Eric Norwood – South Carolina
Scout: David Syvertsen
40 Time: 4.71
Pro Potential: Tully Banta-Cain – New England Patriots
Coverage/Zone Defense Skills: Does not have the hot feet and fluid hips to stay with a receiver in coverage. Struggles mightily to shadow a tight end in space. Spends a lot of time using recovery steps from his false direction. Lacks the experience most outside linebackers already have coming in to the league as a cover man. Just 7 career pass breakups with zero interceptions.
Instincts/Recognition: High football IQ that has experience as a defensive end and linebacker. Has played the MIKE and SAM positions at the second level. Quick thinker that studies film and knows his opponent inside-out going in to gameday.
Pass Rush: All time career sack leader at South Carolina, notching 29 over his four year career. Spent time as a defensive end before being moved to linebacker, but played plenty of snaps with his hand in the dirt after the move. Has a great first two steps that can set the edge. Uses a low center of gravity to get under blocks while maintaining power and balance. Relentless pass rusher that can recover well after being initially beat. Wide array of moves.
Pursuit/Lateral Movement and Agility: Does not move well laterally, struggles to stick with average tight ends when it comes to athleticism. Can be exposed in space, works best in tight space. High effort player however that is consistently found near the action. Very tight hips that may be playing at a weight too high for his body.
Quickness/Explosion: Heavy feet when he isn’t moving downhill. Looks uncomfortable and slow when he is reading plays as a zone defender. Can play with top tier explosion when he is rushing off the edge however, so the ability is there. Great quickness in a phone booth, but slows down drastically when he is further off the line in space.
Strength/Ability to Shed Blocks: Can get off a block when rushing the passer with ease, using proper hand placement and a low center of gravity. However when he is playing the traditional linebacker position and he is reading the run, the blocker can easily push him back and lock on. He stands too far upright when diagnosing lanes and blocks, leaving his numbers completely exposed. Once a lineman locks on to him in space, he takes too long to free himself.
Tackling: Inconsistent wrap-up technique that causes him to miss tackles in space. Does not always send a strong pop to the ball carrier. Does not use his lower body to explode through the body, tends to wait and grab. Does adjust well in traffic, also the career record holder in tackles for loss. Much more aggressive when moving downhill.
Versatility: Has played along the defensive front, has experience inside and outside at the second level. His best fit is clearly on the strong side where his pass rushing ability can be used. Does not bring anything to the table as a cover linebacker may be a two down player in a 4-3 front.
Final Word: While Eric Norwood did not impress as a traditional 4-3 SAM at the Senior Bowl, he will not be on the board for long because of his proven track record when it comes to rushing the passer. He was a First Team All-American and three time All-SEC performer, something that should not be taken lightly. He was not given a fair evaluation in Mobile because he was unable to display what he is best at, and that is getting to the passer. He is uncomfortable and unreliable the further out in space he gets, thus he will not be an option on some draft boards. However a team that does not ask a lot responsibility-wise out of their SAM will be intrigued by the skill set here. Norwood does not have the ideal body for an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he can perform in that spot if he is in the right situation. Players with this kind of production at the highest level of Division-1A football find a way to succeed at the next level and Norwood will be no different. He will be a 2nd or 3rd round pick on that notion alone, and could prove to be one of the best bargains in this class.