Darryl Blackstock: Learning Defense, NFL-Style

Finding players who have already played pro-style defense at the collegiate level can be a daunting task. Not many teams play the more advanced schemes, and the ones who do often play some hybrid version of them. But there's one linebacker prospect who knows the ins and outs from a former NFL head coach. Darryl Blackstock's intelligence, drive and motivation make him one to watch.

In building a championship team, it is essential to have more than just playmakers and elite talent. A team must also possess players who love the game. Getting both in one shot is considered a coup, and Virginia OLB Darryl Blackstock is one NFL Draft prospect who has it all.

While most players were focusing on their workout numbers, Darryl Blackstock went to the NFL Combine with the intent of showing his passion. He was confident that his skills on the field would translate well into solid workouts, and he felt it was important to show his hustle in every event and take that off the field into the interview sessions.

“I just wanted them to know that more than anything, besides the tape and stuff, I wanted them to know that I have a real love for the game, a passion for the game,” Blackstock said. “That’s really my motivation to do well.”

While the drive of some prospects consists of money and fame or simply elevating stock, Blackstock’s love for the game and desire to make his son proud were driving forces behind him leaving school early.

“I just want to be great, to play against the best,” he said. “I know I can master the challenge.”

A former defensive end in high school, Blackstock made the transition to outside linebacker as a freshman at Virginia. That move immediately paid dividends as he went on to set a new ACC record for most sacks by a freshman with 10.

He finished his collegiate career second in Virginia’s annals with 27 sacks and third with 45 tackles for a loss. Despite leaving Virginia after his junior year, Blackstock ended his career just half a sack behind former Georgia Tech star Marco Coleman for the most career sacks by a linebacker in ACC history.

Nineteen percent of his career tackles have occurred behind the line of scrimmage.

“I’m a big play kind of player,” Blackstock proudly proclaimed. “Most of my big plays come from sacks. I really don’t get picked on when it’s time to run, to throw the ball around my area. I think I do pretty well in that field. I think that when teams start to look at the film in games or in practice, they’ll see that I can still do that stuff even though it hasn’t been really blown up. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Playing under former Jets head coach Al Groh, Blackstock has had the advantage of playing in a scheme that teaches NFL fundamentals.

The practice tempo and pace set by Groh was always meant to prepare his team for the NFL as they emulated everything that Groh did on the big stage.

“He kept things the same,” Blackstock explained. “I could imagine how they felt in New York when he was there. Everything was like we were under contract. He loved coaching me, and I love being taught, so that’s a prime example right there.”

His 11 sacks as a senior were tops in the nation amongst linebackers. And teams looking for a force at linebacker that can change a game quickly will be looking his way.

With 3-4 experience, it would seem those are the teams that will be leaning his way when the draft rolls around this week.

But don’t jump to conclusions just yet, Blackstock warns: “I think I’d be perfect for any scheme, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, whatever. I think I can get the job done wherever because I’m a quick learner, I love the game, I love to learn. Whoever’s my coach is going to love me as a player. He’s gonna see that I’m eager to learn, eager to do new things, new techniques, new styles, new stunts. I’m just that type of player: the kind of guy coaches love.”

It isn’t a coincidence that he lists Baltimore, San Diego and New England as some of the teams he thinks he would fit right in with.

Each of those teams have expressed an interest in him and he has had private workouts with the Ravens, Chiefs and Dolphins. The Bengals called him to express interest and the Browns called to ask if they could do a background check on him. All but five teams have had a meeting with the explosive linebacker.

Don’t expect Blackstock to back down from any competition when he steps into the league as a rookie. He is ready to back it up with his play.

“I’m not just one of those hype-man type of players,” he said. “You can call me any time of the day, any day, especially Sunday, and ask me if I’m ready to play the game, and my answer’s gonna be, ‘Hell yeah!’” he said. “I’m just one of those types of guys. I’m always fired up. I’m always ready. I always have a want to do well, to be great. I’ve always wanted to be the best player on the field on defense.

“I like to be considered the bad guy on the field. I’m not a nice guy. If you ask me if I’m hard and stuff on the field, I’m going to tell you, ‘Yeah, I’m (a jerk). I’m too much on the field.’ My attitude and mentality, my want to do well, makes me want to be better than you. It’s really taken over. My skills are good, but on the field, I’m more of a student of the game than normal.”

With Chad Brown’s release, the Seattle Seahawks desperately need a pass-rushing linebacker. Jamie Sharper’s acquisition was a wonderful addition, but his forte is stopping the run. Blackstock is well known as the finest pass-rushing linebacker in the country, and the Seahawks would be very wise to strongly consider making him one of their own.

He’s already shown what he can do in a pro-style defense. The NFL now awaits…

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