It is not very common that a prospect comes along that is the best player available at three different positions. This year however, if you pick in the top ten overall and need a cornerback, free safety or strong safety, look no further than Texas defensive back Michael Huff. The 2005 Jim Thorpe award winner (given to the nation's top defensive back) is finally entering the National Football League after a very productive career at Texas.
Although he lettered four times in track during his days at Nimitz High School (Texas), Huff dominated on the gridiron. As a defensive back during his senior year, he posted 127 tackles and five interceptions (two of which went for touchdowns). Huff displayed his rare talent early on at Texas, starting all 13 games in the Longhorn secondary that ranked eighth in the nation against the pass. As a freshman, the cornerback/strong safety put up 70 tackles, 10 pass deflections and two interceptions (both went for scores).
Huff improved his play in his sophomore season, and while the team didn't thrive as well defensively, he continued to flash his big play potential. He set a Texas record for defensive touchdowns after taking his fourth career interception for six points (his second of 2003), while also recording two blocks on the season. As a junior, he took on more responsibility in coverage, and often covered the opponent's top receiving option (whether it was a wide receiver or a tight end).
Last year, Huff had an outstanding senior campaign for the National Champions. The versatile defensive back was in on 109 stops while also intercepting a pass (his seventh career pick), forcing four fumbles and recovering two more, one of which went for his fifth career touchdown. He also posted 14 pass deflections, two sacks and one blocked kick to help propel him into the top half of the first round of the NFL Draft. Huff solidified his top-10 label by posting great workout numbers at the NFL Combine (including a 4.34 40-yard dash time).
The most attractive trait scouts are drawn to concerning Huff is his versatility. He has experience at every position in the defensive backfield, which gives the team that drafts him plenty of options. Throughout his career in Austin, Huff has shown his ability to make the big play and his nose for the end zone.
He is a very productive tackler who is always around the action and has good size for a cornerback. However, at 6-foot-0, 204 pounds, he is a tad small at safety in the pro ranks. Huff is as athletic as they come in the secondary, has fantastic speed and good field awareness. He can rush the passer and also shows the desire to stick it to the run. In coverage, he has the speed to play man defense and the range to play centerfield in zone coverage.
Huff's versatility in college may actually cause some teams to overlook him in the draft, as he was not able to focus on one position. He has the talent to shake the "tweener" label, but some teams may not look past that.
Although he is a productive tackler, he still needs to work on his technique in that area and often hits the ball carrier too high. He will need to get a little bit stronger if he moves to safety, but as a cornerback he should be fine in that area. His willingness to make the big play also causes him to take unnecessary chances every once in a while, so he'll need to cut those out at the next level.
Huff will most definitely be the first defensive back taken on draft day and also is one of the top defensive players available. He would fit well in almost any scheme, given his versatility, and should start right away at the pro level. On Draft Day, he could go as high as No. 6 overall to the San Francisco 49ers, who finished with the league's worst pass defense in 2005. The lowest he will drop is the Arizona Cardinals at No. 10 overall, who could use more depth in the secondary.
The most likely scenario, however, is Huff finding a home in "Raider Nation". The Oakland Raiders, who pick in the No. 7 slot, desperately need help in the secondary and would love to add Huff's speed to their defense if they opt to pass on Huff's former Texas teammate, quarterback Vince Young.
About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
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