By Dave Te Thomas
Usually, this position ends up with slow-footed college cornerbacks, hoping to make a name for themselves in the NFL while learning a new position. This year, it is the pure safeties that are garnering most of the attention. Led by underclassman Roy Williams, there is certain to be two safeties taken in the first round, with Edward Reed expected to join Williams in hearing their names called first. Right behind those two are a tandem from the Pac-10 Conference, Lamont Thompson and Clevan "Tank" Williams. Thompson ranked among the nation's leaders in interceptions, one year removed from being told to give up football because of a neck injury that was misdiagnosed. Williams came into his own as a senior, thanks to playing alongside workout room warrior, Coy Wire, a former tailback who led the team in tackles in both of his years on defense and paced the Cardinal in rushing as a freshman.
In a case of scouts really not knowing their business, All-American Ramon Walker was not invited to the Combines, but many teams feel that he will go off the board later in the first day. Other non-Combine participants that will draw later round interest are Shawn Hackett, James Lewis, Billy Newman and Pete Hunter.
Chris Hope is one of the finer run stuffing demons around and should join Pig Prather in the third round. Prather had a so-so year, seeing his stock drop from a potential first round projection prior to the season to the end of the first day now.
Look for a lot of safeties to go early in the second day. Mel Mitchell and Jermaine Phillips are fantastic looking specimens, but never lived up to their athletic ability. Mitchell did have a banner Gridiron Classic performance to boost his draft stock and could sneak into the end of the first day. Phillips did not impress in the running drills at the Combines, causing his previous second round projection to slip a few rounds. Joining these two in the fourth round could be Kevin Curtis and Marques Anderson. Anderson is born to be a Raider, as he has great range and that aggressive nature the Silver and Black love.
Workout warrior Coy Wire is this position's wild card, with some teams listing him as a poor man's Adam Archuleta and others not convinced that he has the instincts to play every down. The SEC tandem of Willie Offord and Terreal Bierria are expected to be off the board by the fifth round. They will have company there, as teams love the playing speed of Chad Williams, but are a little turned off by his short stature. The Big East hopes to see Rick Sherrod and Quentin Harris go by the fifth. Harris really impressed with a good week out at the East-West Game.
Late in the draft, expect Chris Young, Wesley Mallard, Bobby Jackson and possibly Reggie Myles and Marquand Manuel to get a phone call. Free agent types worth a long look in camp are Bobby Gray, Glken Sumpter, Jeremy Robinson, Dan Dawson, Jack Brewer, Steve Smith, Ron Israel, Abdual Howard and Stephon Kelly.
MAKING THE GRADE…B+…More talent than in the past, with Roy Williams and Edward Reed certain to go in the first round, followed by Lamont Thompson, Tank Williams and Jon McGraw.
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Has well-defined muscle definition, long arms and thick legs…Skilled man coverage defender who has very quick feet…Stays low in his backpedal, showing fluid motions turning and running out of it…Anticipates the pass well, showing proper timing and leaping ability tracking the ball in flight…Reacts well to receivers moves and is very active in run support…Effective blitzer with a sharp burst off the corner…Physical tackler who goes low in his stance and extends his arms to secure and wrap the ball carrier…Can plant and turn with explosion…Very comfortable working in the short area, doing a nice job of preventing the hooks and crossing patterns from developing…Turns his hips easily and gets his head around quickly on deep routes…Disruptive blitzer who gets aggressive when flushing the quarterback out of the pocket and shows consistency when closing.
Negatives: Better suited for zone coverage, as he tends to let the receiver get right on top of him when playing in one-on-one situations…Aggressive in run support, but does not always take proper angles…Appears a little stiff at times turning out of his backpedal… Needs to show better avoidance skills as a blitzer, as he has problems at times disengaging (does not extend his arms properly to keep blockers out of his chest).
Regarded as the hardest hitting tackler in the country at his position and one of college football premier talents, the 2001 defensive captain decided to bypass his quest for breaking school records to test his skills at the pro level by entering the 2002 draft as an underclassman…Holds the school's career-record with 47 pass deflections, topping the old mark 37 by Mike Woods (1996-99)…He ranks third on the Sooners' all-time record list for defensive backs with 269 tackles (188 solos)…His 29 tackles behind the line of scrimmage established a new career-record at Oklahoma, topping the old mark of 20 by Ontei Jones (1997-2000).
REMINDS YOU OF… Rodney Harrison, San Diego Chargers. Was the best defensive player in college football in 2001 and like Harrison, when he hits you, you hurt.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Even with a so-so workout back on campus, Roy will still be the first safety taken. Look for Detroit to show interest, but Tennessee, having lost Blaine Bishop, could be the ideal place for him to earn All-Pro honors as a rookie.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Has solid overall muscle development…Hard hitter who is very effective in man coverage…Productive run stopper and blitzing safety with a low backpedal, showing a sharp closing burst and no wasted motions in transition…Quick to diagnose the plays, turning and breaking on the ball in an instant…Has the speed to stay with receivers deep and shows a fluid hip turn to mirror the opponent's moves…Makes smooth adjustments switching off in zone coverage, keeping relationship with his assignment…Shows a knack for getting a jump on the ball due to his ability to anticipate a quarterback's reads…Reads routes well, maintaining his balance to make the tackle in traffic…Physical tackler who stays low in his stance with arms extended to stalk, secure and wrap up the opponent, handling running plays to his side with force… Lowers his head and extends his arms to wrap up the receivers…Makes smooth and proper adjustments switching off in zone coverage, keeping relationship with his assignment.
Negatives: Comes out of his backpedal a little to high in his stance, losing some balance and body control…Gets a little complacent at times working the zone, relying on his speed to help him recover while giving a huge underneath cushion…Needs to show more fluid foot agility in his backpedal…Seems over-aggressive at times in run support, getting walled off as the receiver gets his hands into his chest…Can locate the ball, but could be caught out of position by the receiver's head fakes and juking moves on deep routes.
The heart and soul of one of college football's finest defensive units…Exceptional leader whose intuitive play makes him one of college football's most exciting defensive players…A big-play producer, he led a defense that racked up a national-leading 45 takeaways this season, including a nation's best 27 interceptions, and 18 fumble recoveries (tied for 2nd nationally)…Has produced blocked kicks and turnovers that have produced 106 points for Miami over the course of his four seasons at UM…Finished his career with 288 tackles (203 solos) and seven stops behind the line of scrimmage…His 289 total tackles and 201 solos are school career-records for defensive backs…Intercepted 21 passes for an incredible 389 yards in returns, topping the old school records of 19 pass thefts for 305 yards in returns by Bennie Blades (1984-87)…Also holds the school career-record with 54 pass deflections….Added 123 yards on 12 punt returns (10.3 avg).
REMINDS YOU OF… Zack Bronson, San Francisco 49ers. Shorter than Bronson, but both are known for their up-tempo game and ability to lend run support.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… The Eagles are hoping Reed is still around late in the first round, figuring he'd be a great replacement for Damon Moore.
Positives: Compactly built, with thick legs and a well-defined upper body…Aggressive wrapup tackler who is very tough in run support, playing at a low pad level and using his arms with force to jam and redirect the tight ends at the line…Punishing hitter who springs into his hits…Handles the switch-offs with ease and is very physical with receivers in the zone…Has dynamic quickness and a fluid motion coming out of his backpedal, not wasting any motions in transition…Shows good balance and body control combatting for the ball and has good hip snap-&-spin ability returning the interception…Very effective in run support, relishing the physical contact in the box…Shows excellent sideline range, playing bigger than his size indicates.
Negatives: Tends to get over-aggressive in his hits, not securing properly, as he tries to attack the ball, rather that extend and secure…Has to work on taking better angles in pursuit…More comfortable in run support than dropping back in man coverage, lacking the speed to mirror the receivers on deep routes…Must learn to maintain balance when delivering the hit (will fly into opponents, leaving his feet often)…Does not digest the pass plays properly, as he can be fooled by the quarterback's pumps and fakes.
The mainstay of the Panthers' secondary ever since arriving on campus, his enthusiasm and "search and destroy" attitude quickly made him a fan favorite…Has been called the school's most devastating hitter since the Hugh Green era (1977-80)…Despite playing only three seasons at Pitt, he ranks seventh on the school's all-time record list with 307 tackles (190 solos)…Eight of those stops have come behind the line of scrimmage…Deflected fourteen passes and intercepted two others in his time at Pittsburgh…Including post-season action, his 328 total tackles rank seventh in school history.
REMINDS YOU OF… Leroy Butler, Green Bay Packers. Will make teams pay dearly for not taking him to the Combines.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Could stay in his own backyard, as the Steelers are looking for a young stud at safety in the third round.
Positives: Well-proportioned athlete with the frame to add twenty pounds without any dropoff in quickness…Sets the tone of the game with his aggressive play…Very quick to recognize and diagnose the plays, showing suddenness in his movements…Has the foot speed and flexible hips to quickly redirect in man coverage…Shows steady acceleration and ease-of-movement coming out of his backpedal…Extremely flexible in his turn-&-go, showing excellent body control and balance…Shows superb route awareness and maintains contact on the receiver during his drops…Consistently goes for the ball, taking proper angles as he times his hits…Tracks the ball in flight and easily adjusts to the ball… Loves to compete for the high passes, catching the ball in his hands and away from his body…Knows how to extend at the ball's highest point…Uses his hands effectively to work through blocks…Keeps his shoulders square and stays low, driving with his legs to rock the ball carrier back at the line of scrimmage…Runs with an effortless stride and is very decisive in his movements.
Negatives: Needs structure (best when being pushed)…Has adequate learning ability and needs time to retain the playbook…Lacks that sharp burst needed to recover when beaten deep…Gets sloppy in his tackling at times, possible due to a previous shoulder injury, as he is inconsistent wrapping and will miss a few open field tackles…Needs more work in the weight room to add muscle definition to his upper body…Wonderlic score (9) is cause for concern.
