Former Clemson safety Marcus Gilchrist is a prospect whose stock seemed to be high at the end of his 2010 season but has dipped by a small margin in the past couple of months. A player with good strength and coverage skills, Gilchrist switched to cornerback for the 2010 season at Clemson after playing at strong safety in 2009. While he only has one interception over his four year career as a Tiger, he does have good instincts when the ball is in the air and rarely gets beat over the top. He had his best season as a tackler in 2009 when he was at safety, recording 96 total. After his switch to corner, he put up 59 total tackles and recorded that lone interception. Here is a full scouting report on Gilchrist including his strengths and weaknesses as a safety.
Gilchrist is one of the best tacklers when it comes to breaking down all of the safety prospects in the 2011 draft. He shows good form, breaking down and wrapping up the ball carrier in run support. This is especially a strength of his against bigger ball carriers. Gilchrist has a good frame but only weights 195 lbs. In the NFL, good form will be crucial for him as he will be taking on some bigger backs in run support.
Reading the Quarterback
One aspect of Gilchrist’s game that I noticed on film is his ability to read where the quarterback is going with the ball. He does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and making quick breaks on the ball when it leaves his hand. One of the main reasons NFL teams view him as a safety in my opinion is his football instincts. He is a not a player that is timid or thinks too much on the field. He reads where the ball is going in the passing game and doesn’t hesitate to make his move.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, Gilchrist is not a prospect with just safety experience in his college career. He played the 2010 season at cornerback and likely improved his skills in man coverage. Along with his time at both strong safety and cornerback, he also returned kicks for Clemson in 2010 after the departure of running back C.J. Spiller to the NFL. Over his 2010 season, he averaged 23.3 yards per kick return. So whichever team adds Gilchrist to the roster is getting a player who can play more than one position.
While Gilchrist certainly has a strength in reading the quarterback as I mentioned earlier, he struggles a bit in recognizing run or pass at the snap. This is especially crucial when he can’t recognize the run quicker than he should. He is slow to get up to the line of scrimmage in run support and often times waits for the running back to meet him when trying to make the play. Good safeties are able to recognize the run and help with tackling the ball carrier within three to four yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Gilchrist is not a fluid or quick enough when backpedaling in his safety position and this can cause him to be late at times to his responsibility playing the deep halves. While he does a good job of looking into the backfield and at the receivers when is in his backpedal, he simply needs to do it quicker so he doesn’t get beat over the top. Receivers are faster in the NFL and Gilchrist could learn the hard way that slow backpedal speed can cost his defense big.
Another area of improvement for Gilchrist is his block shedding in run support. Offensive players usually have an easy time getting inside his pads and getting leverage on him to steer him where they want. Much of this could be due to his size at 5’10”, 195 lbs. Because of that, he must learn how to utilize his hands better in the NFL to get off of blocks and make the play on the ball carrier.
Projected Round: Late 3rd
NFL Comparison: Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans