Alabama middle linebacker Mack Wilson pulled a fast one on us. In the build-up to the 2019 declaration deadline, Wilson appeared ready to come back to the Tide for another season in pursuit of another national championship.
Not so fast.
Wilson declared on the 11th hour and has a chance to be one of a handful of first round linebackers selected in this year's class. With the uncertainty surrounding Wilson's declaration, he was pushed down my watchlist.
That changed last night and I liked a good deal of what I saw from Mack Wilson. Wilson's skills in pass coverage are tremendous, his range looks like what you'd expect from a Safety in the middle of the field.
But I found myself appreciating a lot of what Wilson did in the run game, as well. Here's a good illustration of the style of defense Wilson was asked to play for a lot of his film reps.
Patience At The Mesh Point
Don't mistake Wilson's immobility immediately after the snap as slow processing. There's layers to what Wilson has to read here. Let's start with his teammates up front.
IDLs Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis are engaged in "two-gap" technique. This allows both interior defenders to account for two gaps, one on either side of the man that is blocking them. This two-gap technique is a standard approach. It is one that allows the linebackers behind those defensive tackles to sniff out the play without contact. Getting into pursuit of the football comes afterward.
Middle linebacker run keys are typically centered around guards and the running back. And while the pulling guard is a tip off of what is coming, it doesn't guarantee Wilson can fly out of his positioning.
It isn't until the running back's eyes flip play-side and the blocks set to the backside are sealed that Wilson can then begin to scrape.
In the process, Wilson must defeat a block by the left tackle. The tackle is climbing onto the second level in an effort to seal Wilson off from the play.
But Wilson properly challenges the contact with his hands. He then shows good lateral mobility to work over the top and makes a tackle to finish the play.
Discipline > Action
This is a great illustration of disciplined linebacker play. Many teams will implement false pulls. Why? In an effort to vacate linebackers from the second level: you can block them without even touching them. Wilson doesn't take the cheese on this rep. And in many subsequent games: Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Clemson specifically, Wilson continued to show that focus and dedication to locate the football and not prematurely flow out of position.
Mack Wilson has the athletic profile of a first round prospect. And while there are some inconsistencies (only 17 career starts) Wilson has the film to suggest he'll be coveted in the 2019 NFL Draft.