Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
Santa Rosa Junior College
Angelo Rodriguez High School
The Horned Frogs' cornerback has been nicknamed "The Sandman" by professional scouts, as more often than not, he will "take a few Z's" on the football field – as in taking on the opponent's elite pass catcher, which is usually the "Z" (flanker) receiver. In two short seasons at Texas Christian, the Fairfield, California, native has established himself as the best shutdown cornerback in the collegiate ranks.
No defensive back in the major college ranks were challenged by quarterbacks as often as Verrett was in 2012, as 105 passes were targeted into his area. Perhaps those passers looked at the 178-pounder and felt they could "high point" their tosses beyond the grasp of the slightly under 5:10 defensive back. On every occasion, it was the Horned Frog who proved his doubters wrong.
Of the 105 passes that came into his area, Verrett allowed just 30 of those attempts to be completed (28.57%). Opposing receivers soon found out that while he lacked the ideal size to challenge the taller flankers, tight ends and slot receivers he often faced, the TCU product could hit like Mike Tyson, making a lasting imprint when he "read his keys" and reacted in an instant.
On 47 of those 105 passes (44.76%), Verrett was successful in jamming and/or rerouting his pass coverage assignments away from the ball. His 22 passes defended (16 break-ups and six thefts) ranked second in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks, while his six interceptions tied for sixth nationally and saw him share the Big 12 Conference title in that category.
What was further impressive was Verrett's ability to constantly make the big play and constantly frustrate any receiver that came into his "little piece of real estate." As a junior, in addition to his six turnovers via interceptions, he killed 39 other scoring drives with his pass coverage expertise, registering 39 stops on third-down plays and three more on fourth-down snaps vs. the aerial game.
Verrett was also credited with 11 touchdown-saving tackles, making those "near impossible" stops after opponents managed to slip past other Horned Frogs. Further evidence of Verrett's "shutdown" ability is the fact that he delivered 23 of his 63 tackles (36.51%) inside the red zone last season.
While opponents managed to complete just 28.57% of those tosses vs. Verrett, they hit on 61.09% of their attempts (201-of-329) vs. the rest of the Horned Frogs defense. Against Verrett, receivers averaged 7.90 yards per reception and just 2.26 yards per pass attempt vs. the then junior product. Against the rest of the Texas Christian defense, the opposition generated 12.96 yards per catch and 7.91 yards per pass attempt in 2012.
One of the most outstanding "run stuffing" performances by a defensive back during the 2012 postseason came when TCU faced Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Verrett recorded eight of his 12 tackles in that contest taking down 243-pound All-American tailback Le'Veon Bell, limiting the Spartan to 14 yards on those eight attempts (1.75 ypc). Against the rest of the Horned Frogs, Bell amassed 131 yards with a touchdown on 24 carries (5.46 ypc).
Verrett also proved to be one of the premier "shutdown" cornerbacks vs. opponents throughout a senior season that saw him play with a right labrum tear. Rather than undergo surgery, he started 11 games, limiting receivers to 17 catches on the 52 passes targeted into his area (32.69%), making 13 third-down stops while jamming and rerouting his coverage assignments away from 18 other throws.
Jack might have been a "giant killer" while tending to his beanstalk, but Verrett made a habit of "slaying" any ball carrier or receiver that dared to challenge him on the football field. In three college seasons, he has time and time again lived up to any challenge or daunting task the coaches have asked from him.
He concluded his senior season having rerouted receivers away from 117-of-296 passes targeted into his area (39.53%). He deflected 41 other tosses, intercepted 14 others and recorded 92 third-down stops with nine others on fourth-down snaps vs. the passing game. He added 13 more third-down hits, two on fourth-down plays vs. the run and recorded 54 of his 207 tackles inside the red zone while registering a total of 31 touchdown saving tackles as a collegian.
Professional scouts see a lot of "old school" ability in Verrett, likening him to former Washington Redskins perennial All-Pro cornerback Darrell Green. Those scouts, his teammates and coaches and even opposing offensive coordinators, quarterbacks and receivers recognize that this Horned Frog is worthy of being compared to one of the finest defensive backs to ever play in the National Football League.
Based on his hard work ethic, practice habits and being a "student of the game," it would not be surprising to see Verrett enjoy a twenty-year professional career comparable to the one Green enjoyed. Any scout that ventured to the TCU football office during the week leading up to the game, or in the offseason, would often see the left cornerback the solitary occupant of the team's film room.
