Coach Talk: Clint Bowen on Darrell Stuckey

The Chargers coaches are high on rookie safety Darrell Stuckey, amped by the speed and athleticism he brings to the secondary. But can San Diego's fourth-round pick continue his strong showing once the pads are on and the hits are real? To find out, we talk to KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen.

The Chargers picked Darrell Stuckey (6-foot-1, 205 lbs.) in Round Four (No. 110 overall) of this year's NFL Draft. Stuckey was coming off a stellar four-year career at Kansas in which he amassed 294 tackles, eight INTs and three forced fumbles.

After the recent release of incumbent starting SS Kevin Ellison, the Chargers plan to let Stuckey compete with five-year veteran Steve Gregory for the starting spot.

Is Stuckey ready to be an opening-day starter? How much should Chargers fans expect from his first year in blue and gold? To find out, we check in with Clint Bowen, the defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the Jayhawks.

LaShana Marshburn: What was it like to coach Darrell?

Clint Bowen: Everyone in San Diego is going to find out -- and I know people throw this around a lot -- that you will not find a better human being than Darrell Stuckey. He is an unbelievable young man. His mom is very involved. He has a great family life as far as getting his mom's support, but he is a great young man. He bends over backwards to make people happy. Sometimes, I would tell him that's one of his faults. He's too busy trying to make everyone happy. He needs to learn to say "no" every now and then.

LM: Darrell was obviously a difference-maker last season, earning first team All Big 12 honors and leading the team in tackles (93). Amazingly, he had even more tackles (97) and more interceptions (five to one) during his junior year. What does that tell you about his consistency?

CB: For one, he takes a lot of pride in what he does. He puts in the extra time to learn and become a smarter player. He's a smart young man to begin with, so his intelligence and willingness to learn prepared him to be successful. He's a tough kid and he's a good athlete. For the college game, he was very gifted across the board in everything that mattered, but in the NFL there are going to be a few spots where he needs improvement. But he has all the tangibles he needs.

LM: Speaking of areas for improvement, what are some of those in particular?

CB: First of all, in the NFL they are going to ask him to do improve in every capacity. He is going to be a space defender, you know, playing a deep third; he is going to have to improve on that because we usually didn't use him in that capacity. His experience level is going to be a bit lower to the deep-third type of safety stuff.

LM: Given how you used him at Kansas, how should Darrell be used in the NFL?

CB: He can play either the strong safety position or the nickel spot. As the draft was approaching teams kept calling me asking if Darrell is athletic enough to play free safety at the next level. I told them, "I'm surprised you didn't go to the Combine." Darrell is a freak athlete and then he went to the Combine and posted numbers a lot better than I think anyone did. I've got to give credit to Darrell. He is an extremely gifted athlete, so he can play any one of those three spots on the interior of the secondary, whether it is a nickel or a free or a strong. With his body type he is better suited to play strong safety, but if they need him to, he could play free safety.

LM: Right now, it looks like Darrell could be the opening-day starter at strong safety. Do you feel your program at Kansas has him prepared to take on such a big role so soon?

CB: We ran a very structured program. We worked our team extremely hard. The guys in our program became very mentally and physically tough because we pushed them extremely hard. We ran a lot of things defensively in the Big 12 that gave our kids a lot of looks at offensive stuff, so basically we taught the kids how to work and taught them about the game of football. At the summer football program at camp, we didn't always have the most talent. We relied on our kids to be tougher, in better shape and smarter than our opponents. We won a lot of games with that approach.

How much will Stuckey contribute this season? Discuss inside the message boards.

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