Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Google surveys the recruits: Dee Ford

Because someone needs to do the work of plugging in a given Auburn commitment's name into Google and synthesizing the tidbits of information that trickle out. Previous entries in this series here.

Won't be the last time I say this, but: thank goodness for Antonio Coleman's return. Because otherwise, Auburn would have headed into 2009 without a single serious speed demon off-the-edge pass rush threat (assuming Antoine Carter remains at his 2008 level rather than improving on his 2007 level, which fortunately isn't guaranteed). It just wouldn't seem like Auburn any more without a McClover or Groves or Coleman or someone out there.

But what happens when Coleman moves on? Well, we'll have to wait and see ... but Dee Ford looks like the sort of prospect who might be capable of inheriting the throne.

Basics: The defensive equivalent of the Franklin era's jitterbug wide receiving recruits, Ford is most assuredly on the lean end for a defensive end prospect: 6-3 and only 205 pounds, and Rivals lists him lighter than that. They also project him as an outside linebacker, and it's not too difficult to see a recruit fitting Ford's description as backside pursuit-type specializing as a stand-up pass rusher on 3rd-and-long.

But the general consensus seems to be that Ford will bulk up and stay at end, because there aren't many guys around with his kind of speed at that position: 4.46 in the 40-yard dash according to the gurus, 4.41 according to his Super Seniors profile. Both those times are all kinds of fake, but the point stands: he's very fast.

Ford's from Odenville and St. Clair County High, whose football team has quite the impressive team website.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Rivals just doesn't see much in Ford: three stars, an "eh" 5.6 rating, and the No. 62 position on their outside linebacker rankings, which see the last four-star all the way up at No. 16.

Here's some good news: they're in the minority. Scout gives Ford four stars, calls him the No. 26 DE in the country, and offers this in the way of justification:
An undersized defensive end, or a jumbo outside linebacker, Ford has a tremendous amount of natural athleticism. He is quick off the ball and plays every down full speed. His effort gets him to a lot of backside tackles, and he's a special teams demon as well, blocking two kicks in the game I watched. Adept at swatting down passes and playing the passing lanes as well. Will need to add weight but has talent in excess.
ESPN isn't quite as enthusiastic as Scout, but they do rank Ford the No. 35 DE and give him a low 4-star/high 3-starish rating of 79. Your fair use quote from their evaluation:
This guy can run like the wind and while Ford is tall, rangy and explosive, he is also very light in the pants and is going to have to really hit the weightroom at the next level. The good news is that he has the frame to carry at least 245 and not lose any of his first step quickness off the edge ... He hugs the rail tightly as a pass rusher and wastes very little motion getting to the quarterback ... However, Ford lacks ideal lower body strength, doesn't always stay low to the ground and struggles to anchor when teams run at him.
Ford claimed an offer from Florida St., but the best competing offers the services confirm were from Clemson and Mississippi St. Regardless, Ford isn't exactly a sleeper.

Links of Potential Interest: Not much in the way of video, but you can check out this totally not copyrighted, legally uploaded clip of Ford pwning a camp drill some nice person placed on YouTube:

Man, do I hope someone gets to make an Auburn highlight reel for him someday using that same Jaws sound clip. 'Cause it's just a wee bit over the top for now.

Ford's 2008 stats: 18 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, and 90 tackles overall. The stats, as always, don't mean a ton, but the general consensus does seem to be that Ford had an impressive senior season: the T-Town News's Andrew Bone gave Ford a big bump up his Alabama recruiting ladder. Bone also noted that Ford went from a two-star rating at the time of his commit to his current four-star status (at Scout, at least), so score that one for Tubby's early-detection systems. In fact, Ford got off to a such a hot start in 2008 he sparked a Scout article about how he was "trucking defenses," a pun so apt one "Car Manufactuing News" forum-bot got all confused by it and tried to pass it along. Poor forum-bot. Like Patton Oswalt's Tivo (link awesome, but NSFW), he just wants to please.

One other thing you have to appreciate about Ford: he does seem pretty fired up about Auburn ...
"I'm so excited," said Ford. "I'm cheesing right now I'm so excited. I just love it there. I haven't even gotten a chance to meet any of the players, see everything, but I absolutely love it anyways ...

"I just love it at Auburn. I loved all of the facilities, the campus. I got to see the new dorms, where they have the Tiger Walk, a lot of things, and I liked it all. There wasn't anything or anybody that I didn't like at Auburn."
You've got that, and you've also got the fact that Ford played the part of recruiter on Auburn's behalf last weekend. So yeah, I don't think he's much of a flight risk.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: The consensus seems to be--and I don't have any reason to disagree with it--that Ford may always be a little too slight to ever hold up as an every-down run stuffer at end. Fine--the consensus also seems to be that if you bulk him up just a little bit, you've got a guy who should be able to consistently pressure the quarterback and pursue from the backside with success, regardless of whether he ends up at DE or OLB.

As yours truly is a firm believer that there's nothing more beneficial to a defense than a consistent pass rush from the front four, nabbing a guy who's already on the rise and has this much potential to put heat on opposing QBs--one of Auburn's biggest defensive problems the past two years, the presence of Groves and Coleman notwithstanding--is a big, big pickup for Auburn. Give him a year to grow, and the hunch is that we see him in Carter's pass-rush specialist role as soon as 2010.


Acid Reign said...

.....I'm desperately hoping that Chizik and Roof will step our gap control back up to 2003-2004 levels. That means that our current linebackers need a LOT of coaching, this spring. They are the key.

.....When the linebackers and safeties start meeting runners in the hole, instead of doing the deer-in-the-headlights thing ten yards downfield, you'll see the defensive ends' production soar. Chizik will split 'em out wide, and they'll be tearing into the backfield at warp speed, again.

.....As it has stood for the past several years, the ends had to man BOTH guard/tackle gaps. When an end deviated with wide outside position, you had plays like Mississippi State's infamous draw plays late in the 2007 game...

.....The bad news is that it took some time, on Chizik's last go-round at Auburn. We looked pretty confused on defense, for half a season. 80-yard Fred Talley touchdown-confused!

Sullivan013 said...

But did we have Tracy Rocker then? In my mind, that is the key to the gap control problem.