Even the Razorbacks coaches could not predict what kind of season they would get from the junior college transfer in 2014. Forced to insert the senior into the lineup at weak-side outside linebacker after he served as a reserve on the strong-side during his first season at Arkansas in 2013, Martrell Spaight recorded 128 tackles, the most by a Razorback since 2003, as he became the first player in school history to lead the Southeastern Conference in tackles. He also made 10.5 stops-for-loss as he caused two fumbles. As a junior, he played in nine games, managing 22 tackles.
Spaight began his college career at Coffeyville Community College, where the two-time All-Region VI pick was named All-American and Kansas Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. As a freshman, he posted 101 tackles (second on the team) with nine stops behind the line of scrimmage as a 215-pound strong-side ‘backer. He led the squad and KJCCC with 130 tackles and was second on the team with 13.5 stops-for-loss as a sophomore.
Spaight is a good athlete with adequate hip snap, but he is capable of playing at a low pad level. He lacks great timed speed, but shows a sudden burst to explode past blockers coming off the edge. He has the valid strength to gain leverage and shed. While his size might dictate a move to middle linebacker at the next level, it could be his ideal spot in the pros, as he showed last season that he has the instincts and vision to read and react in the box (34 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 28 QB pressures in 40 games).
While Spaight sometimes shows a tendency to be reckless, he’s become efficient when trying to break down in space. Off the edge, he does a better job of seeing the play develop, as his lack of size (school said he was close to 6-foot-2, but at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, he measured in just under six-feet) does see him fail to locate the ball when he has to sift through the crowd.
When penetrating the line, Spaight is quick to locate the ball. As a blitzer, he gets a good push off the blocker when he uses his hands. When he short arms, he can get absorbed inside. He gives total effort closing on the quarterback and shows explosion when left uncontested. He seems to generate a better burst moving forward than when working down the line and is still trying to grasp proper positioning when having to drop back in zone coverage.
While Spaight is a quick reactor who hits with a thud, he needs a free lane in order to make plays in-line (tends to try to overpower the offensive lineman too much rather than slip off or avoid blocks, resulting in him failing to shed quickly). He shows good leverage on the move and when given a clear lane, can run down hill to fill the lane.
Spaight possesses some explosion and very good power when taking on ball carriers vs. plays in front of him, but another reason for a potential move inside is that he seems to be a step slow when having to pursue long distances. While he is muscular and strong, he still has room to add more bulk. He will uncoil on lead blockers with no hesitation and loves to “blow ‘em up” in the backfield.
As a middle linebacker, Spaight has the ability to take on blocks with either shoulder and isn't afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play. He moves well laterally, but shows just an adequate change of direction skill set. He can be over aggressive at times, leaving his feet or coming in too hot and tackling high, but he generally takes good angles to the football, as he keeps his hands active to fend off blockers from his jersey (will need to do a better job of protecting himself from cut and chop blocks, though).
Martrell Spaight Scouting Combine measurables
6-0/236 (4.88 forty)
32 3/4-inch arm length
9 1/8-inch hands
35-inch vertical jump
120-inch broad jump
7.66 3 cone drill
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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