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As is usually the case ...the UDFA's are not household names and there is less information to be found about them. I thought I would post whatever info that I have came across to keep the forum updated on these players.
Bio: Two-year starter who lined up at safety, cornerback, and linebacker. Senior totals included 80/1/6 when he was primarily used at linebacker. Junior numbers included 63/1/11 after 46/5/9 as a sophomore when he started four games.
Positive: Aggressive, hard-hitting defensive back with a solid game. Flows well laterally, displays a good degree of quickness in his game as well as a burst of speed. Remains disciplined with assignments, physical throughout the action, and brings ball-carriers down on initial contact. Breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself.
Negative: Does not display great speed to the sidelines. Struggles staying step for step with opponents downfield. Does not display great break to the ball out of his plant.
Analysis: Thornton has been productive on the college level yet lacks the great size/speed numbers for the NFL. His physical playing style and limited range on the field makes him best suited for a zone system.
Thornton was moved around a lot in the Kansas secondary, spending the early portion of his career shifting between cornerback and safety. Thornton picked off five passes as a sophomore but only had two over his final two seasons, which may be attributed to a change in roles. He spent his senior season playing free safety and being utilized in nickel situations. He consistently broke up passes as a junior and senior, and had two sacks and a forced fumble while being used more as a blitzer. A physical presence in the secondary, Thornton isn't afraid to hit and has adequate speed to go with a solid tackling technique. Most of the questions surround his constant position changes, and scouts aren't sure whether that was simply due to a shaky Kansas defense continually trying to shake things up, or whether Thornton can't really stick for a reason. He wasn't invited to the combine, so he'll have to show off at the Jayhawks' pro day and prove he can play, whether it's at free safety or elsewhere. There's little chance Thornton is drafted unless a team falls in love with his measurables. http://philly.stats.com/nfldraft/players.asp?id=134294
When the sixth round of Saturday’s NFL Draft began, former Kansas University defensive back Justin Thornton started to pay more attention.
“I knew the sixth, seventh round and free agency was going to be my time,” Thornton said. “I had my phone in my hand the entire time.”
As the picks came and went and phone updates from his agent piled up, Thornton, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, began to wonder if he was going to get a chance. Less than an hour later, he was on the phone with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
“I was like, ‘No, I’m not talking to him, this isn’t coach Tomlin,’” Thornton said. “The guy that had scouted me … I talked to him for a few minutes, and then he put coach Tomlin on the phone. I thought that was pretty cool. He gave me a few words and stuff and welcomed me on board.”
The call from the Steelers, who announced Thornton’s free-agent signing Monday, came with seven picks remaining in the draft. Thornton’s agent, Jim Naughton, who also represents former KU linebacker and current San Diego Charger James Holt, talked to seven or eight teams about Thornton. Of those, Detroit, Houston and Pittsburgh showed serious interest.
“The Steelers put the offer on the table right away, saying they were going to offer me a three-year, undrafted rookie contract,” Thornton said. “I think Pittsburgh is a good fit for me. My agent was telling me early on that Pittsburgh is known for taking undrafted players and developing them into good players. Just the whole situation … I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Thornton, a four-year starter for the Jayhawks who was fourth on the team in tackles (80) in 2009, will report to Pittsburgh this weekend for rookie minicamp. In order to get the full three-year contract, Thornton must make the team.
“I don’t know if I’ve gotten the full effect of it yet,” he said of the opportunity to play in the NFL. “But I think it’ll sink in after this weekend.” http://www2.kusports.com/news/2010/a...ornton-chance/
Bio: Three-year starter awarded varying degrees of All-Conference honors since his sophomore campaign. Led team in tackles as a senior with 108. Junior totals included 77/2/3. Posted 90 tackles as a sophomore.
Positive: Adequately sized, run-defending safety best playing downhill. Shows quickness in his overall game, covers a large amount of area on the field, and uses his hands to protect himself. Makes plays laterally. Aggressive, puts his shoulder pads into ball-carriers and goes for the knockout blow.
Negative: Lined up at outside linebacker as a senior and pass coverage duties were kept to a minimum. Marginal ball skills prior to his senior season.
