Bill's Combine Research: Defensive Backs II

Thomas (Tony Babbitt - USA Today Sports)

We continue one of our most popular series from last year with Part 2 of the 60-player group of defensive backs. This group includes three consensus All-Americans: Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, Fresno State's Phillip Thomas and LSU's Eric Reid.

A total of 333 players will be at the Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 20 in Indianapolis. We're sharing our homework as we get ready for the big week. In Part 2, here are 30 of the 60 defensive backs.

Note: All heights and weights are from the school, unless noted.

S Zeke Motta, Notre Dame: Motta (6-2, 215) played in all 50 games of his college career. He started eight games apiece in 2010 and 2011 before starting every game as a senior. He was the glue to a secondary that lost two veterans to torn Achilles. Motta closed his career with 16 tackles in the BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama. Motta can tackle: He spent his freshman season alternating between outside linebacker and safety before moving to safety in fall 2010.

CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State: Poyer (6-0, 182) was Oregon State's first consensus All-American since center John Didion in 1968 after intercepting seven passes. For his career, he intercepted 13 passes, averaged 25.9 yards on kickoff returns and 10.2 yards on punt returns. At Astoria (Ore.) High, he was the Class 4A quarterback and defensive back of the year. As a senior, he threw for 2,362 yards, rushed for 1,772 yards and accounted for 62 touchdowns. He earned 11 athletic letters and was a three-time all-state baseball player. Still, Idaho was his only Division I scholarship offer until Oregon State swooped in late.

S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia: Rambo (6-1, 215) was second-team all-SEC as a senior, despite missing the first four games of the season after his second violation of the school's drug policy. His three interceptions gave him 16 for his career to tie the school record set by Super Bowl VII MVP Jake Scott. He was a first-team All-American as a junior with a team-leading eight interceptions — good for second in the nation.

S Eric Reid, LSU: Early entrant. Reid (6-2, 212) was a consensus All-American, the fourth LSU defensive back in the last three seasons to earn that honor. He tallied 91 tackles and intercepted two passes, and finished his career with six interceptions. He's on his pace to earn his degree in business administration in 3.5 years. Reid's athletic ability comes from his dad, the NCAA champion in the 110 high hurdles as a senior at LSU in 1987. Going anywhere but LSU was never an option; there's a picture of a 7-year-old Reid wearing an LSU football uniform and plastic helmet.

CB Greg Reid, Florida State: Reid (5-8, 188) was kicked off the team before fall camp. He was arrested for driving with a suspended license. When the car was impounded, marijuana was found. He landed at Valdosa State but tore his ACL returning a punt at preseason camp. He entered his senior season 313 yards short of Deion Sanders' career record for punt return yardage (1,429). He had seven career interceptions.

Xavier Rhodes, Florida State: Early entrant. Rhodes started all three seasons, tallying three interceptions in 2012 and eight for his career. A top wide receiver at Miami Norland High School, Rhodes figured he'd play that position at receiver. The Seminoles needed a corner and Rhodes made the move, even though he played one game at corner in his prep career. Two things helped the transition: One, he injured his hand as a true freshman and took a medical redshirt. Second, then-position coach Terrell Buckley changed Rhodes' mind-set.

CB Nickell Robey, USC: Early entrant. Robey (5-8, 165) was second-team all-Pac-12. A three-year starter, he intercepted one pass a senior to run his career total to seven. His mother, Maxine, died from heart failure in 2010. He tried to revive her after finding her on the bedroom floor. He writes "Mom" on the athletic tape on his right wrist; when he makes a big play, he taps the word twice. Robey competed in track at USC and was an all-state second baseball at Frostproof (Fla.) High School. He played for Frostproof's varsity team when in eighth grade.

CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers: Early entrant. He had four interceptions and 17 pass breakups in 2012, when he was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive back. A two-year quarterback at Eastern High in Berlin, N.J., Ryan tallied 35 total touchdowns. He played practically every sport growing up, with his dad — a sixth-degree black belt — hoping playing center field would help him track the ball and playing golf would improve his focus.

CB Tharold Simon, LSU: Early entrant. Simon (6-3, 193) replaced Morris Claiborne in 2012 and netted four of his seven career interceptions. With Claiborne and Patrick Peterson being top-six picks in the last two drafts and Tyrann Matthieu getting kicked off the team, he was the only cornerback on the team who had taken even a single snap in college. As a backup in 2011, he led the team with 10 pass breakups. Upset he didn't turn more of those into interceptions, he spent parts of fall camp at receiver to work on his hands.

S Jamoris Slaughter, Notre Dame: Slaughter played cornerback, safety and outside linebacker during his time with the Fighting Irish. In 2011, he had 45 tackles, four tackles for losses and an interception. In 2012, the graduate student tore his Achilles in the third game of the season and was denied a sixth season of eligibility. Coming out of high school in Stone Mountain, Ga., Slaughter wanted to play for an SEC school. His mom suggested Notre Dame because of its academics.

CB Darius Slay, Mississippi State: Slay (6-1, 190) spent two years at a junior college and was a reserve for the Bulldogs in 2011 before earning second-team all-SEC honors as a senior with five interceptions. As a senior at Brunswick (Ga.) High, Slay rushed for 1,300 yards and intercepted six passes. Slay's cousin, Dwayne Slay, played safety for Texas Tech and was signed by the Bears.

S Daimion Stafford, Nebraska: Stafford (6-1, 205) was first-team all-Big Ten as a senior, with all four of his interceptions coming in league action. In two seasons, he piled up 176 tackles — fourth-most in school history among two-year players. Stafford is an emotional player. He was caught cursing coach Bo Pelini against Penn State, one week after he flipped off a Michigan State player. Stafford played at Norco (Calif.) High, which is coached by Todd Gerhart, the father of Packers lineman Garth Gerhart and Vikings running back Toby Gerhart.

S Jawanza Starling,USC: Starling (6-1, 200) was a three-year starter at strong safety. He picked off three passes as a senior after just one in his first three seasons. In 2011, he returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown against Notre Dame. In the 2009-10 season, he became the first Trojans football player to play baseball since 2005. He hit .300 in nine games.

CB Daxton Swanson, Sam Houston State: Swanson (5-11, 185) owns Bearkats records for single-season interceptions (eight in 2011) and career interceptions (14). He nabbed four picks as a senior, including one against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Swanson can get the ball. At LaVega High in Waco, Texas, he led the state with 13 interceptions.

S D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina: The hard-hitting Swearinger (6-0, 200) was second-team all-SEC as a senior with 79 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a pair of defensive touchdowns. When Swearinger was 8, his mom coached his basketball team. Orma told young D.J. that he was playing scared. That message, he said, has struck with him through his athletics career. He fittingly has "Warrior tattooed on his arm.

CB Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech: Sweeting (6-0, 187) didn't have an interception during the regular season of his senior year but ended his career with a bang. Matched against USC's elite receivers, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, he helped limit the Trojans to 107 passing yards while intercepting one pass.

CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State: Taylor (5-11, 192 at Senior Bowl) was a three-year starter and first-team all-conference pick as a senior. He picked off four passes, including one against Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl. That gave him seven for his career. He almost didn't land at Boise State. The Broncos pulled their scholarship offer after getting three cornerback commitments, then offered again after two of those commitments backed out.

S Phillip Thomas, Fresno State: Thomas (6-1, 210 at Senior Bowl) was Fresno State's first unanimous All-American and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. He led the nation and set a Mountain West record with eight interceptions. His interception total was more than 29 FBS teams, including four conference rivals. He took back three of his interceptions for touchdowns. More than just a ballhawk, he added four sacks, 12 tackles for losses and forced four fumbles. He missed 2011 with a broken leg and dislocated ankle sustained just before the opener. Fresno State's secondary is coached by Tim McDonald, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive back. Thomas credits McDonald for recognizing formations and tendencies.

S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse: Thomas (5-10, 208) was first-team all-Big East as a senior with 88 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. He finished sixth in school history among defensive backs with 263 tackles. Thomas would go days without eating as his mother struggled to take care of he and his five siblings. Less than two months before his senior season, his father died in a motorcycle accident. His mother died nine months later from a heart problem. The day before she died, she told Thomas that "you're my chosen one."

