Jonathan Ford signed with Miami out of Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL as part of the class of 2017. A six-foot-five, 275 pound defensive tackle, Ford was a three-star prospect per 247 Sports. Tall, long and lean, Ford looks like a throwback to Patrick Riley, Anthony Hamlet, and Jimmie Jones- all national champions from the ‘Canes glory years. He is “What college coaches are looking for in a defensive line prospect.”
Over the past four years, Ford has bulked up to 310 pounds while putting up modest numbers as a spot-starter at defensive tackle. As a true freshman, Ford played in seven games and logged one tackle. During his sophomore season, Ford played in 10 games, picking up eight tackles with two tackles for loss.
In 2019, Ford was thrust into a starting position. He started all 13 games for the ‘Canes as a junior, making 18 stops with 3.5 for a loss and three sacks. These numbers are telling- he didn’t make enough plays last year as a full-time starter. The drop off from Gerald Willis III to Ford was mightily felt and the number of defensive linemen leaving Miami early for no reason (Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh) has hurt the ‘Canes development, too.
Ford has a quick first step, especially for someone over 300 pounds. He carries that weight really well, actually. In the GIF above, he does a good job of using his hands and length. As he punches and presses he keeps the UVA lineman extended and is able to rip his hands off and engage the ball carrier.
The issue is at the point of contact on the ball carrier. Ford is much too high when he engages the runner and can’t make the tackle himself. By the point of contact Ford isn’t coiled in his power angles. Instead, he’s upright and stiff which allows the back to drive through him.
Ford does have a motor (oooooo, a cliche, but I’m not using it on an undersized white dude with a tribal armband tattoo so I’m safe). I like that he doesn’t quit on plays, even when he’s being double teamed. In the GIF above you can see his visual discipline, too. He’s engaged, fighting off a block, but sees the quarterback and can make a play on the ball for a PBU. He does the same thing on a strip earlier on his tape where he’s engaged with a lineman but still rips the ball out on a run play.
Ford is going to absolutely have to step up in order for Miami’s interior defense to have a chance. Georgia Tech, Michigan State, UNC, Virginia, Florida State and Virginia Tech will all attempt to run inside zone, split zone, and power until Miami can prove they can stop the interior run game. Throughout Ford’s tape (below), you can see Pat Bethel being mauled and runs going through Bethel’s side.
One drill I like to improve not only the power angles and pad level but cognitive and visual training is in the image above. The defensive lineman will start off in a 3-point stance. When the ball moves (get you one of those footballs on a hockey stick gimmicks) the DL will strike the prowler sled (200lbs loaded on for typical high school kids) and drive the sled until the coach puts up the stop sign with his or her hands. This forces the DL to be looking into the ‘backfield’ (at the coach) and not having their eyes closed or looking down at the ground.
Then the coach will guide the DL with his or her hands as the defensive lineman scrapes squared to the line of scrimmage. When the coach does a hard point towards the tackling ring, the DL will open up, and buzz feet to close on the ring before finishing off the ball carrier (tackling ring) with his head behind the play.
Ford must improve on his tackling. A defensive tackle has to be able to bring down a running back on his own and not constantly have to hold onto jersey and wait for help. With a new inside linebacker duo and two very light-assed defensive ends, the run game help he needs may never get there. Check out a Jon Ford highlight tape below.
Projection: Ford starts and improves his stat line, but doesn’t make the All-ACC list.