The level of competition California commit Josh Drayden faces every Friday, playing in TAPPS 5A in Texas, is stout. Over the last two seasons, Dallas (Tex.) Bishop Dunne has been very good, going a combined 19-6, with a 12-1 mark last year culminating in a 41-10 win over Plano (Tex.) Prestonwood Christian for the state title.
Drayden was named First-Team All-District Defense, Academic All-State with his 4.0 GPA and First-Team All-State honors. That 4.0 GPA – and his 3.6 cumulative mark – were as big a reason as any why he committed on Sunday.
“No matter what I do in football, after football, I want to go somewhere that will give me opportunities to succeed when I get older. This,” Drayden says, “is the place to do it.”
Last recruiting cycle, Cal went big – literally – when re-stocking its woeful defensive backfield. A look at the heights of the Bears’ 2015 defensive back signees:
Khari Vanderbilt: 6-foot-3
Jaylinn Hawkins: 6-foot-1
DePriest Turner: 6-foot-1
Antoine Albert: 6-foot-2
Derron Brown: 6-foot-2
Evan Rambo: 6-foot-3
Billy McCrary (ATH): 5-foot-11
Only one signee under the six-foot mark. Drayden stands at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but, like 5-foot-10, 171-pound Traveon Beck, he’s got speed to burn.
Last week, he lowered his personal-best 4.40 40 time to 4.39, and this coming season, Bishop Dunne is likely to use that speed on kick and punt returns. He’s also run the 100 meters in 10.88 seconds, and plays point guard on the basketball team. He uses that speed and acceleration to take down opposing receivers from behind when they find the seam in the safety coverage.
“They like my press coverage, and the ability to play both man and zone, and the speed,” Drayden says of the Cal staff.
Drayden’s tape shows him to be a very physical corner, not shy to jam receivers off the line. He also shows very fluid hips, able to flip and run with outside receivers. He also plays well off the line, dropping back into coverage, with good instincts and a nose for the ball. With the proliferation of spread offenses in the pass-happy Pac-12, Drayden shows a good ability to sniff out screens, and when he does pick a ball off, he doesn’t go down easily, with one, 60-yard interception return to his credit this past season.
While you’ll see a lot of breakups and tackles in most defensive back highlights, the first minute and a half of his junior highlight tape is almost all interceptions. He’s very physical going up for the ball in traffic, and doesn’t shy away from contact. In fact, he shows quite a lust for hitting.
What really stands out is his highlight starting at 2:41 in his junior tape, where he goes against a tall, well-muscled receiver, and completely takes him out of the play using contact at the line. He also sticks to his receivers like glue during a quarterback scramble, and also comes up to make tackles in the run game. His physicality shows when he’s able to shed a downfield block and make a hit at 3:09, dropping the receiver for a loss. He does it again at 3:26 and 3:33. While he may not be the biggest guy on the field, like his little brother, he finds ways to make plays, and he plays bigger than his size.
At 4:06, we can see his play in zone coverage, where he breaks off one receiver starting to streak down the field, and finds a receiver in motion out of the backfield for the breakup.
What’s most impressive is not the tackles, the hits or the interceptions. What Drayden shows repeatedly is an attention to detail. Granted, these are highlights, but he appears to be very assignment-sound. It’s the plays where the quarterback doesn't throw his way that stand out more than the traditional highlights, because he’s able to take the opposing receiver out of the play from the snap when in man coverage.