Film Study video: Ole Miss safety Trae Elston brings pain, big plays
I spent part of the spring and summer trumpeting — on numerous radio appearances — why Mississippi’s secondary wouldn’t miss a beat despite the departures of notable standouts like free safety Cody Prewitt and cornerback Senquez Golson.
I wasn’t downplaying how great both players were — Prewitt was perennially one of the most most productive players in the country, and Golson enjoyed a breakout senior season in which he compiled an astounding 10 interceptions. I was merely showing confidence in just how great the players were surrounding them — most of whom were returning.
We know the more disruptive your front is, the difficulty of back-end play tends to lessen up. The majority of the college football landscape is well-aware the freakish 3-technique Robert Nkemdiche’s exploits, but I made sure to throw shine on the rest of the line as Marquis Hayes, Woody Hamilton, Fadol Brown and Channing Ward are capable of taking over a game by living in the quarterback’s lap or plugging gaps.
Second-level players like Denzel Nkemdiche and the ultra-versatile Tony Conner only further highlight the recruiting job coach Hugh Freeze has done the past few seasons.
But moreover, it was the potential of Trae Elston that intrigued me most.
At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, I believed that the senior could step in for Prewitt and oscillate between a Cover-1 role and in-the-box deployment, or he could have simply stayed at his “Rover” position — which is a role that’s near and dear to my heart — and roamed all over inflicting pain in the process.
This kid is that versatile.
Being as the Rebels deploy a bit of an interchangeable-safety scheme, their safeties may find themselves covering everyone from Ys, to Z- and X-receivers. This means a safety has to be adept at area and man principles, and he must be able to deliver the boom.
That may be the exact scouting report on Elston: He’s the hardest-hitting secondary player in the Southeastern Conference, and his area coverage is about as legit as it gets.
Here we see Elston in man coverage, due to a Nickel Fire, and he plays it to perfection. Due to the spacing, both DBs had to stay with their respective assignments, where a tight alignment would have forced a handoff on the switch by the receivers. Elston was able to shield the receiver with the look-and-feel technique before showing off his athleticism in high-pointing the ball on his way to yet another pick.
Here we see Elston in a Cover-2 shell showing off his ability to read-and-react to the QB’s eyes. But that’s only half the fun. Once Elston gets his mitts on the ball, he has an uncanny ability to generate six. Somewhere in his background has to be time spent as a receiver or running back.
When you factor in his ability to make plays and manufacture points, and combine it with other talented players in the secondary like Mike Hilton, Tony Bridges and Kendarius Webster, you know why I’m so bullish about Ole Miss’ defense being in a 1A-1B situation with Alabama for the title of “college football’s top defense.”
But when you have players in your secondary that fly around that physical, you tend to strike fear in the heart of receiving targets.
That Landshark mantra is in full effect in Oxford.