As you probably know by now, members of Cincy Jungle (Mickey Mentzer and myself) were on hand at the NFLPA Bowl in Los Angeles as members of the press. Between Mickey and I, we covered the event with one practice and the game itself, which were conducted on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. After the practice on Thursday concluded, I spoke with senior safety prospect, Demetrius Wright out of USC.
Wright was a rotational player in the secondary at USC, who played a number of different roles, including special teams. Even so, there are many things that make the casual NFL Draft follower gloss over a player like Wright. He's not all that big (6'0", 195 pounds), he didn't record a turnover in 2013, and he is barely ranked within the top-20 of free safety prospects coming into this season, depending on which draft guru one asks.
Yet, over the weekend, Wright shattered all of the preconceived notions. Aside from being one of the players that NFLPA employees emphatically praised for his speed and ability during the week of practices, he is very well-built for what's considered to be small for the position. Most of all, Wright proved to be a safety that is versatile and able to assist in the running game and in pass defense.
"Good practice today," I told Wright. "Yeah, it was pretty good," he responded. I jumped into the topic of the midseason coaching change from Lane Kiffin to Ed Oergeron by the Trojans and wanted Wright's thoughts on the subject.
"It was a big transition for everybody going through different coaches," Wright said. "Oergeron's a loving guy, so everybody felt like he could control the team a little better. He showed us some of the love that we weren't seeing before and the team responded." After Oergeron took over for USC, they went 6-2, which included big wins against Oregon State and Stanford.
I then began to explain that a big reason for my searching him out for an interview was that the Bengals look at safeties who are versatile. "How comfortable are you doing multiple things in a defense, be it pass defense, supporting the run, and/or working against the slot man?", I asked. "Well, here (at the NFLPA Bowl) I'm playing a little nickel and safety. So, I've been showing that I can come down into the box too. I feel really comfortable doing both."
When I pressed him about what he feels was a stronger point in his game at this point, he confidently responded with "I think it's equal. At 'SC I've been working on both--I've been playing strong and free and even some nickel. So, I think I'm pretty equal in all three," he said. For improvement areas, Wright talked about hip fluidity and footwork as musts.
"What do you think it is that you need to do to make a team and potentially grab a starting spot?", I asked as my final question. "Just lock myself in a room with the defensive coordinator and be like a sponge with everything he knows. Learn everything about him and his defense--learn the ins and outs. Also need to make sure that I'm technique-savvy. Talent alone isn't going to take you that far because everybody has talent in the league."
Wright had 59 tackles in his senior season and hopes to be one of the many players hat have made final rosters after playing in the NFLPA Bowl. His versatility and abilities that he showcased all week should help his cause.