In 2012 when it comes down to watching defensive backs in college football all eyes will be glued on the LSU threesome of Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon, but another Louisiana and New Orleans-area product is also catching the attention of pro scouts.
Louisiana Tech’s Chad Boyd is considered one of the top senior strong safety prospects in the nation and there were over 20 NFL scouts in Ruston this Spring to get some insights on the former Archbishop Shaw High School standout defensive back.
Louisiana Tech has not had a defensive back selected in the NFL draft since the 2002 draft when safety Bobby Gray was picked in the 5th round by the Chicago Bears, but interest is high on the former prep standout from New Orleans.
“A lot of NFL teams have inquired about Chad and he certainly is deserving of the attention that is being shown in him,” said Tech head coach Sonny Dykes. “Chad is a very focused young man, you can tell he has a strong family backing, his father was a tremendous college player and Chad has the mental and physical toughness to play in the NFL. He is outstanding in run support, he is a tremendous openfield tackler, but he is underrated as a cover safety. He has the speed and coverage speed and instincts to be a real good pass defender at the next level. That position and what we want from our safeties put them in tough spots weekly, but he is always up to the challenge. I am looking forward to him being with us one more season and he is a leader on this team and his teammates respect him.”
Chad Boyd is the son of former Nicholls State First-Team All-Gulf South Conference defensive back Byron Boyd and the nephew of Glynn Boyd, another former Nicholls State graduate and an Emmy-winning television reporter and Fox-8 television news anchor Nancy Parker.
Last season Boyd earned second team All-Western Athletic Conference honors in recording 76 tackles, 3 tackles for losses, 6 pass break-ups and 3 pass interceptions. The 2008 Louisiana Class 4A state Defensive MVP as a senior is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and is geared up for a big senior season for the Bulldogs.
“I have had some problems with the shoulder and that is taken care of and I also fought off a high ankle sprain, but I am close to 100% now and I have been working hard, especially on improving my speed and quickness this off-season,” Boyd said. “I didn’t get a chance to work out for the scouts because I was rehabbing my injury, but I am a mid-4.50 speed guy and I have a 35-inch vertical jump. I ran track at Shaw, the 100 and 200 meters and in the 4x100 and 4x200 meter relays, but this is all about not losing any speed and quickness running in reverse. I know that this is an area I need to improve on and getting quicker getting out of transition in coverage spots.”
While the 5-10, 190 pound Boyd is not the biggest strong safety in the country he gets high praise from the Tech coaching staff for his excellent openfield tackling skills and his physical play out on the field.
“Chad has been an impact player for us on defense since he hit the campus at Louisiana Tech and he played in 9 games and started four as a true freshman,” said Tech defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler, who also coaches the safeties. “Chad, along with the rest of the secondary guys, works hard daily in practice on tackling, has good tackling techniques and fundamentals. Chad is a hitter and an intimidating force on defense. He has those wide receivers’ head on a swivel trying to find him after they catch the ball. Chad is a very strong openfield tackler and he comes to play with a physical presence that isn’t matched by many. I always stress that good things happen when you work hard and play all out and Chad has been outstanding for us. Chad’s also a very good cover safety and finds the ball quickly in flight. He also is a very intelligent young man and he has real quick play diagnostic skills. He normally is in the right spot to make a play on defense due to his outstanding football instincts. There is no question he has a chance to play at the next level.”
Boyd says he has worked hard on trying to perfect his man-to-man and zone coverage skills knowing that the position he plays dictates him being just as good a cover man and is run support.
“I played a lot of cornerback at Shaw and then later in my high school career they moved me to safety and I have played that spot the last three years at Tech, but when you look at the teams in our conference like Hawaii, Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State you know they will throw the ball 40 times or more a game. I have good man-to-man skills and I have had some really good coaches, including my dad, Byron, who taught me good backpedal techniques. I have improved my zone coverage skills also and I know that the position of safety has changed as much as any position on defense the last few years because so many teams want to throw the ball the majority of the time. I love the physical part of the game and I am a big hitter, but I like going one-on-one against receivers in pass situations also. For me it is all about taking good angles to the ball and reading and reacting with no hesitation toward the ball.”
