The beauty of football is how it evolves from year to year, with new schemes and trends always emerging. No position reflects this better than safety.
Most programs used to recruit big physical safeties that would intimidate receivers over the middle and be especially effective in the run game. These guys were almost like having another linebacker on the field.
However, with the ever-increasing use of multiple-receiver sets in today's college game, this type of defensive safety became a liability in passing situations. As a result, the qualities of a defensive safety have come full circle, and now programs are looking for more athletic, "range"-type players.
They still must be able to hit and come up against the run, but their ability to break down and tackle in the open field is very important. Many guys can create a collision that looks good, but if they can't break down and make a key tackle in the open field, they will hurt a defense.
These players must have range and at least have enough cover ability to match up on the slot receiver if the nickel package isn't on the field or be able to cover a back out of the backfield -- not an easy task.
The strong safety must be a run stopper with the ability to at least cover the tight end while the free safety is more of a range-, centerfield-type guy with good instincts. They also make the secondary calls and put everybody in position.
Defensive Back Grading System
Scouts Inc. will evaluate the cornerbacks on the following criteria:
1. Man-to-man coverage: How flexible are their hips and smooth are their turns? Do they have a good backpedal? How fast can they accelerate?
2. Zone coverage: Do they show good range? Do they cover a lot of ground? How are they in the deep half? How is their overall awareness and instinct?
3. Closing quickness: Do they plant and drive well? Do they close and get to the ball in the air?
4. Key and diagnose: How well do they read the QB? Do they anticipate well? Do they seem to be in the right spot?
5. Lateral pursuit: Can they get over trash? How is the movement in their hips? Can they chase sideline to sideline?
6. Tackling: Do they wrap up well? Do they tackle low or high? Are they able to drag down? Do they tackle with power and are they punishing?
7. Pass drop: How flexible are their hips and how smooth are their turns? Do they get adequate depth? Do they show awareness in zone coverage?
8. Pass coverage/hands: Can they cover man to man? Can they match up in the red zone? Do they have good ball skills?