Scouting report: Freshman T.J. Bollers is certainly a rising prospect to watch in Iowa
MANCHESTER, Ia. — If you need any clue that Clear Creek Amana’s T.J. Bollers is a freshman, wait until after the game. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he certainly doesn’t look like a dude who sat in eighth-grade classrooms last year. He doesn’t play like one either.
But meet him after the game. Chat about his recent game-day visit to Iowa, which was his first recruiting interaction with the Hawkeyes. You’ll see the smile of an emerging student-athlete beginning to live out a dream.
"That visit was something else," Bollers said after CCA’s loss at West Delaware Friday night. "Everything was so amazing. You got to show up, there was food everywhere, you got to eat. You got to see all the facilities; the facilities are beautiful. And then the game (vs. Penn State), it was amazing. I got to be around some of the best players from around the country, and everything was just electrifying."
Bollers, the son of former Hawkeye running back Trevor Bollers, told the Register he also has a game-day visit scheduled for Iowa State on Oct. 28, when the Cyclones host TCU.
It’s not exactly common for freshmen to receive game-day visit invites from Power Five schools. Bollers already has two.
He dominated the youth football scene growing up and produced video-game numbers playing practically every position for CCA’s junior high team. Now, he might just be cracking the surface as one of the state’s prospects to watch over the next few years.
Bollers currently starts at defensive end and wide receiver for CCA, but he’d be classified as an "athlete" in recruiting circles. Because he’s still so young, he can realistically go one of many directions in his development.
If he focuses on adding weight, he could become a tight end/defensive end combo, much like Iowa recruit Logan Lee of Orion, Illinois. If he doesn’t pack on pounds, he could settle in as a 6-4 strong safety and outside receiver. Or, he could move behind center and try to develop into a sturdy dual-threat quarterback.
That’s all looking way ahead. For now, the Register was on hand for Bollers’ latest performance against West Delaware. He finished with three receptions for 17 yards, two tackles and one sack. He’s now up to 7.5 tackles, one sack and 14 catches for 112 yards this season.
Here are some highlights from Friday night:
Getting pressure on the quarterback
Bollers shows his most defensive promise as a pass rusher off the edge. He recorded an 8-yard sack in the third quarter. Plus he routinely broke through the pocket and often stuck up an arm to alter the pass. You’ll see several examples of that in the video. You’ll also see adjustments he made throughout the game. At first, he tried to rely on speed to get around his blocker. Starting in the second quarter, he began using moves and quick feet to get by his man. Then, he went straight after his guy in the second half.
Strong upper body in tackling
West Delaware didn’t have much trouble running the ball up the middle. On two occasions, though, Bollers was quick enough to track the running back from behind and pull him down for a tackle. Even though he couldn’t stop the back from getting the first down on his second tackle, that one might be more impressive; Bollers significantly slowed him down with just his right arm before wrapping his left around, too.
Good hands, strong blocking as WR
Bollers played most his snaps on defense, especially in the second half. But he was a consistent outside target in the first half. He routinely made himself open on curl routes and demonstrated good patience and timing to catch a curl-route pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. He made a third-and-8 grab from a quick pass on a well-run slant route. And he caught a screen for about 2 yards. He also made a strong block on a screen for a teammate’s 5-yard gain early in the first quarter.
Special teams, too?
Yep, special teams, too. Bollers’ job is basically to line up on the edge and do everything in his power to get a hand on any punt. He came very close on the example you’ll see in the video. He also does some punting for CCA, logging two of them Friday night. One had plenty of air; one did not, but it caught a lucky roll.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.