Developing talent is an underrated part of college coaching. I don't want to make the mistake of saying that acquiring talent is easy, but in a way, that is the easier part of the equation. It is the development of the acquired talent that's most important; especially at the small-college level.
I've said this before, but some of the best coaching jobs are happening at the lower divisions of college football. Take Bethel (TN) University's associate head coach/defensive coordinator Chris Springer for example. Entering his fifth season in that role, he's put together a fantastic defense this season. Bethel is amongst the leaders in NAIA in takeaways, sacks and points per game.
Pride in one's craft is a great thing, which is what Coach Springer has, as he was once a star defensive back for the Wildcats during his playing days. But one of the major reasons why his defense is what it has become is due to 1) the level of talent that is on his defense, and 2) the job that he's done in not only getting these guys ready to play, but also developing some of them into bonafide pro prospects.
There are two guys in particular who you should start to get familiar with, as they will become names of interest once the postseason all-star game circuit starts to kick into high gear.
(For last week's Hunt Report,.)
- Year: Senior
- College: Bethel (TN) University
- Height: 6-7
- Weight: 290
Middleton might be the best defensive line prospect in all of NAIA. He has the great combination of length, athleticism and explosiveness. You want to see guys with his attributes dominate his level of competition, and he does just that. I'm a big fan of his technique, showing the ability to strike first with his hands, read a play out well, disengage and then accelerate to make the play. In fact, he's so athletic that Bethel has used him in goal line/low red zone situations as a fade, 50/50 guy. Expect to see him surface in a postseason all-star game for sure. Next game: Nov. 5 vs. Faulkner
- Year: Junior
- College: Bethel (TN) University
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 190
Ball instincts and ball skills are two different things, and Christmon has both. With ball instincts, you're talking about understanding where the ball is going, reading through progressions and being able to anticipate next. This is an area where Christmon shows strength in zone coverage. Ball skills are talking about how a person plays and attacks the ball, and this is where he also thrives when the ball is in the air or heading his way. Also with his length and athleticism, he's a strong press corner who is able to both press with his hands and with his feet. Next game: Nov. 5 vs. Faulkner
DL Ian Marshall
- Year: Graduate student
- College: Northern State
- Height: 6-1
- Weight: 270
Marshall plays with great leverage on the interior. He's got the type of core strength that makes him difficult to move off the spot. You normally see this type of stuff from 300-pound-plus defensive linemen, but he accomplishes that in a 265-270-pound frame. What's interesting is how he's able to use both his core strength and leverage in conjunction with his hands to get off blocks. He's a former Oklahoma State transfer, and in his only season here at Northern State, he's already filled up the stat sheet. He's currently tied for second place in all of Division II with 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Marshall also has four QB hurries on his resume as well. Next game: Nov. 5 vs. Bemidji State
- Year: Redshirt senior
- College: Utah Tech
- Height: 6-0
- Weight: 200
Nash has a good, versatile skillset. Utah Tech trusts him in coverage over receivers, back deep as a single high safety at times, and definitely in the alley as a run defender. I like him as a combo safety, who has upside potential as a blitzer. He does a strong job in exploding into the ball carrier or receiver and is an excellent open field tackler. Nash fits today's game, especially as a nickel defender. In his career he's got 13.5 tackles for loss, 18 pass breakups and 5.5 sacks. Watching him be able to plant, accelerate and drive through the target is exactly what you want to see from a secondary defender. Next game: Nov. 5 vs. Southern Utah
CB Rey Estes
- Year: Senior
- College: Grambling State
- Height: 5-11
- Weight: 175
Estes has that dog in him that you just absolutely love to see in a football player. He's got some length despite being about 5-11, and it shows up in coverage when the ball travels his way. He's able to stay very active at the catch point and gets himself in position to make a play on the ball or take it away. What really jumps out at you on film is his enthusiasm in run support. When the ball carrier is coming his way, he aggressively gets off of the wide receiver's block to run up and make the tackle. In coverage he's twitchy with top-tier acceleration. You can trust him on the inside or outside at the professional level, in any defensive scheme. Next game: Nov. 5 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff