Scouting Combine Research: DB, Part 1

The defensive backs meet the press on Sunday; we introduce you to the prospects at the NFL Combine. Part 1 of the four-part series on the defensive backs is headlined by the top two safeties.

Maurice Alexander, Utah State (6-2, 212): Alexander was suspended for the 2012 season by then-coach Gary Andersen after pleading guilty to an assault charge against a teammate. As a senior, he recorded one interception and 3.5 sacks. "They are my brothers," he said of his teammates. Alexander started his career in junior college. In his first season at Utah State, 2011, he tallied three sacks and seven tackles for losses as a linebacker. At Eureka (Mo.) High School, he was a two-time all-state performer in football and a third-place finisher at the state wrestling tournament.

CB Ricardo Allen, Purdue (5-9, 186): Allen holds the school record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns during his career. Allen recorded six interceptions during his senior season, putting his career total to 13 -- second-best in school history. Allen stood out for an otherwise abysmal Purdue defense, but the consistent losing did not sit well with him. He told the Indianapolis Star, "It's been a tough one, but you've got to go every day and try to do all you can as a leader and a player to make plays come your way." He continued, "… I'm clearly a sore loser and I hate losing with a passion."

Dion Bailey, Southern California (6-0, 200): Early entrant who has earned his degree. Bailey started at linebacker in 2012 before moving to safety for his final season. The move paid off, as Bailey -- despite offseason shoulder surgery -- tallied a team-high five interceptions and a co-team-leading 11 passes defensed. He fourth with 61 tackles, including 6.5 for losses. As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, he finished with eight tackles for losses, one forced fumble and one interception. Before that season, Bailey spent time with 15 of his teammates helping build homes, and assisting those less fortunate than themselves in Haiti. He said, "Building a home is really hard work, it's more tiring than football practice or a game."

CB Deion Belue, Alabama (6-0, 170): Belue was a junior college transfer, going from Northeast Mississippi Community College to Nick Saban's Alabama defense. Slowed by a nagging toe injury that kept him out of two games as a senior, Belue had one interception and four passes defensed. He compared the injury to walking on pins and he didn't practice for a large stretch of the season. Still, opposing quarterbacks didn't throw his way too often. He was more impactful as a junior with two interceptions and nine passes defensed.

S Bene' Benwikere, San Jose State (6-0, 192): Benwikere started 30 games for the Spartans. He finished with a school record of 14 interception. He had five picks as a senior and seven as a junior, including three in the second half of a victory against Louisiana Tech. Benwikere is cousins with current Cleveland cornerback Chris Owens. This past season Benwikere, faced a scary moment. He collided with teammate Christian Tago on a tackle and had his helmet pop off. He laid motionless for several minutes. Fortunately, Benwikere was OK and eventually tweeted just hours after he was released from the hospital, "Hello everyone, thank you for the get well wishes, texts, and most importantly prayers. Much appreciated." Benwikere would only miss one game following his concussion, and record an interception in his next four games.

S Natneal Berhe, San Diego State (5-10, 200): Behre returned to the Aztecs for his senior season as the top returning tackler on the team and had plenty of preseason award nominations to show for it. He was nominated for the Lott Impact Trophy, the Jim Thorpe Award watch list and a preseason first-team all conference selection. He backed up all of that with a team-high 99 tackles as a senior. He didn't have an interception but broke up six passes and claimed first-team honors in the Mountain West and team MVP. He earned second-team accolades as a junior with his 94 tackles. He finished his career ranked seventh in school history with 294 stops.

S Tre Boston, North Carolina (6-1, 205): Boston is a versatile athlete that has played cornerback and safety. He finished his career playing safety, and he made his best impact there. During Boston's senior season, he recorded five interceptions and a team-high 94 tackles. The end of Boston's career was interesting, with his final game coming against the school he originally committed to, Cincinnati. Boston told FayObserver.com, "It's kind of crazy, when I came here it just felt like a brotherhood, also we had Butch Davis. You knew you could go to the league if you played for Butch Davis."

