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Better Know a Freshman: Neil Farrell Jr.

Big, Athletic DL will outshine his recruiting ranking.

LSU hired Ed Orgeron in January 2015 with the intention to rebuild a depleted defensive line. Recruiting under former DC John Chavis and DL coach Brick Haley took a noticeable dive, as Haley routinely finished no. 2 for top targets. Though Chavis departed under undesirable circumstances, Miles subsequent hires of Orgeron and Steele indicated a clear desire to strengthen recruiting.

Orgeron immediately went to work, reeling in Arden Key after just weeks on the job. The next season he pulled Rashard Lawrence, Ed Alexander, Glen Logan, Andre Anthony and Sci Martin. It took only a pair of signing classes for O to significantly bolster the talent level and versatility of LSU’s front seven, which is continuing to transition under DC Dave Aranda.

Many define last year’s DLine signing class by the major swing and miss on 5-star stud Marvin Wilson, or landing NT of the future Tyler Shelvin. But O’s biggest D-line get may be an unheralded recruit from the state of Alabama.

Could Neil Farrell be the steal of the 2017 signing class?

Back of the Card

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Ranking: ***
247 Composite Rating: .8847

Farrell finished ranked as the no. 347 player overall and the no. 25 DT nationally. Farrell didn’t receive any All-American invites, but reports offers from Florida State, Alabama, USC, Clemson, Florida and Michigan amongst others. He played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game alongside fellow LSU signee Justin Thomas.

Near the end of his recruiting process, despite a 6-months long commitment, Farrell took official visits to USC and Florida State. FSU insiders grew confident in the Noles ability to flip the DT, but on signing day, Farrell honored his commitment and inked with LSU.

Officially listed at 6’4”, 287, Farrell comes built ready to play. Farrell has a long, athletic build, carrying 287 exceptionally well (no. 92):

Shea Dixon

On the Field

Already There: Size/Length, Movement Skills, Power, Hustle

Working On It: Technique

Doesn’t Have It:

Already There

Size/Length: At 6’4”, 287, Farrell is college sized as he steps on campus. You can tell on tape he’s got great size and length. His technique right now is somewhere between raw and non-existent, but when you do see him properly use his hands, he’s powerful and uses that length to create separation from blockers.

Movement Skills: The OT should be put in jail for his effort at a kick out at :04, but credit to Farrell for blowing right past the block and chasing down the QB. He’s no LB eating up space on the field, but he moves really well for a player pushing 300 pounds. I like seeing 1:40 too. DL here are trained to basically crash that blocker and stand him up in the hole so the back has nowhere to go and can be cleaned up by a LB. Farrell skips all the formalities, crushes the pulling guard, then he’s able to shuffle over and make the tackle. 2:31 is where you can really see the big fella move. He blows through the poorly executed reach block, then he’s able to run and chase down the RB from behind. 3:47 is the total package and maybe the flash of the future. This is the size, speed, strength and technique all come together. 4:44 watch him blow right through the line and make a huge TFL in a GL set.

Power: Farrell is one of those naturally strong cats that moves bodies around with ease. Look at the power at :14, where he gets right into the chest of the RT, drives him 5-yards backwards, shucks him off, clubs the RB and gets the sack. This goes to his movement skills too, because you see that power/speed combination that doesn’t just allow him to blow up blocks, but then finish plays. Again at :28, you see power to beat blockers, speed to finish plays. Check out how he’s able to drag the RB down with one arm at 4:35. Damn.

Hustle: Hustle is an ethos and Farrell has it. Here’s another place where his move skills come into play. Farrell doesn’t give up on plays when the ball is thrown over his head or the RB is outside the box. No, you can see him, routinely, chasing down ball carriers from behind and trying to make a play. 4:24 they run a little swing screen and he changes direction and runs a good 15 yards to make the tackle. 1:20 too is a screen pass over his head that plenty of DL would give no effort in pursuit. Farrell reads it, changes direction and makes the tackle. Or plays like 1:30 where no one would expect him to be making this play and he absolutely is the one to chase down the ball carrier.

Working On It

Technique: I don’t see much polish to Farrell’s game. He’s tools galore just throwing around his body and making plays. He’ll need to perfect technique to succeed on the next two levels. The play at :37 is a prime example. That’s a terrible rush angle, but he’s actually got enough speed to blow by the OT, then turn the corner to get the sack. I want to see Farrell develop his hand usage along with a refined set of pass rush moves, which are currently absent. Farrell will never be an edge rushing dynamo like K’Lavon Chaisson, but he’s got the quickness and length to be a interior rush menace. Right now, he’s raw as a hide waiting to be crafted into armor. Everything needs overhaul from firing off the ball with good timing, playing with good leverage and hand usage and pass rush moves. The good news here is that the physical tools look to be there.

Poseur’s 80s Movie Comparison

As we can see, Paul is really high on this kid, when the rest of the world seems to think Farrell is a mid-level prospect. Well, I’m going with Paul (I sort of have to, as I have no expertise). Which means I get to compare Farrell to one of the all-time great movies that, when it came out, won virtually no awards and made no money. The studio recut the film over the director’s objections, ruining the final act and subverting the whole point of the movie. Neil Farrel Jr. is Brazil.

Roger Ebert.com

Brazil is Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece. It’s not just a bitter satire about the way bureaucratic systems crush ordinary people, but it also one of the most influential movies when it comes to art and set design. Gilliam’s retro-futurism is an intentional anachronism, placing the movie both out of time and timeless. The studio hated the movie so much that they released the film with a happy ending, neutering the bitter tone. So Gilliam released his own cut over the studio’s objection, which would then win the LA Film Critics Association’s Best Picture, finally getting the studio to relent and release Gilliam’s intended version.

Thirty years later, the movie has not just found its audience, it is widely believed to be one of the best sci-fi movies ever. Or to be frank, any movie ever. Go see it, and look for the Robert DeNiro cameo. Farrell will take the long road, but greatness is within his grasp.

What the Future Holds

Farrell is a prospect with exceptionally high upside. I can’t find any testing times to validate his athleticism, but he moves really well for a big guy. I’m not sure he’s an elite of elite level athlete, but he’s definitely no slouch. All those raw tools must be refined into true football skills for him to be an elite player. Right now, Farrell is a big, strong guy that can move around and doesn’t always look exactly like he knows what he’s doing.

This could very well mean that greatness is plainly attainable for Farrell. How badly does he want to work for it? I see the tools ready to be refined. It appears he came ready. He looks to be in tremendous shape and he already saw playing time in game one vs. BYU. That could very well mean he’s ahead of the developmental arc I initially expected. Farrell won’t be counted on to be a starter in 2017, but if he can carve himself a role as a back-up, especially giving pass rushing depth, his future may be very, very bright. He already net a QBH in his one game appearance.

Farrell has an interesting skillset for LSU’s odd front defense. Under Chavis, he would easily have been a one-gap attacker. Under Aranda, he may be asked to do more holding at the point of attack and block eating. But Aranda could also weaponize his athleticism to make him a backfield terror. I’m not saying he IS this, but he’s got a similar build to Marcell Dareus at Alabama.

High End: NFL draft pick, All-Conference, Multi-year Starter
Low End: Solid rotational depth that never sits atop the depth chart in a sea of talented players.
Realistic: I’m banking Farrell is a starter. Maybe in 2018, after LaCouture graduates. The tools are there and he’s already broken his way into the depth chart. Farrell’s offer list doesn’t align to his recruiting rankings. He’s got NFL athletic ability that just needs to be refined into dominant traits. Don’t be surprised when he winds up one of our best defensive players.