Analysis: Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith is a tough, aggressive safety who lays it on the line to stop opponents. Possessing marginal size/speed numbers, he's potentially a ninth defensive back but must make his mark on special teams http://www.draftinsider.net/reports/2010/S
UTEP safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith is a physical player, one who likes to hit you and would rather take on contact than avoid it.
“I like to be physical. I like to play in the box and I don’t worry about taking on pulling offensive linemen,” said Cromartie-Smith. “I like to read the play and then attack it, kind of like safety Adrian Wilson (of the Arizona Cardinals).”
Cromartie-Smith, as a junior, was second on the team in tackles with 77. He also had two tackles for losses, a sack, and a pair of interceptions. This past season he led the team with 108 total tackles and had four tackles for loss and an interception.
Even with a productive college career, Cromartie-Smith knows he can get better.
“I have been training and working to be more flexible…being able to flip my hips and change directions better,” he said. “I also know I need to work on my ball skills to become a better all-around player.”
Cromartie-Smith did something rare in these days of getting ready for pro days and the NFL Combine; he trained at UTEP by himself and had some great results at his pro day. He was 6’11/2”, 206 pounds, ran the 40 yard dash in 4.46 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.47 seconds, and the three-cone drill in 7.24 seconds. He measured a 32-inch vertical jump, a 9’9” broad jump and did 20 bench press repetitions at 225 pounds.
“I just trained at school because I wanted to finish my degree. That was important to me,” said Cromartie-Smith. “I did lift with a friend and mainly I wanted to work on the 40-yard dash and the bench press.”
There were many who questioned whether Cromartie-Smith belonged at the next level as he headed into the Texas vs. the Nation Game. Those questions were quickly answered.
“I wanted to see how I would do against a higher level of competition, and at the Texas vs. the Nation Game, it gave me the ability to check that out,” said Cromartie-Smith. “After being there with all the guys, I knew I could play at next level and it made me push myself even harder.”
EL PASO -- Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith first strapped on football pads in 1996 with the same dream as just about every other 9-year-old boy wearing a helmet has: He wanted his shot at the NFL.
Through Pee Wee, junior high, Southern California high school and a stellar career at UTEP, he kept that dream alive.
Thursday afternoon, in a mostly empty Sun Bowl, he reached the next stage of the dream at UTEP's pro day.
"It's insane," Cromartie-Smith said. "So much work in 13 years of football for these three hours. You show what you've been working on for 13 years.
"I laid it all out and I'm ready to get my results in April."
Cromartie-Smith was one of what football coach Mike Price estimated 24 to 30 participants in pro day, many of them seniors-to-be and three from other Division II colleges in Texas.
They were put through their paces by seven professional scouts, and for recently finished seniors like safety Cromartie-Smith, cornerback Cornelius Brown and receiver Jeff Moturi, this was perhaps their best chance for a good impression.
"I'll play anywhere, I just want a shot," Cromartie-Smith said. "I don't care if I get drafted, I just want a chance to play."
Both Cromartie-Smith and Brown turned in quick 40-yard-dash times. Cromartie-Smith termed his 4.40 "the fastest I've run since a high school track meet against Long Beach-Poly." http://msn.foxsports.com/cfb/story/U...o-day-41864345
Bio: All-Conference selection as a senior when he broke in with the first team on a full-time basis and totaled 45/14/11.5. Saw extensive playing time as a rotational defensive end the prior three years, his most productive being his freshman campaign when he totaled 39/3.5/6. Older brother Dante Whitner was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2006 draft.
Positive: Athletic college defensive end who makes a lot of plays up the field. Breaks down well, plays with good lean, and fluid moving in every direction of the field. Plays with good body control, quickly changes direction, and collapses down the line pursuing the action. Flashes lower body power and the ability to push tackles off the ball. Good athlete.
Negative: Does not do a good job using his hands to protect himself and is an easy target for opponents to block. Marginal instincts. Average speed off the edge. All too often pushed aside by a single blocker.
Analysis: Witten shown flashes of skill yet must turn up the intensity of his game and play more consistently to achieve the level of expectations scouts believe he has. He projects as either a defensive end in a conventional system or stand up linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. http://www.draftinsider.net/reports/2010/DE
Lindsey Rashaun Witten … Born on April 28, 1988 … Older brother, Donte Whitner, started at strong safety for Ohio State and was picked in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft (eighth overall) by the Buffalo Bills … A pre-teaching major.
