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2024 NFL Draft interview: Wake Forest CB Caelen Carson

WCG’s lead draft analyst speaks with Wake Forest’s superstar cornerback.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Wake Forest at Vanderbilt Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When you’re discussing the top cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft, you better bring up Wake Forest’s Caelen Carson in the conversation.

With 26 career pass deflections and a sub-55% completion percentage allowed in all three of his seasons as a full-time contributor, Carson is ranked among the top players at his position. His physicality against the top ACC wide receivers stands out when you watch him on tape, and that has many bullish on his prospects at the NFL level.

Carson spoke exclusively with Windy City Gridiron about his experiences in the ACC, how he maintains physicality against supersized wide receivers, and more.

JI: Watching your tape, one of the biggest things that stick out to me is your physicality. When you’re going against bigger WRs, what’s your approach to make up for any size advantages they might have?

CC: Typically, there’s not really that much of a size difference, but when there is...usually honestly, I feel like receivers don’t want to block or hit me. [That and] just going with the mentality that like nobody can stop me from doing my job. Whether that’s coming over and making a tackle, getting to the ball or anything like that, nobody’s in my way.

JI: I wanna walk through your pre-snap approach since I thought your instincts on tape are some of the best in the class. What are the first things you’re looking at before the snap to determine what kind of route you might be facing?

CC: Pre-snap, I’m thinking “alignment, assignment, technique”: where’s everybody on the field aligned at, and then what formation are they in, and then what’s my assignment? Based on that information, what do I see them running and what is my assignment? So, for example: they’re in a 2x2 condensed set or a squeeze set. I’m a cloud corner; I’ll be expecting mesh or something, so underneath routes now wait for the mesh to come through. That’s just an example, it’s really just the alignment, assignment and technique I’m doing — also, the down and distance.

JI: What was your favorite experience from your time at Wake Forest?

CC: I think probably this year against Pitt; it was an exciting game because like nobody [thought we would win], we had a third-string quarterback, everything was just a surreal moment. It was just one thing after another. It was all eventful. I can give you like another one: probably my first interception my freshman year.

JI: You have some nice inside-outside versatility. How does your approach change out of the slot, compared to outside?

CC: Usually, I will say the slot receivers are not used to being pressed. I would say it’s kind of it’s easier in a slot, maybe. I feel like I wouldn’t say easier, but it’s just a different look for the wide receivers inside. I got a big frame, and it’s easier to use my length in the slot.

JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?

CC: Really just being in the house. I go to the gym, play basketball. I like to be my family, so that’s what I do most of the time.

JI: Which NBA player would you compare your pickup game to?

CC: I’d say Andrew Wiggins. I’m gonna keep them honest (laughs), I got the mid-range.

JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?

CC: You’re going to get a hard worker. You’re going to get somebody that wants to go to war for you, somebody to play special teams, whatever to get me on the field, whatever to help my team win. You’re going to get somebody that loves football.

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