Bill's Combine Research: Defensive Backs

We start one of our most popular series from last year: A look at all 333 players who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. We kick off this series with half of the 60 defensive backs. Who put up the big numbers and who has a great off-the-field story?

A total of 333 players will be at the Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 20 in Indianapolis. We're sharing our homework as we get ready for the big week. In Part 1, here are 30 of the 60 defensive backs.

Note: All heights and weights are from the school, unless noted.

CB Johnny Adams, Michigan State: Adams (5-11, 177) was a three-year starter who earned all-conference accolades each time. He finished 10th in school history with 11 interceptions and second with 230 yards on interception returns. He missed the bowl game and the Senior Bowl due to turf toe. A 160-pounder in high school, Adams was so versatile he even played some defensive end at Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio, where he was all-state in basketball as a junior.

CB Robert Alford, Southeastern, Louisiana: Alford (6-0, 186 at Senior Bowl) intercepted four passes, averaged 14.1 yards per punt return and even played some receiver as a senior, when he was named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press. During the Senior Bowl, he returned a kickoff 88 yards and intercepted a two-point conversion pass. He had five interceptions in 2011 after missing 2010 due to a neck stinger. His brother, Fred Booker, played 12 games for the Saints in 2005.

CB David Amerson, North Carolina State: Early entrant. Amerson (6-3, 194) set NC State and ACC single-season records with a stunning 13 interceptions in 2011. The tall and long cornerback won the Jack Tatum Award as the nation's top defensive back. He added five interceptions in 2012 and was second-team all-conference. His 18 career interceptions rank third in ACC history. Amerson has said he wasn't the best player in his family. His older brother, Noah, however ran afoul with the law and served 16 months in prison.

CB Marc Anthony, California: In 41 games (32) starts, Anthony (5-11, 191 at Senior Bowl) intercepted five passes, including one pick-six. He ranked third on the team with 7.5 tackles for losses as a senior. His cousin is Saints defensive lineman Cameron Jordan. The cornerback's position coach is Ashley Ambrose, a 13-year NFL veteran.

CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State: Banks (6-2, 185) won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. He had four interceptions this season and tied for the school career record with 16 picks. Banks was raised mostly by his grandparents and overcame the death of his father when he was 12 and his grandfather when he was 16. At East Webster High School in Maben, Miss., Banks played for the varsity when in eighth grade. During his prep career, he played quarterback, running back, linebacker and defensive back. He's been riding horses since he was 5.

S John Boyett, Oregon: Boyett (5-10, 205) was an honorable mention on Pro Football Weekly's All-American team in 2011, when the safety tallied 108 tackles — including 17 vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl — and five interceptions. A preseason All-American, his senior season, however, was ruined by partially torn patellar tendons on both knees. At Napa (Calif.) High School, he was a dual-threat quarterback who threw for 1,827 yards and ran for 1,527 yards and tallied 39 total touchdowns. HIs brother, Charles, is a defensive back at UC Davis. His sister, Danielle, died of a brain tumor a month after Oregon played Auburn for the national championship.

CB Adrian Bushell, Louisville: Bushell (5-11, 187) spent his first two seasons at Florida before being kicked out of the program. After a year at Cedar Valley (Texas) Community College, Bushell spent his final two seasons at Louisville, earning all-Big East honors both years. He had one interception as a senior. Brought to Louisville by coach Charlie Strong — Bushell's defensive coordinator at Florida — Bushell earned his degree after he "threw (his career) down the drain."

CB Sanders Commings, Georgia: Commings (6-2, 216 at Senior Bowl) intercepted three passes, giving him eight for his career. He missed the first two games of his senior season after a domestic violence arrest on Jan. 21, 2012. Commings started nine games at corner in 2010. He was a 37th-round draft pick by baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008.

S Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International: Cyprien (6-0, 209 at Senior Bowl) was the best safety at the Senior Bowl, with his physical play and speed to make plays in center field. As a senior, he tallied 93 tackles, four interceptions, 3.5 tackles for losses and one forced fumble. He finished with a school-record 365 tackles. He's good friends with and looks up to Lions safety Louis Delmas and Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers; all three went to North Miami Beach High.

