SOTT Draft Profile: Stephon Gilmore
Patrick D. Starr
The next few weeks here on State of the Texans we will be doing some draft profiles of some particular players who could possibly fit into the Texans' plans. We are not going to try to piece together scouting reports, but we enlist help of bloggers who actually cover the respective player and their school.
We enlist the help of John Havard from the Garnett and Black Attack, a SB Nation blog dedicated to the South Carolina Gamecocks. We ask John some questions about potential first round pick, cornerback, Stephon Gilmore who seems to be gaining momentum and intrigue across draft boards. The Junior cornerback has put his name up higher on scouts draft boards in recent weeks, and could easily be available when the #26 pick rolls around for the Texans.
Can you give us some background on Gilmore?
Gilmore is from Rock Hill, SC, and played HS football at South Pointe HS, which is one of USC's pipeline schools. Productive USC safety DeVonte Holloman graduated with Gilmore, and Jadeveon Clowney also played here. Gilmore was a highly rated prospect out of high school who won SC Mr. Football honors, which are given to the senior deemed to be the best in the state. He chose South Carolina over Alabama. At the time, this was a really, really big deal for us. We often times lost out on recruits of Gilmore's caliber to schools like 'Bama, Georgia, etc. Since then, we've been getting more of these guys. That's played a big role in our recent success.
What did he mean to the Gamecocks defense in 2011?
The Gamecocks had the nation's second-rated passing defense in 2011, and Gilmore was oftentimes the guy who got the difficult assignments. That should tell you a lot right there. Now, as you know, the SEC did not have many great passing offenses last year, and we got lit up by Arkansas, the best passing team we played. Still, Gilmore had a very solid season. He got lit up a couple of times early on, but he played better and better throughout the year. (This may be because we moved to more aggressive coverages mid-way through the season; see more on this below.) His strong finish to the season undoubtedly played a part in his choice to come out early. I think he felt that he proved himself late in the year.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
His main strength, I would say, is simply his incredible athleticism. Gilmore, athletically, is a prototypical NFL corner. He's tall enough to line up against taller wideouts, he's fast enough to keep up with almost anyone on the field, he's agile and has great hips, and he's a big guy who's strong enough to be an effective tackler. If picks were based on athletic fit, I'd say Gilmore would be a shoe-in for a first-round pick. Gilmore, as some of you might know, played QB in high school and was our wildcat QB at times. Just a great athlete.
In game situations, Gilmore seems to thrive in more aggressive, press-man coverage schemes that take advantage of his raw athleticism. The Gamecocks defensive staff has gone back and forth regarding secondary coverages, and Gilmore struggled a bit in some of the zone schemes. He would make poor decisions, be out of position at times, not make plays on the ball soon enough, etc. In press-man, he was much better. I'm not sure if this says more about our defensive scheming or about Gilmore. I think a good coach can work with him on these things. He did get better with this over the past year, too. It was more of a problem in 2010, when our secondary was all-around not very good.
Is he a shutdown corner?
He definitely has the capability to be, with his physical capabilities. He's done an impressive job shutting down several big-time SEC receivers over the last few years and can run with anyone.
South Carolina has produced some NFL talent at the cornerback position, is he the next in that long line?
Yes, corner is definitely the position that we've had the most success with in terms of having players produce in the NFL. Jonathan Joseph, Sheldon Brown, Andre Goodman, etc. Gilmore is definitely the best prospect we've had in the last few years at the position, probably since Joseph. He's been a much better college player and is a more complete athlete than some of the other NFL corners we've had since Joseph came out, like Captain Munnerlyn, and those guys have been decent pros. I like Gilmore to have a solid career.
How do you see him at the next level?
As said, I think he needs to work on some of the decision-making aspects of playing cornerback. However, the physical tools are all there. I should also note that this guy is a real competitor who gets after it on the field. He has a major drive to make plays and succeed. I think he'll have a very nice NFL career. Not sure if he's first-round talent unless he works out the decision-making issues, but I think he can have that kind of career after he does so. I do think there's a chance he goes in the first round despite his sometimes uneven play on the field. He'll impress scouts with his measurables.