Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III Dooms Kentucky

Scouts look for many things in a potential NFL prospect, but aboveall they are looking for playmakers like Florida‘s Vernon Hargreaves III. Shawn Spencer looks at the cornerback’s performance against Kentucky.

The Florida Gators had defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 28 consecutive times prior to last weekend’s matchup in Lexington and extended the streak to 29 games with a 14-9 victory. While the score was close throughout, it was a first-quarter interception by Florida’s star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III that doomed Kentucky.

After sitting out the Gators’ previous game against East Carolina, Hargreaves returned to the field against the Wildcats. It didn’t take long for the projected first-round pick to make an impact.

On Kentucky’s first drive of the game, QB Patrick Towles and the Wildcats faced a 3rd and 10 from the Florida 41-yard line. It was Kentucky’s second pass play of the game and they lined up in a five receiver set with trips to the right. The Gators countered with a zone defense comprised of a four-man front, six defensive backs and outside linebacker Jarrad Davis, who drops into coverage after the snap.

Let’s focus on the three receivers to the right. The inside receiver runs a 12-yard dig, but is taken out of the play as the Gators bracket him with Davis underneath and a safety over the top.Hargreaves-Markup-1-Spencer

That leaves the outside receivers, Ryan Timmons and Dorian Baker, two-on-two against defensive backs Brian Poole and Hargreaves. Timmons, lined up in the middle of the trips formation, runs right at Poole (# 24) before working his way toward the sideline. From the outside, Baker initially appears to be headed for the middle of the field, however, he stops and turns for the ball at the right hash:Hargreaves-Markup-2-Spencer

After looking to his left, Towles turns to the field side and throws a pass intended for Baker just inside the 35-yard line. While Kentucky would have been short of the first down had Baker caught the ball, it would have given kicker Austin MacGinnis a chance to give the Wildcats an early 3-0 lead. However, that was not the case as Towles put a little too much air under the ball and it wound up in the hands of Hargreaves after a deflection:hargreaves2

This play didn’t just doom Kentucky; it was also a perfect example as to why Hargreaves is an elite NFL Draft prospect. He lines up as the outside field corner and begins to backpedal at the snap. With Florida employing a Cover 4 defense on this play, Hargreaves correctly plays deeper than the deepest receiver in his zone. In this case that is Timmons.

As the play develops, his mental processing is on full display as he reads the QB and immediately recognizes where the ball is going. As a result of his very good angular body position during his backpedal, he is able to quickly plant-and-drive toward the ball. After breaking for the ball, he shows off his acceleration and straight-line speed to cut off his receiver and intercept the pass. You can see in the clip below exactly how quickly Hargreaves had to mentally process the play:hargreaves1

Not only did Hargreaves have to process everything that was happening, he also had to make the catch. Looking like a wide receiver, he adjusted nicely to the ball below his waist without breaking stride.

In one play he displayed a very good combination of athletic ability, play speed, competitive toughness, mental processing, ball skills, and range. That’s six different traits … and the ball wasn’t even thrown to the receiver he was covering. This is why Vernon Hargreaves III is a future first-round pick and potential All-Pro cornerback in the NFL.

Follow Shawn on Twitter @Spencer_NFL

Shawn Spencer writes about college football and the most intriguing NFL Draft prospects, like Corey Davis, Wayne Lyons, as well as great matchups outside.

All video and images courtesy the SEC Network.

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