In 35 years of covering Notre Dame football, most of which has entailed the study of and breaking down of film involving Irish recruits, there have been many lessons learned as it pertains to the characteristics of successful prospects and their respective positions.
Throwing motions and footwork impact the success/accuracy of quarterbacks…The ability to bend at the knees often determines the impact/productivity of a linebacker…Explosion out of a backpedal is the foundation of a quality tackling/pass-defending defensive back…Pad level and lateral escapability can compensate for a lack of power in a running back…Power at running back can compensate for a lack of lateral escapability…
The list is extensive, depending upon one’s position and the prerequisites of success at that position.
As it pertains to wide receivers, catch radius is essential, particularly with the level of athlete that is playing defensive back on the major college platform.
The greater the catch radius, the greater margin for error with the throw. The greater the catch radius, the more area within the catching halo a defensive back must defend. The greater the catch radius, the greater the likelihood of a receiver winning the battle over a defender.
No player pounded that notion home more than Richard Jackson, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound receiver out of Clermont, Fla., who arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman in the fall of 2006.
There was a lot to like about Jackson. He had size, he had physicality, he was sure-handed and he did a lot of damage in the prep ranks slicing through defenses after the catch.
But Jackson was an on-the-ground receiver. He didn’t make plays/catches above his shoulder pads. His catch radius was miniscule, especially in relation to the size of his frame.
Jackson left Notre Dame after two seasons and virtually no playing time. Whether his inability to succeed on the football field for the Irish was tied completely a limited catch radius is up for debate. But it was a lesson learned in the analysis of high school wide receivers.
That’s a red flag as it relates to 6-foot-3, 186-pound three-star wide receiver Jordan Pouncey out of Winter Park, Fla. Let the record show that Pouncey – who verbally committed to Notre Dame at last weekend’s Irish Invasion – had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan State, South Carolina and Tennessee among many others.
How binding those offers were also is up for debate. But they were big-time offers nonetheless, and for that, Pouncey deserves praise and respect.
Pouncey, to put it simply, is not very bouncy. Dig through highlights of his stellar junior season at Winter Park High School and you’re hard-pressed to find one catch in which he jumps, reaches above his head with two hands, and makes the catch with long, out-stretched arms.
There is one grab in which he makes head-high or slightly above head-high as his feet leave the ground, and even on that reception, he cradles it with his arms and absorbs the throw with his shoulder. Otherwise, his receptions are caught in stride with his feet on the ground.
In other words, his catch radius rarely extends beyond five-to-six feet off the ground. He has shown, heading into his senior season, limited-to-no high-point pass-catching attributes. His pass-receiving game is shorter than his height.
He doesn’t win offensively through verticality, which makes for a difficult transition to the next level where every defensive back at a Power 5 conference possesses special physical traits.
So why did Notre Dame and many notable others offer Pouncey a scholarship? Because he’s a good football player in other ways with many of his skills translating well to the defensive side of the football.
His greatest attributes as a receiver are his easy speed and his physicality and tenacity as a blocker. He bends at the knees, squares up, and aggressively attacks defensive backs as he tries to spring his teammates for a big play.
On defense, he aggressively takes on blocks, shows strength and aggression to get off blocks, and then attacks the lower body of a ball carrier. He breaks quickly out of his backpedal and explodes into tackles.
Pouncey runs well. It’s a bit deceptive because he has such a free-and-easy running motion. It’s uncomplicated without a lot of wasted movement. He covers more ground that you realize because of his effortless running motion.
One could argue that a lack of verticality would hurt Pouncey’s game at defensive back as well. But he reacts to the football in the air a bit differently on defense than he does on offense. His catch radius defensively is a bit more wide-ranging than it is offensively, which is unusual. He plays “bigger” on defense than he does on offense.
For Pouncey to excel on the next level at receiver, he’ll need to make adjustments in his game/approach. One would suspect those things would be accentuated by his high school coaching staff during his senior season and by Notre Dame’s staff as well.
There’s a quality football player in the 6-foot-3, 186-pound body of Jordan Pouncey. It might be on the defensive side of the football, which is perhaps what Notre Dame has planned long term. (Note: That’s a personal opinion and not one offered by Notre Dame that we’re aware of. Florida, which is where twin cousins Mike and Maurkice excelled as offensive linemen, expressed a preference to play Pouncey on defense.)
There’s a lot of football to be played by Pouncey before he arrives at Notre Dame and thereafter. If he brings his attributes to the forefront of his game, the Irish will have a diamond in the rough arriving in the summer of 2017.
Check our Jordan Pouncey at the Irish Invasion:
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