All posts by Corey Chavous

Q&A with former Utah State PK Dominik Eberle: “It’s always about the next kick”

Former Utah State kicker Dominick Eberle set a new Mountain West Conference all-time mark for field goals when he hit four goals versus Wyoming in 2019. He also aced a game-winning field goal against Fresno State in 2019. Despite being a Lou Groza Award finalist in 2017, he dealt with a career-defining low point in the 2017 Arizona Bowl. DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous caught up with Eberle during the week of the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl to talk about redemption, technique and confidence.

Corey: I want to take you to a game a couple years back. The Arizona Bowl (2017). That game. What did you feel like it did for you….the learning experience? Talk about that moment and how you built from that.
Eberle: That moment is something where I truly felt like I let my teammates down. I felt like I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities and it wasn’t gonna be something that I was gonna be remembered for. That was gonna be something where it has happened, but the learning experience from that, really challenging myself to whatever accolades came before that didn’t matter, because that was the last game I had played in. So I really wanted to make sure that that bitter taste out of my mouth kinda came out of that. Because just through hard work, really focusing on what I can do better and what I can control, that was something that I learned a lot from it and wanted to just consistently improve on every single day. And those are the lessons that you need as a kicker. You need to be mentally tough, you need to be able to just focus on the next kick because what happened doesn’t matter anymore. It shapes who you are but it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s always about the next kick. And that’s kind of the mentality that I took this year as well. It doesn’t matter if I made three field goals already, the fourth one, the next one is really the one I focused on. Just taking it one kick at a time.

Utah State’s Dominik Eberle made 79-percent of his field goals in school and never missed an extra point.

Corey: I think you were like 18-of-22 (16-of-18) going into that game (2017 Arizona Bowl) or something like that. It was kind of crazy just how efficient you had been. Big reason the team was even in the bowl game, right? But did you find yourself punching at the ball in that game? What was it technically that you learned from it?
Eberle: From that game, I was wrapping around the ball a lot. If you look at the seam, I was hitting so far on the right seam where even though I had distance on it, it was just kind of shoot off your foot with a weird left rotation and spin out to the left of the upright. And that’s what I did on three of the field goals that game. And the very last one, I really just punched at it, it went right, hit the upright. That’s something where I looked at it where it was sometimes just trusting your technique isn’t enough. Sometimes you’ve gotta be really able to not revamp it, but add certain things that can help you. So what I did going into the next season (2018) was really following through straight and using my momentum, similar to Justin Tucker’s, to carry myself through the ball straight and have my hips pointing right at my target. That’s something that I worked with cone drills, just kicking the ball into the net. And that’s something where every single day I’m kinda working at that getting that consistency right through my target.

Corey: And talk a little bit about that. For placekickers, the target line is a big deal. That target line is really where you’re trying to get the ball to and in that sense, that’s really what you’re talking about from an explanation standpoint, right?
Eberle: Exactly. For us, when we’re facing our building side right between the S and T or the K and the S for Maverik Stadium (Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium, Utah State’s home field), small little gap. That’s something we’re always aiming at. It’s high up and everybody can see it and that’s my target line. So whenever I hit in that Allstate Hands (kicking net) or something, right down my target line. That’s something I always focus on in practice, whether it’s here (Tropicana Field, East-West Shrine Bowl), when I’m looking above you can kinda see the Tropicana Field. That’s something where I’m aiming at and really know if my ball is truly where I was gonna hit it.

Corey: One of the best kickers in Mountain West history. If there is one thing you feel good about translating the next level what would it be? In terms of moving forward to the next level. You’ve kicked off, are you going to be a touchback kicker in the NFL?
Eberle: I can certainly improve on kickoffs. The scheme was different this year (2019) than it was last year (2018: 64-percent touchback percentage). We tried to play the ball around a little bit more, steal a possession here or there, so my touchback percentages might of not have been near as similar…

Utah State PK Dominik Eberle, pictured, became the sixth player in NCAA history to kick three 50-yard field goals when he connected on three 51-yarders versus New Mexico State in 2018.

Corey: Sky kicks.
Eberle: Exactly. Sky kicks, little pooch kicks.

Corey: Hang times to sometimes get a fair catch?
Eberle: Exactly. So that was kinda what we were working with this year rather than just telling me to boot the ball out of the end zone. I know I can do that but I’m more of a team player. Realizing against LSU we had a little pooch kick over to about the 30-yard line where we knew the guy wasn’t experienced catching the ball and maybe steal a fumble. So we pooched the ball over and he fumbled it but he recovered it rather than us. That is where I realized that can just as much of a weapon as just kicking the ball out of the end zone.

