This year’s Eugene Monroe? Scouting Eric Berry S/CB; Tennessee
By Zoltan Paksa
Well it is draft day; and you read I think already every possible option who the Jaguars pick. You read all the trade down rumors; or the debate who should the Jaguars pick. We here in Black&Teal showed you all the candidates for the 10th spot; and some candidates for trading down scenario. But if the Jaguars will be once again lucky; like they were last year with Eugene Monroe? Remember: our starting LT was considered by many even worth to be the second pick of the draft; but St. Louis; and then Cincinnati passed on him and selected Jason and Andre Smith. Well what if that kind of luck happens again? Who could be our guy to root for a little slide? Well let me presenting Black&Teal’s candidate for that posibility: The S/CB from the Tennessee Volunteers; Eric Berry
Yes; I think he can slide down the the Jaguars. I think the 2 DTs (McCoy and Suh) ; the 2 QBs (Bradford and Clausen); and the 3 OTs (Okung; Trent Williams; and Bulaga) will be selected before 10. That is 7 players; so we need 2 more teams. Well; what if Cleveland selects Jared Odrick? Or Al Davis makes another surpise (insane) pick at 8? Last year we saw surprising picks like that: Tyson Jackson as 3rd overall; and Andre Smith(6th) and Darius Heyward-Bey(7th). We need just 2 picks like that. What if Kansas will select Rolando McClain? I think we could hope for a scenario like this; and in the end just like last year; the Jaguars can find a guy who is representing need meets the value kind of talent.
Those who watch the Jaguars close enough; knows how big problem was the (F)S position. Gene tried to sign player after player to the position; but he had limited success (mostly with Anthony Smith; who was picked up late in the season; but he recorded 2 picks.) The big problem is of course the 1st round pick of 2007; Reggie Nelson. What happened to this guy? He had a promising rookie year – He ended the year with 63 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 5 interceptions. Since then he is lost. He recorded 2 more picks in the last 2 season; had a couple of horrible looking tackles; and in 2 games (II. Titans game; II. Colts game) in 2009; he was a walking joke. When the Jaguars are let a big receiving play; every Jaguars fan watching the review of the play with the question: “Ok where were Reggie Nelson on that play?” Well to be fair with Reggie; in 2007 there was something the Jaguars lacking since- pass rush! I think the disappearing of that weapon makes the life of an NFL safety very complicated. But even with that; Nelson’s interceptions are disappeared too in the last 2 seasons. Gerald Alexander; Anthony Smith and Sean Considine all picked at least once the opposite QB (They have a total of 5 picks in 2009). So even without little if any pass rush help; they could made some turnovers. Reggie in the other hand no. After the Colts game; Reggie was benched; he was the holder of kickoffs in the last game…So it is clear; that position is a need; in fact I think right now that is the biggest problem of the Jaguars.
But if Gene has once again a little luck; that problem can be solved. And Eric Berry would mean the picture perfect solution for that problem. So let’s see this young man a little bit closer. He is a 5’11; 203lbs junior. His father; James were played also for the Vols for 3 years (and was a team captain too). He was played at Creekside high School. He started QB and S at the school. Led his team to a 37-5 record during the 4 years he played there. As a QB he threw for 1,100-plus yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 12 TDs. As a senior he rushed for more than 1,500 yards and threw for more than 1,000 yards. As junior, he totaled 67 tackles and five interceptions while as a senior added three interceptions and more than 40 tackles on defense. Coming out of school he was Parade All-America and selected nation’s top cornerback by Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and PrepStar. Wow- just Wow!
