All posts by Corey Chavous

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).

C-USA tandem continuing to leave mark

For years, the safety tandem of Jovante Moffatt (6’0, 210, Sr.) and Reed Blankenship (6’1, 196, Jr.) has reigned terror on Conference USA football. Last Saturday’s contest against Marshall only served to further the pair’s growing reputation nationally. Blankenship registered six tackles in a solid performance while Moffatt tallied 14 tackles, a pass break-up and two timely athletic interceptions. We go inside the strengths of each player.

C-USA Defensive Players of the Week (9-9-19, 10-7-19)

Alabama’s Locksmith

Perhaps the receiver with the most expectations this season on the Alabama football roster is junior All-American Jerry Jeudy. However, the one player who continues to prove capable of ascending his game through the season’s first three weeks is fellow junior DeVonta Smith.

When he first came out of Amite High School (La.), Smith weighed in the 157-pound range. While he has put on some pounds to add to his slender frame, he still hovers around the 175-pound mark. Surprisingly, it is his penchant for going across the middle of the field that draws high marks. But when asked about whether or not his heart starts to beat a little bit faster when going across the middle with linebackers and safeties coming across at him prior to the team’s 2018 contest versus Ole Miss by AL.com, Smith had the perfect response.

“No. Not at all,” Smith responded matter of factly.

The greatest thrill of his career up until this point may be his game-winning touchdown catch in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game against Georgia. In an offense that often utilizes four or five wide receivers/tight ends, the opportunities are limited. It is a fact not lost upon Smith.

“No matter who it is, which one of us gets it we can all make the same play,” Smith told AL.com back in 2018. “When a play is called, you never know whether you’re going to get it or not. You just wait for the quarterback to throw it.”

Smith vs. South Carolina, 9-13-19: In-game report

Most locksmiths specialize in rekeying, repairing, opening and modifying. Some numbers have meaning in the process, while others do not. It fits perfectly with what Smith communicated to AL.com when asked about whether he had accumulated the most receptions on the squad through Week 2 of the 2018 campaign.

Smith’s response?

“I don’t keep up with stats.”

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akD2oUl51rg

DraftNasty lenses: Oluwole Betiku, Jr. 6’3 250 DE-Illinois

Betiku’s activity last Saturday versus UConn was noteworthy, but should have been expected after his Week 1 performance against Akron. The graduate transfer from USC dealt with offseason hip surgery in 2018 but has responded favorably since coming to Champaign. While his snap count reactions vary, he displays very good play strength. From either a right-handed or left-handed stance (RDE or LDE), he works to press his inside shoulder versus the offensive tackle’s high shoulder to press the pocket over the top. Many of his sacks thus far in 2019 have come from him finishing through the down. In a defense that has been effective running line games, his activity winning on spikes (stunts that attack the inside shoulder of offensive linemen) has been noteworthy through two weeks. He currently leads the nation in quarterback sacks (6) and tackles for losses (7.5).

DraftNasty lenses: Aaron Fuller 5’11 188 WR-Washington

Today, we go inside our lenses with  Washington senior wide receiver Aaron Fuller.  Fuller -who caught five passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday versus Eastern Washington- continues to impress with his high-flying antics.

Photography by: Corey Chavous, DraftNasty Magazine

 

 

Heavy handed

Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary finished his career with 43 straight starts. The Huskies right tackle is intent on proving to NFL personnel that his heavy-handed nature translates to multiple spots along an offensive line. His efforts include working with a former Pro Bowl offensive lineman and legendary NFL offensive line coach. DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous sat down with him to talk about technique and his future prospects.

McGary: Nice to meet you.

Corey: Nice to meet you too man. You started off today (Senior Bowl 2019 practices, Day 1), with a very strong pass pro period and you complemented that with a strong team period. How did you feel about your first day out here?

McGary: I felt like I had a pretty good day. I think I showed I’m very capable…a very good tackle. I just hope to continue to improve and show that I’m better and better as time goes on.

Corey: Well you’ve played a lot on the right side of the offensive line, but do you feel like you’re capable of playing on the left side if needed?

McGary: I am. Actually the last couple of weeks I’ve done a lot of work with retired coach Howard Mudd (former three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman and 40-year NFL OL coach who has since this interview been re-hired by the Indianapolis Colts) on guard and left tackle sets. I actually intend to try and jump over to the left side, even guard, if they’ll let me.

Corey: When you talk about being able to play multiple positions, what other positions do you feel like you can backup? Now you talked about guard. Do you feel like you’re a guy who can backup all four positions and maybe be a starter at the right tackle or the left tackle spot?

McGary (No. 58 pictured) earned the Pac-12’s Morris Trophy Award in 2018. The award goes to the conference’s best offensive lineman as voted on by the opposing teams’ players.