CB Will Davis, Utah State: Davis (6-0, 186) earned some All-American honors after tying for second in the nation with 1.69 passes defensed per game. He tallied five interceptions, 17 passes defensed and 4.5 tackles for losses. The five interceptions came in consecutive games. He picked off eight passes at De Anza (Calif.) College in 2010. He started his career at Western Washington, but the school dismantled its football program after his first year.

CB Mike Edwards, Hawaii: Early entrant. Edwards (5-10, 180) played eight games as a true freshman at Tennessee in 2009 but was charged with three counts of armed robbery and was given two years probation. He landed at Hawaii for the last two seasons. In 2012, he picked off two passes and broke up 15 others while adding five tackles for losses. An electric kick returner, he averaged 30.4 yards with three touchdowns.

S Matt Elam, Florida: Early entrant. Elam (5-10, 202) is a big-time playmaker who also played the nickel. As a junior, he had four interceptions, 11 tackles for losses, two sacks and a forced fumble. He had 11 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in 2011. He was Scout.com's No. 1-ranked safety coming out of William T. Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. His brother, Abe, just completed his seventh year as NFL safety with the Chiefs.

S Josh Evans, Florida: In his only season as a full-time starter, Evans (6-2, 201) led the Gators with 83 tackles and added three interceptions and 2.5 sacks. He's inspired by his mother, Joycita Evans, who did of ovarian cancer when he was in eighth grade. He was 12 and the only other person at home when she died. At Irvington (N.J.) High, he threw for 1,856 yards, rushed for 1,403 yards and accounted for 32 touchdowns for his career and intercepted seven passes as a senior.

CB Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut: Gratz (5-11, 200 at Senior Bowl) intercepted eight passes, forced three fumbles and added 10 tackles for losses in 41 career starts. He was all-Big East second team during his final two seasons. He had a pick-six against Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.

CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois: Hawthorne (6-0, 194) started 26 games, finishing with six interceptions, two pick-sixes, 28 passes defensed and 12.5 tackles for losses. As a junior, he had a 39-yard touchdown off an interception against UCLA to be named defensive MVP of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. At East St. Louis (Ill.) High, he was Parade Magazine's top wide receiver and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's metro defensive player of the year. He scored 28 touchdowns as a senior and played receiver, defensive back, kick returner and punter.

CB D.J. Hayden, Houston: Hayden (6-0, 192) was first-team all-Conference USA despite missing the last few games after tearing his inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, during a practice in November. According to the team physician, the injury is fatal 95 percent of the time. At the time of the injury, he led the conference with four interceptions. In 2011, he forced five fumbles.

CB Aaron Hester, UCLA: Hester (6-1, 207) started 36 games in four seasons, finishing with five interceptions. He was the first Bruins player to start in four consecutive season-opening games since Mike McCloskey and former Packers tight end/linebacker Spencer Havner. He's related to Devin Hester but said Deion Sanders is the athlete he admires most.

CB Micah Hyde, Iowa: Hyde (6-1, 190) started his final three seasons, ranking 34th in school history with 240 tackles and tied for 18th with eight interceptions. As a senior, he won the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year award after recording one interception, 14 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, three recoveries and four tackles for losses. Hyde was arrested for public intoxication in October and playing music too loud in December. He was an all-state quarterback at Fostoria (Ohio) High, where he set 17 school records for his play on offense (111 career touchdowns), defense (cornerback) and special teams (kicker and kick returner).

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma: Early entrant. Jefferson started 34 games in three seasons, tallying eight interceptions, 258 tackles and 18 tackles for losses. He was a second-team All-American and a first-team Academic all-Big 12, with his 119 tackles leading conference defensive backs. He intercepted two passes. His father, Tony, vied for a spot on the Olympic boxing team, lost out to Larry Donald and turned into a pastor.

CB Josh Johnson, Purdue: Johnson (5-11, 195), a three-year Big Ten academic selection, had three interceptions, 19 passes defensed and three forced fumbles as a senior. For his career, he tallied six interceptions, forced seven fumbles and ranks fifth in school history with 31 pass breakups. At Pasco High in Tampa, Fla., Johnson was one of the state's best baseball players and had offers to play that sport in college.