CB Desmond Trufant, Washington: Trufant (5-11, 190) was the best cornerback at the Senior Bowl. The brother of longtime NFL ace cornerback Marcus Trufant and Jets defensive back Isaiah Trufant, Desmond Trufant was first-team all-Pac-12 as a senior. Trufant, who started 45 consecutive games, finished his career with six interceptions, 33 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. He clinched an upset win over Stanford this season with an interception. According to the Wall Street Journal, "In the history of professional football, there have been five sibling trios playing the same position. To cite a couple of examples, Marty, Carl and Dick Zoll all played guard in the 1920s and '30s; the wide-receiving Richardson brothers — Gloster, Tom and Willie — played in the 1960s and '70s and had three Super Bowl appearances among them; and most recently Derrick, Kevin and Ronnie Harmon played halfback in the 1980s and '90s. If Desmond is drafted, he and his cornerback brothers will bring that number to six."

S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: Vaccaro (6-1, 218) started 32 games, including 26 in a row. He was a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly. He led the team with 107 tackles and added two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He tallied five interceptions for his career. An uncle, A.J. Johnson, intercepted nine passes in seven seasons for the Redskins and Chargers. When his father died of emphysema when Vaccaro was 16, he helped his mom raise his five younger siblings.

CB B.W. Webb, William & Mary: Webb (5-10, 182) was a dominant performer. He was a second-team All-American and the conference's special teams player of the year as a senior, and won all-conference accolades on defense all four seasons. He picked off eight passes as a freshman — including three in his college debut against Virginia — and wasn't tested much after that, finishing his career with 11 thefts. He averaged 8.6 yards and scored two touchdowns for his career as a punt returner. He's been compared to Asante Samuel, who is his favorite player.

CB Kayvon Webster, South Florida: Webster (5-11, 198) started 32 games for his career and finished with three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. He led the team with 82 tackles as a senior. To get by, Webster and his family once lived in a three-bedroom house with 14 other relatives.

S J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern: Wilcox (5-11, 214 at Senior Bowl) spent his first three seasons on offense. He was an explosive playmaker, totaling 1,035 yards on offense and averaging a school-record 25.0 yards per reception as a sophomore. In the three seasons, he scored 11 touchdowns. Needing a veteran to lift a downtrodden secondary, the coaches asked him to move to safety as a senior. He was first-team all-Southern Conference after piling up 88 tackles, two interceptions and averaging 25.2 yards per kickoff return.

S Duke Williams, Nevada: Williams (5-11, 201 at Senior Bowl) was a three-year starter who earned second-team all-Mountain West honors in each of his final two seasons. He notched 106 tackles, 5.5 tackles for losses, an interception and three forced fumbles as a senior. Just type in "Duke Williams Nevada" into a search engine and watch some of his big hits. Williams was suspended from the team three times as a freshman but got his life straightened out and was considered a team leader as a senior.

S Shawn Williams, Georgia: Williams (6-0, 211) finished second on the team with 98 tackles, adding 5.5 for losses. All four career interceptions came in 2011. At midseason, he criticized the Bulldogs' defense as being "too soft." Coincidence or not, the defense was greatly improved during the second half of the season.

CB Steve Williams, California: Early entrant. The Bears' defensive MVP, he tallied three interceptions and 13 passes defensed in 2012. In 37 career games (28) starts, Williams logged 150 tackles, nine tackles for losses and six interceptions. He ranks sixth in school history with 31 passes defensed.

S Earl Wolff, North Carolina State: Wolff (6-0, 207, a graduate student, was first-team all-ACC with 139 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He finished his career with 400 tackles — passing Bill Cowher, among others, for fifth in school history — and eight forced fumbles. Wolff has his mom's name tattooed on his chest. She served a year with the National Guard in Kuwait.

CB Khalid Wooten, Nevada: Wooten (6-0, 200) intercepted two passes to run his career total to 10 and broke up 15 others. He averaged 15.1 yards on punt returns to earn second-team all-conference honors.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut: Wilson (6-1 192 at Senior Bowl) recovered from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2011 season by being named team MVP as a senior. He intercepted one pass to give him eight for his career. He played soccer rather than football until his senior year of high school. He didn't miss a single day of school from kindergarten through high school. His parents were born in Liberia; his first name means "trouble."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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