Film Study: Ole Miss' Cody Prewitt is the premier safety in the country
For fans of defensive football, like your’s truly, the University of Mississippi defense provides everything one might seek: multiple alignments, manufactured pressure, organic interior pressure and solid corner play.
But being a former safety — albeit at the semi-professional level — I feel as though I have a keen inkling as to who is transcendent at the position.
Ole Miss senior safety Cody Prewitt fits that description…and then some.
This week’s tilt against the Alabama Crimson Tide means that the two very best safeties in the country — when you take into account fellow future first-round pick Landon Collins — will be on display for scouts, pundits and fans alike.
While Collins has received a bit more national attention, due to being on a higher-profile team, it’s Prewitt that can find his name mentioned among possible future top-10 draft selections.
While it’s rare to see a safety drafted that high, if anyone deserves the accolades, it’s Prewitt; this kid is special.
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In recent years, the only safeties to be drafted inside of the top 10 goes as such: Laron Landry (Louisiana State University, 2007), Michael Huff (University of Texas, 2006), Donte Whitner (Ohio State University, 2006) and Sean Taylor (University of Miami, 2004).
While Landry, Huff and Whitner have certainly had their moments, none were the transcendent player you would expect out of top-10 NFL selection.
Taylor — on the other hand — not only lived up to expectations, in many ways he exceeded them.
The 6’2″, 220-pound athletic freak was scheme diverse as he could play free or strong safety in zone- or man-based outfits. Though his career only lasted four seasons, as he was tragically killed in a home invasion, he proved that he was equally effective as an in-the-box safety or as a single-high safety in a Cover-1 zone.
He had range like a young Ken Griffey Jr., as exemplified by his 12 career interceptions, and he may have been the hardest hitter in the history of the sport — along with Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Lott (Oakland Raiders).
The ferocity with which he played may have only been superseded by his intimidating size.
He was simply put, the most complete player at the safety position of this generation. And while it may be a bit blasphemous to say (in a football sense, of course), I wholeheartedly believe Prewitt has the chance to match Taylor.
And if he doesn’t match him, he will come awfully close. Which is saying a ton.
When most people think of range, they equate it with how fast a player is. While there may be some truth in that, instincts play a very big role in a player’s ability to track down an aerial play.
Case in point: The most rangy safety in the NFL is the ball-hawking Jairus Byrd of the New Orleans Saints. Byrd was essentially switched from his natural cornerback position, which he exclusively played for the University of Oregon, due to his poor 40-yard dash time (a reported 4.68).
While his timed speed may not be adequate for “elite” defensive backs, his instincts is off the charts and allows him to play significantly faster than his timed speed.
Taylor, with his 4.53 speed, possessed instincts that were equally off the charts — although he was a bit faster.
Prewitt reportedly runs in the 4.5 range; but when you know offenses inside/out, and you have unparalleled instincts, 40 times need not apply.
Here we see a perfect example of Prewitt’s range. Playing a Cover-1 safety, albeit a very shallow positioned one, Prewitt gets at depth quick, fast and in a hurry.
He transitions out of his pedal phase by flipping his hips — similar to a cover corner. He’s able to navigate the back end while staying focused on the action.
He then sticks his foot in the ground and breaks up the deep pass intended for the primary receiver; this play had Taylor written all over it.
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has installed a defensive-back centric scheme (4-2-5-based outfit), and it’s telling that Prewitt is the most talented defender on possibly the most talented defense in the Southeastern Conference.
NFL brass will salivate at just the thought of Prewitt roaming their defensive backfields.
The first thing that hops off the film in regard to Prewitt is his unbelieveable size. At 6’2″, 215 pounds, he’s built very similar to Taylor.
His height is an added plus as he can be used at the strong safety position — which normally matches him up with taller, athletic tight ends — played closer to the line of scrimmage.
I’ve seen receivers quiver at the thought of Taylor separating their souls from their cracasses with one of his bone-jarring hits — yes, Terrell Owens, I’m referring to you.
Prewitt has that same kind of effect.
Here’s Prewitt doing a little soul separating himself. For some unbeknownst reason, the quarterback decided to throw a quick slant right in the direction of college football’s most ferocious hitter.
The results were damning as they pretty much toe-tagged the receiver on the spot.
Here’s one that undoubtedly sends chills down the spines of the Bama faithful; Prewitt turned Bama receiver Christion Jones into compost on this crossing pattern.
When your rangiest player is also the hardest hitter on your squad, you know you’re working with someone special. Prewitt’s size lends itself to him possibly playing strong-side linebacker in a 4-3-based scheme, but that should only take place in sub packages.
He’s much too valuable to not be put in space; he’s a quality vocal leader who demands the respect of his teammates.
His versatility, size, physicality, athleticism and polished technique makes him, perhaps, the premier safety in the entire country — along with Collins.
It will be a treat to see both on the same college field for, possibly, the last time. But we will see both starring in the NFL sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Get’cha popcorn ready.