Corey: You talked about Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens) earlier, who were some of the other kickers that you study at the NFL level with some of those technique we were talking about?
Eberle: Shayne Graham (15-year NFL veteran with 14 teams) would be one as well. He was really consistent. He was someone that when I first was learning to become a kicker was still playing in the league. He was with the Bengals at the time, bounced around with the Saints and everything. I was watching him and how smooth he sometimes appeared where it looked effortless. Will Lutz (New Orleans Saints) as well, he has incredible ball-striking ability. That’s something I want to learn from him. And just Adam Vinatieri (Patriots, Colts). The more you read about him or hear stories about him, he had that killer instinct in the fourth quarter. He was so in the zone that you knew he wasn’t going to miss.

Corey: Thanks a lot for your time and best of luck in the draft.
Eberle: Thanks a lot.

DraftNasty Rewind: Atlanta Falcons punter Matt Bosher

DraftNasty sat down with former Miami (Fla.) placekicker/punter/kickoff specialist Matt Bosher over nine years ago to talk about his plan for attacking the NFL. At the time, the three-time All-ACC kicker was still figuring out what NFL position he would play full-time.

Matt Bosher, punter, Atlanta Falcons, DraftNasty Magazine
Atlanta Falcons punter Matt Bosher (No. 5 pictured) was on DraftNasty’s radar nearly a decade ago and is still going strong today. The nine-year pro has been among the NFL’s leading punters and kickoff specialists ever since arriving from the ‘U.’

It turns out he has become a pretty good punter/kickoff specialist for the Atlanta Falcons. He has a career 55-percent touchback percentage on kickoffs and has averaged nearly 46 yards (45.7) per punt. Bosher has ranked in the Top Five for punting average five times in his nine-year career. In the process, he has posted an impressive 28 tackles, which was something he discussed in our sit down with the former Hurricane.

2020 NFL Draft: Michael Warren 5’10 218 (E) RB-Junior Cincinnati

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Most NFL teams will find it surprising in their research of Warren that he was a good kickoff returner in the AAC as a freshman. This lays credence to his level of hand-eye coordination and athleticism. It is a big reason the team has put so many different responsibilities on his plate during school. He was once described as having a “high football IQ” by Bearcats offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock. Jordan Howard (Bears, Eagles) is the player Warren most resembles currently playing in the NFL. Howard was also a big back with underrated athleticism when he came out of Indiana. Warren won’t blow up the workout circuit leading up to the draft, but he could surprise once he gets into an NFL training camp with his balance, lower body strength, vision and instincts. He needs to make sure he is in top-notch physical condition to ensure that possibility.

Editor’s note: For the full scouting report on Cincinnati RB Michael Warren or any other of your favorite 2020 NFL Draft prospects (including Strengths, Weaknesses and Other Notes), please check out Corey Chavous’ 2020 NFL Draft Guide (available later this year).

2019 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Gallery

First-year Louisville Cardinals (8-5) head coach Scott Satterfield led the team to a 38-28 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the 2019 Franklin American Music City Bowl. Despite moving on prior to last year’s New Orleans Bowl as head coach of the Appalachian State Mountaineers, Satterfield has now led teams to four consecutive bowl victories. Led by redshirt sophomore signal-caller Micale Cunningham’s Music City Bowl MVP performance (350 total yards, 2 TDs), the Cardinals amassed over 500 yards (510) of total offense.

Louisville cruised to its first bowl victory since the last time they were in Nashville (2015 Music City Bowl). During the 2015 Music City Bowl , game MVP Lamar Jackson accounted for 453 total yards (4 TDs). The 2019 Franklin American Mortgage Music Bowl MVP this time was redshirt sophomore quarterback Micale Cunningham, who totaled 379 yards (2 TDs).

2019 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Gallery

Clemson sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence accounted for 366 total yards and three touchdowns in leading the Tigers back from a 16-point deficit to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes 29-23 in the 2019 Playstation Fiesta Bowl. The game MVP got a lot of assistance from ACC Offensive Player of the Year Travis Etienne, who chipped in with 150 all-purpose yards and three scores in the comeback effort.

2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Photo Gallery

Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette took his second kickoff return of the season to the house and scored touchdowns three different ways in the team’s 49-24 victory over the USC Trojans in the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl. Along with Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP A.J. Epenesa’s 2.5 quarterback sacks, the Hawkeyes went on a 21-0 run to end the contest.

The Hawkeyes used a 21-0 run to extend away from the USC Trojans 49-24 in the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl.

