We are starting a series of articles that take a look at each of the positions on the football field. We will analyze each of the skills and characteristics college coaches are looking at when recruiting for each position. Hopefully this will provide you with areas for improvement and areas for refining your fundamentals as you pursue your dream to be a student-athlete at the next level.
Today we are going to focus on the defensive back. The DB is one of the tougher positions for college coaches to evaluate and recruit. There are two good reasons for this – First, because of the position they play, DB’s are not often lined up in the frame of highlights. It is not unusual for a DB to be out of the frame until the last few seconds of a play. Second, if a DB is really good the opposing team will often not challenge him. Both of these factors make it hard for a top DB to put together solid film, which in turn makes it difficult for a coach to get a good evaluation. For this reason, the defensive back is a position that often requires an in person evaluation. This can take place at your school during the evaluation period, at one of your games, or at a camp.
One benefit to playing DB is that there really isn’t a prototypical size that all coaches are looking for. Of course most coaches would love a tall, rangy and physical DB that can cover the bigger receivers, but that is usually a luxury. Coaches are more likely to look at how you fit into their scheme than whether or not you are 6’1’’, 190 lbs.
So, what are coaches and scouts looking for?
1.SPEED & ATHLETICISM
Coaches are looking for DB’s that have the speed to cover receivers at their level. They want a player who can get in and out of cuts quickly, close fast and run with or even outrun the receivers they cover.
They are looking for defensive backs with great transition skills. Does the player round their breaks, stand up in transitions or waste steps? Does he have change of direction quickness?
Does the DB have an explosive 1st step or does he take too long to get moving. Is he explosive enough to pick off cuts quickly?
Coaches are looking for players with fluidity and/or flexibility. This is generally referring to the defensive back’s hips. Can the DB back pedal and flip to either run down field with a receiver or to break on a route?
DB’s need to have ball skills. Is the player making plays to knock down passes or make interceptions?
There are no longer any true cover corners. The days of a corner only being responsible for covering the wide receiver are over. Coaches now expect the DB to play a big part in run support. It’s simple, coaches are looking for defensive backs who can shed blocks and make tackles. Does the player tackle chest up or is he ankle tackling or arm tackling? Does he make tackles in open space? Will he really put his face in there and hit the ball carrier? A tough and physical DB will quickly gain a recruiting advantage.
Coaches feel that if they are going to recruit a DB than he should be one of the best or the best player on the field. And if that is the case he should be playing more than one position. Is he playing running back, option QB, wide receiver, kick or punt returner, or on special teams coverage units? Playing these other positions goes a long way in helping coaches evaluate a DB. They get a better feel for their ball skills, speed, explosiveness, quickness, and toughness. DB’s need to be great athletes and if they are not playing other positions it can raise questions for coaches.
This applies to football IQ and academics. Coaches want smart players. Does he play smart? Can the player recognize when adjustments need to be made to coverage, does understand offensive formations and can he make coverage checks before the snap?
Coaches want students who work hard. A student athlete who puts the effort into maintaining good grades is more likely to put in the effort, on and off the field, at the next level. This gives him a greater chance of success and makes him more recruitable.
Evaluating and recruiting defensive backs can be difficult for coaches particularly because it can be tough to get the necessary amount of film needed to fully assess a prospects skills. So, if you hope to play DB at the next level, do not be offended if a coach tells you that they need to do an in person evaluation before extending a scholarship offer. These in person evaluations can take place at your school, during one of your games or at a camp. It wouldn’t be unusual for all three to have to take place before you get an offer. Bottom line though, when it comes to defensive backs, coaches are looking for top athletes with speed, toughness, versatility and intelligence.
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