Some thoughts on Stephon Tuitt & Dee Ford

February 14th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Stephon Tuitt didn't have a great 2013 season

Sometimes it’s good to have another look at a player. Aaron Donald is a great example — my opinion changed dramatically after a more extensive review.

I let myself down by not taking him seriously during the season.

Now, there aren’t many players I’d rank above him going into the combine.

Unfortunately, I’m not quite as excited about the two prospects below after watching more tape this week.

Stephon Tuitt (DL, Notre Dame)

I’m really, really confused by Stephon Tuitt.

He left high school as a 4/5 star recruit, at 6-5 and 252lbs. listed ‘athleticism’, ‘speed’ and ‘pass rushing skills’ as plus points, with ‘strength’ and ‘technique’ the two areas he needed to improve.

So when you put on the tape, why are we watching a +300lbs plus monster who doesn’t move well, is a really limited athlete but appears to have decent strength and at least some degree of technique?

It’s like he spent the last few years concentrating way too much on the areas he needed to improve and dropped what made him such an exciting recruit in the first place.

And it’s incredibly frustrating.

He’s listed by ESPN at 6-7 and 322lbs. That’s nose tackle size, and he plays like a nose tackle asked to work the edge. His 2013 tape is sluggish and completely underwhelming. Yet every now and again there’s a little glimmer. He’ll swim past a blocker and burst into the backfield. He was incredibly effective against USC — his one genuinely good game in 2013.

The rest of his tape is nowhere near as enticing.

It’s the USC game that makes you want to tear your hair out. Inside this mammoth frame could be a competent pass rusher. If he was playing at 275-280lbs, you’d probably have a guy who’s big enough to hold up against the run, but he’d also be much quicker — and much sharper.

So why has he got this big? I just don’t get it.

Is it a conditioning issue? Was he encouraged by Notre Dame to add weight?

Whatever the reason, it’s going to hammer his draft stock this year.

In a scenario where he ends up on my team, the first thing I’d want him to do is drop a ton of weight. Re-emphasise the speed while maintaining a frame that is able to defend the run. At 280-285lbs he could pretty much line up at the three technique, the one, as an edge rusher or a five.

Right now I’d probably feel obliged to have him inside or limited to a Red Bryant-style two-down role. But even then, he isn’t Bryant. He doesn’t play with anywhere near the same level of intensity or freakish strength. Anyone thinking this could be a good match for Seattle — essentially a cheaper replacement for the big guy — is probably going to be let down after watching the video below.

Tony Pauline sums up his season in a week-2 blog for (following Notre Dame’s game against Michigan): “He looked un-athletic, marginally explosive and was constantly on the ground.”

I have very little interest in Tuitt and I suspect the Seahawks will feel the same way. Unless he shows up in better shape at the combine and puts on a show, he could easily drift. I’m not quite sure why he’s still being projected as a round one pick by some high profile pundits.

Maybe they know something we don’t?

Either way, it aint obvious.

You can see his final game for Notre Dame below, a bowl game against Arizona State. Mike Mayock mentions in the commentary that Tuitt played ‘heavy legged’ this year.

The tape overall is just one great big example of this.

At his current size, he’s just a cumbersome defensive lineman who isn’t special. And I’d say it’d be an upset if he goes much higher than rounds two or three.

Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)

If you browse through the 2013 tape, you’ll find a few games where Ford looks the part.

His display in the BCS Championship was particularly impressive. He gave the FSU offensive line fits, regularly pressured Jameis Winston and finished with two sacks.

They couldn’t deal with his speed off the edge, it was like candy from a baby. If you were watching this game in isolation, you’d get excited. I know I wanted to see more.

How good could this guy be?

That interest grew when he had a big impact at the Senior Bowl — reportedly performing well during work outs and grabbing a couple of sacks in the game.

I dug out his tape against Texas A&M and Alabama — because they are the games scouts will gravitate towards.

Against the Aggies he came up against Cedric Ogbuehi — destined to be a high pick in the 2015 draft and A&M’s latest brilliant tackle.

We all know what to expect from an Alabama line — and once again in 2013 they continued to churn out top-tier talent.

In both games, Ford was pretty much dominated.

He was a complete non factor against the Crimson Tide, recording one tackle and struggling to get off a single block. It was a pretty ugly display to be honest.

Even the tight ends had a lot of success against him. That can’t happen in college.

Right at the end of the A&M game, he makes a couple of sacks. And that looks good on the stat sheet. But on both occasions Johnny Manziel ran straight into him — scrambling into trouble.

The sacks are a deceiving stat, because this battle was very much won by Ogbuehi. Having watched Morgan Moses handle Jeremiah Attaochu earlier in the week, this was a close second in terms of a pure one-sided match between tackle and pass rusher.

