Finally, an S. Thompson has committed to play safety for the Bears.
At a position that has been less than stable over the last couple year, the Bears scored a local recruit to come play safety in Shurod Thompson. Thompson is considered to be a top-10 safety nationally, and is tops in the Bay Area with a 1st team all-Bay Area selection. Our 2014 secondary was held together by glue, duct tape, and the odd piece of gum, as at least three converted wide receivers (Piatt, Worstell, and McGovern) got significant playing time, with walk-on David Gardner getting his fair share of field time as well. Depth is starting to return, with 7 defensive backs coming in with the 2015 cycle, and Thompson's signing solidifies it.
From watching this, Thompson could be slotted in at either safety spot, or potentially play in a nickel role. His high school team liked to utilize a lot of OLB blitzes, leading to a lot of Cover 0, forcing Thompson to play in a coverage role, which he is quite good at. He's listed at 6'2" and 205 lbs, which is a frame that could add an extra 20 pounds of muscle. Considering the work Coach Harrington has done with the guys in the weight room, that's eminently possible within two years.
Some notes on the tape:
- What jumps out initially is Thompson's closing speed. His 40 is listed at 4.71, but functionally, he operates a lot quicker than that. The first play of the film is him reading the line, seeing the cut blocks, knowing that a quick throw is coming, reading the eyes of the quarterback, and jumping a route for a pick six. His reaction time at 1:08, 1:23, and 1:56 is top notch. He reads the line extremely well while still making his drop
- Thompson shows at :57, 1:15, and 1:44 that has some great potential as a future strong safety. He reacts after reading the offensive line, plays off his blocker (with a solid rip move on the first one), and is able to make a hit on the runner. On the first two occasions, he shows some shades of Charles Tillman, in stripping the ball away from the ballcarrier. That kind of strength is impressive from the safety spot.
- Thompson got a lot of run in the slot corner spot due to the defense's propensity to blitz early and often. He plays from that spot at 1:23, 1:34, and 2:03. The first and last of those stand out due to Thompson's ability to read and close on the ballcarrier. The first play is a bubble screen, which he immediately reads and lights up the intended receiver. The last is getting off a block on the goal line and closing in quick to make a key TFL.
- Thompson is a solid tackler from the safety spot, and by adding a few more pounds, he will become even more so at the next level. During the play starting at 2:10, the RB makes it to the second level, where Thompson makes a nice form tackle and keeps his feet moving to stop any of the RB's momentum. He does this during the play starting at 1:56 as well, stopping a pretty big ballcarrier right at the goal line
- The last minute and a half of the tape shows Thompson playing wide receiver. His explosiveness is more apparent in these five plays. The couple of go routes that he runs (and the dreaded fade route) get him right past his defender. He's very fluid on his post-corner route that goes for a TD.
- The only negative I saw in the tape (and it's a highlight tape so there won't be many) is during the play starting at :43. He breaks the cardinal rule of playing safety (never ever let anyone get behind you, the Rahim Moore rule), but manages to recover with some great acceleration to make the pick. He will have to learn to gamble a bit less on plays like this.
- It's very difficult projecting where he could play in a couple of years, considering how in flux the safety positions are. My best guess is that he would either redshirt initially, or get used well on special teams, while making some appearances at the nickel corner spot. He has all the tools to be an excellent strong safety in my opinion, but he could plug in at either of the safety spots.
Thompson will be someone that requires seasoning early to adjust to guys that are as fast as him, but his closing speed is something instinctual that will help him keep up. He's in the right place at the right time, a lot like Eric Kendricks or Mike Mohamed. And if he makes an interception like Mike Mohamed did, then he will make a lot of Cal fans happy.