McGary: I think so. I was given a lot of really good physical abilities. I’m really flexible for my size so it lets me kinda bend and get down there for a guard position. So I do. I think I’m capable and I think if given a chance I think I can earn my way into any of those four spots.

Corey: Talk about your short-set technique or quick-set or whatever you would describe it as. That’s something that’s been very effective for you. Talk about how you’ve perfected that technique.

McGary: Working with Coach Howard Mudd. He came up with the short-set/dish idea. And just working with him a lot over the time that I’ve known him. Sessions upon sessions with him, and it fits my play style. I like to be aggressive, I like to get on, get up…I don’t like to leave a lot of things to question or room for them to do their thing. I like to put pressure on D-linemen. Can’t wait for them to apply pressure to me. It just fits the way I go.

Corey: Heavy hands. Scouts have described you as having heavy hands. Do you feel like you’ve got heavy hands?

McGary: I think so man. I want let them know if I hit ’em.

Corey: Who was the toughest opponent you went against in school?

McGary: Probably my time against Greg (Gaines) and Vita Vea. Those guys are big, brawny, just freakin’ boulders. Playing against them every day made me what I am I think or it’s a large part of it, having to go against that kind of ability.

Corey: Look forward to you having a great NFL career man..

McGary: Appreciate it.

Corey: Nice to meet you.

McGary: My pleasure.

Wise beyond his years

DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous sat down with former Kansas Jayhawks star defensive lineman Daniel Wise for a Q&A during the week of the 2019 East-West Shrine game to talk about the Wise last name, family lineage and what it meant to be a Jayhawk.

Q&A with Kansas DL Daniel Wise

Corey: What about this week (2019 East-West Shrine Game) and what it represents for you and the Kansas program?

Wise: It’s huge for me to be able to just represent the University of Kansas. Throughout everything I’m doing at the Shrine hospital, on the field, having that Jayhawk on my helmet means a lot to me.

Corey: I know the team success wasn’t what you may have hoped for during your career but individually you’ve been very productive the last three seasons. When you think about how you’ve been able to work the edges of guards and tackles by being slippery. Talk about your technique and what has allowed you to become that type of player.

Wise: My work ethic, my routine in the summer, my workouts, guys I train with, my teammates. Picking up things from them (teammates) and picking up things from my coaches. My dad (former NFL player Deatrich Wise, Sr.), my No. 1 coach, and my older brother (New England Patriots DL Deatrich, Jr.). Always being around football and always watching football.

Daniel’s older brother, Deatrich, Jr. (No. 99 pictured), was a participant in the 2017 East-West Shrine Game and has since gone on to post 9.5 quarterback sacks in two seasons with the New England Patriots.

Corey: We actually spent time with your brother here at the East-West Shrine game a couple of years ago. What has his success meant for you in continuing on that family lineage?

Wise: It’s huge for me to be able to follow his footsteps at the East-West Shrine game and hopefully one day maybe with him or wherever I go. But to be able to enter the league with him, it’s been a journey.

Corey: What type of scheme do you think you fit best in? You’ve been a four-technique, five-technique and three-technique. You can line up in the reduced front over the center. What do you think is your best position to start at?

Wise: Just the experience that I got playing at the University of Kansas in a 4-3 and 3-4, playing all up and down the line. It has given me a lot of experience on the line. Can play just about anywhere on the line confidently. But I think I earn my best money at the three-technique.

Former Kansas defensive lineman Daniel Wise (No. 96 pictured) posted 151 tackles, 18.5 quarterback sacks, 44 tackles for loss (2nd in school history) and blocked three kicks during his time as a Jayhawk.

Corey: It’s funny, when your brother was coming out, we asked him the exact same question. Because at Arkansas he was playing up-and-down the defensive front.

Wise: Yes sir, yes sir. That’s right.

Corey: So I guess the family lineage spreads to positional versatility. Toughest opponent in school?

Wise: My toughest opponent in school I’d say would have to go to No. 55 at West Virginia.

Corey: Cajuste (Yodny).

Wise: Yeah…Cajuste. He was a good athlete. His ability to adjust. His hands and his feet. He was a nice athlete, nice guy to go against.

Corey: If an NFL scout wanted your best game of your career what would it be? I know one game I watched two years ago against Texas (2016)…in Kansas.

Wise: Yeah, when we beat ’em. I feel like that’s one of my best games. Yes sir.

Corey: Give me another one.

Wise: Texas again this year. The West Virginia game (2018). The West Virginia game is kind of what sparked the season for me.

Corey: Best of luck. Enjoyed watching you play and good luck in the NFL.

Wise: Thank you.

2019 East-West Shrine Practices, Day 2, 1-15-19: Gallery/Recap

In what proved to be a competitive day for both the East and West squads, DraftNasty dove even deeper into the action. Find out which players either continued to make an impact or stood out for the first time on Day 2 of 2019 East-West Shrine practices.