While down in Mobile, Alabama, the Inside the Pylon team have been evaluating some of the best seniors in college football. Two players that had newsworthy play and measurements last week were LSU’s D.J. Chark and Alabama’s Levi Wallace. The two players are somewhat familiar with each other, both playing in the SEC West division and lining up across from the other from time to time. We figured this would be the perfect opportunity to highlight how they fared against one another during the regular season in comparison to how they’ve performed during Senior Bowl practices for the South team.
Chark has looked excellent in practices thus far. He’s been one of the most impressive receivers down at the Senior Bowl. He was quick and sudden breaking into his routes to create separation consistently throughout each day. He also used head fakes and hard plants to sell his routes and manipulate the cornerback. He’s able to get on top of corners with his ability to accelerate deep and win with great positioning.
Meanwhile, Wallace’s performance has been more ‘solid’ than ‘excellent’. Wallace’s coverage in off-man coverage in one-on-ones has been tight, with him maintaining the initial cushion on the receiver and then coming down to make the tackle on comeback and hook routes. In press, he has shown some of the best footwork from the cornerback groups, but he still needs to do a better job of mirroring his opponent and eliminating false steps. Concerns over his 176lb frame have appeared justified, as he struggled in press versus bigger receivers. However, overall, he has maintained a good position and has rarely been truly ‘beat’.
Joseph Ferraiola: It’s 3rd and 4 with slightly less than 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Alabama leads LSU 14-0 on what was a critical drive in that ball game. Alright guys, to kick this off why don’t you break down the pre-snap alignment, Michael.
Michael Nuttle: Pre-snap we have CB Levi Wallace (#39) lined up in press man alignment straight up. From this alignment, you’d expect him to likely implement a jam or at the very least be prepared to mirror the footwork at the line of scrimmage (LOS).
Marcus Johnson: Based on his alignment, Chark is in position to go outside or inside, and probably expects the jam as well.
MN: At the snap, you notice two things with Wallace: there is no attempt at a jam and his footwork at the LOS is an issue. His first movement is a very slight hop with his left foot moving forward slightly and the right foot making a half step forward with a false step. With the inside release by Chark, Wallace tries to move to get back in front of him by bringing his left foot across and crossing up his legs, slowing up his ability to move with the receiver.
MJ: With Wallace not jamming, it allows Chark to get a free release. His inside stem is key the to his route. This helps him setup Wallace perfectly at the top of the stem.
MN: As Wallace gets his feet straightened out, he is simultaneously getting his hips turned, which slows up his transition, allowing Chark to get around him cleanly and begin to pull away.
JF: With Chark separating from Wallace, he sells the vertical route through the stem and uses a head fake in combination with a hard plant to the inside. This results in Wallace tripping up and losing his balance while trailing Chark from behind. (Note you can’t see the head fake and hard plant from the broadcast angle, but that’s how he separates on the play.)
MJ: Chark finished it off showing his good body control and balance to catch the pass on the sideline, plus keeps his feet inbounds on the critical third down play.
JF: Later in this drive LSU later faced another 3rd down situation with eight yards to go. Chark’s aligned on the numbers with Wallace lined up across from him. Wallace is once again lined up in press man alignment with about two yards of cushion prior to the snap. With the space that Wallace gives Chark, this allows the LSU receiver to have plenty of options to freely release into his route.
MN: Chark begins his release with a quick stutter step to try to get Wallace to commit one way or the other, however, Wallace is implementing a flat footed read to protect against a quick slant route. After the initial stutter steps, Chark releases to the outside as Wallace initiates an effective jam that forces Chark’s stem to widen closer to the sidelines.
JF: From Chark’s perspective – he’s attempting to sell the hitch and does a good job by slightly turning his shoulders towards the quarterback before continuing into the go route up the sideline, while still fighting through the tough coverage Wallace is applying. The hand fighting continues for roughly the next 8 yards, but Chark is still able to balance himself along the boundary with good body control. While fighting through the contact he gains about a half step to get on top of the cornerback, which was enough to position himself to locate the ball in the air. As the ball is arriving, Chark uses an arm to extend and elevates to make the catch.
MN: Wallace plays this route pretty well overall, despite the catch still being made by Chark. After the jam, Wallace does a good job of keeping his hand on the receiver and not overreacting and losing his balance by the quick stop on the fake hitch. He then uses his hands to continue to drive the receiver to the sidelines as the route continues. The issue for Wallace, and what allows Chark to make the catch fairly uncontested despite the close coverage, is his inability to recognize the ball in the air with his back to the quarterback. Chark is able to turn, locate the ball, and begin to elevate before Wallace could recognize it. By that time it was too late for him to do anything other than throw in a last ditch effort of throwing his hands up in the air to try to distract Chark, but by that point it was already in the receiver’s hands.