Mainstay in the Mountaineers' secondary, moving into the starting lineup at the end of his sophomore season…In 25 career starts, he registered 287 tackles with four interceptions and 17 pass deflections (tenth on the school's call-time record list)…Made at least ten tackles in 13 of his 25 starts.
REMINDS YOU OF… Kim Herring, St. Louis Rams. Looks great upon eye contact, but disappears quicker than my paycheck once the wife and kids get their hands on it.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Will be drafted on athletic skills alone, but his team- mate, Shawn Hackett, was the glue to WVU's secondary.
First Day Possibilities
Positives: Has a lean, athletic build, with only 4.4% body fat…Very quick to react to the play, showing excellent man coverage ability brought upon by experience as a cornerback during his sophomore year…Very smooth coming out of his backpedal, showing the flexibility and effortless gait to easily turn on the ball…Has the deep acceleration to quickly cover ground in deep routes…Maintains eye contact on the ball in flight, tracking and chasing the ball down in an instant…Has excellent range in run support and gets an explosive jump on the ball in pass patterns…Natural catcher who hauls in the interception with his fingers (has experience as a receiver)…Quick to react, coming up with very sudden movements in run support…Shows good hand usage to avoid and shed blocks.
Negatives: 2000 neck injury (actually was a sprain after first being thought to be a fracture) could be a medical concern for some teams…Picks his spots to deliver the big hit and tends to tackle with his shoulders rather than wrapping (could be trying to protect and compensate for the neck)…Comes in low with his tackles, but by leading with his shoulder, several easy tackles are missed opportunities due to his refusal to face up and wrap…Backpedal could use refinement, as he looks a little too flat-footed at times.
The mainstay of the Cougars' secondary since midway through his freshman campaign, he holds the school and Pac-10 Conference career-record with 24 interceptions, shattering the previous WSU mark of 14 by Richard Reed (1966-68)…His 223 yards via interception returns rank behind only Reed's 231 in school annals…Started 34 of 44 games he played in for the Cougars, totaling 252 tackles (167 solos) with 22 pass deflections.
REMINDS YOU OF… Darren Woodson, Dallas Cowboys. Outstanding pass thief who also excels in run support.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If it was not for some lingering questions about his neck, he would be a mid-first rounder. Tennessee and Houston like him in the second round.
Positives: Tall, rangy, well-built athlete with good muscle definition…Cut high, with long legs… Shows good zone awareness, reading the plays and breaking on the ball quickly… Shows sudden moves attacking the ball away from the line of scrimmage…Competes for the ball in traffic, using his impressive leaping ability when timing his jumps…Superb angle tackler who uses his arms forcefully to club the ball and force the fumble…Can reach and pluck for the pigskin away from the body's framework…Will square up and unload on ball carriers in run support.
Negatives: Does not play off blocks well…Lacks the foot quickness, body control and change of direction agility to be effective in man coverage…Typical big man who stays too high and looks choppy in his backpedal…Heavy-legged when playing off the line of scrimmage as he's slow to get back to the second level…Lacks plant and drive crispness in transition…Does not show the burst or acceleration needed to close on the ball…Makes questionable decisions when faced with the receiver in isolated coverage, as he tends to bite on play action.
In his final season on The Farm, Tank established himself as one of the best free safeties in the West…A postseason honors winner who has improved each season in all phases of his game, he is a hard-hitting safety who has the size, speed and athletic ability to make plays…One of the team leaders on defense and a key player for Stanford in 2001, he finished his career with 203 tackles (133 solos), five sacks for minus 37 yards and eight stops for losses of 42 yards…Also had nine interceptions.
REMINDS YOU OF… Marquis Smith, Cleveland Browns. I don't know, folks, he really does not stick out on game films.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Sure, he had a nice senior campaign as a pass thief, but it was because Coy Wire handled most of the trash in the box for him.
Positives: Well-developed athlete with a lean physique, tight waist and hips and solid thighs and calves (only 6.2% body fat)…Has a sharp change of direction and fluid lateral agility…Very aware of the action on the field, reacting to what he sees with no hesitation towards the ball…Rarely, if ever, caught out of position…Has the speed to run stride-for-stride with receivers on deep routes, leaving little cushion for his opponent to operate with…Covers a tremendous amount of ground with his range, playing deep in centerfield to keep the action in front of him…Shows excellent timing going up for the ball, extending his arms and using his natural hands to make the interception…Shows good body control combating for the ball…Quick to read and react to action in the rush lanes, staying low in his pads to meet the fullback head-on…Takes proper angles to plug the holes and is a vicious hitter who simply drives ball carriers back.
Negatives: Despite his speed, he loses a bit in his backpedal, as he appears too high and looks stiff in transition…Gets his weight too far back and runs on his heels in reverse, causing him to gather a bit before redirecting…Slow to react to the play action at times… Gets a little too run-stuff oriented and this tunnel vision allows the bigger blockers to get their hands into his chest quickly…While he hits with force, he does not have the brute strength to break down and face up to the bigger backs…Naturally tight in his straight-line charge, relying on his speed too much to compensate.
