Colts fans entered the 2010 NFL Draft expecting the Colts to upgrade at left tackle. After that did not happen, many thought that Pete Metzalaars promotion to Offensive Line Coach after the departure of Howard Mudd would open up the competition between Tony Ugoh and Charlie Johnson for the starting spot once again (this writer included). Instead, the Colts are taking a look at Ugoh inside to potentially fill Ryan Lilja’s vacated spot, and this is a change that excite fans. Ugoh is a physically dominant player who has exceptional speed and has displayed the ability to get down-field as a lead blocker since he joined the Colts.
The toughest transition for Ugoh has been learning the footwork and lateral mobility required to slide outside stay in front of pass rushers on the edges. When he has been asked to simply square up, keep his body low, and block in-line, he has excelled and helped open holes down-field for Colts rushers. This tape will display some of Ugoh’s in-line blocking strengths.
Even the photo above shows him with his shoulders low, legs driving, sealing the defender away from his side of the field. These strengths and techniques should translate well to Ugoh playing “in a box” with offensive linemen to either side of him, with less focus on lateral mobility. His in-line speed and athleticism should also serve him well as a pulling guard.
Imagine Ugoh and Johnson pulling on a stretch play to the left side of the field. Johnson looked good when he was asked to block on runs to the outside, helping the Colts average 5.4 yards a carry around the left end, the best per carry statistic the team generated in 2009. With Ugoh pulling, using his speed, getting outside of Johnson to create a cutback lane for Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, or Mike Hart it could bring back the lethality of the Colts stretch run and re-establish the Colts play-action as a legitimate threat.
Additionally, in power running situations to the middle of the field, Ugoh could keep his leverage low and generate more push than he is asked to generate in passing situations at left tackle. There should be very little question whether Ugoh will generate more effective and powerful push in-line from Ryan Lilja last season, even though Lilja was a solid guard in the NFL.
The one big concern for Ugoh is that he will see stunts, inside blitzes, and other defensive trickery often. This will require that he react quickly, keep his eyes and feet moving, and stay engaged in every play. The video shows that he has a habit of standing around when he does not see his assignment. Football is a play to the whistle kind of sport which requires every player to be doing something on the field in order to create an advantage for their team, particularly on offense.
Ugoh will need to be ready to help his teammates inside and outside, to be sure he gets a body on every defender within his reach, and never just stand around waiting for the action to come to him. If you’re on the offensive line and the “action” is not where you are, it is somewhere else and is likely causing a great deal of difficulty for wherever that happens to be along the offensive line. He will need to get to that spot and get to work if he hopes to earn a starting spot, regain the trust of coaches, or to re-ignite his NFL career.
Everything about Ugoh’s physical abilities, though, make his transition to guard rather promising. His experience at left tackle also makes him very dynamic, with the ability to move outside if he is needed and stay on the field. Watching Ugoh’s development at guard will be one of the Colts biggest stories leading up to the 2010 regular season.