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Miami Hurricanes 2022 Path to the NFL Draft: S Bubba Bolden

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Injury Issues Have Derailed Bolden’s Draft Stock but the Promising Las Vegas Native Likely Should be Selected This Weekend

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 NC State at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even though the advent of the NFL in Vegas is relatively new as the Raiders just moved to their new destination in 2020, and the Draft will be in Sin City this week, there has been a perennial powerhouse brewing in the Nevada city in recent years. And, good for Miami’s sake, there has been a pipeline of talent directly from Bishop Gorman High to the U since roughly 2018.

The player who most recently saw success with the Canes, and hopes to have his name called by and NFL team this weekend, is transfer safety, Bubba Bolden. The pipeline from Bishop Gorman-to-Miami started when tight end and current Houston Texan, Brevin Jordan, signed in 2021. Jordan then put a bug in Bolden and quarterback, Tate Martell’s, ears to get the duo to transfer in 2019. The latest addition from Bishop Gorman is 2022 defensive end signee, Cyrus Moss.

While Canes’ fans hope the pipeline continues with the Vegas powerhouse, Bolden has been steadily focused on getting the call in his home state. Bolden’s former high school teammates, Jalen Nailor (wide receiver, Michigan State) and Haskell Garrett (defensive tackle, Ohio State) hope to join Jordan in the NFL club as well (other Bishop Gorman products, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Palaie Gaoteote IV, opted to return for another year but were draft-eligible).

Let’s focus on Bubba’s big weekend:

S Bubba Bolden Draft Snapshot:

2022 NFL Draft Ranking* - 226th Overall, 18th Safety

(Position Ranking based on Consensus Board of 60 ranking systems)*
Height: 6’2” (86th Percentile)
Weight: 209lbs (38th Percentile)
Arm Length: 31 3/8” (41st Percentile)
Wingspan: 76 7/8” (50th Percentile)
Hand: 9 0” (28th Percentile)

Career Statistics:
2017: 13GP, 8 Tackles (USC)
2018: Did not play football due to Suspension
2019: 5GP/1GS, 11 Tackles, 1 FF, 2 PD, 1 INT
2020: 11GP/9GS, 74 Tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 1 Sack, 4 FF, 4 PD, 1 INT, 2 Blocked FGs (Second Team All-ACC)
2021: 7GP/7GS, 42 Tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 1 Sack, 2 PD (Injury)
CAREER: 135 Tackles, 10 TFLs, 2.0 Sacks, 5 FF, 8 PD, 2 INT

Pro Football Focus (PFF) Grades
- Overall 2017 PFF Grade: 56.8
- Overall 2018 PFF Grade: N/A
- Overall 2019 PFF Grade: 70.4
- Overall 2020 PFF Grade: 66.7
- Overall 2021 PFF Grade: 48.7, 230 Free Safety, 65 Box, 60 Slot CB, 4 DLine, 2 Wide CB

NFL Combine/Pro Day Results:

40-Yard Dash: 4.47 (81st Percentile)
Bench: 15 reps (29th Percentile)
3-Cone: 7.09 (26th Percentile)
Shuttle: 4.20 (51st Percentile)
Vertical Jump: 31” (4th Percentile)
Broad Jump: 9’10” (35th Percentile)

Background:

Always a Winner

As discussed above, Bolden, who’s birth name is Damuzhea, hails from a football perennial powerhouse, not only at the state level, but at the national level. He made the varsity roster as a sophomore and went 45-0 during his three seasons at Bishop Gorman. In those three years, the team won three state championships and three USA Today national (!) titles.

As far as Bolden, he joined the varsity roster late in his freshman year after also playing quarterback on JV. As a sophomore, Bolden became a starter and his career just got better from there as he earned All-American Honors his senior season.

In his college enrollment process, Bolden was the no. 59 recruit and chose USC, a team that he rooted for growing up on the West Coast. Bolden narrowed his choices down to the Trojans and Arizona State, and did not even have Miami on his Interest list, which consisted of 22 teams.

In his freshman year at USC, Bolden got in trouble with the school due to an underage drinking incident and was faced with a 28-month suspension. Bolden subsequently withdrew from USC and, after sitting out the 2018 season, Bolden was reinstated. He elected to transfer to Miami around the same time as Tate Martell, which resulted in a Bishop Gorman reunion with Brevin Jordan.

