Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.
-Aaron the Moor, Titus Andronicus, 2.3.38-39
There is no more violent work in the Shakespeare canon than Titus Andronicus. There’s hardly an empathetic character in the entire proceedings, as increasingly perverse acts of evil are committed in the name of revenge. It’s a bloodthirsty, ghoulish affair.
Even amongst a cast of irredeemable, malevolent sycophants, Aaron the Moor is particularly perverse. Critics speculate Aaron is a send up to the allegorical “Devil” characters from Elizabethan morality plays common in the era. Aaron is one of the few black characters featured in Shakespeare’s works, which is another attempt to illustrate his vileness. There is nothing redemptive or moral in Aaron. He is a cold, callous, murderous fiend. While others seem to act with motivations of revenge for prior wrongdoings, Aaron enacts evil simply for the pure enjoyment of it. At the end of the play Marcus Andronicus, brother of Titus, looks around at the carnage and surmises that Aaron is the “Chief architect and plotter of these woes.”
As a football player, I see Eric Monroe as a similarly chaos-plotting, death-dealing menace to the SEC.
How Did We Get Here?
Back in May of 2014, the Ohio State Buckeyes offered a freshly minted All-District Sophomore named Eric Monroe his first D1 scholarship. Kentucky and A&M followed suit and Monroe set off for Baton Rouge a month later. One day into camp he landed an LSU offer. A month after that, Texas came calling. In that span from June through September 2014, Monroe visited Texas A&M three times. More offers poured in. Monroe visted A&M twice more. He got invited to the Opening. Visited Texas. Visited A&M again. Got offered by Florida.
Then he made his way back to Baton Rouge for the Spring Game. There were murmurings that LSU may have solidified their standing, but no official news trickled forth. A month later Monroe trekked back to Baton Rouge for camp. 10 days later he pledged to LSU. If he ever so much as entertained another school from that moment on, he didn’t indicate as much. Monroe trekked from Houston four different times to take in LSU home games in 2015. He officially visited on January 22nd, signed his papers on February 3rd and reported on June 6th. His quiet, steady, business-like approach to his recruitment made it easy to forget his immense pedigree. Sporting a who’s who offer list and a top 60 national ranking, Monroe could have had his pick of visits. Instead, he honored his first and only commitment, hardly even pausing to consider anything else. Kudos to Bradley Dale Peveto, who did a superb job of not just locking up Monroe, but keeping him engaged, which likely prevented him from taking other visits.
What Can He Do?
Despite being invited to the Opening Finals, I can’t find any solid testing numbers on Monroe. Recruiting sites list him at 6’0”, 180, and the LSU roster has him up to 191 right now. That seems like a feasible amount of weight to add for someone who took a summer weight program seriously. Monroe is hardly the biggest guy in the building, but his size is more than adequate for the role he will play. As for athletic traits, I can’t be bothered to be too worried. He looks to have plenty of speed and is routinely praised for his excellent fluidity.
Strengths: Aggressiveness, Range, Fluidity, Instincts, Closing Speed
Aggressiveness: Watch 1:00 in and you can see Monroe isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the run game, despite not being the biggest guy. There is clip after clip on the reel of Monroe not just being willing in run support, but actively looking to assert himself. 2:39 is another fine example. Serving as a blocker on KR, watch how he throws his body out there with fearlessness.
Range: The play at :28 may be the best on the entire reel. Once Monroe reads the ball, he flips his hips and is immediately at top speed barreling toward the over the top receiver, where he then plays perfect trail technique, times the ball based on the movement of the receiver and picks off the pass. 2:52. Just look at how much ground that dude covers to make the tackle. He’s also routinely praised for his range.
Fluidity: Most safeties are safeties because they lack the hip movement to be isolated as a CB. Hell, even a lot of CBs are resigned to certain systems because they lack that ability. Monroe has it in spades. Just watch 6:30 and how he’s able to turn and run like a corner down the field.
