Meet the Tennessee Football Newcomers: Vols OL Nathan Niehaus


Here is an analysis of incoming 2016 Tennessee football recruit Nathan Niehaus, who joins the Vols as an offensive tackle.

After having to start from scratch his second year on the job thanks to terrible recruiting by Derek Dooley, Butch Jones has finally got his offensive line where he wants it to be for this year. And to make sure he doesn’t make Dooley’s mistake, he isn’t resting at the position.

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Jones went back to the hometown of his old football team, and he and Mike DeBord kept the Cincinnati pipeline to Knoxville going to continue to build their depth on the offensive line for the future by bringing in offensive tackle Nathan Niehaus.

Niehaus played at Colerain High School in Cincinnati, which should bode well for him since he played in a competitive state that’s in the heart of Big Ten country. As an offensive lineman, that should prepare you for college football anywhere.

At 6’6″ 255 pounds, Niehaus clearly already has the height to play offensive tackle, but he likely needs to put on another 50 to 60 pounds to be an elite tackle at the college level. The Vols competed with school like West Virginia and Louisville to get him but no big names.

Still, he is a roster spot with lots of potential, so he has the chance to be something special if he can develop.

Early Analysis

Nathan Niehaus is mean, nasty, and loves to hit. He’s the edgy tough guy who will hit you away from the play if it’s legal just because he loves the physical play of football. Those intangibles are exactly what you need to be an SEC offensive lineman, so he has already reached the first step.

Niehaus also can line up inside or outside, showing his versatility, and he has a deep understanding of blocking schemes and where to force people to go. He’s also quick enough to block ends and linebackers down the field, but it’s questionable whether he will keep that quickness if he bulks up to the necessary level he needs to be at, which brings us to the negatives.

We have already mentioned that Niehaus needs to add maybe up to 60 pounds and to be a quality offensive tackle in the SEC, and he at least needs to add on about 40 pounds. His lack of size showed in high school, as often times he was only used as an additional player on double teams and to block much smaller ends.

Those ends will be a lot quicker at the college level, and if he does get to the right size, it’s questionable if he will maintain that quickness that is needed.

But, as already mentioned, he does have the intangibles, toughness, edginess, and intelligence necessary for playing offensive line. So his mental state is right where it needs to be. The physical state is a bit in question.

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What Nathan Niehaus Brings to Tennessee

Even though Butch Jones and Mike DeBord look like they run a spread offense, their offensive line is based off of pro-style offenses: long blocks, very physical, and tough.

Whatever his physical shortcomings may be, Nathan Niehaus definitely brings some more edginess and toughness to the offensive line. And he might bring more…soon.

Derek Dooley not bringing in an offensive lineman for the 2012 class really set the Vols back in Butch Jones’s first three years in Knoxville. Now he has got a collection of deep, experienced linemen and young, talented linemen to set him up for the future.

Niehaus adds to that depth, as you can never have enough offensive linemen, and if he puts on weight quick enough, he could help with a void at offensive tackle that still exists with the loss of Kyler Kerbyson.

After all, it’s not a given that Drew Richmond will be ready to do anything by game time no matter how great he has looked in practice. And while Niehaus is not likely to get a starting spot, that increases his chances of getting into the rotation.

So Niehaus could provide immediate depth this year if things break his way, and expect to see him a lot in the future after 2017.