2019 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Photo Gallery

Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz won his sixth consecutive bowl game for the Bulldogs and did so in dominating fashion. His Bulldogs shutout the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes 14-0 in what turned out to be a dominating defensive performance. The Hurricanes managed just 74 yards on the ground and accounted for 227 yards overall. Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Defensive MVP Connor Taylor had nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

2019 Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl Photo Gallery

Washington head coach Chris Petersen ended his career with a resounding 38-7 victory over his former team, the Boise State Broncos, in the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl. Junior quarterback Jacob Eason passed for 210 yards and one touchdown while fellow junior running back Salvon Ahmed added two rushing scores. Junior defensive back Elijah Molden took home game MVP honors with nine tackles, one forced fumble and a 31-yard interception return.

Maestro of Returns

Utah State wide receiver/kickoff returner Savon Scarver’s foot speed and elusiveness have put him on a historic pace. Although he has returned just eight kickoffs in 2019, the Aggie speedster is averaging nearly 43.8 yards per kickoff return. As of press date, he is the all-time leader in career kickoff return average in the Mountain West Conference. He has several attributes that distinguish him in this phase of his game.

Technique

Since his insertion into the team’s kickoff return game back in 2017, Scarver has excelled on right returns that feature a double team. During this season (2017), the Aggies would occasionally double team the R4 (fourth man in from the outside-in) on the opposing team’s kickoff coverage unit (with their right tackle and right guard). One of the reasons he is effective on these types of returns surrounds his ability to swerve through traffic. His swivel hips allow him to stay on a north-south trek without losing speed. Many of these returns during that year featured a five-man front (left tackle, left guard, center, right guard and right tackle) on the Aggies kickoff return team (five men on the front line).

On this kickoff return against New Mexico State in the 2017 Arizona Bowl, Scarver’s balance and underrated core strength prevent him from losing speed as he navigates through traffic. Prior to any of that happening, however, it is his underrated ability to catch the ball coming forward that allows him to get on top of the kickoff return unit. Many of the all-time best kickoff returners gain one-to-two steps by creating a lean with their posture as they field the ball.

Top-end speed

Scarver’s 101-yard kickoff return against Nevada on October 19, 2019 came out of a 4-2 kickoff return front (six-man front). Normally, many of these fronts feature four of the blockers in the six-man front aligned 10-to-12 yards from the ball. The two centers (right center and left center) normally align approximately 15-to-20 yards from the ball in-between the left guard and right guard. On this return, the Aggies front featured the two centers aligned 10 yards from the kickoff team with its left and right guards aligned in-between the tackles and centers.

The Aggies used an inverted 2-4 kickoff return alignment on their first return versus Nevada in 2019. The two guards (left and right) align at the 45-yard line in-between the tackles (aligned at the 49-yard line) and centers (aligned at the 46-yard line).

This front allows the Aggies left tackle (37 Sam Lockett, 6’0 190, S-FR) and left guard (25 Jarrod Green, 5’11 180, CB-SOPH.) to execute a double team on the fourth man in from the right (Nevada’s L4 in their blocking designation). At that point, Scarver is asked to pop the return going to his left. As opposed to bouncing the return, he squeezed it back vertically off the block of the team’s right wing (47 Logan Lee, 6’4 245, TE-JR.) versus the third man in from the right side (Nevada’s L3). It took just one small swivel from Scarver to elude Nevada’s placekicker in the middle of the field. Once he did, the former Centennial HS (Nev.) prep level track star easily ran away from Nevada’s kickoff coverage unit en route to his 101-yard touchdown. The former 21.5-second 200-meter speedster once set a state record with a 37.8-second time in the 300-meter hurdles. He is not going to be caught once he reaches his top gear.

Areas of improvement

When we first saw Scarver back in 2017, we felt as if he had an opportunity to develop into a top-notch wide receiver prospect as well. While he can break down the cushion of unsuspecting defensive backs, he has not been totally reliable as a pass receiver. He let a quick slant carom off of his shoulder pads against LSU in the fourth quarter after beating Tigers senior cornerback Kristian Fulton off the line of scrimmage. A possession earlier, his speed varied on a post route and then he was unable to wrestle the ball away from LSU safety Grant Delpit.

Scarver caught five passes for 90 yards in a 23-17 win over San Diego State on September 21, 2019.

Of quarterback Jordan Love’s three interceptions versus LSU, two were on targets to Scarver. On the first interception, he beat LSU cornerback Derek Stingley off the line of scrimmage on a fade pattern but Love underthrew the ball and Stingley picked it off. Overall, his physical ability shined on occasion against LSU’s cornerbacks but he wasted too much time at the line of scrimmage. Physical corners can deter his paths.

