Expert Prospect Evaluation - 2011 DBs

Former Card cornerback and veteran football observer Garry Cobb, Jr. checks in with his outstanding analysis of several of the Cardinal's prime 2011 prospects for the secondary. Read on for his thoughts and projections for individual players after having an opportunity to review game film.

Expert Prospect Evaluation - 2011 DBs

Jordan Richards – Richards, an intriguing product of Folsom, Calif. who led his Folsom Bulldogs teammates to a CIF state title, is a smooth athlete with good speed who can be a very productive player at a variety of positions on either side of the ball.  In the end, I believe he will end up on the offensive side at wide receiver.  However, if he were to end up on the defensive side, Richards' talents may fit best at free safety.  His ball skills are excellent and are displayed in both his offensive and defensive highlights.  He catches the ball very naturally as a wide receiver, and as a corner and safety he turns into a wide receiver once the ball is in the air.  He is not afraid to look for the ball or go up and snag it at its highest point.  Such would make him a very good center-fielder type of safety for the Cardinal defense.  Against the run, he shows the ability to be physical and has great feet, which allow him to position himself for open-field tackles.  After watching him play on ESPN early in his season, I noticed more suddenness  than what is shown in his 2009 highlights.  Such skill could get him a look at corner, but safety is the likely fit for Richards if he does end up on the defensive side. 

Ra'Chard Pippins – A long-limbed defensive back from McDonough, Georgia, Pippins shows surprisingly good acceleration given his long strides.  He flashes very good plant and drive ability on his video which can improve greatly once he is coached to keep his hips lower in his backpedal.  The highlight videos that I've seen on Pippins do not show many instances where he needs to high-point a ball for an interception, but in one instance I did see evidence that he may not be as comfortable catching the ball as a few of the other DB prospects. Pippins, thanks to his size, is viewed as a safety by the major recruiting services.  I see him more as a bigger cornerback who has the plant-and-drive quickness and acceleration of a smaller cornerback.  That combination was definitely a key in attracting offers for Pippins.

Shutang Mungwa – "Shu", a standout for perennial New Jersey powerhouse Bergen Catholic, is the biggest and most physical of this DB group.  His video displays a player who is constantly looking for contact whether it's with the ball-carrier, a receiver or a blocker. Mungwa shows good acceleration to the ball in run support and good overall speed.  However, I don't see many plays that allow me to gauge his agility on tape.  The same goes for playing the ball in short or deep pass plays.  Shu looks to be an in the box/hybrid type player.  From what I've seen, it does appear that he may have the overall speed to be that center-field type of defensive back.  But again, there's not enough available video to judge that aspect of his game. It will be very interesting to see how the Stanford coaching staff plays to his strengths once he is on The Farm. 

Wayne Lyons – Lyons figures to be a big-time playmaker on any part of the field. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native has great attack instincts against the run.  His recognition and burst to the ball carrier give the impression that he is two steps ahead of everyone else on the field.   At 190 lbs, he plays much bigger than his size would indicate.  He sheds blocks easily regardless of the size of his opponent and is a very solid tackler.  He will need to be careful to not be too aggressive in pursuit against college ball carriers as he often comes close to over-running plays.  Lyons possesses the athletic ability to adjust at that last instant before contact, but doing so at the college level will prove much more difficult.  If he learns to break down a little earlier when necessary – a relatively minor adjustment - over-running will no longer be an issue. 

He has stated himself that pass coverage is an area in which he needs to improve – judging by recent film, it looks as if he has done just that.  In my view, Lyons will be able to match up against wide receivers from time to time, but he will need to continue put in work on his technique and take a lot of one-on-one repetitions.  The athletic ability, however, is definitely there. Lyons flips his hips easily and can turn and run with receivers when his technique is on point.  Good ball skills are also part of Lyons' repertoire.  He knows how to time his plays on the ball and shows no difficulties in reeling it in.  Lyons is a player that should be allowed to do a variety of things on the field, whether it's roaming around the box so he can use his run support skills, dropping back in zone to be a ball hawk, locking up a receiver or blitzing.   The cover skills that he showed during his All-America game appearance were as good as or better than any defensive back in that game.  Thus, if he does not start out at corner, I believe Lyons could make an immediate impact at nickel back, which would allow him to best use all aspects of his game.  Though Lyons is rated as a 4* prospect, the versatility that he showed during his all-star game puts him closer to 5* in my mind.  As a defensive back, there is nothing that he cannot do.      