Instincts: It’s tough to point to a single highlight as an example. 6:41 you see a play breakdown and how he mentally sticks with it to make an INT. But I suggest taking time to watch Monroe’s reel end-to-end. He just has the feel of a guy who knows where he is on the football field. Also, plays like 8:36 might remind you of a certain someone.
Closing Speed: Check :10 in and you get a great taste of it. Monroe stumbles in his break and is still able to regain and accelerate for the breakup. 3:58 is another strong example. He can close a gap in coverage like an elite CB. 7:30 is another fine example of how he’s able to quickly recover and make a play.
Size: The biggest knock I can find is that Monroe is a little bit “slight.” He’ll probably top around 200 pounds, which, mind you, isn’t that big of a deal. It’s adequate size both for a college football and NFL FS.
I’m struggling to find a lot of holes in his game as a FS prospect. Of course they exist. He will need to get bigger and stronger. Let’s not forget, he’s a top 60 prospect for a reason. I’m not quite sure why he dropped from being the no. 1 overall safety, but I also don’t really care. He played his entire senior season with an injury, which was then surgically repaired. He’s been back and practicing with the team this summer, so he’s healthy, but I do pause to wonder if that impacted his Senior performance. Monroe’s attitude to the injury was that he “had to do what he had to do... to help the team out.” Soft skills on top of his immense physical abilities? You bet.
Billy touched on it in his DBs preview, but big things could be ahead shortly for Monroe. LSU hasn’t been able to field a truly excellent FS since Brandon Taylor roamed campus. Jamal Adams is a true in-the-box enforcer, but to really allow him to play his best, he needs that guy that can be the eraser in the deep half. Enter, Eric Monroe.
As of right now, the depth chart isn’t terribly long, nor distinguished. Rickey Jefferson is purportedly in the best shape of his life, but he’s long been better served as a reserve player. Dwayne Thomas is returning from injury and playing a new-ish position. He looks to have added nice size, but it’d be a pretty big leap for him to suddenly become an elite type player. The next option is Monroe.
LSU has no issue playing young talent in the secondary and frankly, unless Jefferson or Thomas make a gigantic leap, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Monroe secures that starting FS spot by October. He’s been praised for his leadership skills already, and I think he offers the type of complementing skillset that will allow Adams to truly flourish. There’s also the issue of building for the future. Obviously LSU needs to do whatever gives them the best chance to win it all in 2016-2017, but if they heavily rely on Jefferson/Thomas, it will mean a near complete overhaul of the secondary for 2017-2018. Bringing Monroe along only improve future depth and a more seamless transition to what’s sure to be a new look secondary in 2017.
That being said, I do think Monroe presents the best option for 2016 as well. This kid is about as natural as there is on the football field. He has the instincts and the physical tools to excel. He did the work, as evidenced by adding 11 pounds in the offseason while recovering from injury. And if reports are to be believed, he’s got those soft skills too.
I’m having a hard time pulling back the reigns on this one. Monroe ranked behind only Kristian Fulton, Rashard Lawrence and Saivion Smith from the 2016 signing class. Smith will almost certainly play in 2016, and I’d be surprised if Lawrence didn’t find a role too. Fulton has the talent to contribute immediately, though more depth to parse through. Monroe might play more than all of them. He fits perfectly with a position of need on the defense.
Roughly three weeks out from Wisconsin, I’m sure the staff has some idea how things will shake out. There’s not been a ton of reports suggesting Monroe factors into those plans, but I’m not sure it would behoove the staff to disclose that information anyway.
Call it a hunch or prospecting or whatever, but I think Monroe will be an instant impact freshman. He’s got the type of skills that remind of Mathieu or Earl Thomas in terms of his ability to erase mistakes in the backhalf of the defense. I don’t mean to suggest he’s an All-Pro safety right now, just that that may be his ceiling. Expect big things here.
High End: All-American FS and top NFL draft pick
Low End: Multi-year starter
Realistic: All-conference performer and eventual NFL draft pick