A popular trend in football seems to be that fewer and fewer defensive backs like delivering big hits. Well then, consider safety Ronnie Harrison old-school – he was even itching for contact during his scouting workouts.
“Yeah, I definitely wish these drills were more physical,” he said. “All this running and jumping, that’s not real football. I want to get some of these guys in pads and see what they can really do.”
Harrison’s play style is as aggressive as it gets on the gridiron, and when you tack on his considerable size, speed, and range, he was truly a beast unleashed during his three years patrolling the back end of Alabama’s defense. He should be picked pretty early during this year’s draft, and he’s sure to make one team very happy and 31 other offenses very nervous.
We got a chance to do a round of rapid-fire questions with the playmaking safety before he hits the pro game. Check it out below:
Q: What’s The Toughest Workout You’ve Done Recently?
A: “I worked with Tony Villani – he has a workout he calls the SHREDmill. It was hard, but it helped with my speed.
Q: Would You Rather Match Up Against A Bigger Or Smaller WR?
A: “I feel like I can cover either one. But I would probably match up better against bigger WRs because of my own size.
Q: Which WR Can You Not Wait To Face In The Pros?
A: “Probably Julio Jones since he played at Alabama, too.”
Q: Which Pro Has Given You The Best Advice?
A: “I talk to Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) a lot. He’s like my big brother.”
Q: Which Player Does Your Game Most Compare To?
A: “Sean Taylor.”
Q: Speak Directly To The Fans Of The Team That Drafts You – What Type Of Player Are They Getting?
A: “They’re getting a leader. I’m going to bring that passion and that attitude. I’m selfless and offer a lot of versatility and I love the game of football.”
Thanks to Ronnie Harrison for his time and make sure to check out the Eastbay Blog for more exclusive stories on the biggest names of the 2018 rookie class.
Da’Ron Payne is a force. Standing at 6 feet, 2 inches and weighing in at 308 pounds, Payne uses every ounce of his considerable strength to manhandle interior offensive linemen and stop running backs in their tracks. Yet, the burly tackle is still quick enough to chase down players half his size.
Want proof of his dominance? Look no further than this year’s national championship. He was a rock in the trenches, tallying up six tackles and slowing down a dangerous Georgia offense when the game was on the line.
And now, he’s ready for the biggest step yet in his career – pro football. But before he’s wreaking havoc on Sundays, let’s take a second to break down why this Alabama alum in tailor-made for today’s modern game.
HE FINISHED HIS COLLEGE CAREER ON TOP OF THE WORLD
The Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia felt extra sweet because of how the previous year ended – with a heartbreaking loss to Clemson in the title game. “This year’s win definitely felt like redemption,” Payne said. “We definitely weren’t going to leave without that trophy.”
HE IS AT HIS BEST DURING THE BIGGEST MOMENTS
We mentioned the impressive stats Payne put up during the championship, but even those doesn’t fully explain how dominant he was. He seemed to live in the Bulldog backfield, providing constant pressure and shutting down opposing running lanes. The stage was the brightest and Payne was ready to rise to the occasion. “I could tell we needed that,” Payne explained. “That’s just what big-time players do. When it’s time to shine, you need to go out there, put on a show for your team, and do everything you can to help your team win.”
HE’S FOCUSED ON BEING A COMPLETE PLAYER
Sure, being a sack artist may be more glamorous, but Payne is focused on becoming a complete player. His explosive pass rush skills are matched by his dominance against the run. “For me, it’s all about using my strength to win at the point of attack,” he said.
HE HAS BEEN INSPIRED BY THE BEST
Payne definitely has his own unique playing style, but when asked who he grew up watching, he lists guys such as Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, and Ndamukong Suh. That’s some good company to keep.
HE’S MORE THAN JUST A FOOTBALL PLAYER
Off the gridiron, Payne has a unique hobby – collecting retro cars. “That comes from my dad,” Payne said. “He always had old-school cars. One day, he gave me one, and after that I took it and ran with it.” A ’97 Impala is currently the crown jewel of Payne’s collection, but expect that to grow even more once he hits the pros.
Thanks to Da’Ron Payne for his time and make sure to check out the Eastbay Blog for more exclusive stories on the biggest names of the 2018 rookie class.
