Scouting Report: What is Florida Getting in CB Ethan Pouncey?
The Florida Gators’ cornerback tradition is well known. Three of the last four years saw Florida cornerbacks drafted into the NFL, with Duke Dawson, Vernon Hargreaves, Quincy Wilson, and Jalen Tabor hearing their names called in April.
During his high school career, Ethan Pouncey displayed the talent to one day be an NFL player as well. Here’s a look at the most recent Gators’ cornerback commitment.
In today’s college football world, you better possess cornerbacks that can not only cover, but tackle. Teams will screen an opposing defense until they prove they can stop it. Then, of course, fake the screen and go deep. Offenses hold the advantage with the run-pass-option, and defenses consistently play catch up.
Thus: Long, athletic, and physical cornerbacks need to be signed for any defense to be competitive, and Pouncey fits that mold. The best news is he’s not yet fully filled out. The 6-1, 160-pound athlete can pack on another twenty pounds in short order, and yet keep his speed. Playing for Winter Park High School in Orlando, Pouncey competed against some of the best teams central Florida had to offer. He has proved his worth.
CHANGE OF DIRECTION SKILLS
If there’s one category that every great cornerback needs, it’s the ability to stop and quickly change direction. Pouncey does this well - he's elite at it, in fact.
His change of direction is going to allow him to be effective in breaking on passes or getting involved with the run game after starting the play in a backpedal, paired with his ability to read and react. It’s a key trait that will serve him, and the Florida Gators, well.
After watching two or three plays of Pouncey’s film, it was evident that he was a track athlete. A smooth-running motion without any unnecessary movements; he glided.
It’s one of the reasons Pouncey took multiple interceptions for touchdowns. Additionally, with Pouncey’s speed, do not be surprised if he eventually lands a spot on the Gators’ kickoff and/or punt return units. Pouncey can change a game with one return for a touchdown.
Not only is Pouncey 6-1, his long arms allow him to be a player that seems like he’s much taller. Pouncey will deflect passes other defensive backs simply cannot reach.
Those deflections can be incompletions, or they could end up in the hands of a Gator defender. Do not discount this attribute. Length will serve Pouncey well while wearing a Florida uniform.
Many cornerbacks simply do like to tackle. In fact, many avoid contact in general. It’s also why many of those same players ride the pine. Pouncey continually tackles aggressively. He comes up in the run game and the screen game with the intent to make a tackle.
He’s not a show pony. While it may seem like a basic characteristic, Pouncey’s ability to tackle could lead him to early playing time.
Some of the most talented high school cornerbacks need a year or two of learning how to tackle and gaining the desire to tackle to earn significant playing time. This is especially true in the SEC. Imagine Florida signing cornerbacks that do not fair well in the run game. How’s that going to work against Georgia? LSU? Auburn? Pouncey will be able to compete early due in large part to his ability to tackle. That’s very important.
MAN COVERAGE AND ZONE COVERAGE
It’s rare that a high school cornerback truly knows how to play ‘off coverage’ sitting in zone and be able to break on passes to intercept them. For this skill, Pouncey is as good as one will see for the class of 2020. In man coverage, his physical attributes, as listed above, continually served him well. It’s the zone coverage that’s most impressive, however, as that’s more about learning one’s opponent. That stems from watching film and knowing one’s keys. This leads to the final category.
Pouncey often sat in zone and just waited for opposing quarterbacks to throw his direction. Bad move for the quarterbacks. Interception and off to the races!
He certainly intercepted passes in man coverage as well, but the zone picks truly do offer a glimpse of what he’s capable of accomplishing. When college defensive coordinators attempt to confuse a quarterback, zone coverage is often involved. The true key, however, derives from defensive backs and linebackers waiting until the very last instant to tip their intentions. Pouncey proved he is quite astute at completing this task.
Pouncey possesses the physical and mental skill set to play as a freshman. Will he earn those minutes between the white lines of the gridiron? That remains to be seen, as Pouncey must practice and train well between now and next September. With that said, he’s not your typical high school cornerback.
Look for Pouncey to at the very least push for playing time. Pouncey should be able to play in nickel or dime during the 2020 season, if not rotate into the regular lineup. His talent is simply too good to just sit on the bench. This level of competition will be good for the Gators’ secondary as it must continue to add depth and talent to reach elite SEC status. The more players that sign with Florida like Pouncey, the more likely Florida will win SEC and National Championships.