The Best of the Best: C.J. Mosley

We’re now seven days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part four of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number seven prospect, Alabama Linebacker C.J. Mosley.

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Tale of the Tape

6’2″

232 lbs

Career Numbers

210 total tackles

14 tackles for a loss

6.5 sacks

14 passes broken up

5 interceptions (3 defensive touchdowns)

One of the more interesting things to watch for me this season will be the progression of C.J. Mosley from Alabama.  Mosley is an intriguing guy.  He’s primarily taken a backseat to other Crimson Tide backers, however when he’s on the field he flashes a ton of ability.  You can instantly see traits that make him a special player at the college level.  He can cover, he can run sideline to sideline, he can tackle, he really is a well-rounded player.  So lets look at what makes him one of the Best of the Best.

Coverage Ability

  • When first watching Mosley, his play in coverage situations instantly jumped out to me.  He reads the Quarterback well, has smooth hip transitions, looks fluid in his drop back, and has good ball skills to finish plays with interceptions.

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  • In this first play against Notre Dame in the National Championship, Mosley shows off tremendous ability to not only pick up the Receiver (yellow square) coming across the field on the shallow crossing route, but also shows the ability to jam and reroute him to take him out of the play.                     Image
  • As the Receiver slips off the line Mosley kicks out to meet him in his route,  the receiver tries to shake him with a quick studder, but Mosley is able to stay right with his man displaying some quick footwork of his own.                    Image
  • Mosley then is able to initiate contact and jams the Receiver.  He’s able to knock him off his route, and he continues contact through the play.              Image
  • At this point Mosley has thrown the Receiver completely off his route, and is also showing good athleticism to stay with him in coverage.  Mosley has effectively eliminated the Receiver from being an option on the play.  Due to his reroute and tight coverage, if the Quarterback throws him the ball it will likely be deflected, or the Receiver will be tackled for no gain.                      Image
  • On this play against Michigan Mosley demonstrates good ability to read the Quarterback and put himself in position to make the play.  As the QB snaps the ball notice Mosley has already started his back pedal, and has his eyes on the QB while getting into his coverage responsibilities.                            Image
  • As the QB goes through his progressions Mosley continues to watch him in order to be able to determine where the ball is going.  Mosley reads the QB and determines where the ball is going by this point, and has already made his adjustment to break on the ball.                               Image
  • As the ball is released to the Wide Receiver appearing to come open, Mosley has made the correct read, and already jumped underneath the post route.   Image
  • By the time the ball actually arrives, Mosley is in position to make the easy interception which he runs back for a score.                             Image
  • On this play, we again see Mosley read the Quarterback throughout, and make a great play on a ball.  As the play begins Mosely will again drop back fluidly and keep his eyes on the QB                                                           Image
  • Mosley makes the read almost instantly, and moves laterally to where the Quarterback’s eyes are on the field.                                  Image
  • The intended Receiver is the Running Back coming out of the backfield, but he goes the wrong direction on the timing route.  Once again, Mosley has put himself in position to at least attempt to make a play on the ball by the time the QB is releasing it.                            Image
  • It’s a terrible mistake by the RB Lane, but that doesn’t make Mosley’s play any less impressive.  The Linebackers shows great reaction ability to dive and secure the football before hitting the turf.  At the time of the interception Alabama only had a four point lead, and Mosley’s play put them in prime scoring position again.

Run Support

  • A lot of times you find guys who are good at coverage but shaky in run support, or vice versa.  For Mosley he was supposed to be a strictly coverage linebacker.  While he excels in coverage, he is also extremely impressive in run support.  He fills gaps well, diagnoses and reacts quickly to most plays, and is a sound tackler.                                                                                   Image
  • On this play early in the game against Notre Dame, Mosley shows good ability to read the play, then shoot the gap and make an extremely physical tackle.  As the play begins Mosley lets his defenders in front of him occupy blockers while he reads up field.                                                                  Image
  • The Running Back is held up in the backfield when his blockers are not able to generate a push down field.  At this point Mosley will diagnose and find a gap and shoot through it.                                                          Image
  • Mosley explodes through the gap and wraps up the ball carrier.  The plays over, but the Backer is about to impose his will.                                   Image
  • Mosley drives the RB Theo Riddick back a few yards, and then in a move you would be more likely to see in a WWE ring then a football field he violently throws him back and over his shoulders to the turf.  This helps set the tone for what will be a physical beat down of the Irish.                    Image
  • On this play Mosley again shows how quickly he can burst through a gap and bring down the Running Back.                                                     Image
  • Mosley quickly reads the play and locates the lane for the Running Back.  Before Riddick can even cut back Mosley has exploded into the lane and closed it off.  Image
  • Mosley is able to easily bring down Riddick for no gain on the play.       Image
  • On this last play, Mosley shows the ability to make tackles even partially blocked.  Mosley is being blocked by a much bigger Offensive Lineman, but because of his length is able to keep the lineman off his pads.                Image
  • As the RB plows through the hole Mosley is occupied by the much bigger Offensive Guard.  However, Mosley will be able to free one of his arms and that’s all he needs.                                                                            Image
  • Mosley is able to stick his free arm out and shows great strength to be able to stop and eventually drag down the RB while partially blocked.