Witten came from a highly-regarded high school program in Glenville, coached by Ted Ginn, Sr. But because of UConn's depth at the position, Witten could not earn a regular starting role until 2009. He came through with flying colors as a senior, earning first-team All-Big East honors with 14 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Even though Witten was a reserve most of his first three years (save six games in 2007 when Cody Brown was injured and two in 2008), scouts knew about his value as a pass rusher. He had six tackles for loss in 2006 and 2008, and 4.5 in 2007, including 3.5 sacks as a true freshman, two more in 2007 and five in 2008. Nagging injuries also limited his effectiveness as a junior.
Witten's older brother, Donte Whitner, gives him all of the insight into the draft process and playing in the league that he needs. Though not likely to be a top-10 pick like Whitner, his length on the edge should see him drafted somewhere after the third round.
Pass rush: Provides pass rush from either side of the line due to his length and his ability to push his man back using those long arms to leverage. His lack of flexibility is an issue when unable to bend to turn the corner and when he gets too wide on stunts. Uses a wide stance to get a running start against the tackle, however, and won't bull rush and get off blocks easily at the next level. Needs to develop counter pass rush moves. Good backfield awareness, can affect passing lanes with his length and vertical.
Run defense: Tall, lanky and a bit stiff in the hips, does not change directions easily in space. Gets handled too easily by stronger tackles at times, but plays both the strong and weak side of the formation. Must be more consistent using his hand to disengage from blocks for run defense (and in his pass rush), as he is effective against the run when he does. Lowers his shoulder instead of his hands to take on pulling guards. Aware of misdirection and keeps containment.
Explosion: Adequate quickness off the snap but really relies on his length to get past tackles. Can pop his man's pads on initial contact and stay engaged with him down the line but is not strong enough to knock the tackle back or push him into the pocket.
Strength: Plays stronger than expected with his relatively thin frame. Stands his man up, even in short-yardage situations, using his long arms to keep tackles at bay. Doesn't rip off tackles to disengage consistently.
Tackling: Uses length to wrap up around the line of scrimmage. Drags ballcarriers down and catches them from behind, is not overly explosive. Lacks the flexibility to break down in space, though he still works to get to elusive runners. Gets down the line and downfield with good speed and hustles to be the second or third man to the ball.
Intangibles: Intense, fiery competitor who is not afraid to mix it up; he won't back down if challenged by offensive players. Worked hard to bulk up and did not get down about his reserve role early in his career. No known character issues.
School: James Madison
Bio: Three-year starter awarded All-Conference honors since he junior campaign.
Positive: Effective position blocker who displays ability in space. Quickly sets in pass protection, immediately gets his hands into defenders, and stays square. Bends his knees, adjusts to defenders and displays good footwork sliding laterally. Keeps his feet moving throughout the action, seals defenders from the play. Good jolt and explosion at the point of attack. Moves relatively well on his feet, keeps his head on a swivel, and helps out line-mates.
Negative: Lacks a strong base and gets no movement run blocking. Average athlete.
Analysis: Brooks is a small yet very quick lineman with possibilities in a zone-blocking system. He must improve his overall strength yet is a solid developmental prospect who could end up on a practice squad. http://www.draftinsider.net/reports/2010/G
Missing most of his senior year with a back injury kept major college programs away, but home-state JMU found a nice bargain by sticking with Brooks through the process. Though the Virginia native wasn't a big fan of moving from defensive line to guard, he eventually got on board and it may pay off with a ticket to the NFL.
His coaches could not believe the improvement Brooks made in his first three years, finally buying in before his junior year. The three-year starter earned second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors in 2008, and first-team all-conference accolades as well as some FCS All-American notice after his senior year.
A solid performance at the Scouting Combine, including one of the best shuttle times among offensive linemen, showed teams he has the athleticism to compete at the next level. Add that to good strength and a low center of gravity, and Brooks may hear his name called in the mid-to-late rounds.
