October 7, 2009

In the film room: Ron Tanner

Background:

As a sophomore last year, Ron Tanner was a standout at the safety position for Eastmoor. In total, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder recorded over 100 tackles and six interceptions as he helped lead the Warriors all the way to the Division III state championship game.
His stellar sophomore season caught the attention of college coaches throughout the Country. The junior currently holds offers from Michigan, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. In addition to his three offers, Tanner is receiving serious interest from the likes of Cincinnati, LSU, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Ohio State, among others.

In 2009, Tanner has continued his role as a ball-hawking safety but has also taken the reins at the quarterback position for the Warriors. With his college future likely being on the defensive side of the ball, we take a look at some game film from Eastmoor's Week 2 contest against Columbus St. Charles and breakdown Tanner's game from the safety position.


What he does well...

  • Also a standout in basketball, Tanner brings that type of athleticism and leaping ability to the safety position and he has great ball skills. If there's a jump ball, the odds are pretty good that Tanner will come down with it.

  • Perhaps the most important attribute that a safety needs to have is the ability to tackle well in space. Tanner really excels in this phase of the game. A lot of times, especially at the high school level, defenders will allow themselves to get flat footed when preparing to make a tackle. This keeps them off balance and makes it much easier for the ball carrier to make the defender miss. In watching Tanner's game film, he very rarely allows himself to get flat footed and does a great job of 'breaking down', squaring to the defender and chopping his feet and staying on his toes. This allows him to react much quicker to the ball carrier and minimizes the chances of missing tackles. This is another trait that has probably been helped out with his basketball background as breaking down to make a tackle isn't too different from a defensive stance in basketball.

  • Staying with the theme of tackling, Tanner is very comfortable making plays "in the box". In short yardage and goal line packages, Tanner becomes an extra linebacker and does very well in that role. His film shows the strength and physicality necessary to shed blockers as well as the athleticism to elude them and make plays at the line of scrimmage. He may be at his best when coming up from his safety position and stuffing running backs or receivers that are running underneath routes.

  • Probably my two favorite things about him when watching him on film are his aggression and activity. He has great explosion when he hits people and does an outstanding job of driving his legs through the ball carrier. This leads to the ball carrier either going backwards or straight down. One of the things that defensive players need to avoid is being a "drag tackler" where they simply grab hold of the ball-carrier and drag them down after a couple of yards. When Tanner hits people, they typically go down very quickly.

  • I mentioned his activity above, this is a key trait for any football player but when you find it in a safety it can really help out your front seven. When talking about activity, you want to see players that are heavily involved in the game. With over 100 tackles as a sophomore and well on his way to that total as a junior, Tanner simply makes a lot of plays. There just aren't that many plays on film where Tanner isn't in the mix. This type of motor is something that normally is self-taught, most players either have it or they don't and Tanner has it.

  • I'll wrap up the positives with something that may seem obvious but is very important. There is visible improvement in Tanner's game from last season. Again, that sounds obvious but a lot of prospects will plateau as a sophomore and not get any better. That isn't the case here, he is a bigger, faster, stronger, and more instinctive football player in 2009 than he was in 2008.

    Areas for improvement...

  • Tanner is a bit raw in terms of coverage skills. The Columbus City League is a Running Back's league. Because of that, Tanner does not see very many sophisticated passing offenses. He also plays more of a "centerfield" role for Eastmoor in passing situations, so one thing that he will need to work on during the off-season and as he arrives at a college campus will be his footwork, hips, and all of the other intricacies of man-to-man coverage. Safeties need to know how to cover more than ever these days with so many teams running spread offenses, opposing offensive coordinators will find ways to get safeties either locked in man-to-man coverage or isolated in space against receivers and backs.

  • