Insider Scouting Report: SS Matt O'Hanlon

The Panthers plan to field a young safety corps in '10. One player who hopes to make the unit even younger is SS Matt O'Hanlon, the tackling machine from Nebraska. For more on O'Hanlon, we talk with Steve Ryan of Big Red Report.

Matt O'Hanlon (5-foot-11, 200 lbs.) set a Nebraska school records with three interceptions in a game against Oklahoma last season. He finished the season with a career-best six picks, yet his best chance of sticking with the Carolina Panthers is by bringing the wood on defense and special teams.

For more on O'Hanlon, we check in with Steve Ryan of Big Red Report.

Michael Lombardo: Matt O'Hanlon broke out last season with six interceptions. How much of that was a product of Nebraska's front seven and how much was due to his improved ball skills?

  Steve Ryan: There was some of that in regard to being in the right place at the right time. Against Oklahoma -- where he had three interceptions -- two were soft balls; he was basically standing there when he picked them. The other was a legitimately solid effort to get the ball. The defensive scheme and the success of the defensive line in putting pressure on the QBs made it a little easier for the secondary. But those corners also made life for those safeties pretty easy. They were able to make plays on the ball, which Matt was obviously doing all year.

ML: What skills in particular will give him a chance to earn a place in the NFL? 

  SR: The kid is about as fundamentally sound of a tackler as you will see. He's very physical at the point of impact and knows how to tackle through ball-carriers instead of just trying to knock them down. And he has good tackling instincts in the open field. He'd be a perfect fit on special teams initially.

ML: Talk about his impact on special teams, both in terms of what he did at Nebraska and what he's capable of doing in the NFL. 

  SR: He's ideal for special teams. He is tenacious, fearless and a good athlete. Plus, he knows how to finish.

ML: How NFL-ready is O'Hanlon? And how high is his ceiling? 

SR: If you look at him solely as a special-teams guy, yeah, I think he's ready now. In regard to playing safety, pass coverage is something he's going to need to work on. At the NFL level, he's not ready to take on slot receivers and certainly doesn't have the size to match up with tight ends. He is deceptively fast, but he's more of a first- and second-down guy when you are pretty certain the other team is going to run.

ML: Would you compare him to any NFL players, past or present?

  SR: I look at him as a Bill Bates type. He's not going to blow you away in any one area, but he's solid fundamentally and he has better-than-average athleticism. Plus, the kid simply works his tail off. He started here as a walk-on and he earned his spot on a defense which led the country last year in scoring defense and pass-efficiency defense. He'll be one of those hardcore workers who just shuts up and does his job. And again, right now anyway, I see him more as a special teams guy than a position player.

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