NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Week 3 of the college football season lacked the high profile matchups that we were lucky to have in the first 2 weeks. There were some exciting games, like a certain rivalry game in the state of Iowa (editor’s note: BOOOO), and some exciting players that were on display.
Bernardrick McKinney is a guy that I have been intrigued by purely from a height, weight, and speed perspective. I had very little exposure to him up to this point, but I had heard some good things about his game and I wanted to check it out for myself. It was a mixed bag for me of both good and bad, and some things that I just didn’t expect, so lets break it down a little further.
Right off the bat you can see why scouts and draftniks are excited about this guy. He is hard to miss out on the field because of his size. Listed at 6’5″, 245 lbs., he really does stand out. The next thing I noticed was his speed. For his size, his straight line speed and explosiveness are impressive. One one particular screen pass, Benardrick initially dropped back into coverage, but then exploded towards the running back to make the tackle for no gain. Benardrick played most of the game at ILB where he showed a decent backpedal and seemed to move well in space.
In the first half, it seemed that when he dropped into coverage, the opposing quarterback stayed away from him. On his limited snaps at OLB, he showed good strength to set the edge on a running play as well as a good pass rush to record two sacks on the day.
The one big negative that stuck out to me was the lack of instinct that Benardrick showed. When he was playing inside linebacker, he seems to take a lot of false steps. There were far too many plays where his first instinct was to take a step forward towards the line only to then have to drop back into coverage. This false step led to plays where he was required to turn his back to the play and chase the receiver. Something else that caught my attention was Benardrick seemed to struggle to keep his eyes up when working through traffic. To many times I saw him focused more on what was happening around his feet than on the play. This led to choppy steps and a loss of speed and athleticism.
One final thing I noticed was that Benardrick was off the field for large stretches of time. At first I thought it was because the game had gotten out of hand and they were resting him, but when I went back through my notes, I noticed he missed an entire series when the game was just 7-3 and 14-3 in the first half. This does not seem like the time to have your star defensive player taking plays off.
Benardrick is an enigma to me. There are some things you have to love about him. His size and speed combination is very intriguing. He is a raw athlete with skills any team could use. Speaking of use, I feel like he is playing out of position for the Bulldogs. I think with his size and athleticism, he might be better served playing more as a pass rushing outside linebacker rather than at inside linebacker. As I stated before, he did play a limited amount at OLB, and when he did, he made some plays including the sacks, a fumble recovery and some nice plays in the running game. I look forward to watching him more (he has an upcoming game against LSU) to see how he continues to be used against tougher competition.