2019 Vs: Clemson, Buffalo, Gardner-Webb 2018 Vs: Tennessee
Highsmith is quick off the ball and has a nice combination of quickness and strength to make plays against the run as well as the pass. Highsmith has been able to develop his game over the past year and has been able to fill the stat sheet as he currently sits top 5 in the nation in sacks which added to his already stellar run defense. He plays as if his hair is on fire and has as high of a motor as you will find of anyone in the draft class. Due to his quickness off the snap and strong hands (despite shorter arms), he has been able to make plays against the run and was especially effective when teams run outside zones away from him (where he really can show off his speed). He also has a nice repertoire of pass rush moves as he has a respectable spin move, dip and rip, and a strong inside move. To go along with his pass rush moves, he has played this season as a standup rusher (where he has been the most effective) but has also played at 3-tech. He started his career at Charlotte at LB before transitioning after his sophomore year, and his production truly started to skyrocket as he got settled.
Playing in Conference USA, Highsmith hasn't played against a high level of competition for most of his career (except for a few games against Clemson, Tennessee, etc.). Highsmith has an issue getting off blocks when his speed is neutralized off the snap and cant create leverage when he gets a slow start to the play. I've seen a few mentions that he will likely test with a shorter wingspan which can be a reason for the lack of natural leverage he can create when his first move off the ball is beat. He has had a few issues with over pursuing and giving an opening for offensive players to cut the play back outside. His high motor can also be misconstrued as a sort of sloppiness in his play and can easily be nullified when he doesn't play as technically sound (which happens at times).
Alex Highsmith attended the East-West Shrine Game where he got to go up against a better level of talent of OL, and really seemed to sell teams that his skill set will translate. I can see Highsmith finding a spot NFL teams as an edger rusher in a 3-4 scheme but he could play in a 4-3 scheme if he adds some weight. Expect Highsmith to be taken mid-late day 2 to early day 3.
Highsmith is extremely quick off the snap and able to make chase down plays due to his insane about of quickness/acceleration. He does run into some issues with balance though, Highsmith got caught in a few situations where he looked a little too aggressive and caused a little issue in his balance. While rushing the passer, he had a few occasions where he was caught reaching and the lineman put him on his back. But his insane athletic ability for the position jumps off the film so well. He has nice bend at times but he also doesn't utilize it to the best of his ability at times. Pretty fluid and doesn't show much stiffness in his play. Highsmith is explosive and was always the most explosive player on the field from his film. He was consistently the first player off the ball and has powerful hands that add to his explosivity. Highsmith is fast but is he is quicker than anything. He has really good short-area quickness and speed whereas he didn't have the option to show off his long speed in his film. In one of the areas he lacks most, Highsmith has just ok/solid coordination, has moments where he just gets ahead of himself and doesn't engage all at the same time but showed some progress as the season developed in this area.
Pass Rush Ability:
Use of Hands
Pass Rush Moves
Big Play Ability
Highsmith has a strong first step that is also extremely quick and it's too the extent where opposing lineman has to give up more yardage to him and simply take a few steps back as they set because he is simply too quick off the ball. His hand usage is so important, his strong hands help him control the interaction with the OL. He has shorter arms than most opposing lineman which is why he was also able to make a lot of plays on the inside as well as outside. But like I said, his shorter arms do detract from his strong arms because he can have issues disengaging from blocks when linemen get their arms extended and locked on him. He often needs to play with speed and torque in order to create leverage due to questions about his arm length, but still no real glaring issues in this area because he is still able to do so. Does a job mixing his approaches such as his spin move, dip, and rip, and also does a good job on inside stunts. His speed around the outside sets up his inside move well and really puts stress on the tackle. Finishing wise, he has a knack for getting to the QB. I didn't see a large amount of batted passes but he rarely let a QB go due to his recurring athletic abilities.
Against The Run:
Holds blocks well and showed tendencies to disengage from blocks in a well-timed fashion. His hand usage allows him to control the blocks and leverages his way through blocks well. Highsmith does a great job reading blocking schemes and attacks the weakness. Countless times where I saw him shed a down block and either disrupt the run or make a play. He can get a little too aggressive in this category. But he still has good gap integrity. I few situations where he was in the backfield a little too early and it created more running. Doesn't have the strength to completely dominate when the run is in his direction but he still showed the ability to keep and hold contain. A bit of a tendency to use more his shoulder to try and disrupt the play and not his hands. He has a high motor and that mixed well with his quickness off the snap allows him to still be in on the play when ran against him. He trails the play but his backside containment can be an issue as he overpursues at times. Very good lateral shuffle even with the little issue of over pursuit. All-around good tackler with no noticeable flaws. Can get out of frame sometimes but he still wraps up well and cleans up.
Set the Edge
Stack and Shed
Gap Shooting Ability
He is tough, willing to go inside where he is often outweighed. Not injury issues and plays all downs. A high motor player but does have moments towards the end of games where he began to fade and not show up as much on tape. Very productive college career that accumulated nearly 50 TFLs and over 20 sacks.
Very good instincts but can be misdirected out of the flow of the play. He was still learning the intricacies of the position and it showed. He started to gain a greater understanding of how blocking schemes work and shot through gaps in his film that you didn't see from early this season/last year. Good work ethic and teamwork. Good communication and doesn't have issues with running into other rush lanes.