Chicago Sun-Times

If Bears turn to Ballard again for safety, look at Texas Tech's McBath

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When the Bears go looking for a free safety in this draft--and it's not a matter of if--history indicates there is a good chance they will look to the South.

General manager Jerry Angelo has relied on Southwest regional scout Chris Ballard to uncover many of the team's defensive backs, including its best, cornerback Charles Tillman. Ballard also did extra work before the selection of Nathan Vasher, the only Angelo-drafted defensive back to be named to a Pro Bowl.

Some quick research shows that of the 14 defensive backs drafted by Angelo since 2002 (that counts 2006 second-round pick Devin Hester, who was chosen as a cornerback), eight have come from Ballard's territory. Ballard has expertise in the area. He coached defensive backs at Texas A&M-Kingsville before he was hired. Not coincidentally, that is a school Angelo scouted heavily when he was with Tampa Bay. At one time, the Buccaneers had six players on their roster from the school.

Furthermore, of the seven defensive backs Angelo has drafted in the first four rounds, five have come from Ballard's territory. Hester and former safety Todd Johnson (2003, Round 4) are the exceptions. Ballard also was responsible for the selection of Chris Harris in the sixth round in 2005 and Kevin Payne in the fifth round in 2007. The Bears trust Ballard to find defensive backs.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the players in his region that could be on the Bears' radar this weekend.

The one that jumps out at you is Texas Tech's Darcel McBath, projected as a likely third-round pick. He might be the most technically sound safety in the draft according to one NFL talent evaluator. McBath is a shade over 6-foot, 198 pounds, and he was timed as fast as 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. He followed that up with a 4.53 at his pro day in Lubbock that Ballard attended. With a 38-inch vertical jump and 9-11 broad jump, he's plenty athletic. He has quickness and has some cornerback coverage skills as he was recruited to the school to play that position.

To get some more information on McBath, we turned to Texas Tech secondary coach Carlos Mainord, who coached DB's for the Bears from 1993 to 1998 and spent 11 seasons total in the NFL, working with Aeneas Williams, Sammy Knight and Mark Carrier, among others.

"I think Darcel has got a chance to be a really good player in the NFL,'' Mainord said Wednesday morning. "The guy wants to be a good player and he'll do whatever is necessary to be god. He's got really good athletic ability, he was a corner in high school and when he came here, so he's got some corner coverage skills but he's a good contact player. He's a sharp guy who learns good and he's already graduated from here. If he stays healthy, you say that about everyone, I think he'll have a good career.

"I think he's very explosive. When he decides where he needs to go he can get there in a hurry. He's got really good quickness. He's got good ball skills. He worked hard on that in the time here was here. He's got good lap speed. He's a good physical player and he will tackle. I think he's got the things that are necessary.

"I couldn't say I can compare him to anyone in particular who I have coached before. Of course, I had Carrier and some of those guys. He's not Carrier, who was a hammer. He'd knock you out, and I think he paid a lot of fines. He's not that part, he's not that physical but he is a good, physical player and he's got good vision back there. He sees the field very well.''

Other players from Ballard's territory:

Curtis Taylor, LSU: The Bears grabbed his former running mate Craig Steltz last year in the fourth round. Taylor has more range but scouts say his athletic ability doesn't always manifest itself in his performance. Still, he catches your eye when he does something like run down Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno. He probably projects as more of a fourth- or fifth-round possibility.

Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma: Bettered himself earlier this month at a last-chance pro day in San Antonio by running a 4.50 pro day. He was a huge disappointment at the scouting combine when his time was in the 4.7's. Ballard has had success with guys that timed slow in big events in the past. Vasher is a good example.

Another source suggested if the Bears wait a little while in their search for a free safety it could lead them to Notre Dame's David Bruton. Of course, he's not in Ballard's area. Bruton has good size at 6-2, 219 to go with good speed. He breaks on the ball real well and as this source said there could be a handful of free safeties to pick from in the middle rounds if the Bears don't strike earlier with someone like McBath or perhaps Troy's Sherrod Martin.

Also, updating a report from last week on Hawaii cornerback Ryan Mouton. He will have a private workout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week in Texas. Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke had gone to Los Angeles to work Mouton out at his pro day but he suffered a pulled hamstring there.

Check back for more draft breakdown soon, and we'll get to Four Down Territory later on.

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4 Comments

Very well done, interesting article. Is it just me or does it sound like Carlos Mainord didn't sell McBath very well? It seems like he knows he's good but at the same time wouldn't be surprised if he fails in the NFL. Just my $.02

New Draft Plan:

If Nicks, Britt, and Robiskie are gone at 49, and Delmas/Johnson are still on the board, here's what we do:

New England wants to package picks to move up in select spots to get targeted players. We know they aren't overly sold on Merriweather, and would prefer to have him play SS. Johnson is a Saban-coached kid, and would fit what Belichick wants to do. So we trade the 49, 149, and 190 picks for the 58 and 89 from New England.

We would have 58, 89, 99, 119, and 154 before we hit our comp picks in 7 (a 2, 2 3s, a 4, and a 5). I have seen McBath going anywhere from 40 to 80 in the mocks, so we move back to avoid over-estimating the WRs or safeties just because we don't pick again until 99. We should be able to get some decent players at 58,89, and 99 that can all contribute in some way, and then it still leaves us with 4 picks for depth. The only way we should stay where we are is if one of the top WRs falls, or Johnson/Barwin are still there at 49. Other than that, let's move back, and try and get a couple of mid-round picks into the mix.

It's just a musing at this point, and might not work at all, but it's something so we can have some fun on draft night Saturday. One pick and no other action will make it kind of dull to watch for 5 hours....

"I think Darcel has got a chance to be a really good player in the NFL," Mainord said Wednesday morning. "The guy wants to be a good player and he'll do whatever is necessary to be god."

Either I'm seeing a typo or that kid has some serious devotion LOL!

Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the best small school in the US for producing talent. They have tailed off the past few years, hopefully that programs can turn itself around. That's where I went to school and it produced Darrell Green, Al Harris, Earl Dotson, Gene Upshaw, John Randle, Johnny Bailey, James Jefferson, Karl 'the truth' Williams, Anthony Phillips, Heath Sherman, Jermane Mayberry, Kevin Dogins, Mike Dyal and our very own Roberto Garza. The Eagles coach Castillo is also from Kingsville. This DII school has produced 8 total first round draft selections

Those six players on Tampa Bay were Floyd Young, Karl Williams, Jorge Diaz, Al Harris, Kevin Dogins and Jeff Rodgers. There might be another.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 22, 2009 10:53 AM.

Family ties not only reason Bears eyeing TCU linebacker Stephen Hodge was the previous entry in this blog.

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