On Monday, Syracuse added its fifth commit in the 2021 recruiting class. Three-star defensive end Hayden Nelson committed to the Orange. Nelson also had offers from Iowa State, Indiana, Central Michigan and others.
Syracuse has picked up momentum on the recruiting trail after landing its first commit in late March. Nelson is listed as a top-60 weak-side defensive end by 247sports and the seventh best player in Wisconsin. Entering his senior year of high-school, Nelson is already three pounds heavier than Drew Tuazama – Syracuse’s projected starter at defensive end.
Nelson’s recruiters were SU defensive line coach Vince Reynolds and new defensive coordinator Tony White who was lauded for his recruiting prowess at Arizona State.
Nelson’s highlights from his junior season show a player accustomed to putting his hand in the dirt and shedding blockers. He already has a solid swim move that is at least effective on the high school level. Nelson also has quick hips – meaning he can change direction quickly when chasing quarterbacks. When teams try to double-team him with a tackle and a guard, he’s able to split the gap and still reach the quarterback.
Generally he’s going up against tackles, but he can stunt inside and match up with a guard. When he does this, he tends to try a bull-rush, which isn’t as effective as his swim move. In his tape, after a couple steps backward the guard tends to recover. Since these interior offensive lineman are generally the strongest people on the field, Nelson can’t rely on his strength to overpower them.
Granted, Nelson’s tape seems to be against smaller high school players, but he already has a solid repertoire of moves. Besides the swim and bull rush, Nelson also uses a spin move effectively. When a blocker seems to have Nelson pinned in his pursuit of the quarterback, he spins off of the blocker right into the quarterback. He also seems to shed blockers effectively.