Welcome to part two of our look at Ohio State's 2016 NFL Draft prospects. Over the course of the weeks ahead we will take a look at each of Ohio State's potential draft selections, and find out not only what they achieved at Ohio State (spoiler: a lot ), but also what we can expect them to achieve at the next level (spoiler: a lot more). Now, the "father" of Ohio State's own national championship winning quarterback, safety Tyvis Powell.
Before Ohio State's most recent senior class compiled their majestic 50-4 record, there was actually a period of doubt in Columbus regarding whether or not the Buckeyes deserved to have their name among the elite teams in college football. Sure, a 12-1 (or if you want to get technical about it, 0-1) 2010 campaign had the Buckeyes primed to be championship contenders in 2011, but this was before the now infamous "Tattoo-gate".
One thing led to another, and before Buckeyes fans knew it, the once untouchable coach Jim Tressel resigned, and all of a sudden things didn't look so hot in Columbus. Or so we thought.
It was just one day after Tressel's resignation when young Tyvis Powell committed to The Ohio State University. A three-star safety out of Bedford, Ohio, Powell came to Columbus with fairly low expectations compared to some of his other secondary mates. Luckily for the Silver Bullets, no one ever told the three-star Powell he wasn't supposed to make an immediate impact.
While Powell is perhaps best known for his comedic off-the-field antics (Ohio State's official athletic site asserted that Powell "probably has more fun being a Buckeye than anyone on the team") he's proved that it's pretty hard to watch an important Ohio State game and not see number 23 make a big play.
After redshirting as a freshman, Powell made his mark as a redshirt freshman by filing in as a safety or nickelback whenever the Buckeyes needed him. All in all, Powell's 953 snaps were good enough for fifth on the team, but it was one particular snap that instantly made Powell into a Columbus hero. That's right, without Powell's interception on Michigan's last gasp two point conversion attempt in 2013, we never would have invented "Gardening", or beaten Michigan. Two pretty devastating alternatives if you ask me.
Powell continued to establish his ways as a playmaker on the Ohio State defense, starting all 15 games in 2014, on his way to being named the defensive MVP of the national championship against Oregon. There was another pretty memorable Tyvis moment from this season, but we'll save that one for later.
This past season was more of the same for Powell, as he and fellow safety Vonn Bell continued to establish themselves as arguably the best pair of safeties in college football. Yes, watching Powell help lead the country's sixth best defense in pass efficiency defense was great and all, but 2015 was the year of Tyvis being Tyvis.
First, it was Powell picking off BFF/roommate Cardale Jones in the Ohio State spring game, then taking a fake selfie.
TYVIS POWELL FAKE SELFIE CELEBRATION DOT MP4 pic.twitter.com/6tqSrmdytk— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) April 18, 2015
Next, Tyvis attempted to use his newfound status as a national champion to his own benefit...which didn't work out exactly the way he planned.
Told moms I'm the starting SS for the preseason #1 CFB team. No way I'm cutting the grass. U see who won that convo pic.twitter.com/ubvgxNyOwl— Tyvis Powell (@1Tyvis) June 7, 2015
Finally, upon Powell snagging his final collegiate interception, he and his secondary buds RAN OF ON DA PLUG TWICE against Notre Dame, because why not.
And here's a GIF of the DBs getting their stride-on, by popular request. pic.twitter.com/C6JNaDJyQ1— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 1, 2016
Is there a good reason why Powell's nickname isn't "The Joker"? Powell could just hit up ODB and get all the necessary gear, "The Joker" would be a perfect nickname for a safety, and this just seems like way too good of a fit for a guy as funny and good at football as Tyvis is.
Yes, few players on Ohio State have provided the consistently great entertainment that Powell has, but let's not let this overshadow the fact that Tyvis Powell was an exceptional safety during his three years on the field at Ohio State.
In Ohio State's base cover four defense, it is imperative to have safeties with the ability to run deep with slot receivers, as well as the ability to cover tight ends and running backs. It's hard enough to find one safety that can do this, but Ohio State has been lucky enough to have two. Powell and his 6'3" 210lb frame is equally adept at rolling down into the box to help stop the run as he is chilling in center field and taking away the deep pass. Despite being the clear number two to teammate Vonn Bell in terms of NFL draft safety rankings, Powell is very much an intriguing prospect in his own right. Let's find out why.
Strengths: College production, big game ability, versatility
Sometimes an issue with projecting college players in the NFL is the fact that some college players simply haven't been on the field producing at a high level for that long. Usually a good sign a prospect could be bust is a player who showed signs of greatness in college, but for some reason or another failed to produce consistently the way that most would envision.
Luckily for Powell, he does not have this problem. With back to back seasons of 70+ tackles and at least three interceptions (would have been four if not for Bosa's "targeting" against Notre Dame), college production is definitely one of Powell's strengths.
Another strength that Powell consistently exhibits is his ability to do whatever the defense asks him to do. Yes, this is oftentimes simply taking away a quarter of the field as part of the Ohio State cover four defense, but Ohio State did get creative with Powell at times and felt confident matching him up on receivers and tight ends alike.