An accomplished violin player, Jon began his career as a walk-on wide receiver…The defensive team co-captain and team representative has a superb blend of size, speed and intelligence… Respected team leader who has also excelled in the classroom, earning Academic All-American honors…A person you'd want your daughter to marry off the field, he takes on an entirely aggressive persona on the gridiron…Went on to start 19 games while appearing in 43 contests at free safety… Recorded 184 tackles (138 solos) with three sacks and 16 stops for losses of 53 yards… Deflected 17 passes and intercepted nine others during his career as a Wildcat.
REMINDS YOU OF… John Lynch, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Like Lynch, he's smart, aggressive, fast and a terrific playmaker.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… The injuries this yet set him back a bit, but he's certainly an instant starter at the next level.
Positives: Has good muscle development in his chest and arms…Play maker who quickly locates the ball and has sudden moves anticipating the play…Has smoothness in his back-pedal…Shows a good feel for the receiver in the zone, getting a quick jump on the ball… Constantly has his hands in the receiver's face to obstruct his vision…Shows the range and recovery speed to get to the ball in an instant…Stays low in his stance and has the leg drive to extend, wrap and secure the ball carrier in run support…Has tremendous open field toughness… Special teams gunner with an explosive initial step and a motor that never quits.
Negatives: Lacks the hip flexibility…More comfortable playing in the zone as he lacks the leaping ability to combat for the ball at its highest point…Marginal pass defender who does not seem to want to get a piece of the ball, rather waiting for the catch to take place before delivering the crunching hit…Tends to let the ball come into his body rather than extending his fingers for it, resulting in more tipped passes than interceptions.
Hard-hitting defender who led the team in tackles the last two years…A mainstay at strong safety since his freshman year, he twice won the school's Hale Irwin Award (outstanding defensive back) and picked up Dave Jones Award (outstanding defensive player) honors as a senior…One of four team captains, he closed out his career ninth on the school's all-time record list with 336 tackles (second-best among defensive backs), second in forced fumbles (10) and tied for 12th with nine interceptions…His 6.5 quarterback sacks in a Colorado career-record for defensive backs…Also deflected 17 passes.
REMINDS YOU OF… Reggie Tongue, Seattle Seahawks. Like Tongue, he has this nice ease of movement that keeps him around the ball.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Even with a good campus workout, he looks like a third rounder, as teams remember his less than stellar workout at the Combines.
Positives: Has a solid frame, with a tight waist and good muscle development…Makes proper reads breaking down the pass play…Maintains contact while mirroring the receiver's moves… Smooth turning out of his backpedal, displaying a quick hip snap… Makes sharp breaks when playing the ball in flight…Shows good body control and flexibility battling for the high ball…Shows proper foot adjustments dropping off in the zone…Has a good sense for routes, consistently keeping the plays in front of him.
Negatives: Lacks that suddenness in his movements and the speed to be effective on deep routes…Very late trying to catch up to the receivers on the long ball…His short strides prevent him from making up ground when beaten…Very inconsistent tackler who seems to hesitate when making the hit in the open…Fails to break down the plays when called upon in run support…Hits hard, but leads with his shoulders, causing him to slip off tackles…Classroom expertise (3.87 grade point average) does not translate on to the football field (see Wonderlic score)…More comfortable working the zone, as he has a knack for locating the football, but shows limited man coverage ability.
One of the nation's top safeties, who also garnered Academic All-American honors…Three-year starter who performed on the school's last two national championship games… Bench presses more than 400 pounds…Twice earned the award for the most dependable defensive back on the team…Finished his career with 234 tackles (149 solos) and seven stops behind the line of scrimmage…Also deflected 18 passes, intercepted nine others, caused three fumbles and registered a pair of fumble recoveries.
REMINDS YOU OF… Devin Bush, Cleveland Browns. Great zone defender, just don't ask him to go one-on-one with anybody.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… His feel for routes compensates for his limited man coverage skills. Look for Hope to go in the third round.
Positives: Exceptional open field tackler who makes proper reads and quickly diagnoses the plays…Fluid turning and running coming out of his backpedal…Very decisive playing the ball in front of him and makes quick decisions switching off in the zone…Has fluid change of direction agility…Shows an explosive closing burst and the range to easily recover when beaten… Combats receivers for the ball, timing his leaps perfectly to disrupt the opponent's vision…Has a strong forward charge in run support…Unloads bone-jarring tackles, staying low to extend his arms, wrap and secure…Superb edge blitzer who speed is virtually impossible for the linemen to stop…Shows an even flow as he moves laterally, quickly stepping in to fill the rush lanes…Jams well at the line and is very physical with receivers in the zone…Has dynamic quickness and a fluid motion coming out of his backpedal.
Negatives: More of a run supporter than a deep coverage defender…Will bite on the quarter-back's pumps and fakes…Spends too much time looking at the backfield, allowing the receiver to elude in man coverage…Bit of a gambler, but has the quickness to compensate…Has very small hands (7 ¾-inches)…Wonderlic score (5) is a cause for concern.
