Rutgers just landed talented safety prospect Johnathan Aiken from the state of Florida so lets take…
Film Eval - Johnathan Aiken
One of the things that is up for argument in today's game is the hitting of ball carriers and concussions and while I agree that it's an important issue, players still need to do this while seeing what they hit and staying away from helmet-to-helmet collisions. Right off the bat, this looks like one thing that Johnathan Aiken understands. As a defensive coach, you want your defensive backs hitting receivers to separate them from the ball and force turnovers. It's a big part of the game and Aiken does a good job of that. As I reviewed his junior highlights, one common theme stood out to me…nearly every time he was near an offensive player the ball came loose on a hit and if I'm his coach, I'm very happy with that. With the shift to the Cover 2, the terms strong and free safety have become simply labels for a lot of teams, especially in the NFL, however Aiken does look to be much more comfortable as a strong safety playing in the box. His strong suits are definitely playing the run and penetrating at the line of scrimmage. He blitzes effectively and under control. The second part is important. There is nothing worse than running a zone blitz and dropping a lineman back into coverage and having your safety or corner overrun the cornerback and leave that player out to dry. You want speed to the quarterback, but you also want that person to level off and collapse the pocket, not run right by the quarterback as he steps up into it. Aiken does a good job with this. Watch the Rutgers commitment as he brings down the quarterback for a moment. First, he finishes sacks on his own which is important, but he wraps with one arm and then rips down the quarterback's throwing arm with his own to get the ball loose. One of the reasons the Chicago Bears force so many fumbles is because Charles Tillman has always worked at this and has taught it to the rookies. Turnovers win games and Aiken seems to understand this. It's in his DNA. He also looks to be an excellent special teamer, which should help him get on the field earlier at Rutgers. Aiken has very good straight-line speed, but his hips worry me a bit as he isn't as fluid as I'd like them to be. Some of it is technique as he simply doesn't bring his shoulders when he turns, but some of it also looks to just be a lack of pure twitch. This is why I'd project him as a safety and not a cornerback as he is on Scout.com. I'm not saying he couldn't play the position, but just knowing what Rutgers likes it doesn't seem likely. His size actually isn't a concern for me. Some have brought up an issue with him being in the 5-foot-10 to 5-foot-11 area at only 183 pounds, but I see little issue with that at the collegiate level. Many fine safeties have excelled at that height. Right now I'd like to see Aiken come in his freshman year, get himself up to 195 pounds, work on his technique in coverage and just get some experience on special teams. He looks like he could be a difference maker in the future with his ability to create turnovers.
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