Pass blocking: Quick set, rarely gives up initial penetration or ground in his anchor. Not a great punch, uses his feet and upper-body strength to catch and control defenders. Excellent lateral movement in pass pro, mirrors even quick linemen. Sustains block through the whistle when on the line. Must work on keeping his head on a swivel to help his tackle handle inside rushes and blitzes.
Run blocking: Some power off the snap, capable of pancaking linemen at the lower level of competition. Fair strength, can block down then pop off to step in front of penetrating linebacker. Low center of gravity helps him play with leverage. Best in a zone scheme to use his mobility, rather than in a drive-blocking system.
Pulling/trapping: Exceptional movement around the line and in space. Not a dominant blocker but is very effective walling off defenders once he's made initial contact. Misses targets in space too often, however, at times hitting nobody and running right by the MIKE linebacker or hard-charging linebackers and safeties.
Initial Quickness: Quick set-up, good punch and arm extension off the snap in pass protection. Some pop as a run blocker, does not allow defenders to disengage often.
Downfield: Agile blocker who negates linebackers at the second level but fails to hit a defender more than occasionally. Searches for multiple targets when in front of screen passes. Struggles to sustain against better players downfield.
Intangibles: Improved every year in college. Surgery on herniated disc in senior year of high school pushed major program away. Proved toughness by playing with a cast on his right hand for a time as a senior.
Fifth-year Duke and expected third-year starter at guard … physical player who will be expected to provide leadership on the offensive line and who has the ability to be a dominant performer following an exceptional junior season, said offensive line coach Chris Malone.
Recieved pre-season All-America 2nd team Offensive honors as offensive gaurd by The Sports Network … pre-season 1st team honors as offensive gaurd in Phil Steele's 2009 College Football Pre-season Guide … pre-season CAA All-Conference Team as offensive gaurd … pre-season All-America 3rd team honors as offensive gaurd by College Sporting News.
School: North Carolina
Bio: Three-year starter at left tackle for North Carolina.
Positive: Large, strong small-area blocker. Blocks with a wide base, bends his knees and stays square. Strong at the point, anchors in pass protection, or gets movement as a run blocker. Displays solid overall strength and jolts defenders with good hand punch, knocking them from their angle of attack.
Negative: Stiff, lacks footwork in space and marginal blocking range. Has difficulty picking up the blitz and cannot adjust the oncoming defenders.
Analysis: Jolly is a solid run blocker who was out of position at left tackle in college. He has the size and strength to move to the right side in the NFL, yet he is a limited athlete who may be nothing more than a backup in the NFL. http://www.draftinsider.net/reports/2010/T
A stabilizing force on the offensive line for the Tar Heels, Jolly ended his career having started every game over the past three seasons at left tackle. He earned honorable mention all-ACC honors in 2009.
Jolly has tallied 38 starts in Butch Davis' pro-style offense, but despite his impressive size and durability, Jolly could struggle to find a role in the NFL.
He lacks the balance and foot speed to remain at left tackle, the only position he's played with the Tar Heels. His height, while an asset outside at tackle, could prove a detriment inside at guard, where Jolly's lack of balance and poor use of leverage could be further exposed.
Pass blocking: Classic waist-bender with only adequate initial quickness. Chucks his way back into pass protection. Catches the defensive end with long arms and strong hands, but doesn't sustain well due to only marginal balance. Doesn't slide his feet laterally to remain square to the pass-rusher. Better than expected quickness for the cut block on the quick screen.
Run blocking: Comes off the snap high, losing leverage quickly. Provides an initial pop as a drive-blocker but isn't consistently able to push the pile due to his leverage issues. Stops moving his feet once he makes contact. Adequate quickness to beat the defender to the edge, turn and seal. Struggles with balance and spends too much time on the ground. Does a workman-like job, but would like to see more nastiness.
Pulling/trapping: Flashes a burst of quickness when he has to pull, but isn't athletic enough to sustain this speed. Lacks the body control to adjust to oncoming defenders. Is forced to lunge, too often missing. Surprisingly effective on the quick trap block.
Initial Quickness: Only adequate in this area. Can be beaten by speed off the edge. Does not possess the burst to remain at left tackle in the NFL. Quick enough to get his hands into the chest of the defender, but isn't effective due to his struggles with leverage and balance.
