Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just Who Is LSU's Morris Claiborne?

Claiborne vs. Alabama
Just a season ago Patrick Peterson was dominating the secondary in Baton Rouge, and after his All-American campaign bolted for the NFL. Now, 2011 has been the year of Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, but it is the lesser known LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne who has the scouts drooling.

Claiborne was merely listed as a three star athlete (ranked 58th in the country at that position) coming out of Fair Park High School in Shreveport, Louisiana.  After spending some practice time at wide receiver he was moved to defensive side of the ball, and has since flourished.

Every draft analyst has Claiborne ranked inside the top 10, and as the number one draft eligible cornerback. ESPN's Todd McShay currently lists him as the number four overall draft prospect. Through 12 games Claiborne has 43 tackles, 1 for loss, 5 interceptions, and 5 pass breakups. He is also an accomplished return man, handling most of the kick return duties for the Tigers. He is averaging 27.5 per return and has scored one touchdown.

Possessing good size at 6-0 and listed as anywhere from 177 to 185 lbs, he appears to be thicker in the upper body than the numbers would suggest. Claiborne excels as a pure cover man, frequently pressing receivers at the line. He shows exceptional foot quickness and burst, driving on balls and undercutting routes. He has fluid hips and nice flip-and-run ability. Claiborne displays above average ball skills and will attack the ball at its highest point. He has remarkable instincts, jumping routes and often baiting quarterbacks. He has a very good second gear and shows the ability make up ground on receivers and to separate in the return game.

Where Claiborne struggles is in run support. He shows a willingness to stick his nose in on runners, but tends to leave his feet when attempting tackles. He shows poor technique in wrapping up on bigger offensive players and has trouble shedding blocks. On numerous occasions he is dominated by blockers and driven down the field and out of the play.

He reminds me a lot of... (and I know I will be slaughtered for this) Champ Bailey. Champ played at nearly the same size as Claiborne, both have excellent ball skills, and neither excel in run support or are known as hard hitting corners. Obviously Champ played both ways, but Claiborne as well has history on offense and does return kicks. Of course Champ is better.

Claiborne will no doubt be a very early first round pick, but hopefully Saturday will produce few highlights for NFL executives and scouts. I say run Orson at him hard and often to break his spirit and cause him to shy away. Not sure that would work, but its worth a shot.

Highlights of Claiborne versus Miss. State

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