Scouting Combine Research: DB, Part 4

The final segment of our 59-player NFL Combine preview of the defensive backs is led by Northern Illinois star Jimmie Ward. Another impressive safety, which is a position of need for Green Bay, is Wisconsin's Dez Southward.

CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State (5-11, 187): Reynolds finished tied for first in his conference with six interceptions. He finished his career with a bang, setting the school's single-game record with two fumbles returned for a touchdown. Those two touchdowns led the Beavers over Boise State in the Hawai'I Bowl. It was his first touchdown since high school. "In high school I was a quarterback, so that's probably the last time I saw the end zone," said Reynolds in a postgame interview. Against Washington State this season, he forced two fumbles and had two interceptions. He also ran the 60 meters for the track team.

CB Marcus Roberson, Florida (6-0, 195): Early entrant. Roberson's final season at Florida was disappointing largely due to his struggles with injuries. Roberson started four of the seven games he saw action in and was unable to record an interception. Roberson's best season came in 2012, when he was named second-team all-SEC after breaking up 12 passes -- the most by a Gators defender since Joe Haden in 2008. He picked off three passes in three seasons. Roberson was originally committed to Texas Tech and then Auburn before deciding to go to Florida.

CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State (5-11, 192): Early entrant. Roby came into his junior season as the consensus top-ranked defensive back in the Big Ten, after earning first-team All-American honors in 2012. During that season, he led the nation with 19 passes defended. Roby struggled mightily at times this season but is a talented prospect, as evidenced by his three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He missed the Orange Bowl matchup with a hyperextended knee. Roby ran into some trouble early in his junior season, including Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis. He was arrested for battery and was suspended for the team's season opener against Buffalo. Roby sees a silver lining. "You practice how you play and that's the biggest thing I learned from this last year," Roby said. "You practice how you play. I needed to pay attention to the details, so I went back and I fixed it. I said I'm not going to play around anymore and I got back to how I normally play. Now in the league, I don't need to learn that where it might cost me my job. I'm so grateful that it happened because I'm better off now."

S Daniel Sorensen, Brigham Young (6-2, 208): Sorensen is described as a blue-collar defensive back. He is not flashy, he just does his job. Sorensen was born into a football family. All four of his brothers have played college football and one of those siblings, Brad, a quarterback, was drafted by the San Diego Chargers a year ago. That sibling rivalry has developed Sorensen into a hard worker. He told BYU's Web site, "I feel like I had to work twice as hard because I have four brothers, and they're all better than me at everything." Sorensen has been praised for his motor and got some high praise from his brother. "We used to joke that Daniel has one speed, and that's really good for football, it's a huge advantage because he's full speed and reacting to the football at all times."

S Dez Southward, Wisconsin (6-2, 210): Southward earned back-to-back honorable mention all- Big Ten honors. Southward set a school record by playing in 54 games for the Badgers and never missed a game in his career. Southward's biggest play of his final season was an interception against Arizona State in a game that will live in infamy for Badgers fans. He had eight tackles for losses as a junior. Southward's stepfather, Eli Rasheed, is the defensive backs coach at Toledo and played football for Indiana Univeristy. Southward's best attribute is his versatility. Against BYU, he covered star receiver Cody Hoffman. Southward told the Wisconsin State Journal, "Show me a few safeties that are able to come down and defend versatile slot players like a Kenzel Doe, or the slots from Ohio State. Those guys were hilariously fast. I'm really happy in the fact I've shown I'm versatile."

S Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama (6-0, 210): Early entrant. Sunseri burst onto the national scene during his first two games this season. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Virginia Tech and Texas A&M, which helped lead Alabama to victory in both games. After the strong start to his season, Sunseri sustained a torn ACL and would miss the last seven games of the year. Sunseri is the son of former Alabama linebackers coach and current University of Tennessee defensive coordinator, Sal Sunseri. He learned how to study film from his dad. "I was like 6 or 7 years old," Sunseri said. "I would just sit there and watch him draw up cards and ask his players why certain teams were doing this or that. A lot of those indicators I have taken with me. He's my idol, and I love him to death."

S Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech (5-10, 195): Thomas' final season saw him earn third-team All-ACC honors. He finished the year with three sacks and two interceptions. Following the seaso,n Thomas took part in the East-West Shrine Game. The highlight of Thomas' career came in the 2012 ACC Championship game, when he made a spectacular one-handed interception of a pass from current Bills quarterback EJ Manuel. His 15-tackle game against Virginia in October was the most by a Yellow Jacket since his mentor, Morgan Burnett.

S Brock Vereen, Minnesota (6-0, 202): Vereen finished his senior season with first-team all-Big Ten honors from the coaches. He finished the season with five pass breakups and one interception. He was Academic all-Big Ten as a junior. Vereen is the brother of Patriots running back Shane Vereen. Now he's looking to follow in his brother's footsteps. "The closer you get, the harder it is not to look past it, especially talking to Shane. We're starting to talk about NFL goals and everything, it's natural," he told Fox Sports North.

CB Jason Verrett, Texas Christian (5-10, 176): Verrett was a first-team All-American in each of his final two seasons at TCU. He intercepted two passes and broke up 14 others as a senior. Following a loss to Baylor during his sophomore season, Verrett had considered giving up football. The defense, himself included, had just been torched by Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright in TCU's 50-48 loss to Baylor. Following that game, Verrett told his father he wanted to quit. His father gave him a simple word of advice. "You've got to man up son."

S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois (5-11, 192): Despite being the best player on a defense that helped a team to an undefeated regular season, Ward has been overshadowed by quarterback Jordan Lynch. Ward is great in his own right. He finished the year with seven interceptions and returned one for a touchdown against Purdue. His play made him a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and first-team All-American accolades. In his three years as a starter, he intercepted 11 passes, forced three fumbles and tallied 299 tackles. He capped his career by playing in the Senior Bowl in his hometown of Mobile, Ala.

CB Todd Washington, Southeastern Louisiana (5-11, 190): Washington, who opened his career at Memphis, was an honorable mention on the all- Southland team in each of his final two seasons. He came into the 2013 season looking to build off a strong 2012, when he intercepted one pass and broke up nine while playing opposite Robert Alford. Instead, he played in only eight games, with no interceptions and eight passes defensed.

CB Jaylen Watkins, Florida (6-0, 187): Watkins shifted between cornerback in safety during the 2013 season. He excelled playing around the line of scrimmage, finishing with 52 tackles and five pass breakups. Watkins is the brotherof Clemson's top draft prospect, Sammy Watkins. Before each game, the brothers exchange text messages. Sammy says to Jaylen, "Play today like it's your last game." Jaylen says to Sammy, "Play hard and be safe." The brothers grew up in different houses and went to different schools, but they are best friends. Sammy Watkins told The Daily Orange, "We're competing all the time and we also both know what it's like to compete at such a high level. We can talk about anything."

CB Lavelle Westbrooks, Georgia Southern (6-0, 192): Westbrooks is a physical cornerback that enjoys getting in the face of opposing wide receivers. Westbrooks' best game came against Western Carolina, when he recorded two interceptions, and finished the season with seven pass breakups. His performance earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Following his final game at Georgia Southern, Westbrooks took a lot of pride of being part of a former powerhouse FCS program. "I'm happy that I have been part of one of the best programs in the country. There is a lot of tradition and pride in this program."


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