Downfield: Good effort, but lacks the sustained quickness and body control to consistently get to the second level. Lumbers in space and struggles to adjust to the moving target. Loses his balance and ends up on the ground too often.
Intangibles: Durable. Started the final 38 games of his career. Nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which honors college football players who make outstanding contributions in the areas of volunteerism and civic involvement.
Made 38 consecutive starts at left tackle … Owns a 78 percent grade and 31 knock-down blocks on the season … Posted a 76-percent grade and two knock-downs at NC State … Graded at 71 percent with one knock-down at Boston College … Graded out at 77 percent with two knock-downs against Miami Posted a team-best 87 percent grade and four knock-down blocks versus Duke … Notched a 75 percent grade and two knock-downs at Virginia Tech … Had two knock-downs against Florida State … Graded a team-high 89 percent with three knock-downs versus Georgia Southern … Posted one knock-down against Virginia … Logged an 88-percent grade and two knock-downs at Georgia Tech … Graded at 80 percent with two knock-downs against East Carolina … Posted at 79 percent grade with four knock-downs at Connecticut … Graded at 85 percent with six knock-down blocks against The Citadel. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/563169
Bio: Moved into the starting lineup as a senior after being a reserve the prior three years.
Positive: Versatile lineman who can be used at center or guard. Blocks with good knee bend and leverage, keeps his head on a swivel, and plays with intelligence. Helps out teammates and works hard until the whistle blows.
Negative: Lacks footwork in space and effective only in a small area. Must improve his shotgun snaps. Not a dominant blocker who gets much movement.
Analysis: Trump is a limited athlete with marginal size, yet the ability to effectively back up at a number of positions gives him a real opportunity at the next level. http://www.draftinsider.net/reports/2010/G
Miami Hurricanes center A.J. Trump knows how to persevere
From battling 11 siblings for food to bouncing back from a knee injury, UM center A.J. Trump knows how to keep pushing.
Miami center A.J. Trump, who will return home to the Tampa area Saturday for the final regular-season game of his career, got some of his best football training in front of the refrigerator.
That's what happens when you're one of 12 children.
``You take your share of licks and you learn how to be aggressive when it comes to dinner,'' the 6-3, 305-pound Trump said. ``That's the No. 1 thing. You gotta go get your dinner.
``Sometimes I'd go to work with my dad and bring home a nice doggie bag from lunch. I'd protect it by any means necessary -- disguise it, or better yet, lick it right before one of my brothers got to it. That always worked.''
It took four Trumps to get the ages correct of all 12 kids. Dad was the winner.
``I have a pretty good memory,'' said Trump's father Frank, 55, an independent insurance agent. ``We always tell people, `Buy insurance and feed a Trump!' ''
A.J., born Andrew Joseph, knows what it's like to persevere, and not just because of sibling competition. Trump came to the Hurricanes out of Clearwater Central Catholic High, a year older than fellow Central grad and current UM linebacker Colin McCarthy. One of the nation's most highly recruited offensive linemen, Trump had offers from many teams, including LSU, Georgia and UM's opponent Saturday, South Florida.
After choosing UM, he redshirted in 2005, then played sparingly as a backup guard and center in 2006. On Nov. 11, 2006, four days after the shooting death of teammate Bryan Pata, Trump tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee at Maryland.
``It was right after Bryan died, a really bad time,'' Trump said. ``I was pulling as a guard, planted the leg and got hit. We lost that game by one point. I lost a lot of my career.''
Trump sat out the final three games, making his return in the 2007 season opener against Marshall. It was too soon. His knee was not healed, and he underwent two arthroscopic surgeries that year to finally get him better. Last year he started 10 of 13 games at guard, grading well in most of them.
``Those years [stunk],'' Trump said. ``But I always knew I'd be back. I just kept plugging along. My goal was to start at the University of Miami. I've done that, and I feel I've helped get this place turned around a little.''
`A LOT OF HEART'
Trump already has his degree in business management and organization and is one of six players to start every game this season. Right tackle Matt Pipho, another academically gifted lineman, was recently accepted to UM's Miller School of Medicine.
