When scouts take a look at the Trojan’s long-standing blindside protector, they don’t just see another run-of-the-mill offensive tackle. They see limbs and parts more often seen at other positions, or even another sport.
Think of an athletic Frankenstein, so to speak.
It was evident he was a former hoop star by his vertical jump. His brawny legs attached to a barrel-chested abdomen by a rather small waistline, offensive tackle Antonio Garcia resembles more of an imposing defensive end than the lumbering giant tasked with corralling one. Garcia’s physique will get plenty of attention from onlookers. However, there is still much to love about his play on the field, as well.
Starting 36 of the past 37 games of his career, Garcia was a consistent and very durable lineman for the Trojans in 2016. After garnering honorable mention All-Sun Belt honors in 2015, he capped off his career as a first-team all-conference selection.
Now, to me, there is nothing more refreshing than seeing an offensive lineman play to the whistle. Too many linemen hit cruise control a few seconds into a play and think that qualifies as giving enough effort. When I see a dude like Garcia who wants to put you in the dirt on every play, it makes my heart happy.
When evaluating small school prospects and those not in a Power-5 conference, I usually jump straight to the game against their highest level of competition. For Garcia, it was against the Clemson Tigers.
From the very first snap, the chip on his shoulder was front and center. Play after play, Garcia was getting after the Tiger’s defensive line. If he didn’t get a pancake on his initial drive, he would hip-toss his man to the ground instead.
The next thing that stands out about Garcia is his athleticism. It’s most noticeable when he’s in space and mirroring in pass protection. It honestly looks as if all of those shuffle-slide drills from basketball practice are still paying off.
You won’t often find Garcia getting beat around the edge, either. He knows how to use his length and will follow the defender around in loops before he ever concedes a sack in that manner. Combine this with a powerful, yet patient, punch when engaging defenders, the only way to get by Garcia is to flat-out overpower him with a bull rush.
Unfortunately, this is actually where he must work on his game.
Too often Garcia fails to drop his pad level when battling shorter lineman. With a narrow base that lacks some mass, he struggles with anchoring once engaged. This probably limits his potential to anywhere but the left tackle position but he portrays enough of the traits you want in a starter that many teams feel he is worthy of stashing away for a year or two. Garcia could benefit from a year or two in an NFL strength and conditioning program as he carries 300 pounds so well on his frame, adding another 10-20 wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It would also help in his previously mentioned bull-rushing woes.
In Troy’s game against the University of Ohio, Garcia had the opportunity to square off against another potential early-round pick, DE Tarell Basaham. As expected, the two went back and forth and put on quite the show.
During a pre-draft interview, Basham was asked about the best offensive tackle he played against while in college and at the Senior Bowl. His answer was Antonio Garcia of Troy, proclaiming “he’s a workhorse, man. He impressed me.”
That’s quite the praise from coming from someone who spent the Senior Bowl week going up against the best of the best.
Garcia is widely seen as a second-tier offensive tackle prospect. His range is around the late day 2 to early day 3 pick in the draft. With the OT class lacking in late round talent, especially with several top prospects transitioning to guard, the pickings are slim once the likes of Ramczyk, Robinson, and Bolles are off the board.
As the “we need offensive line help” theme starts to resemble a dead horse, combined with a plethora of needs on the roster, it’s a crap shoot to say what positions the Chargers will use their top picks on. Safety, wide receiver, offensive tackle/guard, edge rusher, and interior defensive lineman have all been mocked in round one to the Bolts at some point this offseason. If the Chargers decide against offensive line in rounds 1 through 3, Garcia would be a nice bang-for-your-buck pick.