Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Player Profile: Brandon Fusco

Today on Vikings Corner, we will profile
Vikings guard Brandon Fusco.

This week on Vikings Corner we profile under the radar impact players on the Vikings roster. Today we will analyze Vikings starting right guard Brandon Fusco.
Brandon Fusco was selected in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Slippery Rock. Fusco was the highest-drafted player from Slippery Rock in school history and was the first to be invited to Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Fusco saw time in 3 games during his rookie season and spent the other 13 weeks of his rookie season as an inactive player.

Fusco attended Seneca Valley High School in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he played offensive tackle. Fusco didn't draw an interest in football until his junior year in high school stating,

"Sophomore year,  I didn’t really do nothing and football just kind of came to my attention. I always watched it on TV and I sometimes got into a ticked off mood so I wanted to get out on the field and take my frustrations out on people."

Despite playing on a team that won just one of eighteen games during his two varsity seasons, Fusco earned All-WPIAL Class AAA-1 and honorable mention Quad North All-Star honors.

Deciding not to play football until his junior season, affected his chances to attend a Division 1 school. Fusco was not heavily recruited out of high school and his 6-4, 240 lbs frame wasn't a friendly tangible. He was only offered a chance to play football at Division II schools, Youngstown State and Slippery Rock and later chose Slippery Rock. Before he arrived at Slippery Rock, he decided to bulk up so size wasn't a major concern. He gained nearly 60 lbs. and touched nearly 300 lbs, which improved his performance.

After enrolling at Slippery Rock in 2006, Fusco spent his freshman season as a red shirt on the scout team, where he played offensive tackle. In 2007, Fusco shifted to center, as his leadership was thought to be better suited for center. As a sophomore, Fusco received All-American honorable mention, All Super Region I and All Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference first-team honors. His performance helped Slippery Rock rank second in the conference with an average of 484 yards per game

Fusco received All-American, All-Region and All-PSAC first-team accolades as a junior. Named the team captain, he also received squad MVP honors. He later continued this trend in his senior season receiving the 2010 Gene Upshaw Award. In addition, Fusco was named team captain and captured All-PSAC honors for the third consecutive year.

Coming out of Slippery Rock, the Vikings felt Fusco had the potential to become an integral part of this offensive line with some experience. Fusco was drafted as center and in three games last season started at center in place of John Sullivan. The Vikings felt after watching Fusco progress throughout last season, he could be groomed into a starting right guard. After working diligently throughout the offseason, Fusco made the transition and has likely won the starting right guard job. The Vikings did sign free agent guard Geoff Schwartz at the beginning of the offseason as an option to compete with Fusco. Nearly a week into training camp Schwartz suffered a sports hernia which required surgery. This left Fusco in the starting role for the duration of training camp and the first two preseason games. This most likely means with the amount of reps Fusco has received, he will be the starter after Schwartz returns from his injury.

Fusco has looked impressive in the first two preseasons games, much like the entire offensive line. At 6-4" 306 lbs., Fusco is an aggressive run blocker, nearly too aggressive in some situations. Last season alone he received three personal foul penalties combined throughout the season. This is something Fusco will need to keep under control during this year. A penalty can be the difference between a win and a loss and is a crucial aspect for being successful in this league.

I like Fusco's controlled physicality and his ability to clog up the middle with his size. He also seems like he has a high football IQ. I have heard several interviews including Fusco and he has stressed the importance of communicating progressions across the whole offensive line. Which later helps prevent breakdowns in protection.These type of aspects have been missing across the offensive line and are pivotal for protection of Christian Ponder this season.

More importantly, Fusco has an excellent personality and is very fan-friendly. I have met Brandon several times and each time he has a smile on his face and is connecting with Vikings fans. Fusco is the type of player the Vikings have been missing at right guard in the past. Anthony Herrera was a great option until a knee injury derailed his career. Fusco should help improve protection of quarterback Christian Ponder and will pave the way for Adrian Peterson in the running game.

Brandon will be a major upgrade and will prove to players, coaches, and fans that he is a viable option at right guard, for seasons to come.

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