``It has been a trying five years for him, but he has a lot of heart,'' UM coach Randy Shannon said of Trump. ``He's a hard-working young man who does it the right way and does it well.''
Trump's dad, Frank, played three years as a 6-4, 220-pound wide receiver at Rice and at Dixie Hollins High School in Pinellas County with USF coach Jim Leavitt's younger brother Rusty as his quarterback. Trump's mother, Terri, was a 5-3 high school cheerleader at Dixie Hollins.
Dad would love for A.J. to play in the NFL.
Not Mom, also known as ``Mama Trump.''
``I'm the lone holdout in the family who says, `Just come home, get married, have a family,' '' she said. ``He thinks, `My mom thinks I can come home and live on the couch.' I say, `That's a good start.' The schedule for a football player is so grinding -- football 100 percent of the time until they're done. He was just a kid when he left, but now he's a man. I seriously doubt he's coming home to lie on the couch anytime soon.''
The Trumps live in Palm Harbor, about a 20-minute drive from Raymond James Stadium, where the No. 19 Hurricanes (8-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) will meet the USF Bulls (7-3, 3-3 Big East) in front of a sold-out crowd exceeding 60,000.
Thirteen of the 14 Trumps will be there, along with dozens of other family members and friends. One of them, Mary-Kristin, will be sitting on the Bulls' side. This Trump not only graduated from USF, she is the administrative assistant to USF recruiting coordinator and running-backs coach Carl Franks.
THIS TIME, IT'S UM
``She has to be on the Bulls' side or she'll get fired,'' said Alex, an eighth-grader who said he runs track because at 6-2 and 130 pounds, he's ``too skinny'' to play football. ``I'm a Bulls' fan, but this game I'm cheering for Miami.''
Mary-Kristin will spend most of the time on the sideline, as she coordinates the recruits who attend. ``I have to say, `Go Bulls,' '' she said. ``Coach Leavitt has been so good to me. But of course I feel mixed. I want to see my brother play well.
``Our family had this game circled for a long time, because we knew this would be A.J.'s senior year, and a lot of people in this area will see him play for the first time. I can hardly put into words how huge this will be for us.''
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/11/2...#ixzz0nLlx9ngk
School: Virginia Tech
Bio: Two-year starter who finished with 25/1.5/.5 as a senior after 27/6.5/3 the prior year.
Positive: Explosive one-gap tackle coming off a disappointing senior season. Fires off the snap with a great first step, plays with terrific pad level, and keeps his feet moving on contact, bull rushing opponents off the ball. Shoots through the small gaps in the offensive line, works his hands throughout the action, and displays terrific quickness in his all-around game. Fluid collapsing down the line and works hard to make plays.
Negative: Slow shedding blocks once engaged and all too often gets tied up at the point by a single opponent. Lacks great size and has growth limitations.
Analysis: Thompson has displayed a lot of skill the past two seasons, and he can be a tough opponent handle in the middle of the line. Lacks the great upside, yet he does enough things well that he'll have an opportunity to make it as an eight defender on the or man line. http://www.draftinsider.net/reports/2010/DT
Defensive lineman Cordarrow Thompson, a sleeper of sorts, measured 6021/311lbs, completed 24 reps on the bench and a vertical jump of 26.5-inches. His forty time was 5.18 included a 10yd split of 1.73 seconds. The New York Jets, a team in need of young defensive line help, closely monitored Thompson. http://www.draftinsider.net/blog/?p=1485
VT Pro Day
Defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor (5-11 5/8, 290) impressed scouts with his strength, as he put up 225 pounds 35 times on the bench press. Earlier in the week he put up 280 pounds 22 times.
Hokies' Demetrius Taylor: Power player in the weight room
By Kyle Tucker
The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot
BLACKSBURG -- Demetrius Taylor's brick-like body is thick with muscle.
His long, winding career as a Virginia Tech football player is thick with irony.
When the Hokies held their second full scrimmage of spring practice on Saturday, Taylor trotted out with the first-team defense, as a tackle. That's right, the guy who was once a star running back and linebacker in high school is now a fifth-year senior battling to become one of the smallest starting defensive tackles at Tech in the modern era.