Tremendous all-around athlete who has helped State offensively, defensively and with special teams in his career…Began his collegiate career as a tailback before switching to the secondary, starting the last three season…Moved from free safety to strong safety as a junior…Finished his career with 221 tackles (153 solos), seven sacks for minus 53 yards and 16 stops for losses of 73 yards…Caused seven fumbles and recovered four others…Intercepted four passes and had ten pass deflections…Returned 17 punts for 125 yards (7.4 avg) and 59 kickoffs for 1390 yards (23.6 avg)…Only Glen Young (1538, 1979-82) and Tony James (1862, 1989-92) gained more yards on kickoff returns in school history.
REMINDS YOU OF… Marquez Pope, Oakland Raiders. One of the faster safeties you will find.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… I'm not saying he had a bad senior campaign, he just did not have the year folks expected when they tabbed him the best safety in the country before the season.
Positives: Has an outstanding frame and body structure, with a thick chest, long arms, solid thighs and calves and the potential to add more bulk with no loss in speed…Shows explosion coming off the snap…Plants and drives to the ball properly, displaying a very quick closing burst…Has the range needed to break on the ball and is quick to recognize the plays…Physical tackler who attacks high in space and is a low striker when asked to step in the box and fill the rush lanes…Has the body control and hip snap to mirror the receiver on deep routes…Adjusts well to the ball in flight…Makes proper adjustment calls for the secondary and plays with aggression in the crest…His zone anticipation skills are one of his strong suits, as he can bee very deep in the secondary, yet instantly close on the ball.
Negatives: Selective tackler who can be very physical when he wants to be, but does not seem to have confidence in run support, looking timid near the line…Moved to safety, as he is more comfortable in a three-deep concept rather than playing in man coverage…Will freeze at times, biting on head fakes and needs to open his hips better in order to show smoothness in transition…Hesitates quite a bit defending vs. the underneath pass, as he is late off the hash… While he plants and drives coming out of his backpedal, he takes poor angles in transition… Looks uncoordinated leaping to get to the ball…Has great catch-up speed and it is needed, as he regularly bites on play action…Even though he makes the interception, he has poor hand/eye coordination (more passes result in deflections than interceptions)…Has to play with better control, as he gets over-aggressive at times, causing him to lose focus.
Three-year starter who began his career as a cornerback before shifting to free safety as a junior…A non-qualifier as a freshman, he only played three seasons at WKU, he recorded 288 tackles (177 solos) with eight stops behind the line of scrimmage, seven interceptions for 72 yards in returns and 21 pass deflections…Also returned 20 kickoffs for 570 yards… His 28.5-yard average on kickoff returns rank second on the school's career-record list behind Davlin Mullen (32.0 avg, 1979-82).
REMINDS YOU OF… Shaun Williams, New York Giants. Great physical specimen, only lacking consistency in his game.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Buffalo likes him in the third round and he can also fill their hole at kickoff returner.
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Outstanding athlete who was a quarterback in college, a receiver earlier in his Georgia career and then manned the strong safety position…Also played on the school's basketball team…Has solid muscle development and impressive upper body strength… Possesses a tight waist and cut abdomen… Makes all the right reads and keys, reacting even before the snap… Smooth and quick coming out of his backpedal, displaying proper hip swerve to turn decisively towards the ball…Sees the field very well, reacting with no hesitation making the switch-offs in the zone…Has the long, effortless running stride needed to cover ground quickly…Has superb flexibility and explosiveness going up for the ball, jumping at just the right time and displaying fluid body adjustments to disrupt the pass…Takes proper angles to fill the rush lanes…Hits hard, extending his arms properly to wrap and bring down his man.
Negatives: Relies on his knowledge and instincts to compensate for a lack of true speed…Lacks the short area quickness to shadow the receivers…Looks hesitant when planting and driving in run support…While a very quick learner, he only has two years of experience on defense and will probably shift to free safety from strong safety at the pro level…While he times the pass well, he does not have the leaping ability to combat with the taller receivers for the ball.
Consummate team player, sacrificing personal success for that of the team…Began his collegiate career as a wide receiver, shifting to the defensive backfield as a junior… Blessed with tremendous athletic ability, Phillips totaled 181 tackles (113 solos) with five interceptions, 14 pass deflections and six forced fumbles while starting 19 games for the Bulldogs' defensive unit.
Positives: Well-built, with thick thighs, muscular arms and solid calves…Jumps into action willingly, staying at a proper pad level to stalk, wrap and secure the ball carrier…Has a sharp backpedal, showing no hesitation in transition…Displays excellent range, playing with discipline while showing quickness in his movements…Great leaper with fluid hips…Aware in the zone, handling the switch-offs with ease…Quick to digest the plays, coming up with aggression to lend support vs. the run…Uses his hands well to prevent from getting tied up by blockers near the line of scrimmage…Very effective mirroring the receivers in the short area…Takes physical arm swipes to jam the tight ends and shows a very sharp burst coming off the edge as a blitzer.
