INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Derice, an area scout for the Indianapolis Colts who focuses on the Northeast region, discusses what he saw in cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, the Colts' second-round (34th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft:
Many draft experts didn't have a consensus top cornerback in this year's class. What made Ya-Sin stand out to you guys?
Derice: "Rock's done a great job from transferring from Presbyterian to Temple, just being a diligent worker, great football player, ecstatic when he's on the field, great practice guy, and then the Senior Bowl really stood out for us all. And, you know, you saw the man cover skills, saw the zone-cover stuff. "
He wasn't originally in your area at Presbyterian. What were your initial reactions when you saw him at Temple?
Derice: "When I saw him at Temple I was like, 'This guy looks like he should've been here all along.' Because he's built pretty well; sturdy, almost like he's carved out of stone. You'll see him. It's like he's physically the way you want him to look — long arms."
How tough is it to play one year of Division I football and end up as an early-second round draft pick?
Derice: "That's a testimony to his hard work. He came in there and felt like he belonged, and he planned on out-working everyone, and he's gonna try to do the same thing when he gets here."
Was the Senior Bowl important for seeing Ya-Sin play zone coverage? Because they played primarily man-to-man coverage at Temple.
Derice: "It was good to see him play a little bit of zone, but he did a lot of man stuff too. In the fall, because he played so much man (it) was hard to get a gauge on how he would play in off (coverage), but the way he was able to transition, get downfield fast, flip his hips — doing the things that wasn't always evident when you saw him on tape in the early part of the fall."
So did you still have to project a little bit as it pertained to Ya-Sin's zone coverage skills? Or did you see enough?
Derice: "I think you can see the progression of his technique as the season went on. So you know that he's feeling better about what he's being taught and at Senior Bowl he just put it all together, and it was good to see him learn different techniques and actually apply it. So that was the key for him; I think he'll do the same thing once he gets here."
So you were at Temple to see someone else, and you see this kid and he gets on your radar from there?
Derice: "We usually have a list of guys that we're gonna go see. Now he probably wasn't (on) the highest list of guys, but you walk on campus and you walk through the field and that's the guy that they kind of spoke about. And any time there's a guy with a single-digit number at Temple you always gotta pay attention to them. And they had their strength coach, Dave Feeley, Coach (Geoff) Collins and Coach (Vince) Sinagra, who was my defensive coordinator when I was playing at Stoney Brook, raved about him more than anybody. So it was one of those guys you just paid close attention to and then he ended up being a pretty good football player."
In what ways do you see Ya-Sin's wrestling background when you watch his tape?
Derice: "Confidence. So in wrestling, you know, its man-on-man, one-on-one. And he has that confidence when he's in man, that's where you see that he's at his best. It doesn't phase him, doesn't panic when the ball is deep. He plays his role, he plays his technique, plays the hands off the ball, he just doesn't seem ever out of phase. So that was the key that I thought wrestling brought over to football, and the physicalness of tackling."
Was Ya-Sin participating in the Senior Bowl just good to see better competition?
Derice: "No, he played some good players at Temple. He played Anthony Johnson from Buffalo. He played the Houston guys. So he played good competition at Temple. The Senior Bowl was really a chance to get to see him again live. I was at that Buffalo game this year in September where he had the interception, he had one that was called back for a touchdown, but just feeling his presence at practice, and in the games, like he has that presence that you want from a corner. Like, his confidence, his work ethic, it just exudes. And he brings everyone else along with him."
Little bit of swagger?
Derice: "Oh — he has a lot of swagger."
He's vocal? A talker?
Derice: "Oh — he's a talker."
Along those lines, your corners, because the way they tackle and play physical, they want to set a tone. It seems like Ya-Sin fits into that.
Derice: "Yeah, he is. What we hope that he's that guy who brings everyone up, you know? He's gonna work hard whether he's the first-string guy or the fifth-string guy. The level will never change and I think that will affect everyone else around him."
What were your thoughts on Friday night of the draft, when you knew the trade calls were coming for Colts' 34th pick early in the second round?
Derice: "I was panicking (laughs). No — I'll say this: Chris Ballard and Ed (Dodds) do a great job with explaining everything to us on every decision that's gonna be made. They have extreme patience with the whole process, but we talk through everything. I was a little nervous that we would trade out a little, because I just thought that Oakland might've taken him, or another team might've come up to take him. But Ed and Ballard, they really just talked it through and we all watched them together and we felt like it was the right move for us to make at that time."
You mentioned Ya-Sin's performance against Buffalo. How much does his ball skills and just playmaking ability and aggressiveness in the pass game factor into your evaluation?
Derice: "With what we're trying to do on defense it's a big deal, because there's gonna be times you're gonna be on an island; there's gonna be times where you're one-on-one with a running back. Just being able to break down and secure the tackle helps us out, and instead of giving a guy a 15-yard run that could turn into six (a touchdown), you'll have a 3rd and 4, which helps us out moving on in defense."