Relative to most others at his position -- take 6-foot-2, 308-pound teammate Cordarrow Thompson, for example -- Taylor's 6-foot, 260-pound frame looks little.
There's the irony: It has been a long, long time since anyone called Taylor small. His father, also named Demetrius, remembers frequent inquiries from his son's preschool teachers: Is this little fella lifting weights?
"He was just always built," said the elder Taylor. "He was a ball of muscle even when he was a baby."
Then Taylor got to high school and fell in love with weightlifting. He became a gym junkie. His natural physique exploded.
Taylor's classmates often asked if he was on steroids.
"He'd just laugh," said his father. "No, he'd tell them, that's just what hard work does for you."
His obsession with building up his body only grew when he arrived at Tech and began working with strength coach, Mike Gentry. Soon, Taylor was Tech's most powerful player.
He ranks first or second on the team in the power clean (360 pounds), push jerk (400), bench press (430) and back squat (600). Those numbers did not, however, transfer immediately to the field.
During Taylor's first two seasons at Tech, including a redshirt year in 2005, he was a hulking linebacker.
And a slow one.
"When I'd come up and see him, I was amazed how much bigger he was than the other linebackers," said Chris DeWitt, Taylor's coach at Kellem High School in Virginia Beach. "But he was sort of stiff compared to the others."
Taylor struggled in pass coverage, which is an essential responsibility for a linebacker in coordinator Bud Foster's smothering defense. Taylor knew he couldn't cut it, so he asked to move to defensive end.
"Everybody gets a little more athletic as they get closer to the ball," Hokies defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. "Once he moved, we thought he was adequate at end."
But Tech's defense isn't built on "adequate." So, despite superior strength, Taylor played little. He managed four total tackles in his first two seasons.
"I was wondering if I could ever play at this level," Taylor admits. "I felt like a nobody."
Then, the unthinkable happened. The Hokies lost their top three defensive tackles after the 2007 season and were desperate for depth at the position. They turned to Taylor, by then 45 pounds heavier than his high school days.
The biggest guy in the weight room was suddenly the smallest guy at his position. While it seemed odd, there was something primal about the tackle spot that appealed to Taylor.
"At tackle, there's a lot less to think about. You can just go play," he said. "Just know your assignment and go. Attack. That's how I played in high school, and I wanted to get back to it.
"That's how I lift. You either push the weight up, or it dominates you. You either move the offensive lineman, or he moves you."
Taylor emerged as Tech's top backup at tackle last season. While slowed significantly by a foot injury, he recorded a career-best 12 tackles.
He and the Hokies are expecting much more out of his senior season. John Graves, a starting tackle last fall, is spending the spring at end, mostly to give him experience at that perilously thin position for Tech.
But come fall, Graves will reclaim the spot Taylor is manning with the first-string defense. That will leave Taylor and Thompson to fight for the other starting job.
"If we played today, I'd start Demetrius," Wiles said. "Where he might've been lost a little at linebacker, a little slow at end, he's really an athletic tackle. And you notice him out there. He has had a great spring, and he's going to be a big factor this season."
Taylor is ready to be big again.
Most of the offensive lineman he'll face are at least three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than he. But for a guy who conquered his sociology degree in three years -- a second degree in psychology is coming in December -- that's just another challenge. Another bar to push.
"I can get under their pads, get leverage," he said. "I'm too strong to let them just throw me around, and I'm faster than them. It's amazing, really. I never could've imagined being a defensive tackle. But it kind of makes sense.
"I really have to thank Coach Wiles and Coach Foster for thinking I could do it and giving me a chance. They found me a place to play. That's all I wanted." http://www.roanoke.com/wb/xp-201754
Hokies' Taylor, Present and Future Enforcer
By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 28 -- On the football field, Demetrius Taylor wears shoulder pads and a helmet with a VT logo. In his future occupation, his equipment might consist of a handgun and an FBI badge.
Taylor is a defensive tackle at Virginia Tech. But unlike his teammates who dream of NFL careers or jobs in the private sector when they leave Blacksburg, Taylor wants to work as either an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or as an officer with the Federal Air Marshal Service.
