NAME: Justin Layne
SCHOOL: Michigan State
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
JERSEY: No. 2
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 185 lbs
Feet – Leggy and doesn’t necessarily have top foot speed. Has to gather himself and transitions can be elongated. Operates from a balanced base which enables him to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage in press. Lacks dynamic burst planting and driving. Isn’t immune to committing a false step.
Man Coverage – Does well to win routes early with hand technique and crowding the wide receivers frame. Capable of pinning and leveraging routes while disrupting timing. Does not easily allow his face to be crossed and is aggressive in the contact window. Has enough speed to carry routes vertically but modest foot speed impacts his ability to transition rapidly.
Tackling – Committed tackler that is never shy to step up and defend the run or close on a completion. Aims low and is fairly consistent wrapping. Long arms extend his tackle radius and increase his margin for error when squaring up. Contact balance and hitting power is good.
IQ/Awareness – Has good man and press coverage skills with the ability to pattern match with sound route anticipation. With that said, his wires can get crossed in zone coverage. Lacks great zone awareness and feel for coverage spacing. Needs to trust his technique in zone and how its layered. Physical profile is ideal for zone but he must get the mental side down.
Physicality – Wins with physicality and play strength in the contact window and catch point. Won’t get bullied by physical receivers. Is the aggressor to bump receivers off course and battle for positioning at the catch point. Works hard to pin and leverage routes. Aggressive tackler that works hard to clear contact in pursuit.
Ball Skills – A converted receiver, Layne has no issues playing the ball and disrupting at the catch point. Has terrific length and knows how to play through the hands of the receiver. Still developing in terms of when to work his head around to locate the football but when he finds it, he knows what to do. Excellent timing driving forward on the football.
Press Technique – His length, play strength, technique and balance blend wonderfully to create disruption in the contact window. Willing to aggressively crowd the frame of receivers and affect their release. Lateral agility is only modest so he’s reliant on landing his hands if the receiver takes a good angle.
Flexibility – He’s high cut and leggy which is something that affects his ability to rapidly flips his hips and transition. Has some hesitation when changing directions and his feet are not springy. Endures some throttle down when receivers snap off routes. Length helps him overcome some of this but there are concerns.
Versatility – Projects as an outside corner in a press/man scheme. Has the ideal physical profile to serve as a zone corner but must improve mentally to see the field in that role. Reliable d-gap defender with good ball skills. Converted wide receiver.
BEST TRAIT – Physical Traits
WORST TRAIT – Zone Coverage
RED FLAGS – None
A highly-regarded wide receiver recruit, Layne transitioned to cornerback as a freshman and developed into a shutdown defender in college. Given his length, play strength, ball skills and route anticipation ability, Layne is best used in a press/man role at the next level. He has the physical upside to excel in zone but he must develop in terms of spacing and route awareness. A physical player, Layne is disruptive early in routes and at the catch point while playing with no hesitation when needed to play through contact and make a tackle. Layne should be an eventual starter with a fairly high ceiling as he continues to learn the nuances of the cornerback position.