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Scouting Combine Research Series: Safeties (Part 1)

Whose father is a former NFL running back? Who went to college to play running back? Those answers and more as we get to know the top safety prospects.

Here are the 26 safeties who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. All players are seniors unless noted. For Part 2, CLICK HERE. For Part 3, CLICK HERE.

Jamal Adams, LSU (6-0, 211)): Junior. Adams was honored after each of his three seasons: Freshman All-American, second-team all-SEC as a sophomore and first-team all-conference and All-America as a junior. In 2016, he had 76 tackles, including one sack and 7.5 for losses, plus four passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble. Adams had a career-high four interceptions as a sophomore. Adams led the secondary in tackles as a freshman even though he only started two games.

Of all the members of the Tigers’ famed “DBU” fraternity, former NFL safety Ryan Clark has made the biggest impact on Adams. They connected on Instagram, and they started going over film every week at the team facility. “He’s critiqued me after each game. Tons of film, before and after,” Adams says. “He’s been a brother to me. His family is like a second family for me.”

Adams hits hard — always has. “Dad taught me to play aggressive. I was always flying around the ball. I got kicked out of a lot of leagues because I hit so hard.”

Adams’ father, George, was the Giants’ first-round pick in 1985. The running spent four years in New York and two more in New England, finishing his career with 886 rushing yards. George pointed Jamal to the defense. “I had him at running back and safety, but my thing is I've already had two hip replacements and still am having trouble with my hip. I didn't want him to take that pounding, so I wanted him to be on the other side of the ball where he delivered the licks instead of take the licks.”

Budda Baker, Washington (5-10, 192): Junior. Baker was a Freshman All-America, a first-team all-Pac-12 choice as a sophomore and a consensus first-team All-America as a junior. During his final season, he had 71 tackles, including three sacks and 10 for losses, and added two interceptions, six passes defensed and one forced fumble.

At Bellevue (Wash.) High School, he won three consecutive state titles in football and the 100 (twice) and 200 at the Washington state track and field meet. His name is Bishard but his mom, Michelle, thought her little newborn looked like a “little Buddha doll.” Baker is fueled by his family. Baker is one of five kids. Michelle has Crohn’s disease, colitis and fibromyalgia. Older brother Robert served time in prison but the two stayed close throughout. Budda matured as the man of the house.

Jamal Carter, Miami (Fla.) (6-1, 214): Carter went from key reserve and one of the team leaders in tackles as a junior to starter as a senior. He tallied 85 tackles (one sack, one tackle for loss) and three passes defensed. He intercepted two passes and didn’t force a fumble in four seasons.

Carter overcame “a lot of deep stuff” as a kid who grew up in Miami. He plays for his son, Jamal Carter Jr. “That’s like three-fourths of my motivation. A lot of stuff that I do, I think of him — being able to provide him with the things he’s going to want when he grows up. Things I didn’t really have when I was younger. Just be a great role model for him, be that good father figure for him and give him everything that he wants.”

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Chuck Clark, Virginia Tech (6-0, 204): Clark was a three-year, do-it-all starter in the Hokies’ secondary. As a senior, he had 94 tackles, including 2.5 for losses, with two passes defensed and one forced fumble. He was more productive as a junior, when he had 107 tackles, including three sacks and 10 for losses, plus one interception and eight passes defensed. As a sophomore, he had one interception, 11 passes defensed and 8.5 TFLs.

Justin Evans, Texas A&M (6-0, 193): The junior-college transfer started for both seasons at A&M. After a solid junior campaign of 78 tackles and one interception, he emerged as a senior as an all-around playmaker. He tallied 87 tackles, including five for losses, intercepted four passes, broke up eight, blocked one kick and averaged 28.5 yards on kickoff returns.

Recruiters overlooked Evans, which is why he landed at Gulf Coast Community College. “I’ve had very few kids who could do the things he can do. The thing was he could do everything. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He even kicked extra points for us at one point,” said his high school coach, Adam Stone, who mostly used Evans at quarterback, receiver, safety and kick returner. “He could play any position in the game.”

Evans was bothered by the recruiting oversight. “We never really talk about it, but deep down inside it hurt a little bit, because you feel like these people think this guy or that guy is better than you.”

However, Evans was viewed as more of a prospect in baseball, with a 90-plus-mph fastball. A viral video of Evans apparently snapping his leg back into place during a September game against UCLA went viral.

Johnathan Ford, Auburn (5-11, 200): Ford started 34 games at nickel and safety in his four seasons. As a sophomore, he intercepted three passes. As a junior, he had 118 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. As a senior, he had 59 tackles and career highs of 5.5 tackles for losses and seven passes defensed. His four-year total: 275 tackles, 11.5 tackles for losses, five interceptions, 11 passes defensed, three forced fumbles.

Ford was one of the top running back prospects in Alabama and made the move to corner during his freshman season at Auburn. Ford overcame more than a position switch. As a freshman at Auburn, his mom suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage, which cost her her memory, sight and ability to communicate.

Nate Gerry, Nebraska (6-2, 214): Gerry’s career ended with a bang. And a thud. As a senior, Gerry capped a tremendous run at Nebraska by being named an All-American and first-team all-Big Ten. He posted 74 tackles, including seven for losses, four interceptions and eight passes defensed. He was a three-time all-Big Ten pick who finished his career with 13 interceptions, 19 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and 273 tackles. The 13 picks were one shy of the school record. However, he was academically ineligible for his final game, the Music City Bowl. He also was suspended for the opening game.

Gerry finds inspiration in his parents. His mom, the youngest of nine children, worked three jobs. "Just put your head down and go to work is kind of the motto that they put in our family," Gerry said. And that only doubled the pain after being ejected from a bowl game against UCLA for targeting. "I think the thing that hurt me the most was my parents spent all that money, and it was kind of like a wasted trip for them, so it kind of hurt me a little more than just getting kicked out of the game for that.”

Gerry is a freak athlete. At Sioux Falls (S.D.) Washington High School, Gerry was a two-time state champion in the 200 meters and owns the state record in that event.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville (6-4, 228): Harvey-Clemons started 11 games as a sophomore at Georgia in 2014. But that accomplishment was lost in the dark shadow of his role in Auburn’s miracle 73-yard touchdown during a late-season showdown. It only got worse with a suspension from the following bowl game and, eventually, being dismissed from the team. Forced to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Harvey-Clemons learned about hard work in the “real world.”

After the transfer, Harvey-Clemons started for two seasons. As a senior, he had 61 tackles, including two sacks and four for losses, and two passes defensed. He picked off three passes as a junior. Cardinals secondary coach Cort Dennison said Harvey-Clemons is a big man who “can run like a deer.” That combination of size and athleticism made him a valuable player. “He can do a multitude of things," Dennison said. "He can play in the middle of the field. He can come down in the box. He can use his hands. He's long and has great range. He can tackle in the box. He's getting a lot better taking on offensive linemen.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.




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