In the Film Room: Marlon Pollard

The trend that started last recruiting season continues this offseason. With the signing of standouts Robert Blanton and Jamoris Slaughter the Irish coaches sent a clear signal of what kind of cornerback they want in Corwin Brown's defense. Notre Dame wants cornerbacks with good height, length, quickness, ball skills, and aggressive.

When it comes to the newest cornerback recruit mark that check, check, check, check, and check. California native Marlon Pollard is the next in line at cornerback for the Irish. For years the Irish seemed to struggle to land top flight cornerbacks. Since Charlie Weis came to Notre Dame that has not been a problem. It started with Top 100 players Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil. The next season it was Top 100 player Gary Gray. Last year it was Army All-American Robert Blanton and southern speedster Jamoris Slaughter. Both of those players were in my Top 100 last fall. It remains to be seen where Marlon Pollard will end up in the final rankings. What is clear right now is that the newest Irish commitment has all the tools to be a very good cornerback in college.

Taller cornerbacks are becoming more and more prevelant in college football. Notre Dame is starting to sign them in droves. Pollard has very good height and length. He's listed at 6'1 is very long in both his upper and lower body. He's a long legged strider who also has very long arms. Pollard's frame is very similar to that of current Irish cornerback Darrin Walls. He doesn't have the kind of frame to add a great amount of weight. He will get bigger and he will certainly get stronger but I don't see him ever being considered a "big" cornerback. He'll always be a bit skinny. His frame and body type isn't a concern for me at this point. It is good enough to allow him to add the necessary weight and strength to hold up down after down in college. In this regard he's also very similar to Robert Blanton, although Pollard doesn't have Blanton or Slaughter's natural power.

One thing that most fans will question about Pollard is his speed. That's not a concern for me at this point. Pollard projects well down the road when it comes to speed. Right now Pollard has solid speed, but he will need to improve. Players who are as thin as Pollard seem to have very good potential to gain quite a bit more speed in college. Once a player like this begins to mature physically, and once he is able to spend time in a college strength and conditioning program, you will see him make big gains in his explosive athletic traits. Speed falls under that catagory. He'll never be confused with Champ Bailey speed-wise, but I don't see him struggling to run with players as he projects to college. On top of this Pollard has other traits that help make up for his lack of elite speed. The Cajon High School standout uses his length to his advantage as well. He also uses his quickness and overall athletic ability to his advantage. Pollard has outstanding foot quickness and gets to top speed immediately. This is a necessary trait for all skill positions, but it might be most important for cornerbacks. The 6'1, 160 pound corner also is able to change direction quite well and has fluid hips. He opens out of his pedal and is able to get up to speed quickly. He shows a very quick spin move into double moves and is able to quickly get back into the receiver. There was one clip where he opened and bit on the post route. He quickly spun back out and made the interception. That shows his hips, foot quickness, balance, and instincts.

Speed and athletic ability are not always traits that go hand in hand. You can be an explosive athlete and not necessarily a burner. That's how I describe Pollard at this point in his career. You can see how explosive Pollard is as an athlete in two additional areas. I discussed earlier how quick his feet are. He's able to stop o na dime and redirect. But you see his explosive ability as he drives on the receiver and break on the football. It is also apparent whenever Pollard leaves the ground. He's an effortless leaper. Pollard gets off the ground quickly, gets highly quickly, and has good timing on his jumps. He jumped an impressive 36.5" at the Los Angeles combine. When you combine that with his height and length it makes him a very difficult player to complete the deep ball against.

Pollard will need work, as all high school players need, but he has a good technical foundation to work with. He shows a very good stance before the snap. He shows good balance, isn't on his heels, and is able to sink or come up with the same easy effort. The stance he uses in high school is similar to how the Denver Broncos play with Champ Bailey. Pollard plays a bit off the defender with slight outside leverage. He's turned inside at a slight angle with his eyes in the backfield. Instead of performing a true pedal you'll see him hop back while peaking inside. There are moments where he shows a true pedal, and when he does he's quick, but this is the technique he most used as a high school junior. When he does pedal he stays balanced and doesn't bail, which I like. Pollard has since transferred high schools so it will be interesting to see how his new coaches have him lining up. Pollard uses his quickness and instincts to break well on thrown passes as well. He shows very good instincts in reading routes and takes good angles to the football. I really like the intelligence Pollard shows in the pass game. He doesn't take bad risks when breaking on the football. He shows the ability to know whether he can or cannot break up the pass. If he doesn't think he can get to the football he will simply drive through the wide receiver in an attempt to break up the pass. Pollard does, however, get caught at times on double moves. He does a fine job of recoving at the high school level but in college it will be much harder to catch up when getting beat on a double move. Pollard also gets caught peaking in the backfield at times and is slow to react to the receiver in these situations. These areas will improve with coaching.

I did not see Pollard do any press man. With his natural strength, long arms, and aggressive nature he has tools to work with, but I honestly have no idea how effective he'll be in jam situations at the next level. Hopefully as a senior at Cajon High School he'll be asked to play a bit more aggressive man coverage at times. I also didn't see Pollard play much short zone. This also makes it difficult to judge how he'll react in the various zone defenses Notre Dame will employ at times. They aren't concerns, as Pollard shows intelligence on the field, but they are things I look for when watching film of a cornerback that I was not able to evaluate with Pollard.

One area where Pollard is very similar to 2008 signees Blanton and Slaughter is his aggressiveness in the run game. I was expecting a kid listed between 145-160 pounds to be a bit soft in the run game. That's not the case at all with Marlon Pollard. The San Bernardino native is very active in the run game and shows very good strength for such a thin framed player. He shows good effort and aggressiveness when attacking running backs. As he approaches ball carriers he does a fine job of breaking down, coming to balance, and driving through ball carriers. He stays low, which is very good for a lighter player, and wraps up very well. He shows very good short area strength for such a light player. This will only improve as he gets bigger and stronger. Pollard also does a good job technique-wise when taking on blocks. He uses his arms well to keep blockers off of him and when the ball carrier comes disengages well and makes the tackle. Additional strength is obviously needed at the next level in order to hold up against bigger wide receivers and perimeter blockers. There is one area where Pollard has to make a change and make it before his senior season. He has a very bad tendency to put his head down when he tackles. This is scary. That's how players get hurt.

Despite the great success the Irish coaches have had recruiting secondary players the last three years more talent and more depth is needed. I believe the Irish coaches need to add between two and three additional defensive backs in this class (this includes Pollard). Starting off with Marlon Pollard is as good of a start as you can get. He is still a work in progress but I really like his potential as a college cornerback. He's athletic, he's active, he's instinctive, and he's aggressive. He plays with a swagger that I love in cornerbacks. Pollard fits the mold of the new Irish cornerback and is another piece in what is shaping up to be one of Notre Dame's top areas of talent. Throw in the fact this young man talks about wanting to be a doctor and the Irish coaches have a very talented, and very well rounded young man to add to an already solid recruiting class. Top Stories