In The Film Room: Dawson DeGroot

If there was a signature trait to some of Lovie Smith's best defenses, it was that they could hit. And the night before signing day, Lovie Smith landed a vicious hitter in the defensive backfield. Here's the film breakdown on Dawson DeGroot.

First Impressions:

If DeGroot gets a clear path on a hit moving downhill, look out.  A hard-hitting safety out of Florida, DeGroot doesn't often go backwards when making a tackle.  And if the offensive player isn't careful, he can get caught in a bad way by a de-cleater.

Tale of the Tape:

DeGroot is at his best when he's able to play downhill.  In a lot of ways, he is very reminiscent of former Illinois safety Clayton Fejedelem.  FEJ was a hard-hitting downhill run supporter who sometimes got bit by overpursuit on play action, but when he was right, he hit.. and he hit hard.

DeGroot builds up a good head of steam when coming downhill at the ball-carrier.  He does a good job of breaking on the ball once the pass is in the air, however his first step could likely be a little bit faster.  DeGroot is also a skilled receiver, so he has the hands to give himself a chance to come down with an interception.

He will need to improve upon his change of direction as he can at times get turned around and lose a step on the offensive players.  But if he can be used at Illinois in a way similar to Fejedelem, he could be in line to be an impact player and force turnovers.

How He Fits:

Similar to the situation with Bennett Williams, Illinois has a couple of solid young starters at the safety positions in Pat Nelson and Stanley Green Jr.  But, the lack of depth at the position means that playing time is there to be had, and Lovie Smith showed in his first year that he is not shy about playing true freshmen if he feels they will contribute.

DeGroot fits the mold of a Cover 2 safety who can come up from his safety spot to make hits on the underneath plays.  He will likely be a strong safety at Illinois who can step up into the box from time to time and almost act as a part-time linebacker.  

He has the speed to be able to handle another 15 pounds or so and not lose much quickness, so if he can get accustomed to the speed of the college game and improve his discipline on misdirection plays, his addition should give Illinois a good duo at the strong safety spot with he and Green, both of which love to hit.. and hit hard.

See for Yourself:

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