The UCF Knights had the 21st-best pass defense in FBS last year, when measured by passing yards per game. Though such a performance requires a uniform and dedicated team effort, an observer of the 2014-15 football season could easily see that strong safety Clayton Geathers was a standout among the defensive backs. Boasting gaudy tackle numbers and a nose for the ball, Geathers earned spots on the American's 2014 postseason first team and 2013 second team, and accolades from none other than draft guru Mel Kiper.
Strength and tenacity are the characteristics that will serve Geathers most in his quest to make an NFL roster. At the NFL combine, he placed second among safeties in bench press, impressing scouts with his desire to knock opposing ball carriers to the ground and avoiding or fighting through blocks. His vertical leap was also among the best, illustrating his potential for breaking on the pass to either cause an incompletion or interception.
The concern with Geathers' game stems from one of his strengths; namely, his desire to make a hard hit. This can lead to missed tackles. Though Geathers' college tackle numbers are truly impressive, he may find the same dogged pursuit that served him well at that level leads to overpursuit of the quicker, tougher NFL receivers and backs. His hard-hitting defensive game masks a mild weakness in wrapping up ball carriers, another loophole that will be exploited at the next level.
Geathers' pros are fundamental; his cons: fixable. Given time, training, and practice, he should be able to direct his determination to hit into a more nuanced (yet still tough) NFL-caliber pass defense. Look for a team to snap him up in the mid-rounds of the draft as a prospect for development and near-future deployment.