Randy Gregory, the highly-acclaimed defensive end for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, is entering the 2014 college football season as one of the preseason favorites to win many post-season awards. He had quite the first season on campus for Nebraska, and after completing my research on the JUCO transfer, I couldn’t wait to watch his tape.
After watching a handful of defensive ends over the last couple of weeks, I’m finding myself still searching for the “wow” guy. Two years ago, I fell in love with Barkevious Mingo (the eventual 8th overall pick of the Browns.). Last year Clowney was a no-brainer and a generational guy. There hasn’t been a defensive end to strike that chord with me yet.
Is Randy Gregory that guy?
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska | 6060, 240 lbs | #44 | Jr
-Started 10 games in ’13, his first season at Nebraska;
-Totaled 10.5 sacks and 19 TFLs;
-Named 1st Team All-BIG10 in ’13;
-Named Nebraska defensive MVP in ’13;
-Was rated as the top JUCO defensive end prior to signing with Nebraska;
-Missed ’12 season due to a broken leg.
During my pre-tape research of Gregory, I was impressed by his production, dating back to his junior college days, as well as his listed measurables and accolades.
Gregory’s build is the first thing that stood out to me. He’s tall, long and skinny and lacks the weight needed to be a traditional 43 defensive end. At this juncture, he’s more of a 34 OLB, and with some tape of him in a 2 pt stance already, I think scouts will be able to get a good feel for his overall movement skills. He’s listed at 240 lbs, and while he’s clearly a guy that keeps himself in good shape, he’s just not powerful enough to hold the point versus the run and gets overpowered and sealed out of plays way too easily.
Athletically, Gregory has a good twitch and can get off the ball quickly. But while he has a pretty good first step, he’s a little too tight in the hips for my liking. He’s forced to take choppy steps in order to change direction which causes him to struggle versus the tackle if he doesn’t win with speed and hands right at the snap. He’s a strider who can make a play in pursuit, but he plays with a high pad level that makes him an easy target to get knocked off track when trying to chase a ball carrier down. He’s a raw athlete that needs work on his flexibility.
Against the run, Gregory is a bit of a liability. He does possess the length and lean frame, that when combined with his ability to move quickly at the snap, helps him split the gap and make plays in the backfield. His 19 TFLs is evidence of that. But it doesn’t happen consistently enough to make up for the number of plays that he is physically manhandled and driven out of the play. Time and time again, Gregory is knocked off the ball and into the second level. Maybe it’s a product of his adjustment to big time college football, as well as being only a year after removed from a broken leg. But he HAS to prove in 2014 that he can play against power with more success.
Against the pass, Gregory is a flash player who will show up in the quarterback’s face when they least expect it. Many of his successful pressures seemed to come from the 2 pt stance, where he appeared more comfortable and more natural when setting up his pass rush. He showed some promising pass rush moves last season, including a speed rush and club/rip. But his hand play is a work in progress as he struggles to disengage once he gets locked up with the tackle. He needs to keep himself clean to win, and he struggled with that a bunch on tape.
Based on his 2013 tape, Randy Gregory looks like a late-Day 3 guy to me. He needs to take significant strides in strength and technique against the run, and he needs to refine his hand use to establish confidence that he can be a pass rushing specialist. As a likely 34 OLB in the NFL, he’ll also need to put together a better season of film that displays more flexibility and movement skills in space. I’m cautiously optimistic about his chances, as another offseason with Nebraska combined with being another year removed from his broken leg should lead to better technique, more strength and increased flexibility.