Negatives: Gets walled off by blockers from the outside zone when trying to chase down the ball carrier…Has to show better form breaking down plays, as he will either over-run the action or duck his head on contact, knocking him off-balance…More comfortable playing the zone, despite having the physical skills to recover when in man coverage… Little stiff opening his hips, which makes him come out of his backpedal slowly…Has trouble reacting to route combinations in the deep zone…While known for his punishing hits, he tends to arm tackle and catch, rather than extend, wrap and secure…Takes bad angles coming from the backside.
Regarded as one of the most physical safeties in the nation, this Jim Thorpe Award candidate was a versatile performer for the Bruins, starting at free safety after playing strong safety earlier in his career…He possesses the coverage ability of a cornerback and shows superb big-play potential…Marques has the size, speed and strength to be an impact player and is very strong for a defensive back, with impressive testing numbers across the board as evidence (see Agility test results)…Closed out his career with 236 tackles (174 solos), four sacks for minus 20 yards and 16 stops for losses of 42 yards… Had eight interceptions for 63 yards in returns, 40 pass deflections, nine forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Positives: Has a compact, muscular build with good upper body definition and a ripped abdomen…Anticipates and accelerates to the ball instantly…Keeps close contact with the tight ends in man coverage and has been used as an inside linebacker in the nickel package…Shows quickness and crispness in his backpedal, using his change of direction agility to mirror the receiver's moves in the deep area…Has the burst needed to quickly close on the ball…Always looks for receivers coming into his area…Shows courage and power, staying low to secure, wrap and bring down ball carriers near the line…Quickly gains leverage when combating in traffic…Will hit with power and chase down plays at the opposite end of the field…Diverse character who owns a brown belt in karate and has been involved in modeling and acting…Has a good feel for hitting the seams without getting blocked…Pursues by taking proper angles and blitzes with good anticipation.
Negatives: Steady performer, but does not seem to make as many big plays as one would like… While he has a good vertical jump, his timing seems to be a little off going up for the ball… College linebacker who is too small to play that position and will have to move to safety in the pros (shows quick learning ability, though. Evident by the quick transistion he made from offense to defense earlier in his career)…Will overpursue at times, as he tends to play with his motor "running high."…Struggles to shed and disengage when facing up to blockers (better working in space than in the box. More comfortable when he's not blocked)…Has to develop better hand usage in order to avoid blockers.
Perhaps no player in the history of Stanford football can make the claim Coy Wire can: team leader in both rushing and tackles…While records do not verify this fact, certainly in modern times Stanford has not had a player who led the team in rushing and then, two years later, led the team in tackles, but Coy has done just that…He led the team in rushing in 1998 and tackles in 2000 and '01 after being moved from running back to safety to inside linebacker…Coy had started seven games at running back from 1998-99, but was moved to safety in the spring of 2000 and then to ILB in the fall of 2000…He was the team's starter at running back as a redshirt freshman in 1998 before a hand injury forced him to miss the final six games of the year…He still finished the year as the team's leading rusher and then started the first two games of the '99 season… Has rushed for 615 yards and scored six touchdowns in his Stanford career…Coy brings with him spirit and enthusiasm for the game that is matched by few on the team…One of the team leaders in 2001 and key weapon on the Cardinal defense, he finished his career with 177 tackles (111 solos), 11 sacks for minus 70 yards and 26 stops for losses of 108 yards.
Positives: Well-developed play-maker with a keen sense when diagnosing the plays… Shows good quickness closing on the ball to make the play…Accelerates sharply in the open, displaying fluid hip turn in zone coverage…Very aggressive in run support, staying low to extend and wrap tackle…Can be punishing, at times, with his hitting ability…Uses his hands well to jam the receiver and disrupt the pass routes…Takes advantage of his power to jump all over the opponent, trying to strip the runner from the ball…Makes perfect timing jumps to get a piece of the ball…Stays up on his feet to force the receiver back while delivering the tackle.
Negatives: More of a knock-down type, rather than an interceptor, due to suspect hands… His penchant for "body catching" could be the reason for a lack of interception opportunities…While effective covering in the zone, the team does not utilize that type of defense to get a proper read on his abilities there.
The unquestioned leader of the Gamecocks' defense, this physical tackler has been a mainstay at the "right spur" (free safety) position the last two years…He has also proven to be an invaluable tackler on the special teams coverage units…Collected 185 tackles (110 solos) with six stops behind the line of scrimmage and ten pass deflections during his collegiate career.
Positives: Strong and athletic, showing tru aggression vs. the run…Very comfortable playing in the box…Stays focused on the ball and shows good play diagnostic ability… Has a sharp change of direction to stay close to the tight ends in the short areas and turns quickly out of his backpedal to lend support in the zone…Reacts quickly to threats in the zone and can step up and fill holes in run force…Has the instincts to make the play on the ball…Adjusts his head to track the ball in flight and times his jumps in order to get his hands on the pigskin…Effective blitzer who excels at charging up to the line, meeting the ball carrier with authority and snapping the opponent's head back with an aggressive tackle…Never one to shy away from contact, utilizing his strength and short area speed to be very effective taking down ball carriers behind the line.