With college football season finally here, let’s talk about what you really care about — those teams with the best shot to make it to the playoffs. So who will be the last four standing? Here are the 10 teams you need to watch:
1. Alabama (AP Rank 1)
Number one is no surprise. Nick Saban’s squad lost a ton of key players to the NFL last year, but, like always, the roster is stacked with elite prospects groomed to take their place. Watch for dangerous running QB Jalen Hurts to improve as a passer this year, junior wideout Calvin Ridley to contend for numerous awards, and for the Crimson Tide to hold on to the number one seed.
2. Ohio State (AP Rank 2)
Urban Meyer and co. have their own incredible recruiting class and they’ll be put to good use. The Buckeyes will be led by experienced senior J.T. Barrett on offense, but the real gem of the team is the defensive line. Linemen Tyquan Lewis, Nick Bosa, and Sam Hubbard should be wreaking havoc in opposing backfields all season long.
3. Florida State (AP Rank 3)
FSU was dealt a major blow in 2016 when safety Derwin James missed almost the entire year with a knee injury. The versatile, athletic playmaker may just be the best defensive player in college football, and the whole unit will improve drastically with him on the field in 2017. On the other side of the ball, QB Deondre Francois will look to build off of a solid freshman season without the help of do-everything RB Dalvin Cook, who is now a Minnesota Viking.
4. Clemson (AP Rank 5)
This may seem high for a team that seemingly lost key players at every position, but there’s still talent across the board. Junior QB Kelly Bryant has the biggest shoes to fill, but with great receiving options like Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow still around, the Tigers don’t need him to be Deshaun Watson 2.0. They host FSU on November 11 in a game that could have major playoff implications.
5. Penn State (AP Rank 6)
Remember the name Saquon Barkley come awards season. The electrifying Nittany Lion RB is primed for a huge year. QB Trace McSorley and TE Mike Gesicki are no slouches either. The date to pay attention to: October 28. If they want to head to the playoffs, they’ll have to get the W when they square off against the Buckeyes in Columbus.
6. USC (AP Rank 4)
QB Sam Darnold and RB Ronald Jones give the Trojans a formidable backfield and guarantee that this offense can keep score with anyone. The defense is led by junior LB Cameron Smith and is full of solid players, but USC’s schedule will be a beast. They’ll have plenty of difficult tests, including battles against Stanford, Texas, and Washington State.
7. Washington (AP Rank 8)
From WR John Ross to the formidable secondary trio of Kevin King, Sidney Jones, and Budda Baker, the Huskies lost a lot of talent to the NFL. But this year’s team still has a star signal caller in junior Jake Browning and plenty of young talent to pick up the pieces at corner and safety. Look for Chris Petersen’s team to be in the hunt all season long.
8. Wisconsin (AP Rank 9)
The schedule sets up very favorably for the Badgers this season. Besides a Nov. 18 battle against Michigan, this unit will almost undoubtedly be favored in every game they play. If Coach Chryst can get a step up in performance from sophomore QB Alex Hornibrook to complement their always-formidable running attack, the offense should be solid. And ‘solid’ is all this team will need on that end if the Wisconsin defense can perform as well as they did in 2016.
9. Michigan (AP Rank 11)
Only one starter returns on the Wolverine defense. 11 Michigan alumni heard their name called during this April’s NFL Draft. Simply put, Jim Harbaugh lost a lot of quality players heading into 2017. But the cupboard is far from bare. QB Wilton Speight is back after a solid year one, sophomore RB Chris Evans leads a great running back group, and the roster, as a whole, is loaded with five-star talent.
10. Auburn (AP Rank 12)
Former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham will be given the keys on offense and he’s got a lot to work with. Sophomore WR Nate Craig-Myers and RB Kamryn Pettway should keep the points and yards flowing. The defense returns a lot of big-time playmakers and should be stout once again. The Tigers have a crucial early match up on September 9 when they go on the road to face Clemson.
Did we miss someone? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @Eastbay. No matter how things shake out, one thing is certain: it’s going to be an amazing season.
At only 20 years old, Marlon Humphrey is one of the youngest players here in Indy. But spend any amount of time talking to him, and you’ll think you’re in the presence of a grizzled veteran.
