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More on Marqueston Huff

The first question asked about Marqueston Huff when the Titans drafted him was, “Is he a corner or a safety?” I wondered it in his selection post, and it’s come up in about everything I’ve seen on Huff since then. The Titans’ apparent answer to that question: “Yes.” To wit, Ruston Webster at the draft recap press conference described that as something they would work out when he got there. Ken Whisenhunt has been on the same page, from the press conference after they drafted him (“we’re going to try to find out which role he’s better at, as a safety or a corner”), with director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield concurring, adding “He went to the Senior Bowl and played a little corner and safety, so he’s got the versatility like coach said to play either spot.” Whisenhunt at rookie minicamp: “He’s going to move around and we’ll see.” Lest you hadn’t gotten the message by now, defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi said in a radio interview he’s played some nickel, some safety, and some corner, and described the Titans’ strategy as trying to saturate him in all three areas, let it play out, and see where he’s going to play this year. As for how he’s taking the position question, he indicated (video link) he’d learn to make plays at DT if it came to that.

The question is an obvious and recurring once because Huff played both positions in his college career, spending his first three years at Wyoming at corner before switching to safety as a senior. Smaller schools (and I put Wyoming in that category, especially because they weren’t good on defense) often move their best defensive back to safety so they can have a bigger impact on the field; recall Cortland Finnegan came out of Samford as a for precisely that reason. I noted in my picks recap post it’s also a question we keep hearing because he is not a perfect fit at any single position. What I’ve watched of him came from 2013, when he was a safety. He’s definitely not a prototype strong safety, listed at 5’11, 196 pounds; Bernard Pollard is significantly bigger at 225 pounds, while Kam Chancellor, probably currently The strong safety archetype is listed at 232 (and also 6’3″, the better to deal with those tight ends). Watching him play (primarily the Utah State game; he’s banged up in the Boise game and all it told me was he’s not an NFL player if he’s hurt), he hit like a 196-pound college player. Is he a free safety? Eh, hard to say. It’s so hard to evaluate coverage off TV broadcasts, even wider-angle college ones, especially since most collegiate passes seem to be wide receiver screens these days. If he’s going to play deep in the NFL, he’ll need to work on his route awareness (he got PIN‘d like he was D.J. Swearinger one play), eye discipline, and being sounder in how he comes up in run support (the latter two made me think of Michael Griffin, the bad years at times).

From watching him play safety, I thought corner. Most scouting reports had him scouted as a safety, maybe because he played there, but a smattering of others, including Bob McGinn’s defensive backs ratings and ESPN Scouts Inc., preferred cornerback as his more natural position. From all two of the games I watched, the other position I wondered about was that nickel position the Titans also have him working at. He’s solid enough coming up in run support from there, and the lack of positional clarity reminded me a bit of the somewhat similarly-sized Vinny Fuller, listed at 6’1″, 192, a nominal safety who had a couple solid seasons as a nickel slot defender. Especially if Coty Sensabaugh wins the outside job, that’s an open position that seems subject to a very open competition with no clear favorite(s) (and, yes, the Titans apparently like Blidi Wreh-Wilson a lot), and Huff could conceivably have be a factor there.

A bit like Avery Williamson, Huff’s probably a player with a limited immediate impact on defense, though, but one who will make his mark on special teams. He was a standout punt gunner for the Cowboys, with them doing some scheming him to be their primary punt gunner. Some of the traits he showed as a safety made an appearance there, but I can easily see the Titans using him in a similar role. Core special teams player, and who knows what he could and will be in a couple years. For a fourth-round pick, that’s a reasonable expectation, though if the answer to the latter question is “nothing worth playing in any defensive role,” it’s worth noting there’s a divide with Huff just as there was with Bishop Sankey, with some people seeing a valuable mid-rounder and others a borderline draftable player who will only be a special teamer.

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