Any defensive lineman knows that the recipe to being a good pass rusher includes size, quickness, durability, vision and arm strength.
But for Nelson Ceaser, he adds an extra ingredient: speed — and lots of it.
“He is explosive off the edge,” said Ridge Point High School head coach Brett Sniffin. “He almost has wide receiver speed.”
Ceaser has been playing football since seventh grade and since then, the Ridge Point weak side defensive end has spent years developing his ability to rush the passer.
“At the skill set I have, I have to do a lot more running and conditioning,” Ceaser said. “Lifting is important too, but I run a lot more. You have to be in pretty good shape to play my position.”
Ceaser said he developed his speed at an early age by racing against his family at home.
“We’re all pretty competitive,” Ceaser said. “We all play our own sport and do our own thing. So when we were growing up, we would all just race on the weekend. We were running a lot.”
Speed-rushers, like Ceaser, do exactly as the title suggests. They use their unique speed to fly past offensive linemen and disrupt the play before it even starts.
Ceaser was particularly good at that in 2016. He finished the season with 55 tackles — 14 of them were for a loss — and 7.5 sacks. His talent has grabbed attention from colleges, already receiving eight offers as a junior.
However, it takes more than being fast to be a good pass rusher. It takes endurance, or “a high motor,” as Ceaser called it, to be able to continuously pressure opposing quarterbacks.
“You have to go 100 percent every single play,” he said. “You have to be able to use your speed every play.”
Even for a quick player like Ceaser, there are times when speed isn’t enough. Ceaser said there are several times during a game where he has to mix his pass rush moves up in order to keep linemen guessing.
Ceaser’s favorite move is a swift motion to a tackle’s inside shoulder, followed by a sudden rush back to their outside shoulder. Ceaser said he isn’t sure if it even is a move, but it does get tackles’ feet mixed up, giving him an easy path to the quarterback.
“That’s usually what I try to do,” Ceaser said. “I try to get their feet crossed, so by the time they get them uncrossed, I’m already running past them.”
Knowing when to use those moves involves hours of studying. Like most teams, the players at Ridge Point do a lot of film study in the days leading up to games. While the team is watching film together, every position group is focused on different things.
Ceaser’s primary focus is on the linemen he will play against during the game. He watches their tendencies, their actions before the play begins and learns how to exploit them.
This was especially crucial for Ceaser when Ridge Point played Fort Bend Travis High School on Oct. 13. Ceaser said Fort Bend Travis High School passes the ball “90 percent of the time”, so he watched how its linemen would block players and what they would do on each down.
“I look for small stuff like that,” he said. “I look to see if he’s heavy or lights on his hands…Or if he would lower his head to block me.”
This intensive examination of players before a game has helped Ceaser grow as a player.
“He will continue to get better,” Sniffin said. “He has a chance to be a great one if he gets into the right system in college.”
It will be another year before Ceaser takes his skill set to college, but he will get there by blowing past one lineman at a time.