Here Powell is matched up against Oregon's Byron Marshall. Marshall, for those of you who don't know, is a baller. As a sophomore, Marshall rushed for over a thousand yards and 14 touchdowns, but then moved to wide receiver as a junior and proceeded to have over 1,000 yards receiving as well. Basically, Marshall is a nightmare for defenders to deal with in space due to his speed and versatility, and on this play Marshall found himself in a favorable match-up against Powell locked up one on one.
Oregon runs a "trail" concept that has receiver Keanon Lowe (number seven) run a drag route to pull in the defense, before Marshall comes across late to exploit the now (hopefully) open middle of the field. This play is literally money every time you run it in Madden, and it's pretty solid in real life too.
Powell maintains excellent balance despite having to respect Marshall's speed as an outside and vertical deep threat. By keeping an athletic position with his feet underneath him and shoulder width apart, this allows Powell to drive on a possible in-breaking route and truly have a chance to make a play on the ball.
Powell shows off his closing speed here and is able to quickly get to Marshall's hip and in position to make a play on the ball. What is truly impressive about this play though is Powell's attention to detail. Against a team like Oregon, preventing big plays can be the difference between winning by 20 or losing by 20. Could Powell have possibly dove in front of this pass and gone for the interception? Perhaps, but he understood the situation and because this was a third and medium, Powell secured the tackle first and foremost by looping his right hand around the receivers waist (as long as the defender doesn't pull or alter the receiver this will not be called pass interference) while leaving his left arm ready to make a play on the ball.
And make a play on the ball he did. Marshall low-key destroyed the Buckeyes to the tune of 178 total yards and a touchdown, but Powell showed on this play that he is a good enough athlete to run with one of the more versatile players in college football in the open field.
Weaknesses: NFL fit, not a top five player on own defense
While Powell's ability to both play the run and pass soundly in college was obviously a major positive, there is a feeling that Powell may be stuck in the middle of what makes an ideal NFL strong and free safety. While Powell has shown the ability to make a big hit, he's not exactly Kam Chancellor, and while Powell has shown the ability to cover the deep middle of the field, he's not exactly Earl Thomas.
And he shouldn't be! Those are two of the best safeties in the NFL, but my point is that Powell may not fit NFL team's definition of a strong or free safety. Safeties can come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, but sometimes teams will overthink a player's true position at the expense of their talent. A good recent example is Tyran Mathieu. Honey Badger dropped in the draft in large part because of his fondness for the ganja, but there were also serious questions on whether he was a safety, a corner, or simply a player without a position.
The other factor that hurts Powell and most of the Buckeyes declaring for this year's draft is simply the insane amount of talent that was on this defense. You know Adolphus Washington will face scrutiny for consistently getting to toast single teams thanks to Joey Bosa, and the same thing could be said for Powell benefiting from playing with potential first rounders Vonn Bell and Eli Apple.
Best Case Pro Comparison: Ken Hamlin
I had to go a few years back to get some appropriate safety comparisons, but I feel if Powell can reach his ceiling as a free safety, he'll look a lot like ex-Cowboys and Seahawks safety Ken Hamlin.
Hamlin served a productive eight year career, highlights by one pro-bowl bid in 2007. Known for his ability to both patrol the deep middle of the field as well as fill the box to make a tackle, Hamlin consistently produced solid tackle numbers for a safety, while maintaining his ball hawking abilities. A long career in which Powell could consistently demonstrate his versatility as a safety should be seen as the ideal situation for Tyvis.
Worst Case Pro Comparison: Chris Conte
I know, it's disgusting. While Bears fans have seen enough of Conte over the years, others may not know the former three-star, third round draft pick. Conte currently resides in Tampa Bay, mostly due to his range which gives him the ability to play cover two safety.
While Conte has shown flashes of being the playmaker he was in college at Arizona State, two teams in four years typically isn't the sign of a stud player. Injuries have attributed to this, but Conte's inconsistency and inability to be a true force against the run has made him into a below average NFL safety. If Powell is unable to further develop his coverage or run support skills, he could end up being the mediocre journeyman safety that it appears Conte is well on his way to being.
NFL Projection: 4-5 Round
If Powell can excel at the combine and put to rest some possible concerns about his athleticism, expect this projection to be closer to the top of the fourth round. Teams will recognize that Powell had a knack for playing big in big games, and no team can ever have enough good defensive backs.
Most "Tyvis" Play
This section is meant to exhibit a play that may not necessarily have been the best or most important from the player's career, but rather a play that just encompasses everything we came to expect and love from the player. Often this will hopefully not be the most obvious play of the player's career, but in this case I really had no choice.
An estimated recollection of my thoughts during this play:
"Oh my god we really beat Alabama!"
"What in the hell is he doing!?"
"Tyvis oh my god don't get stripped"
"Wow, that was unnecessarily amazing."