03 Sep Preseason Scouting Notes: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Junior | 6’0” 232 lbs | Frisco, TX
A downhill thumper with 3-down ability who embodies the patience and precision needed in an off-ball LB
Nick Bolton came to Missouri as a true freshmen and immediately saw playing time by clocking snaps in 13 games. By the start of his sophomore year he earned a starting spot at linebacker for the Tigers. His 2019 season was a breakout year which resulted in numerous All-American teams and first team All-SEC honors. He was a key piece in Missouri”s 3-4 defense and showed instincts and technique that will translate to the next level.
– Block shed ability is one of his best traits. He can fill gaps while bouncing off or going through linemen to make the tackle
– Great technique when pursuing outside runs. He can quickly avoid blocks and stay square to the line of scrimmage to tackle effectively
– Has really good patience when filling gaps. Reads developing plays and mirrors the ball carrier to choose the correct lane to fill
– Plays with a hot motor. There were multiple plays throughout the season he had touchdown or big play saving tackles
– Good body control is an underrated trait of his. Isn’t the most fluid linebacker, but he is under control at every speed which helps him change direction well
– Reads the quarterback’s eyes well when dropping into coverage. Has a solid feel for pass concepts and understands when to pass/receive receivers in zone
– Above average man coverage ability. Against empty sets he was asked to man up running backs when they split out wide. Showed some decent closing speed on hitch/curls during these situations
– Showed really explosive speed when blitzing from the edge or off-ball through A and B gaps. Consistently applied pressure and knocked down quarterbacks during schemed blitzes
Areas to improve:
– Somewhat of a smaller frame for an interior linebacker. Could add a little bit more mass to his stature
– Can sometimes be fooled by misdirection plays. Usually corrects this mistake by flowing with guards afterwards instead of motion
– Isn’t the most agile when dropping back into zone. His instincts for coverage are good enough, but his actual ability to change direction while dropping back needs work
– Has a hard time filling interior gaps against heavy sets. He is too patient against theses which allows the extra blockers to reach the second level
Bolton projects best as an MLB in a 4-3 defense. He has the ability to play outside LB in a 4-3 or inside in a 3-4. Nonetheless, his instincts and block destruction suites best for an interior ‘backer role. If his 2021 draft stock is projected based off of his 2019 tape, he will most likely project as a second round pick. If Bolton progresses and improves like he did last season he without a doubt will have a first round grade.
What to watch in 2020:
As far as we know the SEC season is still going to happen this fall. Look for Bolton to lead the Tiger’s defense through a very difficult schedule and improve his play. It will be interesting to see how he stacks up with an extended offseason and more time to work on the weak points in his game. Hopefully he continues his excellent play into the 2020 season and shows more development.