Taylor was inspired to go into law enforcement after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech and has taken steps toward accomplishing that goal. He has earned a degree in sociology with a concentration in crime and deviance (he is now working toward a psychology degree) and has completed a summer internship with the New Jersey State Police.
"Playing football your whole life, you get accustomed to the lifestyle of having something to do all the time," Taylor said. "Not just sitting behind a desk but actually being active with your time. I felt like either being an FBI agent or an air marshal would allow me to do that after football."
For now, though, it is all about football. Taylor, a fifth-year senior, made his first career start Saturday in the Hokies' 31-7 win over Miami. Playing in place of John Graves, who sprained his right ankle against Nebraska on Sept. 19, Taylor made one tackle as Virginia Tech stifled Miami's potent offense and harassed quarterback Jacory Harris with blitzes.
Incidentally, Graves also has aspirations of working in law enforcement, perhaps for the FBI. Taylor said they have joked that "five or 10 years down the road, we're going to be partners."
Charley Wiles, the Hokies' defensive line coach, said Graves and Taylor would fit in as members of a law-enforcement unit because they are "two team-oriented guys. They're not 'me' guys. They want to do what's right for the team."
For Taylor, he said his career path was something that "runs in the veins." Both of Taylor's grandfathers served during the Vietnam War. Taylor's father, Demetrius Sr., was a 21-year Navy veteran as a medical services provider.
"I always shared with him what it meant to me to take care of the patients and treat them," Demetrius Sr., who served in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, said in a telephone interview. "That was instilled in Demetrius as far as helping out and serving the country."
But Taylor's biggest motivation to go into law enforcement came on April 16, 2007, when a Virginia Tech student fatally shot 32 people and himself in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
On that day, Taylor said, he sat in a building nearby Norris Hall, where 30 people were killed. From his classroom, Taylor saw students running from the nearby building as a unit of police officers entered.
"They were running for their lives, and I've never seen anything like that," Taylor said. "But seeing the cops rush in, just to see that kind of courage and that kind of camaraderie among the officers, that's what I go through now in football, to a lesser degree."
There have been former Virginia Tech football players who went into law enforcement. Perhaps the most notable is Todd Meade, a letterman on the offensive line from 1989 to 1991 who now works for the Secret Service.
Lt. Robert Catullo of the New Jersey State Police, who worked with Taylor during an internship last summer, said there was a correlation between football and police work.
"If you talk about the SWAT team, it's choreographed," Catullo said in a telephone interview. "What's the dwelling? How are we going in? What method are we going to use? There's a lot of times we're making up a game plan. The camaraderie is always there. It's kind of like going out on the football field; you expect the person next to you to do their job."
Taylor worked at the New Jersey State Police Troop B headquarters. The station, based in Totowa, serves the northern part of the state in handling accident investigations, drunken driving reports and evaluations of police chases.
Although much of what Taylor did was gofer work, he had learning experiences. He was taught the basics of investigating a car accident by looking at scratch marks on the vehicle, how it rolled or how the windshield was broken in. He also watched as SWAT teams practiced entering buildings and repelling from helicopters at a training facility.
"He was a good kid," Catullo said, "and never complained no matter what he had to do."
Before pursuing a second degree, Taylor specialized his academic focus. As part of his concentration for his sociology major, he could take classes such as deviant behavior (sociology 2404), criminology (sociology 3414) or juvenile delinquency (sociology 3424).
Now, Taylor said, he is preparing his application to become an air marshal and has also been in touch with some people he knows at the FBI. If accepted to either, he expects to go through a training program somewhere in the country. But after Virginia Tech, he said, the next step is still somewhat uncertain in this particularly unique line of work.
"As far as preparing yourself, you can't really prepare," Taylor said. "There's a lot in the FBI that the general public doesn't know about."
Cromartie-Smith intrigues me...I like what I've read and heard about him...could have some potential. Also if Witten can make the adjustment to OLB...he could be on the team in a couple years or so, as there isnt any room right now. The big FB and that NT could be interesting also...NT Thompson could go on the PS this year maybe and who knows next year...though if he has a stellar camp...could he beat out hoke? If this 270lb guy can play FB (like he did in HS..his freshman year i think)...then sign him up! Just and fyi LLT Trump has already been cut!