For this our second recruit scouting report for the class of 2020, we take a look at Latrell Bankston, a JUCO product from Hutchinson C.C. in Kansas. As the third-rated JUCO defensive tackle in the class, Jayhawk Conference Player of the Year, and JUCO All-American, Latrell will expected to step in early to fill the void left by graduates Ray Lima and Jamahl Johnson.
A native of Woodstock, Georgia, Bankston originally committed to Kennesaw State out of high school before eventually heading to Hutchinson due to an academic problem that made him ineligible for Division 1. He then encountered more adversity when he broke his femur and missed most of his freshman season. His sophomore season finished on a high note after recording 50 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. Iowa State beat out the likes of Boise State, Oregon State, Arizona, Arkansas and others to gain his services for the next two seasons.
In contrast to Ray Lima’s run-stuffing style, Bankston is a much more aggressive pass rusher that looks to create disruption in the backfield versus stopping up gaps in the running game.
His game gives Iowa State and interior pass rushing presence that they haven’t had for a few years, but in defending the run, Eli Rasheed and Jon Heacock will either need to instill more discipline in him or pair him with a second tackle that can take his run stuffing duties while Bankston shoots gaps to make plays in the backfield.
His motor and mobility are impressive, as he is capable of making plays all along the defensive line and chasing down run plays headed away from him. However, probably his most impressive trait is his ability to use his hands to shed blocks, moves he likely learned from sessions he says he spent studying the likes of John Randle and Aaron Donald, two of the best interior pass rushers in NFL history.
All highlights courtesy of Hudl.com
Bankston’s greatest strength is his explosion off the line and ability to use it to shoot gaps and disrupt plays in the backfield. Here, he quickly gets off the line and shoots the gap directly in front of him created by the line, which is pushing the back side of the run to let the lead F-back take the running back around the corner.
The pulling guard can’t pick him up since he would create too much congestion in the backfield, and the F-back doesn’t get there in time to make a difference, so Latrell swallows the play up behind the line of scrimmage.
Apologies for this footage being so far away, but if you can pay close attention you can see the first thing that needs to be coached out of Bankston’s game. He gets a decent jump off the ball, but goes through the entire play with very high hips. That can be okay in JUCO where he can overpower inferior offensive line talent that will actually play even taller than Latrell did on this play, but those high hips will get him in trouble in a hurry in the Big 12.
Here we see another exciting part of his game, his mobility. Bankston is sent on a stunt and ends up engaging with the left tackle, then uses his impressive block shedding ability to get off the block, and his tackle-to-tackle speed to chase down the quarterback from the backside. This mobility gives Jon Heacock some flexibility with his pass rush packages, as Bankston has greater ability to be successful on stunts than Ray Lima did.
Pair this with a guy like Enyi Uwazurike who has the size to move inside on occasion, but still plays with the speed and agility more commonly seen at the end spot, and you have two dynamic pass rushers on the interior of your defensive line.
Another thing Latrell will need to improve on when he gets to Ames is staying disciplined in the run game. Iowa State’s defense is built around the nose tackles eating up multiple blocks in the running game. If the nose tackle gets too aggressive and tries to shoot gaps, he’ll leave himself and his team vulnerable to open running lanes in the middle of the field.
The play above is an example of Bankston showing some nice discipline, as he absorbs two blocks on a dive play that the running back bounces to the outside. Instead of shooting to the inside to try to make a play, Latrell stays patient, and waits like a venus fly trap to snag the running back for no gain on the play. Bankston will need to do this more consistently at the Big 12 level to be an effective run stopper.
As JUCO players get up to speed in the Power 5 game, the greatest asset that will earn them early playing time is a high motor. Fortunately, Bankston has one. He doesn’t do anything special on this play in the way of block-shedding or chasing down a ballcarrier from the backside.
Instead, he shows solid explosion off the line, and okay hips (still need to work on that), but ends up making the play deep in the backfield because his motor keeps him driving through his blocker until he finally shakes free about six yards behind the line of scrimmage and makes the play for a huge loss.
The fairly easy comparison here is to former Cyclone defensive tackle Jamahl Johnson. Beyond being essentially the exact same size, both players’ games are built around a high motor and an ability to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield. If Latrell can become more disciplined in his run stopping duties, he’s plenty talented enough to be a 1:1 replacement for Jamahl Johnson
Fortunately for Latrell, his skill set will fit in either a four down or three down scheme, though four down is probably better for him.
In a three down set, he’ll need to be more disciplined in stopping gaps in the running game, or the defense will have to employ an extra linebacker to stop his gap so he can use his athleticism and explosion to get off the line and disrupt plays in the backfield.
In a four man front, which Iowa State will probably use more often this season in an effort to get an extra defensive end on the field and use the depth at that position, Bankston will be able to be more aggressive in shooting gaps to disrupt plays in the backfield or chasing down run plays from the back side.
Latrell Bankston is a somewhat unpolished, but high-ceiling defensive tackle prospect with the motor and attitude required to be successful in the Big 12. At least for his first season, he fortunately won’t need to be asked to single-handedly anchor the middle of a three man front. However this certainly is a player that could make a huge jump from his first year to his second, where his aggressiveness can be harnessed and turned into a highly productive player.