Putting the Strong in Strong Safety

The Jaguars experimented last season by rearranging the secondary. When that experiment was unsuccessful, the team was forced to play Gerald Sensabaugh. The good news is that Sensabaugh played very well, but the bad news is that he played so well, that he will likely move on to greener pastures in free agency. Find out which player may be Sensabaugh's replacement.

Wake Forest's Chip Vaughn has a chiseled, 6'1", 218 lb. frame that yells out punishment to all opposing wide receivers going across the middle of the football field. Vaughn is a true strong safety in every sense of the word, a throwback to the safeties of old. At the Senior Bowl, JagNation asked Vaughn which NFL player he tries to emulate, and he gave a very interesting answer.

"Jack Tatum and the late Sean Taylor, those are the two that I admire how they played the game," Vaughn said with a rye smile.

Tatum was certainly a headhunter back in his day, but Taylor was more of a complete safety who could play both the run and pass effectively before his untimely death. Vaughn likens himself to both, and his play on the field is somewhat reminiscent.

Still, many people haven't heard much of Chip Vaughn, as his alma mater, Wake Forest, has only had a top football program for a few years, and is mostly known as a basketball school, something that irks the muscular safety.

"When I first got there (Wake), it was the Chris Paul show, and that's what everybody on campus was talking about," Vaughn said. "We as the football team hated that, we're trying to turn around that whole perception of Wake Forest as a basketball school."

Although the Demon Deacons basketball program is still ranked very high nationally, Vaughn and fellow Wake and Senior Bowl teammate Alphonso Smith have made the football team relevant. As juniors, they led Wake to an ACC title, and Orange Bowl berth.

Vaughn is very happy to have had teammate Alphonso Smith with him at the Senior Bowl, as both can critique each other's performances after practice.

"When we have some down time, which is rare in itself, but when we do, we talk about practice, how things are going, what we both need to improve on, what scouts are saying about us," Vaughn told reporters at a post-practice press conference. "It's good that you have somebody that you can talk to and shoot it to you straight. Things like that will help us both."

Smith echoed those same sentiments when JagNation caught up with him in Mobile—

"It's been really comfortable just having Chip (Vaughn) out here," Alphonso Smith said. "We motivate each other and if something's wrong he will come up to me and say, ‘use your hands a little bit better,' and if he does something wrong I will say, ‘move your feet a little bit better.' It's constructive criticism and we're like brothers. We're pretty much best friends so I'm just glad he's out here to help me push over the edge, to push further. I'm glad I'm out here to push him. It's a great feeling."

Vaughn has also leaned on former teammates to prepare him for the entire post-collegiate, pre-draft process.

"I talked to (former Jaguars draft pick) Josh Gattis, Jeremy Thompson, and Calvin Pace," Vaughn said. "I talked to all of them in the past month or so. I was trying to get tips on how to conduct yourself this whole week, how the whole process is, and they definitely helped me out a lot. We all stay in touch."

What Vaughn couldn't anticipate was the way Jack Del Rio ran his South team practices. Del Rio caught Vaughn's ear early on.

"It was real intense," Vaughn told JagNation. "I can remember last year seeing some stuff on them and seeing their training camps when they're doing full contact stuff and you see teams like the Cowboys on "Hard Knocks," and they have marshmallow training camps and that's not the Jaguars. They're full go, hard nosed coaches and I love that about them. They're really hard on you, but they're just trying to teach you and make you a better football player in practice."

Vaughn really seemed to appreciate the hard work and tough love the Jaguars coaching staff showed him during Senior Bowl week, and it's more than possible that Vaughn could get more of the Jaguars coaching, as he is expected to be a late-first, early second-day draft choice who could fit in very well in Jacksonville.


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