It is a trend that Verrett began once he arrived on campus in 2011, after spending his freshman season "back home" in California playing for Santa Rosa Junior College. He would spend his time during those film sessions eyeing each upcoming opponent's best receiver, making note of the side of the field from which his opponent operated.
Ever since he put on a Horned Frogs uniform, Verrett would have head coach Gary Patterson assign the left cornerback to man that side of the field of the opponent's top pass catcher. That implicit trust between player and coach soon became an unspoken agreement; Patterson's assignments were merely formal acknowledgments of something that was already understood. "We'll kind of already be on the same page," said Verrett. "It's pretty cool."
"It gives you confidence knowing you can line up with him on the best," said Patterson of his defensive standout. "He's not the biggest corner, but he battles you and is smart about what he does. He learns on the field." That's a fitting sentiment given the start to Verrett's career, which very nearly ended shortly after it began.
During his Texas Christian debut vs. Baylor in the 2011 season opener, Verrett recorded three solo tackles, but had barely acclimated to the Texas humidity when he landed a spot in the starting lineup. The game was televised nationally on ESPN, presenting a chance for Verrett to quickly gain recognition on the biggest stage on which he'd ever played.
Verrett attracted the wrong kind of attention. Robert Griffin torched TCU's defense to the tune of six touchdowns, the first three coming at the expense of the newcomer, as there was confusion leading to missed assignments of the entire secondary on two scores and then the junior was "out-juked" by Randall Wright on a third touchdown catch by the slot receiver in a tough 50-48 loss to the Bears.
A short memory can be among a cornerback's most coveted tools, but for Verrett -- who only learned to play that position in junior college the previous season -- that skill hadn't yet been developed. As he sat on the bench while Baylor won the shootout, Verrett was mortified. His friends and family had witnessed his on-field nadir.
After the game, he made a round of phone calls: to his father at home; to his mother, who had attended the game; to his big brother, Tre; to Lenny Wagner, his coach at Santa Rosa. Verrett told them all he wanted to pack up and come home, but each countered with a message to stay the course.
"Man up," his father said. Verrett even went to talk to Patterson -- who now refers to the Baylor game as "the one where [Verrett] wouldn't come out from underneath the covers" -- to inform him that his first game at TCU would be his last.
Patterson's response helped keep Verrett in place by reframing failure as a challenge to build character: "You've got to be able to handle adversity," Verrett remembered his coach saying. "You've got to grow up."
"I didn't really want to quit," Verrett recalls. "I was kind of lost. I was thinking of all the wrong things instead of just taking it as one game with 11 more to go." After the meeting, Verrett embraced the clichés about taking things one play and one day at a time. He studied the film of his mistakes, looking for pre-snap reads he should have made and post-snap errors that proved costly.
Verrett came off the bench in three of his next five contests before regaining his starting job for the final seven contests. Since the Baylor contest, he would go on to limit his opponents to 26 completions of 74 passes targeted into his area (35.13%), good for 196 yards, an average of 7.54 yards per reception and 2.65 yards per attempt.
Verrett rerouted/jammed his coverage assignments away from 29 of those 74 tosses (39.19%) while picking off one throw and deflecting five others. He posted 24 third-down stops and one more on fourth-down vs. the aerial game and recorded 12 of his 58 tackles inside the red zone during the rest of the 2011 campaign.
Prior to arriving at Texas Christian for that 2011 campaign, Verrett was a member of the Angelo Rodriguez High School Mustangs football team, where he performed as a tailback while also seeing action in the secondary. He had followed his older brother, Warren (nicknamed Tre) as a member of the gridiron squad.
In 2007, he helped the Mustangs compile an 11-2 record in 2007 on the way to garnering All-Solano County League and team Back of the Year accolades. That campaign, he averaged 7.37 yards as a ball carrier and 33.33 yards as a pass catcher. He also scored four times for the offensive unit and made 10 tackles with an interception.
As a senior, he again received All-League honors, in addition to being selected to the All-Sac-Joaquin Section/Division III team. He gained 785 yards with nine touchdowns on 76 carries (10.33 ypc), snared 17 passes for 333 yards (19.59 ypc) and two scores, finding the end zone twice on four kickoff returns for 210 yards. On defense, he produced 34 tackles with four interceptions for 125 yards and another score in 2008.
