After five years with the University of Miami Hurricanes, safety Brandon Meriweather will be moving on to the professional level in the upcoming draft. One of the top safeties in college football, Meriweather is a tough player who makes up for his lack of size with reliable tackling and a strong ability to read the game.
Meriweather played in three games as a freshman in 2002; however, a season-ending injury resulted in him redshirting. Meriweather's best season for the Hurricanes came in 2005, when he played in all 12 games. He had 115 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. His stats in 2006 were solid, although not up to his previous years. In 11 games (he missed one due to suspension), Meriweather had 91 total tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, eight pass breakups and one interception. Those numbers helped him to be named second-team All-ACC.
Meriweather saw time at three positions - free safety, strong safety and cornerback - during his college career, which shows his impressive athleticism. Meriweather will be leaving Miami as the Hurricanes' career tackles leader for defensive backs, with 293 tackles. In addition to those numbers, he had 20 career tackles for a loss, 25 career pass breakups, seven career interceptions and four career forced fumbles.
Meriweather put together one of the best careers at defensive back for the Hurricanes. His numbers aside, Meriweather showed himself to be adept at playing both the run and the pass. Despite a lack of size, Meriweather was a very reliable tackler and one of the hardest hitters on the Hurricanes. Meriweather ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.5-range during his pre-draft workouts. His speed and other attributes have some teams considering him as a cornerback.
Meriweather was also one of the leaders of one of the top collegiate programs in the country, which should have prepared him for the pressure levels in the professional league.
One thing that makes up for Meriweather's height disadvantage is his ability to read plays. He is rarely caught out of position and almost never misses an open-field tackle. This is something scouts should like, as it is one of the harder things to teach.
He seems to have an innate football sense. He is also solid in coverage and breaking up plays. Rating him solely for his on-the-field contributions, Meriweather would likely be one of the top defensive backs in the draft. However, there are red flags surrounding his draft status.
In most years, Meriweather would be considered one of the elite safeties in the draft; however, questions have been raised about him, and they could affect his draft status.
The first red flag raised is his lack of size. Meriweather stands at 5-foot-11 tall and weighs in at 195 pounds. His natural position would likely be free safety. He may also need to add some weight to his frame if he is to remain the reliable tackler he was at the college level.
The second red flag raised concerns character issues. In the infamous brawl between Miami and Florida International University last season, Meriweather could be seen stomping on one of his opponents. This netted him a one-game suspension. Prior to the 2006 season, Meriweather also shot at an assailant who was circling his house, according to news reports. These two incidents raise some serious issues about his character. He clearly has a mean streak; if he can't keep that under control, he may not see much playing time, especially with the league cracking down on off-the-field transgressions.
Finally, the third red flag raised about him are injury concerns. He underwent shoulder surgery in 2006, and a series of lesser injuries were the reason for him moving from strong safety to cornerback this season. Combine those injuries with his smaller size, and he has the potential to spend a fair amount of the time on the weekly injury report.
Those are the three major things to note, and while they may lower his value, he probably won't fall far. It is without doubt a team will take a chance at being able to correct the character problems, and if you can hide his height disadvantage on the field, he is one of the top safeties.
If a team drafted solely on game production and talent, Meriweather would undoubtedly be a first-round pick. However, the character issues and size concerns could force him into the second round. The Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys are all teams that have had him in for a visit. Another team that could have interest is the Philadelphia Eagles. With that many teams in the market for a safety, it is hard to see him falling past the middle of the second round. Even with the character issues, he has shown too much on the field to fall very far. Whoever drafts him will have to hope that his path more closely follows that of former Hurricanes safety Ed Reed and not former Hurricanes safety Sean Taylor.