Data Scout Notes: 2017: 1stC...2016: 1stC...2015: HMC...2014: NA
Will Hernandez/Texas-El Paso football Videos
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Will Hernandez Texas El-Paso Miners Offensive Guard 6-3, 340, 5.54, #76 Las Vegas, Nevada Chaparral High School
At first glance, it might be hard to imagine that a Texas-El Paso squad that finished 0-12 in 2017 might be led by a future top 50 NFL draft pick but that may very well be the case with Hernandez, a four-year starter at left guard who may just be the best senior interior offensive lineman in college football.
After a standout prep career at Chaparral High School (Las Vegas, Nevada) in which he earned all-conference honors at both guard and defensive tackle, Hernandez earned plenty of attention from college recruiters, including virtually everyone from the Pac-12, including USC and Arizona State. Many programs backed off, however, when it appeared that he might have to take the junior college route due to academics. Then-UTEP head coach Sean Kugler stuck with him, however, and Hernandez rewarded the loyalty by signing with the Miners.
Hernandez redshirted his first year with the program (2013) but earned the starting left guard position out of camp in his first eligible season and never looked back, starting the next 49 consecutive games. He enjoyed rare publicity for any offensive lineman - especially one who played for a team which struggled as much as UTEP did. Hernandez is the first Miner to receive consecutive all-conference first team honors since Quintin Demps (2006 & 2007) and is the first UTEP offensive lineman to ever receive back-to-back first team recognition. The captain was appointed UTEP Offensive Player of the Year voted by the team. He was voted a preseason All-American by several publications and likely only the fact that UTEP finished winless kept him from earning post-season accolades. He has been invited to both the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game because those willing to look past box scores and watch the tape can see that his talent is obvious.
From his broad build to his quick feet, power, nasty playing demeanor and rare durability, Hernandez looks like he was carved out of wood to play guard in the NFL. He can generate movement at the point of attack in the running game with his sheer strength but also shows impressive agility when asked to block on the move. He is balanced and technically refined in pass protection, showing the awareness that only comes with playing time.
Hernandez is a legitimate plug and play candidate at guard who offers positional flexibility with some experience at center. Had he played at this level at a more accomplished program, he might be earning acclaim as a first round pick. As it stands, he should not escape the second round with every indication that he possesses the competitiveness, work ethic and durability to be a longtime NFL starter.
BACKGROUND Hernandez recorded 42 tackles, eight sacks, one interception, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries at defensive tackle during his senior season at Chaparral High. He was convinced by Kugler to make the permanent switch to guard and started every game of his college career after redshirting in 2013. "He's the hardest working kid in our program, the toughest kid in our program, the strongest kid in the program," Kugler said in an article highlighting Hernandez as a Preseason All-American (El Paso Times) prior to the 2017 season.
STRENGTHS Hernandez looks like he was cut from an "OG" template with very broad shoulders and a thick overall musculature including meaty thighs and stubby limbs very conducive to winning the leverage battle. He is an impressive athlete for the position, showing terrific initial quickness out of his stance when asked to pull as well as explosive power in his hands and hips to generate clear movement at the point of attack.
High school defensive tackle, Hernandez still plays with the fire of a defender, jolting opponents with an explosive initial pop and showing legitimate nasty in his play, looking to pancake and dominate opponents. Hernandez shows light feet, balance and excellent core strength in pass protection, sliding laterally and anchoring effectively when opponents attempt bull rushes. He keeps his head on a swivel and reacts aggressively to twists and stunts, firing outside when necessary to flank his left tackle and protect the edge.
As a run blocker, Hernandez shows an explosive initial punch and leg drive to generate movement at the point of attack and sells out when blocking at the second level, lunging into opponents to often create eye-popping collisions. He looks for work in pass protection, delivering well-timed punches to knock defenders off balance. UTEP's former and current coaches all rave about Hernandez's work ethic and commitment. - Rob Rang 12/2/2017
WEAKNESSES Though he occasionally squared off against Big 12 opponents (including Oklahoma and Texas), the majority of UTEP's games were against inferior competition. Further, though he saw some time at center during practice over his career, Hernandez has zero starting experience at any other position other than left guard and does not long snap.