Verrett did not get a lot of attention coming out of high school, ending up enrolling at Santa Rosa Junior College. "I had a friend who I was working out with and he had played at Santa Rosa and he said I should keep playing ball and if I was going to do that, Santa Rosa was the best place I could go," Verrett said. "The coaches here at Santa Rosa have a great reputation for getting guys ready to play at the next level and we played against the top competition in JC every week practically."
In his only season with the Bears Cubs in 2010, he received All-NorCal Conference first-team honors, starting the team's final eight games.
In addition to taking over left cornerback duties, the freshman also excelled on special teams as a returner. He ranked sixth on the squad with 44 tackles (37 solos) that included three stops-for-los. He caused a pair of fumbles, recovered two others and blocked a field goal to set up a Santa Rosa scoring drive.
Verrett also deflected six passes and had four interceptions, advancing one for a Santa Rosa-record 99-yard touchdown vs. Foothill. He allowed just 15 completions of 63 passes targeted into his area (23.81%) for 102 yards, as opponents averaged only 6.80 yards per reception and 1.62 yards per pass attempt (lowest figure for any player in the California Community College Athletic Association ranks in 2010).
On December 6th, 2010, Verrett informed the Texas Christian coaching staff that he had accepted their scholarship offer and would be a Horned Frog for the nest three seasons.
"Yep, I committed to TCU," an excited Verrett told JCFootball.com about his decision. "I loved everything about the visit and when I committed, the coaches were really happy. They liked my quickness and my ball skills and they also liked the fact that I had four years to play three when I get there, so they have a while to work with me."
While he put up solid tackling numbers at Santa Rosa College, Verrett admitted at the time of his signing that he still needed to work on his tackling technique. "I think, if I had to work on one thing, it would be my form-tackling," Verrett admitted. "I mean, I can still come up and force the run and make tackles in the open field, but I can get stronger and bigger and have a little bit better form, so that's what I plan to do this spring as I get ready to play at the next level."
In addition to his offer from TCU, Verrett also had offers from San Jose State, Boise State and Texas-El Paso. Two years after making that "wise" decision to become a Horned Frog, Verrett is not only regarded as the best cornerback prospect eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft, but is the Big 12 Conference's favorite to garner Jim Thorpe Award honors, given annually to the best defensive back in college football.
Heading into the 2013 campaign, Verrett's goal was extremely lofty: help the Horned Frogs make a push for their first BCS national championship. With nine starters back from last season's 16th-ranked total defense and six starters returning on offense, TCU was looking to convert some of last year's close losses -- three of its five defeats came by seven points or fewer -- into wins in its second season in the Big 12, but a rash of injuries left the Horned Frogs out of the bowl season completely, after compiling a 4-8 record.
Verrett, who graduated in December with a degree in general studies, prepped for his final collegiate campaign by not only working on his ball skills, but also by trying to grow more comfortable as a vocal leader. With the next generation of TCU defensive backs looking up to him, Verrett had a valuable tale to tell. "Everybody's gonna face times where they feel they're struggling or put down," said Verrett. "I feel like my story will be able to uplift people going through the same situation."
As the true leader, he played through a torn labrum in 2013, but still went on to gamely play in 11 contests. He picked off two passes, deflected 14 others and recorded 39 tackles. He rerouted receivers away from 18 of the 52 passes targeted into his area and made a total of 17 third-down plays, including 13 vs. the pass.
Verrett realized that surgery was the only solution to repair his right labrum tear, but he not only played most of the season with the injury, but also held off on surgery until March 2014. His first agenda was working out for teams in late February at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He put on an impressive show, as his 4.38-second clocking in the 40-yard dash was second-best for all cornerbacks and safeties in attendance.
Verrett then performed the vertical jump at 39 inches. Just two other defensive backs did better. He was timed at 4.00 in the 20-yard shuttle, second-best among all secondary players, while his 6.69 time in the three-cone drill ranked fourth-best. He then amazed teams at Texas Christian's March Pro Day. Despite the impending shoulder surgery, he stepped into the weight room and performed in the 225-pound bench press, lifting the bar 19 times. Among the cornerbacks at the 2014 Combine, Verrett's bench press performance would have ranked fifth-best.
Verrett started 34-of-37 games since enrolling at Texas Christian in 2011, as the Horned Frog recorded 160 tackles (117 solos) with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage, 35 pass deflections and nine interceptions for 35 yards in returns…His six pass thefts in 2012 not only tied for the Big 12 Conference title and tied for sixth in the NCAA FBS ranks, but placed seventh on the school's season-record chart…His six interceptions are the most by a TCU player since Jason Goss had eight thefts in 2002.