In his freshman year he started every game at Tennessee. He finished his freshman season with five interceptions for 222 interception return yards, breaking old Tennessee mark of 177 yards set by Bobby Majors in 1970. He led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles. He had 2 TFLs; 1 FF; and 9 PDs. He had 14 tackles in a single game against Kentucky. He had an Interception return of 96 yards for TD at Florida tied for third-longest in Volunteers history and was longest in 35 year! Now check his awards after such an impressive start: SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year by Sporting News; consensus Freshman All-America and Freshman All-SEC and was voted to the second team All-SEC selection by Coaches, Writers! Very impressive start in the SEC; maybe the toughest NCAA division! And his sophomore year was even better. Before the season dispite that he was a sophomore; he was named to be a team captain (Gene Smith loves collecting former team captains…) He played and started in all 12 Vols game. He recorded 72 tackles (44 solo); 8; 5 TFLs 3 sacks (!); 7 Interceptions (led the nation with 265 returning yards; 2 of them were TDs; both UT; and SEC record). He was voted SEC Defensive Player of the year by AP! Won the Jack Tatum and Vince Dooley award (Both are awards for the best defensive back) He was of course All-SEC team selection by couches and sportswriters; and he was named to the All-American team as well and was nominated to the he was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. After his sophomore year he had surgery on his left shoulder. But that doesn’t appeared on the field in his junior year. Played and started in all 12 Volunteers game. He had 83 tackles; 7 TFLs. He had only 2 Picks; but mostly because QBs didn’t throw into his way. He recorded 1 FF as well. He got plenty of recognition; dispite the very few interceptions. In October 2009, he was named a midseason All-American by The Sporting News. For the second year in a row, he was nominated as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the Lott Trophy, and the Chuck Bednarik Award. He won the Thorpe Award and was named a unanimous All American for the second time in his college career. Berry also won the Jack Tatum Award for the second straight year again! He finished his 3 years at Tennessee with 241 tackles (18 TFLs) 14 interceptions; 3 sacks 3 FFs; and 17 PDs. And these are really just the highlights about this kid.
Let’s dig bit deeper about him: He is without a doubt one of the best defensive back college football has seen for a while; definitely the best safety since years. Berry is a highly athletic, instinctive player with incredible speed. He has the pass coverage skills of a cornerback with the tackling ability of an in the box safety. Berry hits like a truck and is a very good form tackler who wraps up and rarely misses a tackle. The former Vols team captain has terrific instincts and great hands which have allowed him to intercept 14 passes in 3 seasons. Berry is also very dangerous with the ball as he is 8 yards shy of the NCAA all-time leader in career interception return yards. Berry is a very versatile player who could probably play any defensive back position in the NFL, though he’ll likely stay at strong safety. He has a team first mentality and has all the tools to become a leader not just in the secondary; but in the entire defense. He has flawless work ethic; and a true competitor. The experts considered he is already having professional kind of mentality! He will be in the same category with Ed Reed; and Troy Polamalu. This guy is a prototype what Gene Smith (and every other GM) want to see from a 1st round pick!
Let’s see the downside of his. I could collect just 2-3 things against him! His size and weight is not the most ideal yet; but especially on the weight he can work yet. His shoulder problems might raise some durability issues. And sometimes he takes some bad angles when he tackling. Also he could solve some things finesse; but he make play using just his physical ability.
Bottom line is; this player is a game changer. Remember when I wrote in my first draft related article back in January; that Gene Smith must hit a big home run because of several reasons? If Berry is there; Gene could do that. This guy is without a question a Top 5; maybe Top 3 talent in this draft. The reason he might slide to the 10th pick has nothing to do with him; but with his position. Drafting a safety at the Top 10? That is a rare thing to happen. I’m not going to lie; if he is there at 10; I rather choose him instead of a very tempting trade offer. If Berry is still available; another team who want to select him via trading down must pay the King’s Ransom. I talking about a 2nd pick this year and the 1st next year. I’m serious his guy is that good. With him the Jaguars once again would selecting a player who has both the value and plays in a position the Jaguars have need. So on the 1st round; root for this kid to fall a bit. Because if that happens; if Gene draft average and mediocre players with the other picks (I’m sure he won’t do) this draft will be STILL a success story! That is what you want from a Top 10; 1st round pick. A “game changer”; who bring major upgrade and talent to your team. Eric Berry offers you that potential. And if the Jaguars are lucky once again; they will be not so far away to archive very great things; very soon with him on board!