He can be a bit sporadic with his hand placement, grasping outside of the numbers and leaving himself vulnerable to slipping off or drawing penalties. Though Hernandez possesses impressive initial quickness (including when pulling), he occasionally gets a too far ahead of his skis once on the run, lacking the elite body control and anticipation to consistently hit moving targets. At times, he'll resort to lunging at opponents here, delivering some terrific hits but occasionally missing, as well. - Rob Rang 12/2/2017
COMPARES TO: Randall McDaniel, Vikings. McDaniel starred in an era in which 300 pound offensive linemen were rare but it is easy to remember the great No. 64's squatty frame, physicality and consistency when watching Hernandez. Like McDaniel (who started 202 consecutive games and earned All-Pro designation nine straight seasons), Hernandez earns top marks for durability and overall dominance, at least at the college level.
IN OUR VIEW: Do not make the mistake of thinking that because the Miners finished winless in 2017 that the team lacks talent. In fact, in Hernandez UTEP boasts its best NFL prospect since the Raiders made linebacker Thomas Howard the No. 38 overall selection of the 2006 draft.
Hernandez is a plug and play candidate with 49 consecutive starts (all at left guard). As his size suggests, he is a mauler in the running game with terrific power. Hernandez also shows excellent awareness to recognize stunts and twists, as well as the athleticism to react appropriately.
Started all 12 games played at the left guard position … named to AP All-America second team for second year in a row, while also being named to the CBS Sports All-America second team ... earned All-Conference USA first team honors ... named to AP Midseason All-America team ... named to offensive line allowed zero sacks against WKU and UTSA .
O-line allowed 1.0 sack at no. 7 Oklahoma and at C-USA West Division Champions North Texas … running game hit 100 yards or more in seven contests while rushing touchdowns were scored in the first six games of the season … Miners rushed for season-high two touchdowns against UTSA … Miners gained a season-high 410 yards of total offense and rushed for a season-most 164 yards with a score against LA Tech in which Joshua Fields hit a career-high 137 yards … Miners rushed for 163 yards and a score against WKU.
Started all 12 games at the left guard position … honored as AP All-America second team ... named Conference USA first team (first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn first team honors) … has started every game (37) at the left guard position during career … played on an offensive line that paved the way for Aaron Jones to rush for a single-season program record 1,773 yards, while Jones also became UTEP’s all-time leading rusher … Miners averaged 185.5 rushing yards per game and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground.
The offensive line yielded 22 sacks (1.83 per game), ranking in the top half of Conference USA … capped campaign with a career-high 555 yards of total offense, including a career-best 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) and four scores during a victory against North Texas … opened season with 518 yards of total offense against rival NM State, while rushing for 289 yards … Miners rushed for 323 yards against Houston Baptist … followed with 237 yards rushing at Florida Atlantic.
Started all 12 games at the left guard position … named to Phil Steele’s 2015 Postseason All-Conference USA third team and earned All-C-USA honorable mention … played on an offensive line unit that led Conference USA in sacks allowed (12) and ranked tied for sixth for nationally in sacks allowed per game (1.0) … efforts helped the Miners post three games of 220 yards rushing or more (227 at Texas Tech, 269 at NM State, 226 vs. LA Tech)
Miners gained a season-high 542 total yards during a come-from-behind win at rival NM State … UTEP tallied 408 total yards during a win against Florida Atlantic … Miners passed for a season-high 280 yards and a pair of scores during a victory versus Incarnate Word … during a win over Rice the Miners tallied 392 yards, including 231 in the air and a pair of touchdown passes against the Owls … UTEP averaged 169.8 rushing yards per game in the last four contests – its best average during a four-game span in 2015.