S Keelan Johnson, Arizona State: Finally realizing his potential, Johnson (6-1, 207) was a full-time starter for the first time and team captain, and finished 11th in the nation with five interceptions. He anchored a defense that ranked third in the nation in passing yards allowed and 10th in passer efficiency. A top running back at Mesa (Ariz.) High, Johnson spent part of his redshirt season at receiver before moving to defense.

S Robert Lester, Alabama: Lester (6-1, 212) was a three-year starter who closed his career ranked fifth in school history with 14 interceptions. A team-high four of those interceptions came as a senior, along with 3.5 tackles for losses. Eight of the interceptions came as a sophomore, when he tied Harry Gilmer's 65-year-old school record. He played at Foley (Ala.) High School with receiver Julio Jones. Their battles started much earlier, however, with games of hide-and-seek.

CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU: Early entrant. The big circus of this year's Combine — other than Manti Te'o — will be Mathieu. A top Heisman Trophy candidate, Mathieu was kicked off the team in August for failing multiple drug tests. Then, he was arrested on drug charges in October. Last month, he told ESPN that he "abused" marijuana. In 2011, Mathieu (5-9, 175) was a Heisman finalist — the first defender invited to the ceremony since Charles Woodson. In just 26 games, he forced 11 fumbles — seventh-most in NCAA history — intercepted four passes and averaged 15.6 yards (with two touchdowns) on punt returns.

CB Demetrius McCray, Appalachian State: McCray (6-0, 185) was a second-team All-American. After intercepting five passes as a junior, he added four as a senior. In the NFLPA all-star game, he had an interception and forced fumble.

S T.J. McDonald, USC: McDonald (6-2, 211) led the Trojans with 112 tackles. He added two interceptions and a blocked kick. The three-year starter departed with eight interceptions. McDonald's father, Tim, was a two-time All-American and six-time Pro Bowl safety who picked off 40 passes in 13 seasons for the 49ers and Cardinals. Tim McDonald was T.J.'s coach at Edison High in Fresno, Calif., and another football legend, Monte Kiffin, coached McDonald at USC.

S Bradley McDougald, Kansas: McDougald (6-1, 209) registered 92 tackles and three interceptions as a senior to earn second-team all-Big 12 accolades. As a freshman and sophomore, he was a two-way player, with 52 receptions as a wide receiver, and returned kickoffs. As a youngster, McDougald's older brother was diagnosed with cancer and lost his leg.

CB Leon McFadden, San Diego State: McFadden (5-10, 193 at Senior Bowl) was named the team's MVP after intercepting three passes as a senior. He took two of those back for touchdowns. He joined Marshall Faulk, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Kirk Morrison as the only three-time first-team all-conference picks in school history. Most schools recruited him to play corner; he chose San Diego State so he could play receiver. He played receiver for two weeks before being sent back to cornerback because a senior tore his ACL.

CB Brandon McGee, Miami: McGee (6-0, 197) intercepted three passes in his two seasons in the starting lineup. He lost his starting job at the start of fall camp, with defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio trying to light a fire under his senior. It worked. McGee's gone through more than his share of hardship. His father had throat cancer and speaks through a voice simulator; his mother died of breast cancer when he was 13. A poem he wrote for his mother is tattooed on his chest.

S Rontez Miles, California Pennsylvania: Miles (6-0, 202) is a two-time Division II All-American. As a senior, he tallied 75 tackles and four interceptions. The two-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference defensive player of the year set a school record among defensive backs with 257 career tackles and added 10 interceptions, 23.5 tackles for losses and four blocked kicks. If he gets to the NFL, it will be quite a journey.

CB Dee Milliner, Alabama: Early entrant. Milliner (6-1, 190) was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2012 with two interceptions and 18 passes defensed. His 34 pass breakups rank second in school history — a remarkable figure for a three-year player who rarely was tested this season. He was the top-ranked safety in the 2010 class coming out of Stanhope Elmore High in Millbrook, Ala.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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