The Virginia Tech Hokies started off 2017 with a home run with a big commitment just before kickoff of the Under Armour All-America Game on ESPN from four-star DE/OLB Nathan Proctor. Proctor had been one of the top targets on Virginia Tech’s board for a while, but the Hokies were able to close the deal though they will have to make sure they hold on to him with Proctor telling ESPN reporters right after his decision that he still planned on visiting Penn State and Pittsburgh.
All the major recruiting services have Nathan Proctor listed as an outside linebacker, but the Hokies have him at defensive end though one thing that is clear is that Proctor has the versatility to play either spot or play in a hybrid role at the collegiate level.
Of course, Proctor will add some weight to his 6’3” 220-pound frame upon his arrival in Blacksburg that will affect his ability to play more of a hybrid role, but shouldn’t affect that too much especially as he looks like someone who could add 20 to 30 pounds to his frame without giving up much of his athleticism that makes him a very intriguing defensive end talent.
One of the things that makes Proctor quite intriguing is that athleticism that he brings to the defensive end spot.
Charley Wiles has always favored athleticism over just having size when looking for defensive ends, and Proctor fits the profile as a smaller defensive end that can definitely bulk up somewhere between 240 and 250 pounds. Wiles also has had a lot of success with thinner, more athletic defensive ends like Corey Moore and Dadi Nicolas though there have also been guys who proved to be too small and probably should’ve been used at linebacker by Virginia Tech (see Melvin Keihn who is now at Maryland).
Proctor told 247 Sports that Virginia Tech sees him as that smaller defensive end that is used more in a hybrid role like Dadi Nicolas was who was used at times in pass coverage to provide a different look. The difference here is that Proctor does bring some coverage skills from being a linebacker in high school that should make him more effective in coverage and can allow the Hokies to move him to linebacker if he struggles at defensive end.
One big thing that Proctor brings at the defensive end spot is great defensive awareness and a high football IQ which will be quite useful in a Bud Foster defense that looks for guys with exactly that type of mentality. Some of the best plays that Proctor makes on his high school highlight tapes come from his awareness and ability to make the right decisions that puts him in great positions to make big tackles.
Proctor is a very good tackler that does a very good job of wrapping up opposing players but even when he doesn’t get more than leg, he does not make life easy whatsoever for an opposing running back or quarterback to get away from him. Proctor always is fairly good when having to make plays in space and wrap up opposing ball carriers, a skill that is necessary in the age of mobile quarterbacks that are become more and more elusive runners.
Even when he is pass rushing, Proctor does a great job of picking out quick passes that he knows he can’t get to the quarterback in time to affect and runs to where the ball is. In one particular his combination of awareness plus his hustle and athleticism allows him to chase down one receiver who had about a 10-yard head start and prevent a TD though that receiver was slowed up by a couple missed tackles. Proctor can also drop back in coverage and provide some extra help while also allow Bud Foster to bring some different looks that could allow him to use Proctor as a spy sometimes and bring a couple of linebackers.
Proctor’s hustle in particular stands out as this is a guy who brings the hustle and energy to find his way into making great recoveries from being right around the line of scrimmage to getting outside and making up for a failure by his teammate. That type of hustle will prove valuable at the collegiate level and makes the possibility of him being a bust a little less.
One of the biggest things Proctor will have to work on are some of the more traditional defensive end skills including becoming more effective with the use of his arms to shed blockers. Right now, Proctor has shown that he can use his speed as a serious advantage but at the collegiate level, you must be able to effectively to use your hands. Of course, you do have to remember that Proctor didn’t play with a hand on the ground a lot, but was mostly used at linebacker and will now get to focus on developing his defensive end skills.
Proctor is also going to need to add some more weight as if Proctor is unable to grow much beyond 220 pounds, Virginia Tech will be forced to move him to linebacker to get him to be productive. Proctor will never be a power rushing defensive end, but he absolutely needs to get up to at least around 240 pounds to be able to be consistently productive at the collegiate level. If Proctor can do that, he’ll be just fine.
Proctor currently projects to be more of a speed rusher initially given his speed and current size alone with how he played outside linebacker during his collegiate career, but Proctor definitely has the athletic talent to push for a spot in Virginia Tech’s defensive end rotation next fall especially with there being plenty of uncertainty behind Vinny Mihota and Trevon Hill.
In the long-term, no one should be surprised if Proctor is pushing for a starting spot opposite Trevon Hill after Mihota graduates next year along with being almost certain to have a starting job or take a starting job when Hill and Houshun Gaines graduate. Proctor has a very bright future and is a home run get for the Hokies that you can absolutely see playing next fall not only on special teams but also potentially in Virginia Tech’s two-deep DE rotation.
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