Sideline to Sideline Pursuit

  • One of the biggest misconceptions about Mosley in my opinion is that he’s not an exceptional athlete.  I disagree with this, because he’s able to play sideline to sideline and is great in pursuit.  While he may not be the fastest guy in a straight line, or the highest jumper, his ability to track and tackle ball carriers all across the field shows me a great level of athleticism.                Image
  • On this play Mosley somewhat bites on the play fake and begins moving with the Running Back.  However he will show he quickly is able to recover.    Image
  • By the time the Quarterback is in his pump back to release the ball Mosley has already recovered and has his momentum moving in the right direction.   Image
  • As the Receiver makes the catch Mosley is nowhere on the screen.  The Receiver looks to have a blocker in front of him, and this could be a big play.     Image
  • Before he can get too much further down field though Mosley comes flying in and makes the tackle.  What looked like a significant gain isn’t even a first down because of his play sideline to sideline.                                Image
  • On this play Mosley is spying the QB, and will make a tremendous play to force the Irish to punt.                                                          Image
  • Mosley quickly reads the field, and finds the huge running lane the Quarterback has been provided on third and short.  He instinctively shoots across the field to fill the QB’s escape route.                                               Image
  • Mosley has the angle on the play, but it’s still going to be a footrace against a very athletic QB.                                                                   Image
  • The Backer is able to get over to the QB in order to close off the inside cutback, and force him to the sideline where help is waiting in the form of a Tide teammate.  The two of them force the QB out-of-bounds, and force the Irish to give the ball back to the Tide offense.

Blitz Ability

  • Not only is Mosley skilled in coverage and able to make plays in the run game, but he’s also a very effective blitzer.  The Linebacker times his blitzes well, anticipating the snap and exploding off the line.  He gets into the backfield easily at times, and shows great closing burst and pursuit ability to run down players in the backfield.                                                             Image
  • Mosley times the snap excellently on this play, and gets great explosion off the line.  Notice how much further up field he is then any other white shirt.     Image
  • The Center is able to make contact with Mosley, but his reaction to the snap is so quick that the Center can’t really deal with his rush.  The Center makes an effort to grab him and take the penalty instead of a sack, but Mosley is strong enough to run through the holding attempt with little problem.           Image
  • Once Mosley gets into the backfield and gets a free run he’s essentially a run away freight train.                                             Image
  • The Quarterback tries to avoid the Linebackers rush, but Mosley is able to easily pursue and sack the Missouri QB.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Mosley improve in 2013.

Taking Unnecessary Steps on Plays 

This is a bit of nit picking because usually Mosley makes the play anyway, but at times he can be caught taking too many steps on plays.  This mostly happens when he’s has his eyes in the backfield diagnosing the play, and in my opinion is a result of just not having enough reps yet.                                            Image

  • On this play against Missouri we see an example of this.  While his teammates are attacking the ball carrier Mosley is still shuffling laterally diagnosing the play.Image
  • Even as he gets downhill to the ball carrier, he’s still shuffling laterally somewhat.  This makes him slow to react to the Running Backs cutback, and creates a big gain for the Back.                                                       Image
  • However he does make up for it with tremendous pursuit down field to drive the RB out of bounds.

Being the Focal Point of the Defense

  • This isn’t so much something Mosley has to improve on, more of something he’s going to have to adjust to.  While the Tide Defense has great players along the entire depth chart, Mosley will be seen as the guy.  How will he handle the pressure?  How will he deal with having offenses scheme around his play making ability?  These are two things I will definitely be watching as the 2013 season unfolds.

Final Thoughts

C.J. Mosley is my top ranked Linebacker in the NCAA, and for good reason.  He’s skilled at literally every phase of the game.  He’s an ace coverage Backer showing the ability to jam Receivers through their routes, and drop back seamlessly into coverage.  He also reads the Quarterback better than any LB in the nation, and shows the ball skills to interrupt and pick off passes.  He’s also skilled in the run game.  Mosley displays great tackling ability, wrapping up and dragging the ball carrier to the ground, and he also at times punishes the opposition with violent tackles that make them think twice before running his way again.  He shows ability as a blitzer, getting into the backfield and chasing down the Quarterback for a sack, or forcing him to throw it away.  The Backer also has exceptional sideline to sideline ability, pursuing ball carriers, and showing the skill to cut back across the field and make plays with lateral agility.

I would like to see him clean up some of his footwork as he can be caught taking too many steps while diagnosing plays at times.  This can take him out of position on plays, and create big gain opportunities for the offense.  At times he doesn’t react as quickly as you would expect him to after you see his reaction time on the good snaps.  This is caused by a lack of reps in my opinion, and will start to go away as the season progresses.  I’m also going to be watching Mosley’s transition from a great role player into the focal point and leader of the Defense as that is a position he hasn’t been asked to fill at Alabama before.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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