Prospect Evaluation #7: Madhu & Sanders

Once again, The Bootleg's Garry Cobb provides his evaluation of a couple of Cardinal verbal commitments with entirely different recruiting profiles. Safety Drew Madhu may not have the name recognition factor as four-star running back Barry Sanders, but he is a spirited football player who is used to winning big.

Prospect Evaluation #7: S Drew Madhu & RB Barry Sanders


Drew Madhu
, S  6'0" 195lbs (Plant Senior High School, Tampa, FL)


Scout.com Ratings – 3*, #109 S


Rivals Ratings – 3*, 5.5/6.1, No Positional Ranking, No National Ranking, No State Ranking


ESPN Ratings – 3*, 75/100, #69 S, #495 Regional Prospect, #172 Prospect in Florida, No National Ranking

Rating the Ratings

Madhu is consistently rated as a low, three-star prospect by the services.  There is little discrepancy of note there, other than that his positional ranking is a good deal higher on ESPN that it is on Scout. The evaluation below falls more in line with ESPN's rating than Scout's. 


Evaluation

Drew Madhu is a fiery safety with great instincts and football intelligence. He managed to tally over 100 tackles as a defensive back for Plant.  Against the run he closes hard and fast after quickly reading the play.  Despite the speed with which he closes on the run,  Madhu stays in control and closes with the correct leverage which allows him to make a ton of tackles in the alley on run plays.  He is also consistent with his leverage when playing against short passes and screens.  He has a great sense of how to attack would-be blockers without letting the ball carrier break contain.  Such attributes are immensely valuable in a safety as correct positioning when playing that position can mean the difference between a 5-8 yard run and a 50-80 yard run.  Madhu is a sure tackler, and that is mostly a product of his footwork.  The manner in which he closes on ball carriers allows him to handle even the most elusive ones in space.  He also has the ability to deliver a strike when making a tackle which, of course, is a highly sought after trait in safeties.


The big question about Madhu as a prospect is his pass coverage and, in particular, whether he has enough speed to run with BCS level receivers.  There is not much footage of Madhu's play against the pass, but it looks like he was mostly an "underneath" pass defender.  However, he does occasionally line up deep on his video so he likely has been tested down the field plenty of times.  Under that assumption, the fact that none of his highlights come in deep coverage situations is rather worrisome.  However, by most accounts he has shown well at camps, including Stanford's, where he was competing against top-notch talent and obviously must have impressed the Cardinal staff.

Projection

Madhu will find a way on the field regardless of where he ends up going to college. He comes from a powerhouse high school team, a Plant Panthers program that has won a handful of Florida State titles and has sent countless players to BCS conference college programs.  At the next level, his aggressive mentality and tackling ability will earn him time on special teams, and that will help him creep towards the top of the depth chart for playing time at safety.  He doesn't look to be a player who will beat others flat out throughout training camp, but once he is allowed to play in the secondary his strengths will be a great asset.  However, if the perceived weakness in pass coverage turns out to be an actual weakness and is exposed, Madhu will be relegated to situational duty or called on only to provide depth.  If his pass coverage skills are as impressive as Stanford's staff believed after seeing him in camp, he will be a consistent contributor in situational packages by the end of his third year and could be in a fight for a starting spot in year four.

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Barry J. Sanders
, S  5'11" 195lbs (Heritage Hall High School, Oklahoma City, OK)


Scout.com Ratings – 4*, #8 RB (had been a 5* before junior year injury – fine now)


Rivals Ratings – 4*, 5.8/6.1, #8 RB, #134 National Prospect, #1 Prospect in Oklahoma


ESPN Ratings – 4*, 81/100, #6 RB, #15 Regional Prospect, #3 Prospect in Oklahoma, #78 National Prospect


Rating the Ratings

Barry J. Sanders (NOT "Barry Sanders, Jr."!) is highly regarded as a top-10 running back across the board. His verbal commitment at the U.S. Army All-American game last weekend, choosing Stanford over childhood favorite Oklahoma State, Alabama and Florida State, set off nationwide celebration among the Cardinal faithful.  The rankings and ratings are all pretty consistent with regard to this outstanding young player. Sanders is one of the top running backs in the 2012 class in the eyes of all of the services. The following evaluation is certainly in agreement with that assessment.


Evaluation

Patience and vision are two parts of Sanders' game that aren't as obvious as the speed and quickness he displays.  Whether by pure instinct or coaching, the Oklahoma prospect allows his blocks to develop, sees or anticipates where the opening is and makes his cut like a seasoned running back.  His high school video predominantly shows him as a one-cut runner.  He shows nice acceleration through the hole and the ideal body lean for warding off defenders.  While passing defenders, Sanders' stiff arm is usually well placed and does an adequate job of creating separation for him.  He shows good strength when pulling away from tackles, but the video suggests that he was rarely physically tested by his opponents.


Sanders has very good speed and it will be quite interesting to see how much faster he looks on the college level when the competition is much more challenging.  Sometimes, it seems as if all he needs to do is jog to get past opponents.  On film, he regularly beats defenders' angles of pursuit regardless of whether he is running at full speed.   His ability to make people miss is a much easier skill to gauge in his highlights.  Sanders is lightning-quick when pressed and brings out a dazzling array of explosive jump cuts, shakes and dead leg cuts to avoid defenders.  His impressive balance when executing those moves and bouncing off of defenders is demonstrated repeatedly in the video.


Sanders didn't figure into his offense very much as a receiver, but when he did, he made his opportunities count.  He shows the ability to catch the ball away from his body, on the run and over the shoulder.  He also adjusts naturally to passes that are not on target.  Thus, there is plenty of evidence that Sanders can be an exceptional receiver out of the backfield.  In his few highlights on defense, he flashes physicality and ball skills that would get him a look at defense if he were not such a talented and natural runner.


Projection

Despite the daunting depth chart at Stanford, Sanders can see time early depending on how well he grasps the new offensive scheme and his new running back chore – pass blocking.  If he becomes an adequate-to-good pass blocker he may be able to see some time in various packages as a freshman.  His skill set also makes him a candidate for the slot on third downs which also helps his case for early playing time.  His experience on defense may allow him to play on special teams in his first year, but it is unlikely he would end up in that position unless he ends up in the top three of the Stanford running back rotation as a freshman.  His ability to stay healthy and the progress of the plethora of other young running backs will be a huge factor in whether Sanders will be seen on the field in 2012 or 2013.  After his first year, Sanders should be towards the top of the rotation going into his second training camp, barring injury. 


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