You’ll probably hear a lot about Sharrif Floyd over the next few months. He’s got the kind of back-story the media loves to wax lyrical over. You’ll probably feel like you know the guy personally by April. He’s a former 5-star recruit and top rated defensive tackle, who had to fight for everything he’s achieved. Floyd had a difficult upbringing, as noted by the AP:
Floyd grew up poor and has recounted the time when he wore the same clothes to elementary school every day for months at a time. His biological father died when he was 3 years old, and the man he thought was his father over the next 12 years “didn’t treat me right growing up,” he said. Floyd left home at 15, moved in with grandmother and then bounced around from coaches to friends to other relatives. Muschamp said Floyd still sends his grandmother part of his monthly Pell Grant money.
This is a player who grew up without parents, had to deal with severe financial difficulties and lived with whoever would take him in. As the AP states, he was living with his grandmother for a time – but he also lived with his guidance councillor and his high school coach. Anywhere that provided shelter. And in a few months time, he could be a first or second round NFL draft pick.
The mark of the man is summed up in the following story. Before he began his career with the Gators, he was invited to attend the annual U.S. Army All-American Combine for talented high school students. One problem – he couldn’t afford the trip to San Antonio Texas where the game was taking place (he was brought up in Philadelphia). To raise the cash he cooked brownies with the help of special-education students and sold them for several weeks at his school. He raised enough cash, made it to San Antonio and earned first-team all-combine honours when he got there. By the time he was ready to think about college, he was getting offers from all the big schools – Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami, USC, Florida and Penn State to name a few.
It’s safe to assume Pete Carroll knows about Floyd. He left USC to move to Seattle days before Floyd committed to Florida. We know Carroll likes to go back in for ‘the one who got away’ (Bruce Irvin turned down the chance to join USC in favour of West Virginia). So he’s one to monitor during the post-season.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t end with hardship merely leading into college. He was forced to sit out two games in 2011 after receiving what the NCAA describes as ‘impermissible benefits’. Having caught almost no breaks in his life previously, Floyd was finally helped out by a wealthy Philadelphia businessman named Kevin Lahn. Here’s the issue as the NCAA reported:
Receiving $2,500 cash over several months from an individual not associated with the university. Floyd used the money for living expenses, transportation and other expenses. In addition, he received impermissible benefits prior to enrollment, including transportation and lodging related to unofficial visits to several institutions.
This may sound familiar to the Michael Oher story, made famous by a (in my opinion) lousy film from which Sandra Bullock somehow won an Oscar. The difference here is – Oher’s adopted parents had ties to Ole Miss and the NCAA rightly investigated to see if his adoption and care had any significant impact on his decision to attend the school. They had to check to see if he’d basically been recruited by two Ole Miss boosters willing to sacrifice a bedroom for a left tackle. As far as I’m aware, Kevin Lahn has no connection to the Gators. Reports suggest he was a former booster at South Carolina, but apparently they disassociated themselves from Lahn after the NCAA ruling. For more information on the case, read this piece from the Orlando Sentinel.
The whole thing, to me, looks like a kid who finally got a break – and was then punished for getting that break. He’s since been adopted by the Lahn’s and will go on to become a pro-football player. It’ll be hard earned when he gets to the NFL.
So what about his play? He features both inside at tackle and also plays the edge too. He’s quite effective lining up as a five-technique and that might prove to be his best position going forward. He’s improved as a pass rusher this year, finding ways to get into the backfield and flashing a little more burst. Last season he looked a bit slow off the mark and if he’s going to play three-technique in the NFL, he needs to work on exploding off the snap and getting that leverage early. This year there’s some improvement – but for such a talented athlete it’s an area he could be better.
He gets too high when initiating contact and he gets pushed back because of poor technique. Look at the video above at the 2:03 mark. He tries to move left and dip inside to confuse the offensive line. However – the right guard notices this quickly and gets under his pad level quickly with a jolt and just stones Floyd on the spot. He can’t disengage. If he bends his knees and gets the hands in low, he maybe gets the lineman off balance or at least pushes him back. Instead, he’s out of the play. When you dip inside you better have an impact. It basically leaves one undersized defensive end against a guard and left tackle on the right hand side of the line. Not surprising, the DE is on the turf pretty quickly and E.J. Manuel breaks contain and exploits the space to his left.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter that he goes high. At 5:30 he’s playing the edge and just flat out beats the left tackle with an initial punch and then a burst round the edge to get to Manuel. Again, the technique isn’t great here. But he’s just too good. He’s too strong and too fast for the FSU left tackle. It’s a great play and flashes why he could make a better five technique than a three. If he can be this disruptive at the five, it’s going to make life very easy for some of the better 3-4 OLB’s in the league.
That’s not to say that he couldn’t play inside. Clearly he’s an athletic player for his size (approximately 300lbs) and there are times when he throws a little sidestep move to avoid a block and he looks the part of a pro-inside penetrator.
Against the run he’s OK. Again the technique is an issue because he consistently goes too high, but he also lacks a lot of the pure power at the point of attack you see with Star Lotulelei and Sylvester Williams. It’s worth noting that he’s quite a bit lighter than both of those players and could still add muscle to become a better run stopper. The thing he has got in his favour is a good motor. He doesn’t appear to take any snaps off and even though he doesn’t always finish when given the opportunity, he keeps working to make plays. Sheldon Richardson has that same attitude, but the big difference between the two is Richardson is nasty. He’ll take a hit and come back harder on the next play. He gets in your face, he has attitude. Floyd will score much higher than Richardson for character, but it’d be nice to see a bit more of a mean streak at times on the field.
Before people ask, I can’t imagine the Seahawks using him in the Red Bryant role which is essentially a 5-technique. Bryant is much bigger than Floyd. When asked who would replace him if he can’t make the Bears game on Sunday, Pete Carroll said Alan Branch would play DE with 284lbs Greg Scruggs taking over at the three technique. Carroll wants size in the Bryant position, not an orthodox 3-4 defensive end. In fact, he’s probably more likely to draft massive Georgia nose tackle Jonathan Jenkins to play the Bryant role than a guy like Floyd. And whatever people think of Bryant’s play this year – he remains a focal point of the defense. He’s also the highest paid defensive player on the team and a big emotional leader.
Is he likely to be on Seattle’s radar? Possibly given USC and Carroll’s reported interest in him before he chose Florida. However, I think he’s more likely to interest 3-4 teams and the Seahawks might be looking for a more orthodox three technique in the draft, such as the aforementioned Richardson out of Missouri.