Next up on this pass rusher preview series is USC Junior DE Nick Perry. Some Bolts From The Blue readers may recall an article by jkvandal that shed some positive light on Michigan-native-turned-So-Cal-collegian. It mentions how using combine numbers to determine explosiveness Nick Perry ranked #1 among pass rushers. His combine numbers were also better than past draftees like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, two of the prototypes for the position. It also talked about how if you looked at the college stats for each of the pass rushers that Perry ranked #2 in plays/game. These numbers, while not definitive indicators of future NFL success, are nice little reminders of how interesting a prospect the young Trojan defender is.
Scouting-wise I was neglectful of Perry during the college football season. Sometimes that happens with non-seniors since their intentions aren't known until after the season and they haven't been scouted as heavily as the players in their 4th or 5th year of playing college ball. Usually, I can catch these guys in time for their bowl games, but due to sanctions on the USC program the Trojans weren't in a bowl game. Nevertheless, here we are a couple weeks from the draft and we need to know what kind of player this potential Charger is.
Over at MockingTheDraft.com they've covered Perry a couple of times. About a month ago they mentioned him in some post combine pass rusher talk:
Nick Perry, USC, 6'3'', 270 pounds - Nick Perry is an underrated pass rusher, in my opinion. I view him as a top-15 talent. He has a relentless and consistent motor with the initial burst off the line that makes him tough to block. At his size, strength will be a bit of a concern, but I think Perry proved himself against some solid tackles in the Pac-12 this season.
They also did a full write up for him back in February before the combine:
Pass Rush: Nick Perry's biggest strength is his pass rushing ability. He has a quick burst off the line of scrimmage and gets to the edge quickly. Displaying both a spin move and a strong swim move, Perry collected 9.5 sacks this season for USC. While stronger tackles can push him around due to a lack of strength, Perry's motor, technique and quickness make him tough for any lineman to contain over the span of an entire game.
Pursuit: I like Nick Perry's consistent effort. He shows good range and is always making tackles downfield well away from his starting point. It is also encouraging to see him get his hands up on tons of passing plays in which he was unable to get to the quarterback. That shows both effort and awareness on his part.
Run Defense: Nick Perry isn't quite as strong of a run defender as he is a pass rusher. He is a bit undersized in the 4-3, and his lack of strength shows in run defense. He occasionally gets upright while getting after the ball carrier, but I think his lack of strength is the root of his issues.
Strength: As mentioned above, Perry lacks some strength that scouts like to see in a 4-3 defensive end. He has a hard time fighting through blocks and seems to be reliant on his pass rushing techniques and quickness to get into the backfield.
Tackling: Nick Perry is a fundamentally sound tackler. He wraps up well and rarely lets ball carriers escape his grasp.
Technique: Overall, I think Nick Perry has relatively polished technique at this point in his career. He exhibits a nice repertoire of pass rushing moves and displays solid lean when applying pressure from the edge. His technique helps him make up for some of the strength he lacks.
Final Word: Nick Perry is an interesting prospect. Most consider him a player that can play in either the 4-3 or the 3-4. The combine is going to be huge for him. He is either going to need to show the speed in the 40 and quickness in the linebacker drills, or he is going to have to have a strong weigh in and solid showing in the strength workouts. If he bulks up to around 275 while maintaining his quickness, he would make a fine first round pick at 4-3 defensive end. His scheme versatility also makes him an interesting fit for the Patriots and other teams that run multiple schemes.
From reading the above I get the impression of a player that would at least be a situational pass rusher in 2012. His issues in run defense will hurt him in the NFL and keep him from being an elite player. Getting swallowed up by big blockers can also be a problem in the pass rush, but the Chargers tend to use their defensive lineman to eat up blockers and Perry could use his speed to avoid some of them on his way to the QB. However, there's nothing schematically San Diego can do to help Perry in the run defense area. The Chargers have Antwan Barnes for another year. If they were to draft Perry, it would seem like they are trying to acquire his replacement, while perhaps helping the 2012 OLB rotation.
Another reason to think that Perry might be a situational guy is that unlike Whitney Mercilus he is not praised for his motor. He won't quit on a play, but he also might not be able to go hard all game long. With that said there are also some intangibles about the young prospect. He's a hard worker, good in the weight room and praised by coaches. He's also been almost injury free during his collegiate career.