Few prospects have attached a jetpack to their stock throughout the pre-draft process like South Carolina cornerback Darius Rush has. Rush was outstanding at this year’s Senior Bowl, constantly staying in phase with pass-catchers in one-on-one opportunities. Rush then went to the NFL Scouting Combine and measured in at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds with 33-plus-inch arms and then ran a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash.
Rush recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about the uptick in attention he’s been receiving since the Senior Bowl and combine, the defenses he’s played in, and more. Rush is a man-coverage cornerback that can thrive on the boundary as a half-field eraser.
JM: You really exploded onto the pre-draft map with a standout week at the Senior Bowl. What was that experience like?
Darius Rush: It was a very interesting experience. Being in that predicament, going to the Senior Bowl was something I had looked at, but never really thought about. To receive that opportunity, I knew it was another chance for me to showcase my abilities. I went out there and erased any doubts about me being raw or new to the position.
They [Senior Bowl] gave me a chance to compete against the best of the best. I showcased my abilities. I competed at the highest level.
JM: You did just that. I’m curious if you’ve noticed an uptick in the attention you’ve received since then.
Darius Rush: I most definitely have. I’ve noticed a big uptick in the attention I’m receiving. But I’m not the kind of guy that pays attention to that. I’m blocking out the noise. I keep a humble mindset at all times. I go about my business.
To see all of the attention that’s coming my way now, it feels surreal. It’s not something I’m used to. I’ve never been a guy that’s always getting talked about. I’m staying humble. I’m sticking to the course and striving for improvement every single day. I’m doing exactly what I have to do.
JM: You carried that momentum over with you to the NFL Scouting Combine. You ran an excellent 4.36 in the 40-yard dash with a 1.51 10-yard split. How would you grade your overall performance?
Darius Rush: I’d give my overall performance an A. I’m not going to give myself an A-plus because I’m my own biggest critic (laughs). I’m my worst critic. I dropped a few passes during the on-field drills and I haven’t stopped thinking about them since (laughs). I can’t give myself an A-plus as a result.
I went out there and ran a 4.36. I showcased my speed, which I knew was a question people had about me. I was questioned about my speed. Is he a speed guy? Is he fast? Does he have top-end speed?
I went out there and put forth that demonstration. I am fast. I erased all doubts about my speed. That’s not on anybody’s mind anymore. That was something I had the mindset to go do. I showcased all of my skills, whether that was in the drills or wherever. I went out there and competed.
JM: You achieve those goals. You talked a little about acclimating to cornerback. What can you tell me about the scheme South Carolina ran on defense? What did your coaches ask of you within the structure of that defense?
Darius Rush: I was at South Carolina for five years. I played in two different defenses. I’ve been in a 4-3 defense, and I was in a 4-2-5 this past season. We primarily played a lot of man coverage. We played straight man-to-man press.
Nobody should question my man coverage abilities, especially having played in the 2022 version of our defense. I have some experience with zone coverage as well from the 4-3 defense our former coaching staff preferred. I can play both man and zone coverage. I’m able to make plays on the ball when it comes to me.
JM: That brings me to my next question. I’m going to put you on the spot even though you’ve played in both. Do you see yourself as a man or zone corner?
Darius Rush: The league likes man coverage nowadays (laughs). Playing man coverage is something I can do. I do it very well. I consider myself a man-coverage cornerback first and foremost. Like I said, I’m a guy that can play zone coverage as well.
JM: I’m going to put you in a fun scenario that gets you to choose. Say it’s 3rd-and-long with the game on the line. Would you rather be manned up on the opposing team’s best receiver or playing in zone with an opportunity to make a play on the ball near the sticks?
Darius Rush: Wow, that’s a good one. Let’s go with the best receiver. I want to be manned up. That’s a big moment in the game. Of course, they’re throwing the ball to their go-to receiver. At that moment, I want to cover their best receiver. If I make that play, it’s going to be the biggest moment of the game.
Both options are good. I can be in zone coverage and maybe the best receiver happens to run his route into my zone. I still want to be on the best receiver, though. That’s the spotlight and we already know where the ball is going. It’s about who’s going to make that play at the end of the day.
JM: That’s exactly what it’s about. You have arms longer than 33 inches. How do you utilize your terrific length to your advantage?
Darius Rush: One way I use my length to my advantage is by being disruptive. Whether that’s at the line of scrimmage, or if I happen to miss a step, I have the speed to get back in phase, and that length to recover and still make a play on the ball.
Whether the ball goes over my head or outside, it doesn’t matter. I have the length to make a play at the catch point. My size and length disrupt the vision of the receiver. My length is disruptive on both special teams and defense.
JM: You’re also extremely physical. You can play off contact and maintain your run fits. I saw that from you on tape. How did you develop that aggressive mentality as a player?
Darius Rush: That’s just the mindset we had in our defensive backs room. Especially with [defensive backs] coach [Torrian] Gray, he instilled that in us. He told us we were going to be a physical group. We never had a soft mentality.
When it’s time to go make a tackle, we had to go make a tackle. When it’s time to fit your gap, that’s your gap. Don’t forget that. That’s the job. It’s our job as a cornerback to cover, but we had to tackle as well.
That’s the mindset he instilled in us. We had to be physical and hard-working. We wanted to be the toughest DB room in the nation. That’s what we were. That’s the approach of the program.
JM: There’s no questioning your toughness. We’ve appreciated your time today. What kind of impact is Darius Rush going to make at the next level?
Darius Rush: Darius Rush is going to come in and make an impact wherever he’s needed. I’m going to make an impact on both defense and special teams. I’m going to help the team wherever I can. I’m a team-first player. I’m going to make the team better.
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