“I had to mature quickly in college at Alabama,” Marlon said. “During my freshman year, I participated in two sports—track and football. That’s not something that just anyone can do and it really made me grow up quickly.”
His time in track also shows on the gridiron where his explosiveness, acceleration, and quickness are second to none. “I ran the 400 and that definitely helped during football,” he said. “It really benefitted my speed but it also helped me stay out of trouble. Whereas most guys were in their offseason, I was still in an actual season and still competing.”
That’s another thing that makes Marlon stand out—his competitive fire. He always wants to take on the opponent’s best receiver and is singularly focused on winning every snap.
“Part of what made Alabama so great for me was the level of talent,” Marlon explained. “There are so many 5-star recruits and great players on that roster. Every practice, you’re taking on some of the best that college football has to offer.”
Those practices, which had to be legendary, will go a long way at the next level. “In the pros, almost every player was an All-American when they were in college,” he said. “It’s going to be a whole new speed.”
Marlon will be put to the test early and often during his rookie season as he’ll be asked to go toe-to-toe with some of the most freakish athletes in the game. “It’ll be crazy going against receivers like Odell and Julio,” he said. “These are guys who I’ve always watched on TV, but it’s what’s next for me and I’m excited for the challenge.”
It also helps that he has the ultimate lifeline to turn to when he needs advice. His dad, Bobby, was a legendary running back at Alabama and went on to play for Denver and Miami in the pros as well.
“The advice he gave me for the pros is the same advice he’s always given me,” Marlon said. “He told me ‘You got to this point in your career by being yourself on and off the field. Just keep doing that and everything else will come naturally.’”
With fall comes a lot of change. The turning of the leaves, the start of the school year, and of course the return of football season. For those returning to universities across the country, you’re entering campuses where your football teams have been for weeks, preparing for the upcoming season.
In late August, the 2016 College Football preseason AP Top 25 Poll was released, showing fans who to watch for this season. Although teams from multiple power conferences made the cut, we decided to focus on the top 5 schools this preseason.
Whether you are at the stadium or on your couch to start this college football season, you will want to stay up-to-date with your favorite team’s fan gear. Here are a few popular items from this year’s preseason top 5.
1. Alabama – Nike College Sideline K0 Full-Zip Hoodie
No matter if you are cheering on the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa or at home, you don’t have to worry about comfort with this sweatshirt. Made with Therma-FIT® material, this hoodie will keep you the right temperature, no matter how chilly it may get. Beyond the Therma-FIT® material, this piece also offers breathability with its mesh sleeves. If you were concerned about people not knowing who you are rooting for, don’t be, as this sweatshirt also offers a team logo on the chest.
2. Clemson – New Era College 59Fifty Front & Center Low Profile
If you are looking to show off your Tiger pride this season, try this officially team-licensed fitted hat on for size. With the large Tiger logo embroidered front and center and school name in print on the back, it will be hard to miss who you are cheering for this season.
3. Oklahoma – Nike College Fly Shorts
Whether you are braving the Oklahoma heat at the stadium or cheering on the Sooners indoors, stay dry and comfortable in these shorts made with Dri-FIT® material that wicks away sweat and moisture. These shorts allow for easy adjustment, with an elastic waistband and drawcord for tightening or loosening. Also, with side pockets you will never have to worry about keeping your valuables safe on game day again.
4. Florida State – Nike College Performance Practice Hoodie
If you want to feel like part of the Seminole team while in the stands, look no further than this performance hoodie. Worn by players in practice, this sweatshirt is designed to perform in the elements, with Therma-FIT® material to keep you warm and dry. With a large team logo on the chest, this hoodie is the perfect way to cheer your team on to victory this season.
5. LSU – Nike College Dri-FIT Player Training T-Shirt
Wear the gear your favorite LSU players are sporting with this Nike Dri-Fit® T-Shirt. In this shirt, you can show off your school spirit wherever you may be. Whether it’s at the gym, in the stands, or in your living room, you will always be comfortable, no matter the situation.
Whatever your team, your campus, or where you are watching the big game this college football season, Nike and New Era have all of your fan gear needs covered to help follow your team all season long.