Renell Wren did a lot in Arizona State’s defense. Of course if you were his defensive coordinator, you’d want that too.
He primarily lined up as the nose tackle in either a 0-technique (head up on the center) or 1-technique (shading one side of the center), but commonly bumped out to a 3-technique (shading the guard to the outside) as well. He was often a two-gap player who struck the offensive linemen he was lined up on and read the offensive backfield, but also shot gaps as a one-gap penetrator.
At times, Wren stunted and looped into different gaps, spied the quarterback, and he even occasionally dropped into coverage.
Wren is 6-5 318 but looks lean and moves very well. Unfortunately, that size and athletic ability didn’t translate into production. Wren only had one sack in his senior year and three total in his college career despite the fact that he has the traits to be a much better interior pass rusher. As was mentioned above, he had a pretty complex role in the Sun Devils defense and was often not rushing straight up field which could explain this to a point.
Here is a look at what Wren can do.
When Wren lines up in a 0-technique directly over the center, that center is in trouble. In this clip Wren explodes out of hips stance, strikes the center with both hands, and rolls his hips forward. The cumulative effect of these actions is the all-out turtling of Michigan State’s center. Wren is a powerful player who understands how to use leverage and body mechanics to maximize his strength.
In this clip, Wren once again strikes and rolls his hips through on the snap. This time the center does not lose his feet. Wren continues to drive forward pushing the center deep into the backfield. Staying low, rolling his hips, and driving with his legs, help him to dominate when he lines up head up on an offensive lineman.
Wren gets off the ball fast, but sometimes a little too fast. The next two clips demonstrate that.
The first clip shows him jumping offsides on a key 3rd and short. Although his reaction is somewhat comical, the impact it had on the game was not. The ball is literally right in front of Wren, but that is not what he is focused on.
This is not an isolated incident. In the second clip, Wren is lined up in the near A-gap and jumps offside to shoot the gap on a short yardage situation. The penalty is not called, but if you slow it down, you can see that he was well offsides.
Wren needs to focus on the ball rather than the cadence, so he does not give up free first downs.
At times, Wren has trouble getting off of blocks, but when he uses his hands properly he has no problem. Wren strikes on the right guard then gets his eyes into the backfield. When he sees the running back heading to his right, he utilizes the push/pull technique to disengage. Having shocked the guard back, he yanks his hands forward, pulling the guard along with them. This is a good use of hands, but is an area that he could improve in.
In this clip, Wren does not use a move to disengage, but due to poor technique (the center is too high and leaning on Wren) he is able to disband with the center when he reads the run action. He is the first to get a hand on the runner and is able to bring him down for a short gain.
Here Wren shoots the gap to the center’s left. He is able to penetrate deep into the backfield and tackle the ball carrier for a loss. Wren has excellent quickness and can win on the line of scrimmage with speed or strength.
Wren’s athleticism is put on display as Arizona State runs a lot of stunts with their defensive line. The next two clips demonstrate that.
In the first clip Wren stunts across the face of the center, opening up space for another defensive linemen to loop around him.
In the second clip, Wren is the one doing the looping. He loops to the edge at the bottom of the screen as the defensive end stunts to the inside. Wren gets where he needs to be, but is slow to get back up the field as an edge pass rusher.
Wren has got an impressive array of physical tools. He has been asked to do a lot of different things for the Sun Devils defense, which has given him demonstrated scheme versatility. His best attribute is his strength on contact; he has a dominant bull rush, but lacks a proper array of get off moves. Despite his physical gifts, he has rarely been able to get to the quarterback. If he could improve in these areas, he could develop into an excellent player.