At this point, he has morphed into an elite return specialist by trade. For him to become a dual-threat in the true sense of the word, Scarver needs to return to his early season form. If so, he could help re-ignite Love’s draft stock over the last month of the season. The two should be on more of the same page in their third season together.

Forcing the issue

Several of the nation’s top defenders have made their marks by forcing the football out of the opposition’s grasp. We take a look at four standouts who continue to impose their will.

Elijah Riley 6’0 205 CB-Senior Army

Along with his three forced fumbles in 2019, Riley has four tackles and six tackles for loss through eight games. His physical playing style is a big reason the Black Knights ranked 21st in the nation in pass defense in 2018. His standout performance against Michigan in 2019 (13 tackles, 2 QB sacks, 2 TFLs, FF) caught the eyes of NFL scouts.

Riley ranks as one of the more physical cornerbacks in all of college football. His confidence rarely varies on the field (after either making or giving up a big play). His ability to jam wide receivers provided former Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman (now DC at North Carolina) plenty of options for the nation’s eighth-ranked defense in 2018. Thus far in 2019, the Black Knights are still allowing just a little over 200 yards passing per game.

Versus Oklahoma in 2018, Riley challenged wide receivers in man coverage, tackled eventual Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray one-on-one in the open field and saved another would-be touchdown with an open field tackle. He stood his ground and challenged the Oklahoma wide receivers. Against Michigan in Week 2 of the 2019 campaign, he displayed his knack for timing blitzes and his ferocity as a tackler. Riley is a prospect with positional flexibility on Sunday afternoons. Don’t be surprised if teams project him to a strong, H-linebacker or free safety position (which he played some in a backup capacity earlier in his career).

Jake Hansen 6’1 225 LB-Senior Illinois

Hansen (No. 35 pictured) began his 2019 campaign with an eye-opening performance against Akron (7 tackles, INT, FF). It continued when he earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after posting 11 tackles, QB sack, TFL and two forced fumbles versus Wisconsin on October 19, 2019.

Hansen entered the collegiate ranks as a lightly-regarded two-star recruit from East Lake High School (Fla.). Fast forward four years later and the team captain ranks as the heart and soul of the team’s talented linebacker corps.

Illinois head coach Lovie Smith describes Hansen as “a football junkie.” His reactionary skills in coverage are impressive, evidenced by his first interception of the season versus Akron. On the play, he broke instinctively as an underneath defender in two-deep zone to record the pick. His ability to jar balls loose has grabbed the attention of the nation. The senior linebacker currently leads the country with seven forced fumbles. He is just as impressive timing blitzes, disguising defensive looks, covering tight ends or closing distances going sideways.

Joe Gaziano 6’4 275 DL-Senior Northwestern

Gaziano (No. 97 pictured) had five tackles, QB sack and one forced fumble versus Ohio State in Week 8 of the 2019 campaign.

Gaziano’s impressive resume’ is hard to match in terms of productivity. To put it in perspective, the Wildcats senior defensive lineman already has forced 10 career fumbles and broken up 11 passes (through October 26, 2019).

He aligns at the three-technique defensive tackle, right or left defensive end, and as an occasional two-point stand-up outside linebacker. While much of his success comes from positive hand usage and timing, he does contain a bit of rigidness changing directions. As evidenced by his game-changing strip-sack, forced fumble in the 2018 SDCCU Holiday Bowl, he can regain his footing after initially getting chipped while maintaining his courses.

Patrick Jones II 6’5 270 DE-Junior Pittsburgh

After a slow start to the season, Patrick Jones II (No. 91 pictured) has compiled 9.5 tackles for losses in the last five games.

Jones’ flexibility is aided by a nimble, light-footed nature. The Panthers defensive end’s sinewy nature allows him to long-arm offensive lineman from the outside-in as a left defensive end (Ohio ’19). His quickness to stab linemen creates immediate separation. Defensive coordinator Randy Bates will occasionally use him in a cocked two-point alignment from the right outside linebacker spot in his four-man fronts. From this alignment, Jones II is adept at winning on inside movement (Duke ’19). In this same game (Duke ’19), he won by dipping his inside shoulder (right) when coming out of his four-point stance to force a fumble in the third quarter.

Blessed with a 34-inch vertical jump at over 260 pounds, the former Virginia high school product has a game that has blossomed this year after serving an apprenticeship role in 2018 (23 tackles, 4 QB sacks, 7.5 TFLs, FF).