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A closer look at Malik Psalms

Two in a week, huh? Must be that 2015 'cruitin cycle pickin up.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A mere 24 hours after Austin Aaron verballed for Cal, Malik Psalms made sure to keep the good weekend momentum rolling with a sweet commitment song of his own, becoming the first defensive back -- and first defender in general -- to sign on for 2015.

Welcome, Malik, and Go Bears!

But before we start, I got a comment last time thinking that I was a bit overcritical about Austin Aaron, so I just wanted to clarify again that these scouting reports are only intended for the CGB community to get an idea of who the player is and what we're getting. A lot of times, commitments sign on and nobody really has much to say about them beyond congratulations, so the writeups try to at least provide at least a partial assessment in the way of strengths and weaknesses. Emphasis on try.

Regardless of what is actually written, please don't think that I am ever unhappy about any new commit! Anyone who signs on to play for us, I'm always proud to have. That will never change.


The rankings

Rivals: not rated

247sports: 3 stars [85]

ESPN: not rated

Scout: not rated

Three not rateds aren't exactly useful for any sort of real insight here, unfortunately.

Not to worry, though -- I've spoken to Jahvid Knows Best about revisiting recruits like Psalms later in the fall, once some senior game film is in and the scouting services have gotten around to evaluating most prospects. Check back.

The tape

Let's start by acknowledging that, by the very nature of the position, defensive backs are hard to grade on tape, because a lot of what they do can't be easily identified without All-22 angles available. [For my money, DB and linemen are the most difficult to get a read on for that reason, and are best evaluated in person.]

With Psalms' current dimensions -- and he's listed 6'3, 175 pounds -- I would be absolutely ecstatic if he could remain as a corner in college. Big corners are luxuries to have, which is why anyone above 6'0 and with the prerequisite hip flexibility to turn and run is always in demand.

However, I don't think that hope of mine is going to come true. Clips of him turning and running, or showing off his true foot speed are rare, and although this final clip is certainly interesting as far as his athleticism goes, not a lot of this tape indicates he's going to be fast enough to stick at corner at the next level.

I think he'll make a much better safety, myself, and I'd like to spend this scouting report taking a look at what I believe to be Psalms' strongest asset; his intelligence. The four minutes above show him to be a smart, aware player with good anticipation, as well as a knowledge of how he fits into his team's gameplan, and when/how to react accordingly. Example clips are below:

  • 0:00: Probably my favorite play on this tape, and it's the first one. Based on the way it unfolds, I'm reading this as a basic cover-2 zone, with Psalms being responsible for the left flat. When the ball is snapped, he follows his man -- running a shallow cross/drag; it may even be a poorly run hitch -- inside far enough to ensure he'll be passed off to another defender, then breaks back out to cover receiver #2, running a corner right behind him. This hitch/corner combination -- smash -- is supposed to be extremely effective against the cover-2 Ayala is playing, but Psalms blows it up by recognizing the offense's intent and picking off the corner route, which he is looking at the whole way. Perfectly played; never fooled. [Yes. The QB probably should not have thrown this one.]
  • 0:30: Here, you have a shorter clip of Psalms seamlessly passing off assignments as guys enter or leave his zone. I think the quarterback may have misfired -- and may have even had the other receiver open on the slant, had he waited a bit -- but at least on Psalms' part, he looks to be doing his job, anyway.
  • 1:10: Similar play as the above. He just does the small things that show he understands where he's supposed to be, then reads the field quickly to blast the poor back running a wheel route.
  • 1:39: Lined up in the left third as a cover-3 assignment, Psalms knows the ball isn't coming his way, so he leaves his assignment and disrupts the pass for the other receiver, beating the safety that is stationed the middle of the field there. This is a nice bit of closing speed on his part, since multiple vertical routes are meant to put huge stress on the cover-3 safety.
  • 1:54: Ball is thrown, and Malik is there. Not much more to say about it than that...
This trait is probably the most prominent one of his on display, and is a large part of why I think he may be better served at safety, despite my hopes otherwise. At the back end of the defense, instinct and anticipation are utilized a bit more than athleticism, and he could be a useful piece down the line with such awareness.

Last note: there aren't a lot of shots of him in run defense, but what is available here indicates that he's not shy about making contact, which is just about standard for any defensive player, and isn't a standout skill for him specifically. Doesn't mean he doesn't have physicality, though. Here's Psalms pressing this dude so hard he can't get off for an inside release, and here's him going after a tight end head on at the goalline, if you wanted to see it in action. [Yes, on that first play, the ball ends up a completion, but not exactly all by his fault -- the slot corner can't follow the wheel route well through traffic.] To me, the more apparent strength of his has already been covered above, though.

Welcome again, Malik!