, but with deficiencies enough that they can't play tackle at, say, an SEC school or in the NFL.

Dakota Dozier does have decent reach (34" arms) and yes, he lacks some technical tools but, again, that's often the story and why players like him play guard in the NFL. It isn't known for sure if he can play center, but if a team thinks he can, it should increase his draft value.

He projects as a 3rd-4th rounder as a guard. His own particular issue in pass protection is that he sets his feet too quickly and is thus susceptible to being bull-rushed. He also tends to "get out away from his feet" - or "caught leaning" and can get neutralized easily when doing so. 

His upside is he's that typical "road-grading guard" with a powerful punch in the running game. His pass-blocking techniques need a lot of help, but NFL coaching should eventually clean that up.

As such, he probably wouldn't be a day-one starter but could crack the starting lineup by midseason or due to injuries on whatever team drafts him. He projects, at the moment, as the 3rd or 4th guard in a typical team's depth chart - with upside - and as a special team’s guy. Most non-skill-position rookies find their way to the special teams by default.

What does Dozier bring to the table that others do not? Versatility.
He looks like a right guard at the moment, can probably play either guard spot after soaking in a little coaching, and has some upside to possibly play at center.

CBS compares him to Jonathan Cooper, the first-round guard from UNC last year, but Cooper came in a lot more developed than will Dozier. To me, he sounds more like a Geoff Hangartner from the Panthers - a guy who can play any interior line position - but needs work. Hangartner has likely reached his ceiling; Dozier has not.

Indeed, it's a rare talent that comes out of the NCAA as a tackle and remains one at the NFL level. As much heat as Byron Bell takes from us fans, he made the transition. Sure, he's not a top-quality type, but it's one hard job and he was a UFA turned starting OT for the Carolina Panthers. Not bad.

Dozier appears not to be one of those guys. Silatolu is a good comparison. I don't think Dozier is going to be a Terron Armstead. He looks like that kid who will come in and play right guard as a reserve (or could start for the right team), be pretty decent in the running game, but offenses are going to have to adjust their blocking schemes to help out the rookie in pass protection.

They'll use him as one of the doubles on the nose tackle facing 3-4s. Against 4-3s, He'll be just as big as the 0/1-technique DT (Lotulelei on the Panthers), plays with good leverage in confined space, and should be able to pass-block some of the slower tackles in the NFL. He just needs to learn to keep his balance, play over his feet instead of leaning (that'll get you killed as an NFL OL) and needs to hone his technique. Angles are different from the guard spot and so are some of the tools you use.

All said and done, Furman University's Dakota Dozier should hear his name called no later than the 4th round, and could be a top-five NFL guard prospect.

Not bad for a kid from a tiny school that perennially gets overshadowed by Clemson and Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks, huh?

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