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2012 Draft Preview: Safeties
SAN DIEGO – Chargers.com will devote several weeks to previewing the 2012 NFL Draft, detailing prospects by position so you can familiarize yourself with the names and faces that will shape the future of the franchise and the NFL.
We’ve already looked at specialists. Today we’ll review the top safeties in the draft pool.
Chargers angle: Free safety Eric Weddle is signed through 2015. Weddle led the team with seven interceptions last season and finished third with 93 tackles, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
The strong safety position is less settled. San Diego signed eighth-year veteran Atari Bigby in free agency and expects the former Green Bay starter to compete for playing time along with third-year safety Darrell Stuckey, a key special teams player last season.
ANTONIO ALLEN, South Carolina
6-foot-1 ½, 210 pounds
“We always said South Carolina is going to be a winning school in the next four years. That was my freshman year coming up. We came out and it happened. We just (went) 11-2, the best record in school history.”
Notes: Played “Spur” in South Carolina’s defense, a linebacker/safety combo position in the Gamecocks’ 4-2-5 scheme. “My position is no more than being a linebacker who can cover and who can make plays on the field,” Allen said … Strengths in college were run support and covering tight ends in the slot … Turned in one of the best performances in the nation last season in the opener against East Carolina, making 16 tackles, forcing two fumbles, recovering two fumbles and breaking up two passes … Made a team-high seven tackles for the South in the Senior Bowl … Made 88 tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a senior and second-team All-American.
MARK BARRON, Alabama
6-foot-1, 213 pounds
“The way I’ve been taught to play the game, I hit hard. I guess I’ll have to make some adjustments (to the NFL rules). Hopefully I’ll be able to make them.”
Notes: Double hernia surgery prevented him from practicing or working out at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and at Alabama’s first pro day … Played strong safety for Alabama in 2010 and free safety in 2011. Barron credits Nick Saban’s defense for making him NFL-ready … Made 235 tackles, 12 interceptions and 34 passes defensed for the Crimson Tide, earning first-team All-SEC honors three times … Barron was voted a consensus All-American as a senior captain on a national championship defense.
GEORGE ILOKA, Boise State
6-foot-3 5/8, 225 pounds
“I’m a versatile safety. I’m rangy. I can cover. I can play down in the box. I played corner the last three games of the season. I can play anywhere on the back end.”
Notes: Size and athleticism seen as strong assets by observers … Started 45 games at Boise State and finished second on the team with 58 tackles last season as a first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection … The Broncos played Cover 4 most of his college career, where he lined up over tight ends and receivers in the slot … Moved to corner after injuries depleted the team at the position. “They were just like, ‘Oh, we’re going to dump you outside. Use the sideline,’ said Iloka, who enjoyed the challenge.
MARKELLE MARTIN, Oklahoma State
6-foot-0 ¾, 207 pounds
“(Some team) is going to get a guy who plays hard from the first whistle to the last. I respect the game and I leave my heart on the field.”
Notes: A knee injury prevented him from working out at the Combine and at Oklahoma State’s pro day … Made nine tackles against Stanford in this year’s Fiesta Bowl, returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown in the 2010 Alamo Bowl against Arizona and made nine tackles and an interception-causing quarterback hit in the 2009 Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss … Made 74 tackles, five for loss, and broke up 11 passes as a senior … Wore 15 wristbands during games, one of which served as a memorial to the Cowboys’ women’s basketball coaches who died in a plane crash in November.
DEQUAN MENZIE, Alabama
5-foot-10 ¾, 202 pounds
“(In the BCS Championship), we just wanted to show the world what we can do and that we were one of the best teams and that we can beat anybody. We can stop anybody and we have one of the best defenses.”
Notes: Led all Alabama players with 11 pass breakups and started 12 games in 2011 … Earned Defensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week honors on separate occasions last season as voted by the Crimson Tide coaching staff … Returned first-career interception for a touchdown against Arkansas … Made three tackles for loss as a senior … Played cornerback for Alabama, but some analysts believe he’s a safety in the NFL.
HARRISON SMITH, Notre Dame
6-foot-1 7/8, 213 pounds
“I’m not a guy who tries to bark out orders. That’s not how I would ever play, especially as a rookie on a team full of guys who don’t really know me that well yet, but I’m confident in my ability to learn the playbook, to understand offenses and then as a safety, your job is to get the defense aligned, so that’s just part of the role.”
Notes: Criticized by Irish fans early in his career, Smith adapted well to the new coaching staff under Brian Kelly in 2010. His final-minute interception helped Notre Dame beat USC for the first time since 2001, and Smith made three interceptions in the second quarter of the 2010 Sun Bowl against Miami … Played strong and free safety in college … Comfortable covering tight ends after going against 2011 Minnesota second-round pick Kyle Rudolph every day in practice … Made 90 tackles and broke up 10 passes as a senior captain in 2011 … Only player in Notre Dame history with more than 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass break-ups in his career.
PHILLIP THOMAS, Syracuse
5-foot-10 5/8, 198 pounds
“I’m a ball hawk. I feel I’m really great at reading plays and (making) interceptions.”
Notes: Was leading Syracuse in tackles with 82 when he was suspended for a year for violating team policy in November 2011 … Decided to turn pro rather than transfer for a final collegiate season … Made six interceptions in 10 games before the suspension and still finished first in the Big East … Made a combined 7.6 tackles per game as a sophomore and junior … Played man and zone coverage at Syracuse.
BRANDON TAYLOR, LSU
5-foot-11 ¼, 209 pounds
“(Patrick Peterson) is a great person to follow behind because he did everything right, he dominated, and he’s making a great name for himself (in the NFL).”
Notes: Started for three years in a highly-touted secondary at LSU … Viewed by observers as a physical player in run support … Rarely asked to handle man coverage for the Tigers … Selected to wear the coveted No. 18 as a senior as the player that best represents LSU by coach Les Miles and former wearers Matt Mauck, Jacob Hester, Richard Dickson and Richard Murphy … A team captain for the SEC Championship Tigers as a senior … Converted from corner to safety as a sophomore in college after playing running back in high school … Grew up in a three-bedroom house with five sisters and three brothers.
|OTHER NOTABLE SAFETIES|
|Justin Bethel||Presbyterian||5-11 5/8||200|
|Winston Guy||Kentucky||6-0 7/8||218|
|Delano Howell||Stanford||5-10 7/8||210|
|Duke Ihenacho||San Jose State||6-0 1/8||213|
|Janzen Jackson||McNeese State||5-11 1/2||188|
|Kelcie McCray||Arkansas State||6-1 3/4||202|
|Jerron McMillan||Maine||5-11 1/8||203|
|Charles Mitchell||Mississippi State||5-10 1/8||202|
|Eddie Pleasant||Oregon||5-10 1/8||211|
|Cyhl Quarles||Wake Forest||6-1 1/2||213|
|Sean Richardson||Vanderbilt||6-2 1/2||216|
|Trent Robinson||Michigan State||5-9 3/4||195|
|Johnny Thomas||Oklahoma State||5-10 3/8||206|
|Christian Thompson||South Carolina State||6-0 1/4||211|
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