INDIANAPOLIS -- While addressing the media at the 2013 NFL Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium, two separate safeties with loose ties to the Bengals talked about their connections to the team on Sunday. First it was USC safety T.J. McDonald and then it was Florida safety Matt Elam.
McDonald, who went to USC, the same school as Bengals defensive backs coach Mark Carrier and safety Taylor Mays, said that he had spoken to Carrier, both at the Senior Bowl and here at the Combine.
"Yeah, I've talked to Coach Carrier," McDonald said. "I've talked to him at the Senior Bowl, I talked to him some yesterday (Saturday). I definitely have a lot of respect for that guy. I wore No. 7 at USC just like he did."
McDonald said that Carrier told him he's proud of the way he's carried the torch when it comes to a tradition of good USC safeties. He also said that he's talked to current Bengals safety, and former USC safety, Mays, though more on a friendly level than about football.
He also discussed how he's a different player than Mays.
"I'm different in a lot of ways," McDonald said. "I played different. If you just turn on the film you can tell that as far as the schemes we played, I'm different. Taylor played a lot of the middle third, I played in the box a lot. I played mixed up cover two. I was able to run around the field a lot. I went to get the ball a little more. He was an All-American at UCS also, so not to take anything away from him, we just played different schemes and we played different."
Elam, a former Florida safety, hasn't admittedly reached out to a Bengals coach or player, but he did say that he watches game tape of fellow Gator alum Reggie Nelson, the Bengals' free safety.
"I pretty much watch the best safeties in the league," Elam said. "Troy Polamalu, Reggie Nelson -- I mean, he was a former Gator so I had no choice but to watch him. I watched them all. Reggie plays hard and he's very rangy as a safety. He can move and take great angles. You always want to do those things when playing in the back end."
Both safeties said they believe they're the best in the draft class and they're confident in their abilities to play either strong or free safety.
With Chris Crocker hitting free agency and the Bengals neglect at the position, they're likely looking, again, to solidify the position. They traded away a seventh-round pick for Mays, but benched him in favor of Crocker early in the season. The team's front seven, especially the defensive line, is among the best in the league, but the hole at strong safety has made the secondary a liability in the past.
Some mock drafts have predicted the Bengals could address the position in the first round of the draft by selecting Texas safety Kenny Vacarro with the No. 21 overall pick. He has not yet spoken to the media on Sunday.