Negatives: Lacks that quick burst to mirror receivers moves near the line or the sustained speed to stay with his man on deep routes…Does not plant and drive well coming out of his backpedal, taking wasted steps before turning on the ball…Drops his head at times before making the tackle, causing ball carriers to slip through his grasp…Takes poor angles in pursuit and needs to extend his arms better to wrap and sefcure…Looks stiff trying to recover when taking on receivers deep.
Versatile defender who started at strong safety as a sophomore before shifting to free safety as a junior…The gunner on the special teams unit, he registered 190 tackles (128 solos) while starting 23 of 33 games he played in for the Bulldogs…Had ten stops behind the line of scrimmage and recovered four fumbles…Also had four interceptions and 16 pass deflections.
Positives: Possesses great linear speed and excellent read-&-diagnose ability…Has very quick feet, sharply turning out of his backpedal…Hard worker who is not afraid to compete for the ball in traffic…Plays at a low pad level, extending his arms properly to wrap and secure the ball carrier… Has exceptional closing ability, planting and driving to the ball with tremendous ease-of-movement motions…Uses his quickness to stay with the receivers deep and is very effective at handling the switch-off…Has that extra gear to easily recover when playing deep in the zone… Shows proper rhythm jumping for the ball and the eye coordination to keep track of the ball in flight…Understands his position well, showing no hesitation when called upon in run support… Fills the holes with authority.
Negatives: Size could be a detriment…Exposes himself at times, as his leads tend to be a little long…While instinctive, he does need reps on the chalk board to understand the schemes… Sometimes gets up on his heels before closing on his assignment in man coverage.
Unquestioned leader of the USM defense who thrives in pressure situations…Has a knack for making the big plays on a regular basis…Regarded as the hardest-hitting safety in the collegiate ranks…Holds the school records for forced fumbles in a game and season…Three-year starter who finished his career with 303 tackles (188 solos), ten sacks for minus 61 yards and 15 stops for losses of 80 yards…Caused six fumbles during his time with the Eagles.
Positives: Has solid, sturdy muscle development…Shows no hesitation diagnosing the plays… Uses his strong frame effectively to jam the tight ends at the line and has the short area quickness to mirror the receiver's moves…Quick and smooth in transition, showing proper hip snap hurrying out of his backpedal…Fluid dropping off in the zone, easily handling the switch-offs…Has very quick plant-&-drive action when changing direction… Anticipates the deep pass, going up for it at its highest point…Shows good flexibility in his leaps and the balance and hands to make the interception…Reads the run plays and comes up with force to fill the lanes…Shows solid framework with good technique and positioning when wrap tackling…Able to press and stay with receivers in their routes… Opens his hips properly when having to turn and run to the ball.
Negatives: While willing, he does not have the leg drive to stack at the point of attack…Little choppy in his stride when he has to recover…Does not have the sustained speed to stay with receivers on deep routes…Turns smoothly out of his backpedal, but loses acceleration when trying to cover due to slow feet…May have a problem digesting a complicated playbook (see Wonderlic score)…Tries to get too physical in run support, going for the "kill" shot and missing.
Physical, hard hitter in the secondary who is a natural strong safety, forced to play cornerback in his last year-and-a-half…Started 35 consecutive regular season games… Team captain who ranks tenth among Tech's defensive backs on the career-record list with 219 tackles (154 solos)…Credited with five sacks for minus 47 yards and nine stops for losses of 47 yards… Caused two fumbles and recovered three others…Intercepted four passes and deflected 26 others.
Positives: Very quick to diagnose the plays, showing instincts and awareness in his charge towards the ball…Takes proper angles in pursuit, sliding down the line while keeping his shoulders square…Has the hip swerve and agility to get to the flat and has a good feel in his pass drops to gain leverage…Shows sharp ball anticipation skills working in the zone…Has large, soft, natural hands for the interception…Efficient and disruptive blitzer who will force things to happen when closing on the quarterback.
Negatives: Gets walled off by blockers from the outside zone when trying to chase down the ball carrier…Has to show better form breaking down plays, as he will either over-run the action or duck his head on contact, knocking him off-balance.
Two-year starter who began his collegiate career at Lackawanna (Scranton, Pa.) Junior College…One of the hardest hitters in college football…Finished his WVU career with 228 tackles (131 solos), including seven stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Positives: Well-built athlete with good run defense reactions…Stays low in his backpedal, showing the balance and quick feet needed to flash to the play on the attack…Punishes receivers going up for the ball…Stays tight in the short area, refusing to allow any cushion underneath… Shows a good combination of field smarts, power, speed and determination…Maintains balance knifing into the backfield…Diagnoses quickly and has the speed to handle deep assignments… Works well in the press and has a sudden change of direction.
Negatives: Needs to tighten up his pass coverage, as he allows a little too much cushion underneath…Lacks a fluid hip turn, resulting in him getting hung up in his breaks, somewhat…Still a little rough in his backpedal, but has the quickness to recover.
