One of the biggest beneficiaries of Mike LaFleur’s wide-zone New York Jets run scheme will be right tackle George Fant.
George Fant is one of the most athletic players on the New York Jets roster. Prior to making his name as an offensive lineman in the NFL, he worked his way up the ranks playing basketball, never touching a football field until age 23.
Fant only played basketball throughout his four years at Warren Central High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and then started 121 games at power forward for the Western Kentucky basketball team over his first four years at the university.
Playing at 250 pounds, the 6-foot-5 Fant averaged 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds throughout his career with the Hilltoppers, peaking with career-highs of 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in his senior season. He led the team in rebounding in each of his final three seasons and was the team’s second-leading scorer in all four seasons.
Going into the 2015-16 year, Fant decided to use his fifth year of eligibility to give football a shot. He had been urged by friends and coaches to join the team throughout his time at WKU, but consistently refused. Fant had even ignored letters from NFL teams who were interested in giving him a tryout in the spring of 2015.
Once he was faced with the choice of playing football or heading overseas to pursue a professional basketball career, Fant elected to stay home and kick the tires on the gridiron. He bulked up to 270 pounds and played the tight end position.
Fant only played in two games, recording just one catch, but NFL teams remained interested in Fant due to his athleticism alone. He bulked up once again to 296 pounds for his pro day, preparing himself for a transition to the offensive line in the NFL.
The testing numbers that Fant posted at 296 pounds are insane:
- 40-yard dash: 4.84 seconds
- 10-yard split: 1.77 seconds
- 20-yard split: 2.82 seconds
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.54 seconds
- 3-cone drill: 7.20 seconds
- Vertical jump: 37 inches
- Broad jump: 119 inches
- Bench press: 22 reps
Fant signed as an underrated free agent with the Seahawks. After a tumultuous rookie season at left tackle, Seattle primarily used Fant as a tight end/extra offensive linemen over his final two years with the team.
In that role, Fant was able to make a positive impact using his sheer physical tools while he developed his technical skills as an offensive lineman in the meantime. He still served as a backup swing tackle and got a handful of spot starts at left tackle and right tackle, where he occasionally flashed exciting potential, but he clearly still needed more development to last on the offensive line full-time.
Fast forward to 2021, and Fant is now a 322-pound starting right tackle for the Jets who has developed his offensive line fundamentals to a starter-quality level.
Having developed the finer points of his game and added even more size to complement his athletic traits, Fant is ready to take a big step forward in his second season as a full-time starter. In Mike LaFleur‘s wide-zone running scheme, Fant’s physical gifts will be unleashed.
Let’s take a look at some examples of Fant’s athletic prowess that showcase the potential impact he could make in a wide-zone scheme.
Fant is tasked with a reach block on the 9-tech defensive end. He begins the rep by using a bucket step with his outside foot, dropping it back so he can get his hips turned outside and quickly charge across the face of the DE. Fant shows his burst and agility as he explodes off the ball, works across the face of the DE, and rotates his hips around to seal the DE inside. Nice job by Ryan Griffin of helping out.
Fant’s seal on the DE gives Josh Adams the opportunity to hit the edge for a one-on-one, where he throws a nasty head fake to beat his man and pick up a nice gain.
Fant works outside to the DE lined up over the second tight end. He gets a good jump off the ball, covers a solid amount of ground, and digs his hands into the inside hip of the DE, who worked inside and left his body exposed. Fant drives the defender to help create a lane that Adams uses to pick up five yards.
The 5-tech defensive end that is covering Fant works inside on the outside zone play, so Fant makes sure to pass him off to the left guard (Alex Lewis) before working outside. Fant climbs to the play side linebacker, squares up to his inside half, and gets his hands into the chest and back of the LB. Fant rides the LB’s downhill momentum and pummels him into the ground.
In addition to his lateral movement skills on the front side, Fant impresses on the backside, where he uses his agility to work his hips around defenders and seal them off.
Very good display of athleticism from Fant here on the backside of an outside zone play. Fant is attempting to cross the face of the 3-technique and seal him to the backside. Off the ball, Fant turns his hips inside and sprints across the face of the 3T, extending his right arm to fend the 3T off. Fant surpasses the DT and rotates his hips 180 degrees, sealing the 3T to the backside and creating a huge cutback lane that La’Mical Perine fails to see/use.
Fant slides laterally and sees the 4i-technique working downhill into his outside half, so he opens his hips outside to allow the 4i to ride his own momentum into open air, leading him to stumble. Fant works his hips all the way around, gets his hands atop the 4i’s back, and plants him.
Fant uses a bucket step with his inside foot to get his hips turned inside so he can sprint out in front of the 3-technique and seal him to the backside. Fant gets a really solid jump off the ball and shows his short-area quickness as he darts his way across the face of the 3T (good help by Greg Van Roten with the drag hand to buy Fant some time to get over).
Once he engages, Fant gets super low to match the low shoulders of the 3T. He ducks his head and digs his inside shoulder down to get underneath the 3T. Now as the lower man, Fant brings his hands down and up into the body of the 3T, giving him control of the block. Despite being pushed laterally and climbing vertically at the same time, Fant is able to swing his hips around and seal the defender off. Outstanding rep.
Fant’s overall run blocking productivity in 2020 wasn’t as good as it could have been since he was somewhat of a square peg in a round hole playing in Adam Gase’s inside zone-heavy offense. The majority of the Jets’ run calls were not a great fit to Fant’s skill set, limiting the number of plays in which he had a chance to do what he does best.
When Fant got opportunities to work laterally on outside zone plays, whether he was asked to create movement on the front side or seal off defenders on the backside, he typically looked good.
Expect to see the very best that George Fant has to offer in a Mike LaFleur offense that is laser-focused on running the ball to the outside.
Excited to see what Fant can do in 2021. If Mekhi stays healthy, and Fant isn’t pressed into duty on the left side, I think he can continue to improve technically at RT, and leverage his athleticism in the outside zone scheme.