Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
Ray Lewis and Dan Morgan set the stage. Ever since then, the Miami Hurricanes football program has been feeding the NFL with linebackers at a breakneck pace. D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma were both first round selections in 2004. From the 2006 draft to the 2012 draft, the Hurricanes had a linebacker come off the board every year. To say the least, the linebacker lineage at Miami leaves the next in line, Denzel Perryman, much to live up to.
Perryman was a thorn in the side of Florida all day on Saturday, getting himself to the ball at an extremely high rate. Better yet, he put his stamp on the game early in the first quarter by creating a turnover.
The Gators are running a power, with a pulling guard leading up the hole and a lead block from the fullback. They’re trying to freeze the linebackers and slow down pursuit by faking an end around to Solomon Patton as well. It’s important for Perryman to read his keys instead of peeking in the backfield.
Perryman picks up the pulling guard and down blocks and begins to flow over the top. His quick diagnosis allows him to get lateral before the right guard can scrape to the second level and wall him off. He’s now able to flow to the ball, maintain inside out leverage, and make the tackle when the back comes through the hole.
As Matt Jones turns up the field, Perryman is there to meet him. The linebacker sinks his hips and drives through the ball carrier, while putting his helmet right on the football. It pops out and the Hurricanes recover.
Not long after, Perryman blows up another play. On this occasion, he shows off his aggressive style and strength at the point of attack.
The combo block on this playcall works to the backside linebacker, which gives Perryman time to diagnose and make the play. The pulling guard will lead up on Perryman in front of Jones.
It’s another example of Perryman reading his keys and reacting both accordingly and quickly. When he gets a pull read from the backside guard and a down block from the left tackle, he needs to trust what he sees and work forward into the hole immediately. As you can see, that’s exactly what he does.
The technique needed to take on the pulling guard in the hole is crucial. It’s not enough for a linebacker to fly up to the line of scrimmage with his hair on fire cause mayhem. If Perryman takes a poor angle coming forward and gets too wide, the guard washes him right out of the play and Jones cuts it up. Perryman maintains his spill leverage (inside out) and meet the guard on his inside shoulder. He’s also sunk his hips and dropped his pads to get underneath those of the blocker. Perryman runs through the lead block and stuffs Matt Jones due to an attention to detail, aggressiveness to coming forward, and an ability to diagnose plays and react.
That third play I’ll break down won’t show up on the stat sheet the way so many of his others did (he racked up 13 tackles after all), but exhibits characteristics needed in the days of the passing game at the NFL level.
The Gators are in a crucial redzone situation and looking to reduce Miami’s lead to a single point on this third down play. The tight end runs a corner route while slot receiver Solomon Patton runs a hook route.
After passing off the tight end to his safety, Perryman picks up Patton’s hook route while following the eyes of Jeff Driskel. This shows his instinctive ability in zone coverage to keep his eyes moving and locate routes in his area. His break on Patton’s hook route keeps Driskel from pulling the trigger. The quarterback ends up trying to escape the pocket, being contained from doing so, and forcing an interception into triple coverage. Perryman’s initial coverage makes this play happen though, because the hook to Patton was the correct throw based on Miami’s reaction to the corner and swing routes.
This was a big performance on a big stage early in Miami’s season for Denzel Perryman. The junior linebacker showed up all over the field, making plays between the tackles and pursuing ball carriers and making tackles in spaces. He displayed the necessary football acumen to read his keys, trust those reads, and diagnose plays. When arriving at the football, he was reliable while wrapping ball carriers to driving with his legs. He was impossible to block at the second level, using his hands to play off offensive linemen and free himself to make plays. His footwork was strong in coverage and he was quick to pick up on routes. Perryman quite simply put in a high impact performance while showing a wide array of skills that translate to the NFL. If his showing against Florida is what we can come to expect from Denzel Perryman, he’ll be the next Miami linebacker to earn himself a starting spot in the NFL.
Video and screenshots courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com. Find Denzel Perryman vs. Florida here: http://draftbreakdown.com/video/denzel-perryman-vs-florida-2013/