SS JIMMIE WARD, NORTHERN ILLINOIS

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5’11” – 192 lbs. – 4.55e

STATISTICAL PROFILE:

2010: 18 – 0.0 – 0.0, 1 FF, 3 BK, 1 PR TD
2011: 100 – 2.5 – 1.0, 1 FF, 4 PD, 1 INT, 1 BK
2012: 104 – 1.0 – 0.0, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 11 PD, 3 INT

OVERVIEW:

Played in all fourteen games as a true freshman, blocking three punts while contributing in a reserve/special teams capacity. Started twelve of fourteen games played in 2011, earning All-MAC Second Team recognition. Was a member of the conference’s first team as a junior, appearing in all but one game.

POSITIVES:

•    Productive three-year starter who led team in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
•    Possesses adequate height, weight, and speed for a professional defensive back.
•    Originally established himself in 2010 through effective special teams contributions.
•    Frequently lines up in the box, where he has collected the majority of his tackles.
•    Physical player who doesn’t shy away from contact, can disrupt receiver routes.
•    Diagnoses runs quickly then generally takes good angles in pursuit of the carrier.
•    Demonstrates an impressive closing burst which allows him to explode into contact.
•    Patient in backside contain, doesn’t overcommit and run himself out of position.
•    Employed in both man and zone coverages as a slot defender, is capable at both.
•    Ball skills are above-average; has good timing on breakups and soft hands.
•    Has good tackling fundamentals, remembers to go low and wrap up when possible.

NEGATIVES:

•    Plays strong safety for the Huskies, but is a little bit smaller than ideal for the position.
•    May offer offenses a size mismatch if assigned to defend an opposing tight end.
•    More productive because of his recognition, patience, and fundamentals than speed.
•    Hasn’t been tested much in deep zone coverage, obscuring his potential value there.
•    Willing to take on blocks but would benefit from trying to avoid them more often.
•    Can be sucked in a bit versus the run, forcing him to chase down runners from behind.

SUMMARY:

A three-year starter who doubled as a special-teams standout at Northern Illinois, Ward isn’t one of the biggest or fastest safeties in the class but is a responsible, versatile strong safety who is both instinctive and fundamentally sound in run defense while also offering teams the ability to line him up in the slot with man or zone responsibilities, a key quality for a modern safety. Because he was not often matched up against tight ends or in high zone coverage, it’s hard to evaluate those aspects of his game, but he is good at what he does and projects as a potential starter. A rare safety who exercises discipline and technique.

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