Demetrious Nicholson – Nicholson, a Virginia Beach product who currently looks to be a solid commit to home-state Virginia, combines many of the athletic skills that one desires in a cornerback.   He is as quick as a cat with regards to his plant and drive on the ball and flipping his hips to turn and run with receivers.   His seamless transition, whether it's  from backpedal to sprint or from post to corner, has had recruiters jumping at the chance to bring this defensive back on to their campus.  Nicholson has good - not great - speed, but uses his short strides to accelerate quickly once the ball is thrown.  His video shows natural ball skills on both offense and defense.  Nicholson can effortlessly pluck the ball out of the air on the run in passing routes.  He can also time a jump to catch the ball at its highest point without any problem.   Nicholson will need to be careful as to how he approaches the bigger receivers when playing press coverage, as he is currently about 5'10" 160 lbs.  I would allow Nicholson to play off coverage as much as possible.  Playing off of the receiver would allow him to best utilize the anticipation and plant and drive abilities that make him a clear blue-chip recruit. 

Jermaine Whitehead – Whitehead's speed is the main attribute the jumps off of the screen when watching his video.  Most of the plays I have seen of the burner from Greenwood, Mississippi show him in a variety of positions on offense – from quarterback to running back to wide receiver.  When he has the ball and some space, he can take off and leave everyone in the dust.  Whitehead's available video does not display natural catching ability, so hands and overall ball skills will need some work once he arrives at his college destination.  He needs to be confident in his ability to catch the ball with his hands and to high-point the long balls.  Also, he will need to buckle down on technique to make best use of his exceptional speed.  His backpedal will need to be fine-tuned before he will be able to reach his full potential.  Jermaine Whitehead is likely the fastest of Stanford's defensive back recruits and could challenge for early playing time once his technique is cleaned up.  Along with his speed, he displays good tackling ability and is a very physical player. 

Ronnie Harris – Atlanta's Ronnie Harris is a small, quick cornerback who has great instincts and a nose for the football.  While his size could hold him back from being a top tier prospect, the skill and energy with which Harris plays makes him one of my favorite defensive back prospects.  When playing as a safety in high school, he shows no fear in run support as he aggressively attacks ball carriers.  He also has a knack for laying the wood on receivers who venture into his area of the field.  Harris has great hips which are put on view when he breaks on the ball.  I haven't seen enough of him in a standard backpedal to judge his technique in that skill, but the athleticism that he exhibits in pass coverage, run support and kick/interception returns lead me to believe that his backpedal is not likely an issue.  Harris has very good speed and has timed well in the 40-yard dash.  I do still believe his game speed and technique will need to be worked on in order to keep up with the burners on the collegiate level.  His hands and ball skills are excellent, as he easily makes adjustments to the football and times jumps correctly on deep balls.  I think Harris can develop into a very good playmaker on the next level.  His size and speed have more room to develop given that he is a year younger than the other 2011 prospects.  Further, his intangibles – energy and nose for the football – are rare and would make a great addition to any defense on the next level.  Harris has a very high ceiling at a position of need for Stanford.  He would be an excellent pick-up for the Cardinal.

About the Author: Garry Cobb, Jr., A native of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Cobb played cornerback and was a big contributor in nickel and dine packages for the Cardinal from 2000-2003, lettering in 2001 & 2002 after redshirting in 1998 and sitting out a full season with a knee injury in 1999. Now back in Philadelphia again, Garry has been immersed in the local Philadelphia sports culture since birth. He has a number of former teammates and coaches who are now employed in the National Football League. He loves to evaluate collegiate football talent. He is constantly examining the rosters of colleges nationwide in search of the next great player. In each year as the summer grinds to a halt, NFL and college training camps get underway and the NFL and college football seasons approach, Garry makes a statement from deep in his heart, "This is the best time of year". Since his experience at Stanford, Garry has graduated from law school and become an attorney with Bloomberg at their Princeton, New Jersey campus. He is a "4 for 4" guy as a Philadelphia sports fans. He attends Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and even 76ers games when his schedule allows. In addition to providing GCobb.com with a sane, rational voice, Garry Jr. (aka "Garry II") can also be heard on 610 WIP as a guest host.

 

Gary II's father Garry Cobb, Sr. played on two Rose Bowl teams and won a national title at USC and now serves as President of GCobb.com, is a columnist for the Philadelphia Bulletin, and is a radio talk show host for 610-WIP CBS radio in Philadelphia.


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