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UPDATED 2022 Recruiting Profile: Mark Nabou, iOL

Has this local gem taken the next step towards legitimate stardom?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 14 Oregon State at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With recruiting momentum building for the ‘22 class, we’ll start to see a few of the players that I’ve profiled over the last year make their decisions. Not only that, but many of these guys have another season of tape for me to breakdown, so to keep you folks up-to-date, I’ll be revisiting my breakdowns to see how the staff’s early scouting of these recruits panned out.

First up, our most recent, and hopefully first of many in-state commits, Mark Nabou.

UPDATED (6/2/21): Mark Nabou (iOL, 6’4” 341, O’Dea, WA)

It has been quite a year for the recently committed Nabou. Despite facing the same challenges as the other ‘22 recruits, Nabou looked like he made the most of the offseason when compared to UW’s other OL targets and relative to his talent. I was lucky enough to have a relatively close view of Nabou’s junior campaign as an announcer for a number of Metro League games that played after O’Dea, and I’ll tell you that while he had a prototypical iOL frame as a sophomore, he has become a mountain of a man.

I’ve seen a range of measureables thrown out by others immediately after he committed. His hudl has him at 6-5 & 335 lbs, one UW recruiting blog quoted a different self-reported listing of 6-4 & 328 lbs, 247sports still has his sophomore listing of 6-4 & 311 lbs, and the O’Dea 2021 roster had him listed at a monstrous 6-4 & 341 lbs. Of course, one has to take all of these with a grain of salt and adjust for the typical roster “fluff”, but having seen him only a couple of months ago in person, I think he is credible 6-4 and easily 330 lbs. That would put him up about 20 lbs since the fall of 2019, and it’d put him right there with David Iuli and Vega Ioane from a size standpoint.

However, as I’ve noted on a number of occasions, a big frame isn’t everything for a lineman. The reason why Josh Conerly is still the best ‘22 OL in the state is that he is by far the most an explosive lineman with a lot of power behind his pads despite only being 275 lbs. Now the key to building an OL is being able to project out how these kids should be able to perform once they get to their college size. Conerly is so athletic that adding 25-35 lbs shouldn’t adversely impact his athleticism, but that’s not the case for every lineman, and it certainly wasn’t the case for Nabou.

During my initial breakdown, I had some reservations about the fact that Nabou was already so big. A college-sized sophomore lineman who isn’t a clear athletic specimen can raise some red flags because it then becomes so much harder to maintain footspeed, explosiveness, and S&C. Often times a team then needs to trim them backdown and build them back up to playing weight. Fortunately, it looks like Nabou hasn’t let his bulking substantially affect his playing speed or quickness. He was never a light-footed athlete, even for a lineman, but he was a good mover on pulling assignments and reach blocks as a sophomore, and I didn’t see a real drop off in this aspect of his game. Instead, I saw improved drive off the snap, and a little more burst off the line. As a sophomore, he didn’t impress all that much in 1-on-1 blocking situations, but the more consistent firing out of his stance really helped him win at the point of attack. I don’t think it was a coincidence that O’Dea’s march towards their league title started after their game against Bishop Blanchet when things started to click for Nabou as a mauling battering ram at the point of attack.

Despite his strides in playing up to his size in the run game, many areas for improvement remain open questions. As expected of O’Dea linemen, Nabou has not had extensive pass protection experience, so his ability to pick it up once on campus will remain a key hurdle ahead of him winning playing time. Coach Huff has experience coaching up maulers with little pass protection experience (Hatchett, Ale, Prentice), so there is a blueprint to follow. Nabou pretty closely aligns with Huff’s prototypical iOL profile, and after a couple of years with mixed results getting push up the middle with tall iOL (Kirkland might be an outlier among the >6’5” iOL) we might see things shift back towards stockier guards.

Looking back at my original comp of “Myles Murao lite”, I think it holds up decently, especially seeing how Murao has continued to bulk up. However, Nabou won’t arrive on Montlake with Murao’s light feet or anywhere near the technique. A more apt comparison at this point might be to MJ Ale, who also arrived on campus with limited pass protection experience. Both will have to be coached up, but where Nabou lacks Ale’s pure talent, he should make up for it in overall football IQ and better developed fundamentals. Because of this, as far as a projection for early playing time, I would think that Nabou could realistically be better prepared to start at guard than MJ Ale was in his second or third year when he started to get reps. Nabou actually projects pretty well into the 2024 line ups when we may see an upperclassman log jam at OT but available snaps on the interior depending on how the Buelow and Kalepo iOL experiments go.

