If you haven’t yet, stop right now and read Ian Boyd’s piece on the burgeoning usage of the Nickel Defense in college football. Just 10 years ago, the Nickel defense was hardly essential and often something you only deployed in certain scenarios or against a small handful of opponents that utilized not often seen passing schemes.
Back in the late 1990s, a young defensive coordinator named Gary Patterson decided to adjust to offenses with a 4-2-5 base defense, using a fifth defensive back and only two linebackers. His reasoning was not only that it was easier for New Mexico to recruit speed than strength, but that the scheme produced more flexible defenses anyway.
For the rest of the college world, the idea of using extra DBs in situations other than third down was a gimmick, something for underdog schools that couldn’t recruit big guys.
Your nickel back was usually either lightly recruited or a young guy you were hoping to hide and get some reps and experience. It certainly was not a star player on your defense. It’s true, Nickelback isn’t just a shitty Canadian rock band. As Boyd points out, in this age of spread offenses, teams can no longer gloss over the nickel position. Though they still aren’t held in the same regard as outside CBs, dominant nickels can change the dynamic of your entire defense. LSU has been searching for a dynamic playmaker since Mathieu left.
Kary Vincent may be LSU’s next great nickel back.
Back of the Card
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. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
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 is projected to play professionally.
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. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
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.
247 Composite Ranking: ****
247 Composite Rating: .9567
Vincent finished ranked 95th overall in the 247 composite, but as just the 13th overall CB. He also received an invite to the Under Armour All-American Game. He impressed during the week, proving he’s more than a speed merchant, by displaying his physicality. He drew praise for his technique, understanding of leverage and ball skills. He locked down Bama Signee Jerry Jeudy during one practice.
Listed at 5-10, 182 pounds on the LSU roster, Vincent has adequate, not outstanding, size. Though what he lacks in size, he makes up for in legitimate track speed, where he will participate as a sprinter at LSU. Check out his Track bio here. The list of accomplishments are innumerable and include breaking a handful of HS national records, including the 4X200M relay this summer. He also won the Texas 6A 200-meter State Championship in 2017. So yeah, kid can fly.
On The Field
Already There: Speed, Physicality, Coverage Fundamentals, Fluidity
Working On It: Ball Skills, Blitzing
Doesn’t Have It: Size
Speed: The play at :36 is a truly horrific throw, but watch Vincent explode once he gets the ball in his hands. Lighting in a bottle. He’s 3 steps and in full speed. 2:33 is maybe the finest example on the tape. His short area quicks are on display, but after he cuts back he’s able to take the sideline on three defenders that all have an angle. 4:32 is a good practical example of his speed, showing how he can close on the ball in the air to make a breakup.
Physicality: I hate track stars. Mostly because they aren’t football players. Xavier Carter was a 5-star recruit and should have been a 2-star recruit. He couldn’t play football worth a damn, but he’s a world class track athlete. Evaluators have done a better job sussing these guys out in recent years. Kary Vincent Jr. boasts legitimate track speed, but he’s a football player. :05 is a wretched piece of work form wise, but it shows you right away he’s not afraid to come up and hit somebody. I rather like the play at :50 where he flashes the physical nature with solid form tackling skills. Again at 1:11, you can see he’s a really solid tackler in the open field and doesn’t shy away from contact at all. 2:54... he likes to hit people.
Coverage Fundamentals: Vincent shows a pretty developed game for a young player. At 1:46 he’s in a one-on-one situation with no help. Vincent uses an off-hand jam to disrupt the timing, then does an excellent job to turn and get his head around to locate the ball in the air. After judging the trajectory of the ball, Vincent swivels his head back around and gets his hands up to prevent the WR from making the catch. At 1:54 we don’t get the whole view since he starts off frame, lined up at S, but I love the way he attacks the ball in the air, using his outside arm to bat it away and his inside arm to check the receiver in case he makes the catch. 4:19 he flips his hips open and runs the route for the receiver up to pulling down the catch. Vincent also plays the ball in the air really well, and you can see at 5:03 how well he tracks the flight and is able to make a breakup.
Fluidity: Track speed isn’t terribly useful if the player can only explode in a straight line. Vincent is more than a straight-line runner and he shows good swivel in his hips to turn and run with receivers down field. At 5:10, you can see how effortless he is getting flipped around to get in position.
