Former Southern Miss defensive back Tarvarius Moore went from an unheralded first-year starter to third round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2018 NFL Draft (95th overall). His combination of speed (4.3, 40-yd) and movement ability could eventually land him a spot as a cover safety in the team’s schemes. It wouldn’t be out of the question for them to even give him time at the cornerback spot. We go deep inside his game in our video spotlight on the former Golden Eagle.
In Part II of McCutcheon’s Climb, we go inside the training of former Tuskegee defensive back Jonah McCutcheon during his pre-draft training at D1 Mobile in Mobile, Alabama. His trainers -Rich Myers and Chris McNair- talk about his room for improvement. In addition, we go in the film room with the three-time All-SIAC and former BOXTOROW All-American to view the game through his lenses.
Former Tuskegee defensive back Jonah McCutcheon finished his career with 14 interceptions and was a three-time 1st Team All-SIAC choice. McCutcheon was named a 2015 BOXTOROW All-American after posting seven interceptions. He added to his career totals with an interception in the 2017 FCS Bowl in Daytona Beach, Florida. In Part I of his diary with DraftNasty, he begins to give a preview of how he wins on the field.
Q&A with Dane Cruikshank, Arizona Wildcats:
DN: Talk about the transition from the junior college ranks (Citrus College-Glendora, California). You became such a consistent player for the ‘Cats.
Cruikshank: It was easy for me to adapt to it and everything. I had a great coaching staff that helped me out. It wasn’t that big of a difference. There’s a lot of good talent in JUCO that I’ve gone up against that doesn’t get out sometimes just cause they don’t handle their business in school. Luckily for me, I handled my business and actually matured and grew up. I ended up at Arizona and did my thing.
DN: Yeah, one of the big things that stood out not only throughout your career but also out here the in the first day of practice (East-West Shrine practices) is your ability to transition. You have your hips opened to the sidelines and still make the 45-and-90-degree breaks. What do you credit that to? Is it a lot of drill work or is it something that’s just always been natural?
Cruikshank: No, it’s a lot of drill work. I put in a lot of work. Coach Yates (Marcel Yates-2017 Arizona defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach), Coach Donte Williams (2016 Arizona cornerbacks coach). They both coached me at the University of Arizona. I did a lot of offseason training with them before the season even started, both seasons…my junior season and my senior season. All the work that I put in is actually working out for me. I’m actually transitioning it to the field, just doing my thing out here and just having fun with it.
DN: You had a pretty competitive defensive backfield, in terms of Arizona. (Demetrius) Flannigan-Fowles and some of the other guys. How did you feel about the competition? Did y’all have inner competition on who would make the most plays?
Cruikshank: Yeah, we went at it every day. Every day we came out with a goal. Who is going to come out with the most interceptions, who is going to come out with the most pass deflections, things like that. That just keeps our juices going, you know what I’m saying. That just keeps it more competitive every day at practice. So you’re not slouching around and getting used to everything. We’re competitors man, all those guys.
DN: Looking at some of our notes, against Houston earlier this year. Your tackling coming off the edge, and tackling in general. You had 60 tackles in 2016 and quite a few this year.
DN: 76 this year. So, run support, talk a little bit about that and what that means to you in terms of your game.
Cruikshank: Well I feel like I can play anywhere on the field in the secondary. I just feel like I can just get the job done no matter where you put me at: strong safety, free safety, corner, nickel. So, I’m a physical player. I like to come up and tackle. I’m not afraid to put my nose in the hole and hit someone. I give that credit to my Dad. He made me a rough player growing up.
DN: That’s what up man. What position do you want to play at the next level? What do you think is your best position?
Cruikshank: Cornerback. I feel like corner is just the best position for me. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I can play anywhere on the field like I said.
DN: If you had to look at one player that you pattern your game after at the next level who would that be?
Cruikshank: Xavier Rhodes (Minnesota Vikings). Guys with longer arms, Marcus Peters (Los Angeles Rams) guys like that. I look at a lot of film on those guys and I just try to take after them.
DN: No doubt man, thanks a lot for your time and good luck the rest of the year and in the NFL Draft.
Cruikshank: Thank you. I appreciate it.
—2018 East-West Shrine practices, West Team, Day 1, DraftNasty staff reports
UPDATE: Cruikshank was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the 5th Round (152nd overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.
There wasn’t a lot that former North Carolina defensive back MJ Stewart couldn’t do in school. He would often change intermittently between positions on drives during games. We caught up with the former Tar Heel during the 2018 Senior Bowl to discuss what he brings to an NFL franchise.
DN: You had so much experience coming into the week having played outside, played inside, sometimes intermittently during games (at North Carolina). And then this week (Senior Bowl), you did a little bit of that as well. You seemed active and comfortable going against a number of receivers and you also looked real comfortable returning kicks. Talk a little bit about that.
Stewart: This is something I’ve been doing for awhile, you know. People didn’t know that. So this week was a good opportunity for me to show people that I could outside and inside. And I can return in the kicking game, too. For me, it’s something I’ve been doing for awhile so it’s nothing new to me, but it is new to a lot of people. I wanted to come out here and turn some heads.
DN: One of your teammates that you were kind of in concert with quite a bit during your career was Donnie Miles. It seemed like you and him on the field were real good in terms of communication. Talk a little bit about that connection and really how that all came about.
Stewart: That’s my boy, man. Donnie’s my boy. This past year we roomed together. We just wanted to build that connection even further on the field. Sometimes we’d be up late studying. We go to the film room together and we see things from each other’s point of view so we’re on the same page.
DN: You go to the NC State game, you’re able to look-and-lean down the field. Made some plays in that game when you were challenged. You had to be the leader on the defense after losing Andre Smith a little bit earlier in the season, and then also (Cole) Holcomb, you lost him a little earlier as well. With those injuries, how much was the onus on you to step up even more as a leader?
Stewart: It was big. With all those vocal leaders down, I had to step up and be the big vocal leader. I tried to encompass that as best as I could.
DN: Who was the toughest receiver that you went against in your career and what was the one game you’d like for NFL scouts to see?
Stewart: Toughest receiver in my career. It’s hard. I’m a big believer in everybody’s good until you prove otherwise. You can’t sleep on anybody. But I’d have to say Justin Hardy (Atlanta Falcons) from ECU. When I played him I was a freshman and still trying to get my feet under me. And he was a veteran receiver so it was nice going against him. He was strong, very active, good routes. It was good seeing that early in my career.
DN: And then what was that one game you’d like for scouts to maybe point to for you in your career? Any year.
Stewart: I’d have to say this past year Miami (Fla.). I definitely was locked in. I’m locked in every game but I turned it up that game.
DN: No doubt man, best of luck in the draft.
Stewart: Thank you.
—-2018 Senior Bowl practices, DraftNasty staff reports
UPDATE: Stewart -ranked 57th on DraftNasty’s 2018 Big Board (No. 2 all-purpose player)- was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the 57th overall pick (2nd Round) in the 2018 NFL Draft.