At the end of the day, this is all about projection and progression, and Nabou has made nice strides thus far. If we see a similar progression from Nabou heading into his senior year, I’d be hard pressed to say we missed out on any of the other in-state iOL if he’s the last one we get. He could easily play his way into fringe 4-star territory with broader national exposure next year.

Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UWDP Recruiting Notebook series in the stream below, and feel free to leave a comment with suggestions of recruits you’d like to see next in the series.

ORIGINAL (9/23/20): Mark Nabou (iOL, 6’4” 310, O’Dea, WA)

Yet another burly local prospect that has the build of a future “ready-made college lineman”, Nabou is an underrated HS OT that projects to the interior in college. At a stout 6-4 and 310lbs (some reports have him in the 320s now), Nabou boasts prototypical iOL size and decently quick feet. While not on the same tier as the more nationally heralded local prospects (Conerly, Agbo, Iuli, etc.) Nabou has the physical tools to be an under the radar diamond-in-the-rough.

Nabou played in a run-heavy offense at local powerhouse O’Dea, so while he has understandably raw pass protection footwork and technique, he was able to show off a versatility and athleticism in their various blocking schemes. Nabou’s overall athleticism could make him an above average iOL, but he’s better described as an athletic lineman than athlete playing on the line. His plays on tape as a pulling tackle emphasized his straight-line speed, as 300+ lb OL don’t usually move as quickly or fluidly as he does. However, Nabou’s overall leg drive and power aren’t as overwhelming as you would expect. He’ll run over LBs when squared up, and he’ll pancake DL on double teams, but those are situations where he can throw around his weight. In driving scenarios (ex. uprooting a DT 1-on-1 in short yardage), Nabou hasn’t quite developed the strength to win those match. Instead, Nabou has shown that he can win with positioning and by controlling his opponent with his upper body strength. These aren’t dominant wins, but this is really all you need to be effective as a run blocker in zone-based run schemes. It should also be said this is really just an analysis of where he’s at, and I’m confident that he’ll be a much more powerful blocker by the end of HS.

Nabou’s biggest physical limitation in college will be his lateral agility, in both pass protection and in run blocking. The few pass protection reps that were on tape showed issues being able to maintain position when moving laterally to mirror opposing pass rushers. Similar issues arose when making reach blocks in the run game. Similar to pass protection, Nabou struggled at times to get his body into position quickly enough to seal off the edge. Additionally, in HS, when he isn’t able to drive defenders out of the way, he has been able to get away with wrestling over matched defenders to the ground, or at least control them with “legal holding”. He won’t have as much of a strength advantage in college, and most DL will be able to work around this technique if he continues to let his feet and hips stay planted on-contact. Most of those deficiencies should be alleviated by moving to guard, where Nabou has the athletic profile to be dominant in both gap/power and inside zone schemes.

I took me a while come up with a good comp for Nabou from our current or recent line ups since we haven’t had a starter with quite the same playing style or athletic profile, but Nabou could end up being a Myles Murao-lite (although definitely not light). Its a bit of a reach to get to the Murao comp, but both he and Nabou are shorter/stockier HS OTs that project to the interior in college, both have flashed athleticism but not overwhelming power, and both have tendencies to over rely on upper body strength and high pad level. Murao’s HS development has gotten him much closer to being a college-ready technician than Nabou, but even being 80% of Murao by the end of his HS career would put Nabou in an upper tier of OL prospects. The faults in his technique are relatively straightforward and are to be expected from a young OL with tremendous physical gifts.

Long story short, based on his physical traits and development as a sophomore, I feel pretty confident that Nabou could become a multi-year contributor. He’ll have to continue to work on his S&C and pass protection technique if he wants to contend for early playing time, but he’s already shown me enough to convince me that he’s an above average athlete and scheme versatile enough that he won’t just be another depth filler or project prospect.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UWDP Recruiting Notebook series in the stream below, and feel free to leave a comment with suggestions of recruits you’d like to see next in the series.