Working On It
Ball Skills: Perhaps by design of his HS defense, Vincent isn’t deployed in the manner I envision he will be at LSU. He’s often playing outside in coverage and typically in man situations. He shows good capability there, but we don’t get to see how he plays in zone situations. This isn’t so much something he can’t do as something we just don’t get to see him do. He drew praise at the UA practices for his ball skills, so this may be of little concern. But where I see Grant Delpit as a guy who will jump passing lanes, Vincent looks more like he’s gonna yield few receptions using his technique and make-up speed for PBUs.
Blitzing: There’s one blitz on the reel and he doesn’t look incredibly comfortable doing it. At 2:21 they bring him on CB blitz and he takes a weird, circuitous path and once he arrives at the QB unabated, seems almost shocked to be there, before coming to his senses and making the sack. For a player that otherwise seems to display good football awareness, he looks totally lost on the play. This will be a big part of the Nickel role under Aranda and he has the physical tools for it, but let’s see if the has the timing and intuition to be great at it.
Doesn’t Have It
Size: He’s not the tallest and longest guy in the world. Listed at 5-10, he’s probably in that 5-9ish range and doesn’t have freakishly long arms to compensate. That may limit his upside at the next two levels and restrict him to a role as nickel-only. Time will tell. His speed, fluidity and craftiness might open him up to more.
Poseur’s 80s Movie Comparison
Finding a nickel corner who can truly carry the position has been a sore spot since Tyrann Mathieu left the fold. It hasn’t been a total disaster, but there also hasn’t been a true superstar difference maker since he left campus. This is Vincnet’s star-making turn, putting him in a position to become an overnight star. Just like...
... Michael J Fox going from sitcom star to legitimate movie star. Back to the Future had a troubled production, even replacing its lead actor several weeks into filming, forcing reshoots. It was worth it.
Michael J Fox is a smallish, Canadian actor who needed precisely the right role to become an icon. That’s what Kary Vincent walks into at LSU. As one of the multitudes vying for a corner job, he’s just another pretty face, but as the nickel corner, he is an immediate impact player. He has his star vehicle, he just has to punch it to 88 miles per hour.
What the Future Holds
In January, after 6 months of commitment, Vincent took a somewhat surprising visit to Austin. Pics of Vincent in UT gear surfaced and Texas bloggers began to bang the drum for their new head coach showing up and flipping a long-time LSU commit. Turns out, Vincent went on the trip to stay in K’Lavon Chaisson’s ear, a strategy that proved fruitful in the end.
Beyond sticking loyally to his commitment, despite his father’s ties to Texas A&M (where he played football before being drafted by the Saints and then having a short Arena football league career) , Vincent became one of LSU’s most ardent recruiters. Not only did he play a role in reeling in Chaisson, he nearly convinced 5-star Marvin Wilson to join him in Baton Rouge as well. It’s unique to see an OOS player become the recruiting classes’ champion recruiter, but Vincent became exactly that, especially to his Texas brethren.
Just 10 days ago, Orgeron stated Kary Vincent is considered “a starter for us.” It’s an impressive climb up the depth chart against some pretty stiff competition, considering the way LSU recruits DBs. He’s still battling with sophomore Xavier Lewis, a former top 200 player himself, for playing time.
It’s pretty clear Vincent will see time right away in the nickel role, if not outright start, his first game as a college freshman. Knowing that helps ease some of the unknown pieces you don’t see on his highlight reel like his ball skills or blitzing abilities. Aranda mentioned the biggest issue right now is Vincent having confidence in knowing what he’s looking at and unleashing his speed in a positive manner. Vincent displays pretty good instincts on the field, so I imagine it won’t take long for him to feel comfortable diagnosing and unleashing. By virtue of the number of talented DBs on the roster, he’s probably in for a role spilt in 2017, but should see heavy situational usage. If he flashes a preponderance of skill at a particular facet of the game, you may see him more. If he struggles to ever get there mentally to fully unwind and play ball, you may see him less. I think he’ll figure it out and be a factor. The coaches seem too high on him at this point.
High End: All-Conference player and lethal playmaking threat at Nickel.
Low End: Lost in a talented shuffle of DBs and fails to emerge until late in his career, similar to Dwayne Thomas.
Realistic: Quality, multi-year starter. Defensive leader and dependable veteran.