If you get Ford in space with a QB in his sights, he can chase them down in the open field. He has good speed — some say as fast as 4.4. He’s a finisher if he can get free.

But that’s the problem — getting free. When he’s asked to take on a competent or experienced tackle, he struggles to shake a block. He doesn’t have the upper body power or hand-use to disengage. He isn’t a great fighter at the line, working to get free and break into the backfield. Ford relies on a very wide starting position and beating his guy for off the edge in a foot race.

Ogbuehi looked like he was playing at a different level.

Every time he just set up his stance and got his hands on Ford — it was over. He’s got a good enough kick step to shadow and counter the speed. This was food and drink until the late mistakes from Manziel gift wrapped the sacks.

Teams are going to gravitate towards these two games and any excitement built up over the Senior Bowl week is going to be tempered.

Some will covet his speed if he does run a really fast time at the combine. I can see him in a wide-9 having some success, albeit as a specialist early on. He’ll likely secure a place in rounds two or three if he shows up well in Indianapolis.

Yet his overall game isn’t good enough to warrant a first round pick. I’m not expecting to project him to Seattle at #32 — even with their penchant for speed off the edge.

He doesn’t have great length or size (barely 6-2, 243lbs) and I’m not sure he’s got the frame to get any bigger. He’s a redshirt senior entering the draft so this might be close to the finished article we’re seeing.

There’s more to being a LEO than pure speed. Cliff Avril isn’t huge at 6-3 and 260lbs — but he’s a more rounded and complete player. He’s big enough and strong enough to use a bull rush and the 4.51 speed is adequate to be an effective edge guy too.

When a blocker gets into his pads — it aint over.

Too often that’s the case with Dee Ford — and he could easily still be around in round three as a consequence. Round two is probably his ceiling — and that’s with a good combine.

If the Seahawks do have interest here, I suspect they’ll probably wait it out. I’m not convinced there’s any reason to target him at #32.

He does have some potential to work in coverage — and he might be a better fit in an orthodox 3-4.

27 Responses to “Some thoughts on Stephon Tuitt & Dee Ford”

  1. LantermanC says:

    Good stuff as always Rob. Be interested to hear your thoughts on Will Sutton if he’s available in a middle round.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve never been overly keen on Sutton but he’s a guy I’m going to take another look at before the combine.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        I was a big proponent of Sutton’s, but he’s got similar issues as Ford. Plays waay too high and has little upper body strength. Great hand usage, though. 3rd round unless he surprises at the combine.

  2. Stuart says:

    Rob, you have exceptional journalism skills. Over the years you have won me over with your analysis and fortitude. When you make it big time,and you will, don’t forget about your buddy’s over here at SDB:).

  3. EdC says:

    We can all agree dead weight: Rice/Miller

    Clem was starting to look like himself (especially superbowl) do you think he redoes his deal to stay, or he gets cut and goes for the money?

    Red and/or Mebane renegotiate this year or next?

    Time to look for Unger and Okung 2015 replacements?

    With MB saying no discount, is he gone? Do you think we pay him $8 yr? I think that is too much especially with Thomas/Maxwell/Sherman/Wilson all needing deals?

    I really think how JS/PC have drafted, even if we lose BG/GT/CC/SR/ZM/MB, we should still be as effective, if not more with Harvin this year.

    • Kyle says:

      I don’t agree that they’ll cut Zach Miller. I think it’s way more likely they cut Clem and Bryant (while not restructuring Miller or Mebane).

      Not sure what the market will be for Bennett. I feel like $8M is possible, but it’s not like he’s that young and this was his first year of really breaking onto the scene.

  4. Madmark says:

    Bottom line is we are talking about the Defensive line we are looking at. Lots of flux here with FA. I’m assuming Bennett is going to get a good deal but I don’t think it will be from us. I also think Clinton McDonald could be bought by another team. I even thought maybe Tony McDaniels Signs a 4 year 20million deal, just a thought. The PUPP list was had 3 players activated for camp and all of them was defensive players like Gregg Scruggs DE, Korey Toomer LB, and Tharon Simmon CB so these guy are some competition for camp this year. I like to get Julian Ellis DT from LATech take him with 4th round pick. Ya I know he’s slow but he’s extremely powerful and pushes dbl teams backwards and its that ability I think PC could exploit somehow. He’s about 350 lbs. rarely gets pushed off his feet.

  5. MJ says:

    It’s been a weird year regarding the Seahawks and the draft. Oddly enough, I think we go defense heavy with a huge focus on DT/DE. As much as I’d love to grab a stud WR, I could easily see PC/JS waiting til much later to grab one. We all saw how huge of a difference a few studs on the DL made this year. Would be great to grab some young studs with cost control over the next 4-5 years.

