Eric Berry is a versatile defender who has the playmaking ability and cover skills to be a dynamic force at the next level. A gifted all around player, who can control a game in the secondary, at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield, Berry is unique in the respect that offensive coordinators have to game plan for his every move. He plays with a great degree of suddenness and has the instincts and awareness to make plays all over the field. He’s a solid tackler in space and is an effective blitzer. He diagnoses the action well, possesses good cover skills and has the uncanny ability to track a ball at any location. He plays with a high motor, a mean streak, and amazingly he finds a way to harness his aggression and be disciplined.
Tim Tebow is a naturally gifted athlete who has all the qualities of becoming a star at the next level. He has great size and strength, as well as an elite arm. He’s an accurate passer who hits his receivers in stride. He shows poise and toughness in the pocket and will wait until the last moment to pull the trigger or tuck and run. He possesses excellent vision and uses his footwork and strength to gain positive yards. He’s an outstanding leader and demonstrates high character on and off the field.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Entering his third year at Tennessee, the nation’s most outstanding defender, Berry, has faced Tebow and his Gators twice in his career; both times the Volunteers came away in defeat. As a freshman, Berry and the Vols traveled to Gainesville, just like they will on Saturday, and were handed a lopsided 59 – 20 defeat. But in the loss, Berry intercepted Tebow and returned it for a 96-yard touchdown. Berry finished his freshman year with 86 tackles, two for a loss, five interceptions and a forced fumble. The interception that Tebow threw was the only mistake he made during that game, as he completed 14-of-19 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Tebow also had a standout year in ’07; he was awarded the Heisman Trophy after completing 66.9-percent of his passes for 3,286 yards, 32 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The ensuing year, Florida dominated the contest once again, defeating Tennessee 30 – 6. But Berry would make his presence known in defeat by recording eight tackles and generating the only sack against Tebow in the game. Statistically, this wasn’t Tebow’s best game, but it was effective, as he completed 8-of-15 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The ‘08 season was a breakout year for Berry, a year where he developed into a complete defender; he had 72 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, three sacks and seven interceptions. It was also a standout year for Tebow; a year after winning the Heisman, Tebow led the Gators to a National Championship victory over Oklahoma. He finished his junior year completing 64.4-percent of his passes for 2,746 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
In this weekend’s matchup, it’s likely that the Gators will once again get the better of the Vols. And judging from the previous contests that these two teams had, Berry and Tebow will cross paths in some capacity during the game. Berry’s ball skills and aggressive nature make it almost a certainty that he will come away with an interception and a sack against Tebow. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator and current Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will put Berry in the right position to be a key playmaker on Saturday, and it will be Tebow’s responsibility to read the aggressive game plan Kiffin has in store for him.
Scout.com has confirmed that representatives from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins will travel to Gainesville, Florida to witness the head-to-head battle between Berry and Tebow, as well as scout the abundance of talent scattered throughout the two rosters.
Interestingly enough, ESPN reported on Wednesday that the Jaguars may consider drafting Tebow in the 2010 draft. The Jaguars are unhappy with the growth of their $60 million mistake, quarterback David Garrard, and would be intrigued with keeping Tebow local in hopes to recoup some of the 17,000 season ticket holders who canceled their ticket plan. Tebow is the kind of personality that would generate box office buzz, and with the economy in the state that it is, small market franchises have to find a way to create revenue. Even if some believe Tebow isn’t worthy of a first round selection, because he is at least two – three years away from challenging for a starting job at the next level, the impact he could have from a public relations standpoint makes him worth the guaranteed money he will receive for being drafted in the opening frame.
It’s highly unlikely that the Chiefs will have interest in Tebow, since they traded for Matt Cassel during the offseason and still believe that Brodie Croyle has the talent to be a solid player in the NFL. But, the Redskins will have interest in Tebow during next year’s draft. Washington came close to trading for Jay Cutler during the offseason, and when that fell through, they toyed with the idea of moving up in the ’09 draft to select Mark Sanchez. They were unable to pull those deals off, but the interest shows that they are tired of the Jason Campbell experiment and want to move forward at the position after this season. Whether it’s Tebow, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, or whoever, the Redskins will address the quarterback position in the draft next year.
Even though Berry is only a junior and it is unknown if he will enter the ’10 draft, the three teams traveling to “The Swamp” will have their sights set on No. 14. Of the three teams, the Redskins, who have LaRon Landry and Chris Horton, are the team that doesn’t have an immediate need for an upgrade at safety. But the Jaguars and Chiefs could use a playmaker like Berry in their secondary. Berry lines up at strong safety for Tennessee, but plays more like a free safety, and that’s the position he will most likely line up at in the NFL. And, if Berry decides to forego his senior year, he will be a top-ten selection, which is exactly where the Jaguars and Chiefs will be selecting next year.
In addition to Berry and Tebow, here’s a list of prospects – in ranked order - from each team that scouts will focus on during Saturday’s game:
1. Carlos Dunlap, DE
2. Joe Haden, CB
3. Mike Pouncey, OG
4. Lawrence Marsh, DT
5. Aaron Hernandez, FB/TE
6. Ahmad Black, SS
7. Major Wright, FS
8. Lorenzo Edwards, OLB
9. Chas Henry, P
10. Carl Johnson, OT
11. A.J. Jones, OLB
12. Emmanuel Moody, RB
13. Marcus Gilbert, OT
14. Jim Barrie, OG
15. Terron Sanders, DT
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Steuber on Twitter.