Offensive Line Help Added Via UCLA Guard Jeff Baca

Posted Apr 27, 2013

PHOTO GALLERY: New Vikings G Jeff Baca >>

Baca (pronounced BOCK-uh) grew up in Mission Viejo, California, and attended many UCLA games with his late father. And once arriving on campus after a successful high school career, he made an immediate impact. Unfortunately, the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2010 season because, as head coach Rick Neuheisel said "he got over his skis" in some of the classes he took the previous spring. Then he broke his left ankle in 2011 spring practice. But instead of getting down, he played as veraciously as ever for the Bruins in his junior season, earning the respect of NFL scouts.

An all-state pick at left tackle his senior year in high school, Baca stepped in for eight starts at that position in his true freshman year. He moved inside to left guard for all 13 contests in 2009, and then redshirted the 2010 season due to the aforementioned academic issues. After missing the opener in 2011 coming back from that spring ankle injury, he stepped into the weak side tackle spot (the team moved linemen from one side of the line to the other, depending on the play call) for 11 games before playing strong-side guard due to injuries on the line. In 2012, as a senior for the Bruins, Baca registered 12 starts, 11 at guard, and one at tackle. He was named to the second-team All-Pac 12 by the conference's coaches.

STRENGTHS As tenacious a blocker as there is in this draft class. Strong punch in pass pro, stuns tackles to knock them backwards and works to move the line, not just hold his ground. Quick to recognize blitzes. Re-directs blitzers out of the hole, keeps his feet moving to take them away from the play. Shows awareness in assisting teammates in pass protection. Gets after his run target, attacks with a venom. Hustles to help his tackle prevent inside rushes, at times just attacking the end without any need to. Stones twists inside. Good mobility to pull, gets around the line quickly and has the flexibility to adjust to inside defenders once through the hole. Fits on his second-level block well and engulfs the defender.

WEAKNESSES Average height and size for an NFL offensive lineman. Stronger defenders can push him back with a power rush, and can use their superior strength to rip off blocks or control his upper body. Aggressiveness can backfire when overextending his punch, as he lacks great length to re-direct once he loses contact.

BOTTOM LINE Baca grew up going to UCLA football games with his late father, so it wasn?t a surprise when he chose to play for the Bruins as an all-state left tackle coming out of high school. Despite missing the 2010 season due to academic difficulties, Baca's managed to register 45 career starts. 25 of those starts have come at guard, and 20 have come at tackle. He's purely a guard in the pros, and his presenting the sort of nastiness and intelligence will earn him a mid- to late-round draft selection, by a team that's willing to let him build up his functional strength.

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