Our Five Questions With... series rolls on, and this time out we're talking Bears 2nd round draft pick Alshon Jeffery with the SBNation South Carolina Gamecocks site, Garnet And Black Attack. They were nice enough to chat with us about Jeffery, his potential impact on the 2012 season, and about some of the concerns Bears fans have about his weight issues/character concerns. We also did a Q&A with them that they posted to their site which you can find here.
Just in case you missed it, we already did our Five Questions With One Bronco Nation Under God about Shea McClellin yesterday. And stay tuned tomorrow for our Q&A about the Chicago Bears 3rd round pick, Thursday for our Q&A about the Bears 4th round pick, and Friday we have a Q&A lined up too. Oh yeah, it's like that...
Windy City Gridiron - Jeffery has been a popular topic on our message boards leading up to the draft, with his weight being brought into question more often than not, was Jeffery a player that struggled with work ethic throughout his college career?
Garnet And Black Attack - No. Most people outside the South Carolina program aren't aware of this, but Jeffery was actually known as a hard worker for most of career. The coaches frequently praised him for staying late at practice to work on his routes and hands. In hindsight, some people now wonder why he couldn't have gotten down to his current weight while he was playing for us. Perhaps he could have applied himself better in the weight room. However, he certainly wasn't known for having a work ethic problem, at least not based on anything I've ever heard. And re: the weight issues, it's worth noting that he was a very effective player at the higher weight in 2010. His choice to lose weight tells a slightly different story, but perhaps he rightly never felt he needed to get down below 220 to be the best player he can be.
WCG - His numbers dropped a lot from 2010 to 2011, much of that was due to a young QB, but did the Gamecocks alter their offense at all and scale back how much they threw the ball?
GABA - Yes, offensive strategy played a role in Jeffery's production. Around the same time Steve Spurrier benched Stephen Garcia in favor of Connor Shaw, we lost starting left tackle Kyle Nunn for several games. We experimented with a variety of different lineups on the line while he was out, and pass protection was very spotty, which impacted our ability to throw the ball down field, which is where Jeffery shines. To make matters worse, we also lost star runningback Marcus Lattimore around this time, and defenses began to focus a lot of energy on Jeffery, who was perceived to be our only remaining threat on offense. However, particularly with the safeties focusing on Jeffery, we found we were still able to run the ball well with Shaw and our backup runningbacks. The read-option is always a base play in our offense, but for this stretch, it was our offense. Not coincidentally, these were Jeffery's least productive games. Once the line congealed and defenses realized they had to respect our running game, we started to throw the ball again, and Jeffery's numbers improved.
WCG - The Bears scouts had Jeffery rated in the same group as Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, did you see him as that type of elite prospect?
GABA - Yes. After 2010, Jeffery was widely thought to be a future top-10, maybe top-five, pick. ESPN called him the SEC's best player in a preseason countdown. Obviously, the numbers dropped, as did his stock. But I think his production dropped solely to QB and line play, things he had no control of. To the Bears' credit, they were able to see through that, and they got a steal as a result.
WCG - I know that Jeffery was kicked out of a game for fighting (and after seeing the "fight" it wasn't that big a deal), and we already talked about his weight issues last year, but what other character issues are there surrounding him? Was he a good teammate?
GABA - The only thing I've ever noted about Jeffery in that department is that he is a little bit of a show-boater, but honestly, it's the rare player of his caliber who isn't. Jeffery was well liked by his teammates, and he's never been involved in any notable off-field news. He's a very physical player, which probably leads to occasional confrontations with corners. However, the "fight" in the bowl game, which was more on the other guy than Jeffery, is the only thing like that I've ever seen him take part in.
WCG - Scouts consistently knock Jeffery for not having breakaway speed, is he a guy that plays faster on the field?
GABA - Yes, I think so. On the one hand, Jeffery's strengths are his size, his physicality, and his ability to make a play on the ball and come down with it. He's a guy who makes catches in traffic. I'm not going to lie and say his greatest strength is his speed. That said, he's got enough speed to get open down field, and he's had many long catches over the course of his career. He's a tall, lanky runner, and that makes him look slower than he is. However, you can't get away with being a slow and having as many long catches as he's had in the SEC.
We'd like to thank the fine folks at Garnett And Black Attack for taking some time to answer our Alshon Jeffery questions.