Harold Joiner: A Scouting Report
During Track ‘Em Tigers’ live thread on National Signing Day, there was one athlete that intrigued me … Harold Joiner. According to 247Sports.com, Joiner ranks fourth in the class and slightly in front of running back Asa Martin, who has garnered a lot of hype.
Joiner is the 152nd ranked recruit in the nation and the fifth best back in the country. He is a 6′ 3″ 220 pound back from Mountain Brook, Alabama. His highlight videos can be viewed here at Hudl.com.
The reason I was intrigued is because I am not sure what roll he will fill at Auburn. With his stature and experience in high school, it would be easy to label him as an all-purpose back. But as I watched his film, I am not sure he possesses the polish that might make him successful at the next level as a between-the-tackles runner. More intriguing is what he does besides running the football between the tackles.
For me, the number one draw to Joiner was the damage he can do out of the backfield in the passing game. If you watch his highlights from Nike’s The Opening, you will see him catching balls out of the backfield quite often. This shouldn’t surprise anyone since it is a passing-first, seven-on-seven deal. Nor should it surprise anyone to see any back in America, specifically a great athlete with his size, catching snowballs on the perimeter or a dump pass out of the backfield. What is surprising is his ability to catch passes in a downfield passing game, not limited to wheel routes from the backfield. Joiner was catching passes as a legitimate downfield receiver, which demonstrates his raw talent. However, his route running and hand placement at the point of attack need work.
Though there were only a few highlights showcasing him in pass protection, easily the most polished look for Joiner is in pass pro. He can destroy a pass rusher with ease, and he looks like a legitimate D1 player doing it. Can he do it to a 250-pound buck end? That remains to be seen, although he has the size to do it.
With his stature, some assume he will be a successful bruiser up the middle, but he doesn’t run the ball like a bigger back. That is, I don’t see the physicality of a 6′ 3″ 220 pounder. Nor do I see the explosiveness or elusiveness that might be expected from a less physical back. Joiner is extremely heavy on his feet, can’t evade tacklers, and doesn’t punish them finishing his runs. There is an obvious disconnect between his lower and upper body to the point where he exposes himself to contact because he either can’t get his shoulders squared for the impact or his feet in the ground to avoid the tackler altogether. This leads to a lot of first-contact tackles. A successful back at this level either has to be elusive or able to churn out yards after contact. However, he does have two important tools in his bag: vision and patience.
Consecutive highlights from the same game, sometimes the same drive, show an obvious speed/quickness/physicality disparity. Without seeing all of his footage, I am led to believe there could be a conditioning issue, an effort issue, or both. I don’t mean to imply that these are unsolvable issues, and there were obvious improvements in first-step explosiveness and willingness to finish runs between his junior and senior year.
But a funny thing happens when Joiner is used on perimeter runs. He becomes, essentially, an extremely physical receiver with a first quick-twitch move and just enough speed to churn out big gains. He doesn’t have elite speed, and he is a long strider, but he can make a safety miss and is impossible for a corner to bring down, which is why he is deadly on the boundaries.
All of this makes it hard to know what to make of Joiner or the position he will play. Without a major overhaul, though, I don’t see him playing running back. He has the physical gifts but not the physicality. He doesn’t have the elusiveness to make up for an inability to churn out yards after contact. Again, this could change.
Joiner does have good hands, a good nose for soft coverage and the ability to catch the ball downfield, but he has a long way to go to be a legitimate receiver. He certainly doesn’t have the speed to be a deep threat. But, he can catch the ball, and he excels in space. He is a big-time mismatch for linebackers, and he can do well in pass protection. He also is a good speed-sweep player similar to past Auburn players. For this reason I see him becoming an H-back, especially considering the other pure running backs on the roster. And there is always a chance that Joiner could become a slot receiver.