Started all 13 games at the left guard position ... played on an offensive line that only surrendered 13 sacks (ranked first in Conference USA and eighth nationally) ... the Miners also ranked fourth in C-USA in rushing offense, averaging 207.8 yards per game, while scoring 27 rushing touchdowns ... led team to New Mexico Bowl, its first since 2010 ... the rushing offense totaled seven 200-plus yard games, including four 300-plus yard games during the season ... the Miners ran for a season-high in yards (351) and touchdowns (five) during a win over North Texas. …
Attended Chaparral High School, Las Vegas, Nevada; Played three years of varsity ball as an offensive guard and defensive tackle ... recognized as All-Conference on both offense and defense ... registered 42 tackles, eight sacks, one interception, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during his senior season ... completed on the wrestling and track & field teams as well.
…Full name is William Hernandez ... son of Robert Hernandez and Angelica Lemus ... has one sister ... born in Las Vegas, Nev. ... kinesiology major.
Draft Scout Player News
01/27/18 - Top 15 Senior Bowl Performers: 3. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP...If not for Isaiah Wynn's dominating week, Hernandez would have been the top offensive line prospect in Mobile this year. Tipping the scales at 340 pounds, he carries his weight extremely well to stay light on his feet while relying on his power and nasty attitude to control the point of attack. Hernandez cemented his status as a top-50 draft pick. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
01/24/18 - Senior Bowl Wednesday: UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez is one of the nastiest players in Mobile this week, and that is meant in the best way possible. During team and individual drills, he enjoyed blocking through the whistle and showed extreme focus while defeating the defender. Hernandez was so physically dominant that on multiple occasions, he made his opponents visibly frustrated because they were stonewalled no matter what they tried against Hernandez. The former UTEP blocker entered the week as the draft's No. 2 guard prospect (behind Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson) and he will leave Mobile the same way, but he helped himself and deserves first-round consideration. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
01/22/18 - 2018 Senior Bowl: 7 Potential Breakout Players: Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso, #76, North...It isn't easy to earn a first-round pick from a team that finished winless, but that is precisely what the powerful Hernandez is attempting to accomplish after an 0-12 season with UTEP. Hernandez (6-3, 330) is a classic mauler with the girth, power and agility to generate rave reviews this week in the pit, which usually make for some of the more entertaining one-on-one battles of the Senior Bowl practices. Teams were once hesitant to use first-round picks on interior linemen, but that trend could be changing. Hernandez checks in second among guards behind Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson -- arguably the top overall prospect in the draft -- on NFLDraftScout.com's board, 31st overall. - Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com
01/03/18 - 2017 CONFERENCE USA FOOTBALL FIRST TEAM (COACHES): OL - Will Hernandez, Sr., UTEP,...Hernandez is the first Miner to receive consecutive all-conference first team honors since Quintin Demps (2006 & 2007). The Las Vegas, Nev., native is also the first UTEP offensive lineman to receive back-to-back first team recognition. The All-American started in all 49 games played during his career at the left guard position. Hernandez was named to the 2017 AP Midseason All-America team and 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List. He also earned an invitation to the 2018 Reese's Senior Bowl. The captain was appointed UTEP Offensive Player of the Year voted by the team. Under his guidance the Miners allowed zero sacks against WKU and UTSA and only allowed one sack at no. 7 Oklahoma and at C-USA West Division Champions North Texas. - UTEP Football
12/20/16 - 2016 ALL-CONFERENCE USA FIRST TEAM (COACHES): OL - Will Hernandez, Jr., UTEP,...Paving the way and creating holes for Aaron Jones is Hernandez, who has started all 37 games in his career at the left guard position. Hernandez helped UTEP rushers gain 185.5 yards per game, currently ranking fourth in C-USA. UTEP tallied 20 rushing touchdowns. Hernandez’s efforts on the offensive line also yielded 22 sacks (1.83 avg.), ranking fourth least allowed in C-USA. The Las Vegas, Nev., native helped the Miners gain a season-high 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) during a dominant 52-24 victory against North Texas. UTEP also tallied a season-high 555 yards of total offense against the Mean Green. UTEP gained 323 yards rushing against Houston Baptist, while opening the season with 518 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards in a victory over rival NM State. - UTEP Football