It's often true that the further you get away from something the less you appreciate it. At least until a certain point, upon which it becomes an item of deeper focus. The 2014 signing class is still near to us. 23 new signees, only two of which have even participated in any sort of on-field practice for LSU, Brandon Harris and Ed Paris. The stories of these young men are yet untold. Some will become legends, others will fizzle out and be only memories as top-tier recruits and still others will fall somewhere in between that spectrum.
Sorting out the 2014 DB class will be an interesting endeavor. LSU enters 2014 with a surplus of young talent in the defensive backfield, primarily at the corner position, but with Rickey Jefferson looking to make his mark at safety as well. Add to that mix five new DBs, if you include ATH Russell Gage, and the secondary is as young and deep as its ever been.
Among those five is Paris. While he may not be a forgotten man, it's fair to say his quiet recruitment took some shine off what was previously considered one of the best signees in the class.
Paris is a 6'1", 190-pound defensive back who prepped at Mansfield Timberview just outside of Fort Worth, Texas. He's only a Texan transplant, though, having originated from NOLA and shifted to Texas following Katrina. Paris let it be known early and often that there was only one choice for him: LSU. Nothing in his recruitment indicated otherwise. He committed on February 25th of last year about a week and a half after attending LSU Junior Day and never so much as visited another school. On November 14th he signed a financial aid agreement to LSU with the intent to enroll early.
By January 15th of this year Paris was officially an LSU athlete. He never played games, never so much as even hinting he may have interest in another school. In fact, he played a heavy hand in bringing about Jamal Adams' commitment. When a dangerous ice storm threatened to cancel both he and Adams official visit this December, the two loaded up with their folks and made the 6+ hour drive to Baton Rouge.
Paris proved a prep superstar, racking up 20 interceptions (returning two for scores), 57 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries throughout his prep career. He became a U.S. Army All-American and earned an invite to Nike's prestigious "The Opening" event. He finished ranked the no. 42 player nationally in 247's Composite Rankings, a consensus 4-star prospect with a 97.86 rating, explained here:
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Few recruits offer a résumé as distinguished as his.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 190 pounds
40-yard Dash: 4.53
SPARQ Rating: 130.8
These numbers were verified at Nike's The Opening back in July of last year. Not sure how ESPN establishes these, but according to their leaderboard, he posted the 12th best SPARQ in the entire country last season. It's worth noting that four people hold eight of the 12 top scores, including Speedy Noil with both of the top two.
Since we're well aware of his lofty rankings, let's take a look and see if the film backs them up.
Strengths: Size/Length, Ball Skills, Instincts, Athleticism, Strength
Weaknesses: Tackling form, Quickness, Fluidity
What I Like
Athleticism: Paris played corner in HS, and that is currently his listed position at LSU. Many have speculated that he could be a candidate that transitions back to safety due to his size, but I don't think he's limited to that. The first thing that stands out is his length. Paris is a taller corner and he's also got extremely long arms. Let's start with the play at :22. First, we can see Paris is exceptionally smooth and natural in his backpedal. Notice his chest is over his knees and his body has a nice bend to it. When Paris begins to move he's not taking huge backward running steps or becoming overly busy with his feet. You should skate over the turf so that your feet are ready to react to the receiver's movement. When he opens his hips, it's not the most fluid of movements but his good technique in the backpedal put him in good position to recover. From there he does an excellent job tracking the ball in flight and making a play on it in the air, using his leaping ability and long arms to make the interception. You can see flashes of his athleticism on the return.
Size/Length: The play at 1:10 further illustrates his length. Though he doesn't do a great job of playing the ball in the air and appears to be beat, he's able to use his long arms to reach in and break up the ball as it gets to the receiver.
Strength: Another trait that stands out is his natural strength. Starting around 1:17 we see different instances of him making tackles in the open field. His tackling technique at this point is pretty raw, but what's impressive is his ability to wheel down ball carriers with one arm. Now check the clip at 2:02 and the clip that follows. Here's that strength put to use functionally, as he gets an impressive jam at the line that completely derails the receiver. Oh and how about this for strength:
Instincts: At :02 Paris reads the ball out of the QB's hands and makes a great break, playing the ball all the way, resulting in a break-up and then interception.
Ball Skills: At :38 watch how smoothly and easily Paris tracks the ball in the air, uses his large frame to shield the receiver out of the play, then his great leaping ability and length to go up and snag the ball at his highest point. At 1:32 he makes an exceptional play, turning and running with the receiver downfield then adjusting his body again to make a play on the ball and collect another pick.
What I Dislike
Tackling Form: There's not a ton of clips available of him tackling, but he rarely breaks down, often goes high and usually slings people down rather than wrapping up. Tackling is a skill that can be taught and with his size he should be able to become at least adequate in that department if not very good.
What I Don't Know
Fluidity: This one's tough for me to gauge. Usually a good shuttle time indicates a player that is pretty fluid, but Paris' time doesn't stand out there. On tape you see flashes, like the clip at 1:32 of the second video, but other times he looks a bit stiff and unwieldy trying to turn and run in coverage. Since the beat writers focus almost exclusively on the QBs at spring practice, I haven't seen any film to see how he looks vs. our other corners. If Paris proves to be a guy that can't fluidly turn and run in college, he may ultimately wind up at safety.
There's way too much to like about Paris than to be concerned with any possible hip stiffness. As I noted above, if that does become an issue, then you simply move him to safety where his coverage becomes a boon. That said, Paris shows out so well athletically in other regards, it stands to reason that any of that stiffness could be coached/taught/trained out of him. Now that he's under the watch of elite athletic trainers and position coaches, his athletic talents should be maximized.
The plans for Paris are yet unknown. He's listed as a CB on the roster, and he's getting his first shot there. We all known Chavis is unafraid to think outside the box when it comes to using his defenders. Tyrann Mathieu became a dynamo playmaker as a nickel/LB/safety hybrid that did a little bit of everything. Even Harry Coleman, a converted safety, took on a similar role when he shifted to LB. He'll do his best to maximize what his players are good at.
Paris looks like a guy that can play pretty comfortably around 205-210 pounds. That's a big defensive back, more the size of a safety. He may be best deployed in a hybrid role, doing some blitzing off the edge, covering TEs, even serving as an extra run defender in the box if he can improve his tackling. I think his varied skill set will allow Chavis to deploy him all across the defense.
If he sticks at corner, I suspect LSU would run more press coverage, as that's where he'd be best suited. LSU meshes a lot of coverage concepts, which should favor Paris should he wind up on the outside. He's probably best deployed ranging in deep zones or pressing at the line. At this point, I don't see a "lock down" corner type (think Revis, Peterson types that can excel across all schemes). There's no shame in that at all, because those types of players you can count on one hand.
Paris has exceptional instincts when the ball is the air, as well as the ability to go up and make a play on it. I don't say this lightly, but the guy has Jarvis Landry type strong hands... he catches the ball so well, it makes you wonder what he'd look like as an offensive player. At safety he could be a center field type that roams and makes plays.
I love the combination of skills Paris brings to the table. He's not a guy you fit into a box... he's a guy who re-defines it. I doubt you see a RS year for him. Paris will be playing this year and not just as a special teamer.
High End: All-American Defensive Back
Low End: Solid starter.
Realistic: He reminds me a bit of Corey Webster. Obviously that'd be an exceptional career, but I'll be pretty surprised if Paris isn't an All-SEC type player by the end of his career, assuming he stays healthy.