    • Rob Staton says:

      It would be good to re-stock the DL for the next few years — but a note worth remembering. Michael Bennett was an UDFA and Cliff Avril a third rounder. They got Clemons via a steal trade, got Tony McDaniel for a pinch and were able to cut and re-sign Clinton McDonald.

      So they’ve found production in unnatural ways or paid for previously cheap players in FA (Avril/Bennett). In theory this could be a plan they stick to. And the temptation will be to go WR early given it’s another world class this year in round one.

  6. Justin M says:

    Hey Rob I was looking at how Arthur Lynch handled Dee Ford. It made me forget about Ford and Look at Georgia TE Arthur Lynch. I came away impressed. He looks like a TE that would fit our system. He looks to make a block instead of alluding a blocker to run a route. I would love to hear what you think.

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Arthur Lynch is one of my favorites in this class. Really hope we can snag him in the fourth. Some other guys I like are Crockett Gilmore of Colorado State and Jake Murphy of Utah. Alex Bayer of Bowling Green is another one I’d like to see in Seattle.

      Any of these guys, basically.

      Seriously. Screw Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Very little to like about his game.

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      Not a real fan on Lynch.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        Care to elaborate? I see few flaws in his game. He catches everything. Threatens the seam. Blocks like a mug.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Marginal athlete, could run a 4.8/4.9. Not the greatest reach. Good blocker at times but for me a pretty limited player overall.

  7. Hay stacker509 says:

    Did jake Murphy declare? I thought he was a junior this year?

  8. CC says:

    Dee Ford is an interesting prospect. I think someone will over draft him. He could become a good rusher, or he could become the next Dion Jordan. I could see the Jags draft him in the 2nd if he’s there for them. The Seahawks will have to be a bit more disciplined especially if Bennett goes in FA – which at this point I think may happen. We probably are going to start to see some cuts this week with the combine coming up. That could give us an idea of what is to come.

  9. MarkinSeattle says:

    I have a couple thoughts and notes on Tuitt after watching him over the years as a ND fan (although that is irrelevant to who I would like the Seahawks to draft: the best players to continue this run).

    Tuitt is a relatively late starter to football, as he wasn’t allowed to start football until he was in high school (there is a story about how he had to run the 5 miles to school to play football). I wonder if some of his skills are limited due to a late start at the position (compared to many other football players).

    Last year he suffered and played the second half of the year with a sports hernia. His production dropped off dramatically after suffering the injury (over 8 sacks in the first 6 games, around 4 in the remaining 6). He ended up having the surgery for the hernia in late March, and wasn’t able to lift until August, when he started up in the fall camp. By that time he had ballooned to 322 lbs (he played last year at 306 lbs). More importantly, he wasn’t able to maintain his core strength without lifting.

    What I don’t understand, and am completely perplexed about, is why didn’t they have the surgery performed last January, right after the NCG? If they had, he would have had several months to get back into shape. Completely baffling, and I have yet to here a reasonable explanation as to why they delayed in the surgery (perhaps they didn’t discover it until March?).

    Being out of shape had a dramatic impact on his performance. He was definitely a lot slower on the playing field. Not only due to the added weight, but the lack of muscle definition showed as well. It makes sense his performance improved as the season went on, although it still didn’t reach any type of consistency.

    Both Nix and Tuitt added some weight in the off season. Brian Kelly stated in the off season that Tuitt was overweight (due to the surgery) and they wanted him closer to 315 lbs. He didn’t make any comments about Nix being overweight. My guess is that as an overreaction to the beating by ALA, Kelly decided they needed more physical size on the DL to compete with traditional power rushing teams. I don’t think this resulted in an improvement on the DL, as both stars were slow and didn’t have much of an impact.

    I don’t know how impressive Tuitt will be at the combine, or if he is even close to recovering his core strength. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if he lost 20 lbs and put up some very good numbers. He isn’t a speed demon at DE, and his greatest success seems to have been playing at 300 lbs. He also has a big frame. I can see a scenario where he measurable attract the attention of Schnieder and Carroll, and they overlook a lack of consistent performance. He comes from a good back ground (single mother is a sheriff’s deputy), he is a hard worker, and he has his head on straight (also majored in engineering which requires some level of effort).

    Now having said that, I personally wouldn’t advocate for selecting Tuitt with our first round pick. Yet he may have some of the hallmarks that the Seahawks look for (long arms, great athlete for his size, can be coached up on technique).

    • MarkinSeattle says:

      One last thing, if you haven’t already, you might want to study his film from the first 6 games of last year. When he was operating at his peak weight and strength level. I think you will see a difference in his play (although I can’t testify as to his consistency).