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Countdown to Virginia Football: #36 Gladimir Paul

The Hoos have a big need at OLB, and Gladimir Paul is one of the top candidates there. He’s undersized, but so is everybody else.

Virginia Media Relations

Position: OLB
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 215
Year: RS Freshman
Hometown: Philadelphia

With the move to a 3-4 defense, OLB becomes a very important position. Not that it wasn’t important in the old scheme, but the OLBs are the primary pass rushers in a 3-4 defense. Two of the top 3 career sack leaders for the Hoos were OLBs in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense (Clint Sintim and Darryl Blackstock in case you were wondering). The Hoos currently have just 5 scholarship OLBs on the roster, and that includes true freshman Matt Terrell. Those 5 players have a grand total of 5 tackles between them, and 4 of those are special teams tackles made by senior Malcolm Cook.

What I’m saying is that OLB is a big question mark heading into this season. And that makes the outlook for the defense as a whole pretty scary. Gladimir Paul is one of the options at OLB. He was a high school DE and was recruited as a pass rushing DE/OLB hybrid. Now, he’s being asked to move to 3-4, which is a different beast entirely.

He came to college at 210 pounds, which is closer to the size of a safety than a DE. He’s up to 210 pounds, according to the current roster, which isn’t much better. For reference, Coach Mendenhall’s starting SLBs for BYU the past 2 years have been 225 pounds and 234 pounds. Gladimir was a 3 star prospect from ESPN and 247sports, but just 2 stars from Scout and Rivals. Other than the Hoos, most of his scholarship offers were from FCS schools, though UCONN did give him an offer.

Now, Paul is a good pass rusher. He had 21 sacks as a junior. Below is his senior year highlight real.

Though he played DE, he often lined up out of a 2 point stance. So the transition to pass-rushing LB shouldn’t be that big. He’s got a knack for getting into the backfield and making plays. Though he isn’t the fastest of LBs, he’s very quick off the snap and has a high motor. He tracks the ball well and is able to make plays when he gets there. And despite his lack of size, he’s a very physical player.

When he stays low, he’s able to fight off blockers with strong hand play. But he’s going to have trouble with blockers who may outweigh him by 100 pounds. He may have a name that sounds like a warrior out of a fantasy series, but Gladimir is simply too small and too raw to be ready to contribute at this level.

Unfortunately, right now, the Hoos may not have the luxury of waiting on Paul to add more bulk. They need bodies at OLB and those two are the only bodies they’ve got.