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Analyzing Steelers 2024 Second-Round Pick Zach Frazier - Leverage Is Key





Zach Frazier has a strong connection between football and wrestling. Upon closer inspection, you discover that both sports are deeply ingrained in the family bloodlines.


Heather, Zach's mother, comes from a long line of wrestling champions. Ray, his father, lettered as a center for three years at Fairmont State. His squad was the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion in 1996. Examining this further explains why Zach began lifting weights at an early age and went on to become one of Fairmont, West Virginia's best two-sport athletes. Following an exceptional high school wrestling career marked by four titles and a 159–2 record, Frazier decided to commit to the West Virginia Mountaineers football team.


From his debut with the Mountaineers in the COVID year of 2020, Frazier was an impact player. That year, he started nine games at left guard and earned True Freshman All-American First Team honors from both the FWAA and ESPN. The following season, he would start in all 13 games at center. On 895 offensive snaps, he allowed only three sacks and registered 63 knockdown blocks. For his efforts, he earned All-America Second Team honors from both Walter Camp and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). 


In his sophomore year, Frazier would see 12 starts at center and allow just one sack the entire year. At one point, he would go 11 games without allowing a sack. His junior year would be his breakout season, as he would earn All-American First Team honors (Action Network) and All-American Second Team honors from numerous publications. Before fracturing his leg against Baylor in their regular season finale, Frazier had amassed 58 knockdowns and helped anchor an offensive line that ranked second in the Power 5 in the fewest sacks allowed (10). 


One of the many essential attributes Frazier acquired as a wrestler is an elevated understanding of leverage. What is noticeable on tape is his natural ability to maintain a low pad level and place himself in position to win leverage with his lower body and core strength. Last season, the Steelers did not have a center who seemed overwhelmed physically and was rarely able to handle his own in the trenches. Fortunately for the Steelers, Frazier is an entirely different beast. 


 

Superior Understanding Of Leverage


When it comes to using leverage, Frazier has a significant advantage. His hallmark as a lineman is his inherent bend combined with his capacity to build a solid base at a low pad level. One would think that someone like Frazier, a former state champion wrestler, would have this in his toolbox. However, possessing something is not the same as being able to utilize it. Frazier is one of those linemen that can use consistently.


In this example, Frazier will have the task of blocking former Texas Longhorns defensive tackle Bryon Murphy II. Anyone familiar with Murphy II knows that he was one of the strongest linemen in the nation last season. To neutralize someone as strong as Murphy II, not only will it require a good measure of strength, but the ability to play will also require the right leverage. 


Frazier, in this battle, gets the best of Murphy II for several reasons. Firstly, despite not having the best length, Frazier is able to get underneath his shoulder pads. Second, Frazier moves laterally while keeping his hands inside and maintaining a low pad level, even when Murphy II tries to move with a tiny rip motion. Lastly, his anchor is solid, resulting in no room for Murphy II to maneuver. In this particular game, Frazier won practically every battle against Murphy II due to his superior technique and use of leverage. 


 

Quick Processor


Frazier's ability to process what the defense is doing pre-snap is well documented. Yet there are some instances where a lineman is required to process quickly during a sequence in order to fulfill their blocking assignment. Here is a prime example of this against the Penn State defense.


The players to pay attention to on this zone run example are both Nittany Lion defensive tackles, No. 91 and No. 51. When the ball is snapped, No. 91 stunts behind, and No. 51 crashes inside. Even with that momentary gap in time, Frazier stays composed and quickly stops the No. 51 in his tracks. The result is a first down for the Mountaineers running back. In general, Frazier's high football IQ allows him to process plays on the fly, which is one of many reasons why the Steelers will benefit from him on zone run plays.


 

Second-Level Mobility


The kind of lineman who possesses the mobility to climb the second level is ideal for Arthur Smith's zone offense. On tape, Frazier exhibits his effortless movement in wide areas and his capacity to get to the second level fast enough to make his blocks.


In this run sequence against Baylor, watch how quickly Frazier displaces himself from his spot to reach the second-level linebacker. The angle he takes is almost perfect, as he drives the Bears linebacker back almost 10 yards. The result is a wide open space for the Mountaineers' running back to go through. Plays like this make it easy to see why the Mountaineers run offense was arguably the best in the nation last season.




 

The Steelers' vulnerability at the center position was exposed last season, especially during their playoff game against Buffalo, when the Bills' defensive line manhandled Mason Cole, the team's former center. This performance was presumably what spurred the team to decide to start over.


Frazier is a completely different beast in contrast to Cole or any center they've had since the departure of Maurkice Pouncey. In Frazier, the team is getting a physically talented, agile player with excellent football acumen. It might be a safe choice to go with Frazier as the standout member of the Steelers rookie class this year if one were to place a wager.



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