CB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson (6-0, 185): Early entrant. After missing six games in 2012, Breeland looked to return to top form in 2013. During spring practice before the 2013 season, he told The State, "I would say I'm not 100 percent where I should be this spring, but I'm working to get there. I didn't want to sit out, I really pushed myself to get the groove back." Breeland got his groove back and had a team-high 13 pass breakups to go along with four interceptions. "It has been the highest level I've been playing," he said at midseason. His performance helped him earn second-team all-ACC honors. Breeland was a two-time state champion in the 400-meter hurdles in high school and helped his team win the state title during his senior season.

S Deone Bucannon, Washington State (6-1, 216): Bucannon spent his final two seasons in the starting lineup. During his junior season, he led the team in interceptions with four. He improved that total in his senior season with six interceptions, including four in four consecutive games. Bucannon's best attribute is his physicality. While he has had a penchant for picking up flags, that did not bother his head coach that much. Washington State coach Mike Leach told The News Tribune, "You want to have people do what they do best as long as they stay within themselves. He's good at the physical part of it." Bucannon's on-field play caught the eyes of his opponents, and made them locate him on the field at all times. Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson told The Denver Post, "We have to know where he is at all times, because he's going to make plays. We have to try and keep the ball away from him as much as possible."

CB T.J. Carrie, Ohio (5-11, 212): Carrie, a sixth-year senior whose career was dogged by injuries, was first-team all-MAC as a punt returner and a third-team choice at cornerback in 2013. He led the MAC in average yards per punt return with 12.7 and paced the Bobcats with four interceptions. He did all the despite suffering a serious shoulder injury in 2012 that caused him to miss that entire season. He also took a medical redshirt as a sophomore. Those are not the only issues Carrie has faced during his career. His college football career almost never got started. In high school, he had a condition that required heart surgery. Carrie looks at the adversity he faced throughout his prep and college days as a positive. He told the Athens Messenger, "You always have to stay optimistic, and never let whatever adversity you go through affect you longer on down the road. What happened, happened. It's over now. Deal with it."

S HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama (6-1, 208): Early entrant. During his sophomore season in 2012, Clinton-Dix recorded five interceptions, including one in Alabama's rout of Notre Dame in the national championship game. Clinton-Dix missed two games in 2013 due to a suspension for taking money from an assistant. Initially, Clinton-Dix was angry but credits his teammates, family, and coaches for keeping him calm and focused. In December, he told al.com, "I think I handled it well but it was my teammates, coaches, and family members who kept me calmed down and humble about the whole situation. I owe them a big thanks." Despite the two-game absence, he ranked fourth with 52 tackles including 3.5 for losses, and added two interceptions and six passes defensed. His real first name is Ha'Sean but his grandmother coined him with the "HaHa" nickname when he was a little kid.

CB Ross Cockrell, Duke (6-0, 190): Cockrell was a consensus preseason first-team all-ACC selection at cornerback. Cockrell was coming off a season in which he intercepted five passes and defended 12 others. More importantly, Cockrell was a leader in a young Duke secondary. To a man, they credit him with getting them ready to play as soon as they arrived in Durham. Freshman DeVon Edwards told newsobserver.com, "Ross would just be in my ear, and be like, 'Just make a call, I got your back.' And so once he told me that I would make a call, it would be wrong but he would make me right." Cockrell's father was a football player at the University of Columbia.

CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma (6-0, 192): A semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, Colvin was projected to be one of the more coveted cornerbacks of this draft class until he suffered an ACL injury at the Senior Bowl. He was named first-team all-Big 12 in back-to-back years. He finished his senior season with one interception and three passes defended. When asked about his ACL tear, Colvin told Tulsa World, "No, I don't know why it happened, but I know there is a special reason for it. I can either cry about it, or I can move forward and work my butt off to still make it happen, which I will!"

CB Chris Davis, Auburn (5-11 200): Davis' career took major flight in November in a game that will forever live in the the lore of the Iron Bowl. With the game tied at 28, Alabama attempted a long field goal to win the game in regulation. The kick was well short and caught by Davis. He took the ball from the back of the end zone and returned it 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired. The return gave Auburn a spot in the SEC championship game. Davis is not just a one-play wonder, however. Davis recorded 74 tackles and 14 passes defensed as a senior. For Davis, football is not about the numbers, nor the publicity. It is about the family. He plays for his mother, who raised four children; his grandmother, who found him right after his big play against Auburn; his father who died when he was a baby; and, most importantly, he plays for his 3-year-old son.


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