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Quite frankly, we may be looking at the next great linebacker in the long list of accomplished linebackers at the University of Miami.
That’s the type of ceiling Tirek-Austin Cave has as a linebacker. I for one am thankful this player is not being featured by the Minnesota Gophers, Baylor Bears or West Virginia Mountaineers, all teams that were after this sleeper prospect. The player and the person are a combination that can set apart Austin-Cave from a muddied pool of competitors for meaningful snaps on the Miami Hurricanes defense. With names like Sam Brooks, Keontra Smith and Waynmon Steed looking to be the primary competition nothing is guaranteed. It is the total package that Austin-Cave brings to the position that has the chance of propelling the linebacker to the front of the line.
First and foremost, for those who haven’t read it PLEASE read and then RE-READ Justin Dottavio’s write on “What College Coaches Look For in a Linebacker Prospect”. Justin is a gentleman and scholar and that article is pure gold. (Scroll to the bottom of that article, and guess who you see?) For those that want some TL:DR, below is a short cheat sheet of the top items coaches look for:
1. Size and length
2. Position flexibility
3. Initial quickness
4. Strength at Point of Attack
5. Block protection
6. Toughness and Motor
7. Range and Speed
8. Burst, Acceleration and COD
10. Blitz/Pass Rush
12. Instinct/eyes through traffic
For initial quickness, strength at point of the attack, block protection, range/speed, Burst and instincts, do yourself a big favor and watch the junior film on Austin-Cave. Consistently, he is able to quickly diagnose plays, navigate blocks and displays excellent burst laterally and through the line of scrimmage. When we use the phrase, “Heat Seeking Missile”, this is the visual I imagine. Though not on the list, the aggression and passion I spot throughout the tape is what separates a linebacker assigned the position, and a linebacker that wants the position. Austin-Cave is easily the latter.
That video checks the box for half of the checklist in my opinion.
Tackling, Toughness and Motor? I ask the questions, can you stay on the field, and how productive are you on that field.
The answers? Yes, and VERY.
Much has been made of Corey Flagg’s numbers while he was a prospect at powerhouse North Shore in Houston, Texas. While numbers at a powerhouse look different when compared apples to apples, we cannot discount what Tirek Austin Cave did his final two years playing at Camden High School in New Jersey. Austin-Cave helped lead the Panthers to the State Championship game during his junior season with a stat line of 162 tackles, 18 TFLs, 1 sack, 3 PBUs, and 1 FF. In a 12 game HSFB season and All-State honors. His senior year was another dominant campaign his senior with 148 tackles, 11 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He would repeat on the All-State Defensive First Team for New Jersey.
Even in his final game, Tirek Austin-Cave had a team-high 12 tackles, including four tackles for loss, a sack a pass defense and Player of The Game honors despite losing in the playoffs to rival Cedar Creek.
Three Hundred and Ten Tackles in two years.
To put that into perspective, the entire Hurricanes linebacker unit total 182 tackles, only 27 more than Cave’s average yearly total.
(If you are counting that is 9/12 on the checklist)
Size and length?
On the Miami Hurricanes Roster page, Tirek is 6’1 225, right in range.
Most importantly are Tirek Austin-Cave || 2019 Senior Football Highlights || - YouTube simply what's on the surface for Austin-Cave is his prototypical size. Even more simply, he played almost EXCLUSIVELY at the inside linebacker position. While that may speak in contrast to checklist items pertaining to position flexibility, what we see on film tells us that Austin-Cave is very flexible in what he can do from the inside linebacker location. He drops back into coverage often, comes off as an edge rusher through stunts and alignment, and has his sideline-to-sideline speed on display throughout the film.
Also, for the keen-eyed reader, position exclusivity may seem like a trivial detail until you realize that of the 10 linebackers to record a tackle last season, only four players played linebacker exclusively in high school (Corey Flagg, Waynmon Steed, Ryan Ragone and Austin-Cave). As we transition back to true linebackers on defense, Austin-Cave resume stands above the rest.
From that barrage of good will, detail and for some, a little fluff, why didn’t Austin-Cave blow through the competition and why should we assume, he can now? A major item for Tirek, although on film and in highlights he has the burst and point of attack feature of running through tackles, it was always his size that limited his rating out of high school. For those that saw the frame and were ok sacrificing a year from a recruiter stand point, it’s simple to understand the value of stashing Austin-Cave, adding the weight, (from 203 to the current 225) and letting him adjust naturally to off and on-field expectations in college and at the U.
You may be asking, well is he ready? Why haven’t we heard more about Austin-Cave and when will we? If what we heard from Diaz and Coach Jonathan Patke from spring to early camp compared to what has been said about Austin-Cave’s scrimmage performance, that time may be soon if not now.
Coach Patke on Austin-Cave, “One thing about Tirek is that he’s going to play full speed every down, every play. That’s kind of why we fell in love with him during the recruiting process,” Patke said. “He’s a high-motor, get-to-the-ball type of guy. That’s what you saw in the first scrimmage. He’s a guy that’s going to find the football. He’s not going to be perfect. He’s young. He’s learning. But once he goes, he’s going to go full speed and he’s going to show up in a bad mood and tackle well. That’s what we knew we were getting in him.”
Coach Diaz has been quoted earlier in the spring as saying Austin-Cave is close, needing to trust what his responsibilities are within the defense and play up to that speed he is capable to play at. That is the point that many a talented linebacker at the U has stumbled at.
Playbook, playbook, playbook.
If Tirek is comfortable with what he’s learned, then this missile will be launched in the very near future.