Physical tackler and athletic player at strong safety…Fourth-year senior who moved to the strong safety position from free safety prior to 2001 spring practice and flourished there as the season progressed…Swapped positions with consensus All-American Edward Reed…Underrated player who was a stabilizing force in the secondary throughout the season…Completed his first season as a starter, but has played in every game since donning a Miami uniform for the 1998 season, a span of 45 games…Recorded 134 tackles (79 solos) with three interceptions and 16 pass deflections.
Positives: Compactly-built athlete with a well-proportioned and muscular frame…Very quick in his backpedal, showing suddenness in his stop-&-go action…Shows good leaping ability, maintaining eye contact on the ball in flight and timing his jumps properly to get a piece of the pigskin…Aware of his assignments handling the switch-offs in the zone…Willing to stick his nose into the pile during run support…Delivers a knockout when tackling, staying low in his stance and driving with his legs to contain and secure the ball carrier…Has an aggressive temperament on the field and thrives to improve his game… Quick to diagnose the plays, showing an explosive forward burst to prevent any under- neath cushion…Has the speed to mirror the receiver's moves in the open and the range to recover on deep routes…Fluid in his lateral movements, displaying the quick twitch and reactionary ability to easily spot the ball…His nimble feet, hard-hitting ability and "search and destroy" attitude would be ideal as a gunner on special teams.
Negatives: Gets caught out of position at times as he is not always the quickest to recognize the plays developing…Has problems locating the ball in traffic…Not that effective on the blitz as it seems his timing is off coming off the edge…Struggles to support his cornerbacks working in the zone…Needs to develop better arm extension before making the tackle, as he tends to slip off his hits rather than securing…Over- commits at times in run support and is a little late to catch up to the receivers when beaten long, despite good acceleration to the ball…Rarely used in man coverage due to his inability to open his hips the right way when retreating on deep routes.
Unheralded athlete who has manned the free safety position since midway through his freshman year at Syracuse…Called a "hard-nosed throwback safety" in the Doug Plank (ex-Chicago Bears) mold by the Orange coaching staff, he started 39 of 42 regular season games during his career…Finished his career with 327 tackles (183 solos), four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries…His ten interceptions rank ninth on the school's career-record list and his 212 yards in interception returns are surpassed only by Tommy Myers (218, 1969-71).
Positives: Has a high-cut and lean frame with more room for growth…Very quick to diagnose the plays, showing instincts and awareness in his charge towards the ball… Takes proper angles in pursuit, sliding down the line while keeping his shoulders square…Has the hip swerve and agility to get to the flat and has a good feel in his pass drops to gain leverage…Shows sharp ball anticipation skills working in the zone…His pass drop skills could see him shift to strong safety at the pro level…Has large, soft, natural hands for the interception…Efficient and disruptive blitzer who will force things to happen when closing on the quarterback.
Negatives: College linebacker whose slight frame will force him to shift to safety at the next level…Lacks overall strength to face up to the bigger blockers that linebackers engage…Struggles when taking blockers head on and needs to develop better hand usage in order to shed…Gets walled off by blockers from the outside zone when trying to chase down the ball carrier…Has to show better form breaking down plays, as he will either over-run the action or duck his head on contact, knocking him off-balance…More comfortable playing the zone, as he lacks the instincts to recover when in man coverage.
After making his mark as a special teams standout, Wesly got the opportunity to shine on a full-time basis as a senior…Possesses the type of speed that people look for at the next level, yet presents the toughness required at the line of scrimmage. However few players elicit the amount of respect the former walk-on attracts…Has built a reputation as a great blitzer off the edge or from the inside but has expanded his repertoire to become a great cover back as well as a sure tackler…One of the Ducks' best athletes, he also excelled on the school's track team…Finished his career with 162 tackles (89 solos), four sacks for minus 23 yards and 15 stops for losses of 43 yards…Also intercepted two passes and deflected five others…Recovered three fumbles and caused two others.
Positives: Has a solid frame structure, with well-defined body tone…Has an explosive short burst and acceleration…Plays alert, showing good zone awareness and a feel for his man during switch-offs…Smooth in his turns coming out of his backpedal…Makes plays on the ball and shows the body control to be effective in run support…Has good cross field range, giving little cushion underneath…Solid tackler who hits hard upon impact… Not hesitant to face up and wrap in tight quarters.
Negatives: Needs to play at an even tempo, as his over-aggression will take him out of plays…His big feet makes him look awkward trying to move…Does not get as much depth as you would like in his backpedal…Selective hitter who can get caught up in trash…Very cautious in diagnosing plays…Takes false steps in transition…Has good range off the hash, but is not fluid with his lateral movements…In man coverage, he has a hard time recovering when beaten… Needs to develop more patience, as he tends to get out of control when closing…Stares at the quarterback too much in two-deep, which makes his zone angles appear a little off.
Well-built athlete who comes from a football family (father is Illinois' receiver coach and brother is a teammate)…Well-respected by his teammates, the Illini captain started every game in his last three seasons on the gridiron…Missed the 1999 campaign due to knee surgery…Finished his career with 228 tackles (159 solos), 16 stops for losses of 42 yards, six interceptions for 134 yards in returns and 26 pass deflections.