In Bolden’s first season with the Canes, he was assimilated into the lineup relatively slow as he did not play in the first four games. He then played in five games, including one start, but suffered a season-ending injury at the beginning of November. The following year, in 2020, Bolden was a regular starter and impressed out of the gates by earning ACC Defensive Back of the Week on two occasions during the early part of the season. He returned in 2021 and appeared to be playing through a shoulder injury as his performance was hampered and ended up undergoing shoulder surgery this past fall.

Player Profile:

“He’s a (lesser) version of Minkah Fitzpatrick”

While Bubba has always been a promising prospect, he really burst on the scene the last couple of seasons. Bolden showed immense poise as a free safety in the first half of 2020 where he showed a keen ability as a long and rangy defensive back. His obvious athleticism was on full display as he improved his draft stock as the season progressed. However, towards the end of the season, Bolden’s consistency was being questioned, especially when it came to disciplined tackling (see UNC 2020 tape), which may have contributed to his reasoning for returning in 2021.

Over his final offseason, Bolden was largely being projected as a top tier draft prospect in the early rounds. Bolden was hampered by a shoulder injury, which cut his season short and resulted in surgery. Durability concerns may be an important part of Bolden’s draft review as this was not his first injury (season-ending right ankle injury in 2019 after celebrating an interception and missed part of the 2021 spring practices due to a toe injury). He does say he is ahead of schedule for the shoulder issue.

As far as his style of play and what will draw teams to Bolden, he is not only rangy but is advanced as far as getting himself in the right position in coverage and has the athleticism/speed to match (4.47 40 at the Combine) his ball skills. To that end, he is instinctive and has a good football IQ, especially when reading coverages. While he is a strong cover free safety, he could be more experienced in the box, especially when lined up on bigger-bodied NFL tight ends.

As a plus for scouts, Bolden offers plenty of special teams experience and had two blocked field goals in one game in 2020. To that end, he offers good leadership skill in the last layer of the defense by being communicative pre-and-post snap. One former player said, “[h]e’s not an elite athlete, but he could actually cover at outside corner, slot corner. He’s a (lesser) version of Minkah Fitzpatrick.”

In addition to the durability and consistency concerns, Bolden is slimly built, which may add to his injury history. Bubba is a fine tackler when squared up to the ball carrier, but can be easily hindered in pursuit and needs to be more advanced working through blocks. Bolden seems to have moved on from any characters concerns after violating USC’s code of conduct due to underage drinking as a freshman, but teams will prioritize the interview process to make sure.

Strengths/Positives

  • Ideal Range for Free Safety
  • High football Intelligence, especially in coverage
  • Advanced Instincts/Ball Skills
  • Offers good leadership/communication
  • Athleticism/Speed (4.47 40-yard dash)

Weaknesses/Negatives

  • Injury and Durability Concerns
  • Consistency Issues resulted in Limited Quality Tape (only first half of 2020)
  • Lacks Ideal Discipline especially with Tackling
  • Slender frame for NFL standards

Best NFL Fits (5th-7th Round): Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Comparisons: Jevon Holland, Jordan Poyer

Bottom Line:

Bolden has the upside to a top tier NFL player as he was a top 60 recruit out of high school and had been projected as an early round draft pick last offseason until his shoulder injury. Bolden has an ideal frame for a safety and plays rangy as he was a star the first half of the 2020 season, which is largely what teams will have as far as positive tape, and could become a regular NFL player in the right system/coaching. However, the injury and consistency will be the biggest concern.

Draft Night Projection: (5th-7th Round)

Sixth Round to the Houston Texans: There is no doubt it would be a dream come true for Bolden to get the call in Vegas from the hometown team, the Las Vegas Raiders. And while he has met with them and it would be a cool story, they just spent early draft capital on TCU safety, Trevon Moehrig, last draft. As a later round pick, a lot of teams will be willing to take a flier on Bolden’s promising traits. Another cool story would be if Brevin Jordan puts in a good word for Bubba again and the Houston Texans used a pick to reunite the Bishop Gorman products.