While football is something Boyd has excelled at, he also is a third degree black belt in Karate.
“I started Taekwondo when I was five years old and was able to win a number of awards in tournaments across the country. My brother and I run a Karate School on the West Bank. Karate taught me a lot of self control, discipline and being mentally tough. It helps with your body balance skills and also improves your hand quickness. It also taught me to have respect for your opponent and yourself. Sometimes on the field someone does something that gets under your skin and Karate has taught me self control and I am able to deal with it better.”
Boyd says that playing at Tech has given him an opportunity to play against some of the best competition in college football.
“We went up against LSU my freshman year and we played them pretty tough. The last few years we have gone against some really good Boise State teams and Doug Martin, who the New York Giants selected in Round I in April, is one of the toughest guys I have ever gone up against and the best running back due to his relentless style of play. Greg Salas, the wide receiver from Hawaii, who the St. Louis Rams selected in the early rounds last year was the best receiver I have gone up against and he was tough to bring down in the openfield.”
“But the toughest place to play and the toughest player to go up against was Nevada and their quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Nevada doesn’t have a huge stadium, but the fans are really into the game and real loud. In Colin, (who the San Francisco 49ers selected in the second round of the 2011 draft), he was so tough to play against because not only did he have a strong arm, but if you had the receivers covered he would just pull the ball down and take off running. He had great athleticism and you could tell he was a natural as a leader.”
The 5-10, 190 pound strong safety, who is projected to be a 6th or 7th round pick in the 2013 draft, has been favorably compared to another former Shaw graduate in former LSU and current Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
“My former high school coach Scott Bairnsfather told me that a few times. I know from watching Ryan he is about my size and he is a really tough player. You can see he loves to get physical with receivers. People have also compared me to Jerico Nelson, the former Destrehan High School and Arkansas safety, who just signed with the New Orleans Saints. There is no question my dream is to play in the NFL, but I am just worried about getting ready for the season, playing all out on each play and helping Louisiana Tech and Coach (Sonny) Dykes win games. For me winning is the most important thing.”
Hidden Gem for LSU
It’s rare that the LSU football team would recruit a junior college player and much less a player not nationally ranked, but the Tigers landed a tight end not on a lot of major publications’ radar when they got a verbal commitment Saturday afternoon from Northeast Mississippi Junior College tight end Logan Stokes.
Stokes, a 6-3 ¾, 240 pound tight end from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was mulling over a few Division I offers and a host of small college team offers, but when the Tigers and Les Miles offered Stokes this weekend he immediately accepted the scholarship offer for 2013.
Stokes was rarely used in the passing game, but the Tigers coaching staff was very impressed with his physical style of play and his excellent in-line blocking skills. The former prep defensive end is making the adjustment to the offensive side of the ball, but the coaches at Northeast Mississippi praise his eye-hand coordination and his ability to catch the ball, despite him not putting double-digit numbers for catches in his first season fulltime at tight end.
Despite growing up in Alabama, Stokes says he is not a big Alabama fan and is excited to play for LSU.
“I never was a big Alabama fan and they did show some interest in me, but when Coach Miles offered me a chance to play for LSU I immediately accepted, “ Stokes said. “I love the campus and the people here and this weekend with the Bayou Picnic going on and Countryfest it was really special. I look forward in putting on the purple and gold next year.”
Stokes ran a (4.70) 40-yard dash last month and he posted a 30-inch vertical leap in individual testing. He has three years to play two seasons for LSU starting in 2013.
Tez To the Pass Rush Rescue
This past week I had a chance to speak to workout guru Wyatt Harris at the Terrebonne Brothers for Christian Athletes Brunch and he had some strong comments for his protégé and New Orleans Saints outside linebacker turned defensive end in Martez Wilson.
“I had a feeling the Saints might give “Tez” a shot at defensive end,” Harris said. “He is a phenomenal athlete with great speed and initial explosion off the snap. He is a natural as a pass rusher. He has played the middle linebacker spot most of his career, but when they finally gave him a spot to rush the quarterback in the later stages of the playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers he made a difference. His explosive qualities and closing speed to the quarterback are things no one on this defense has today. He is going to make an impact as a pass rusher, if they give him a chance to do so.”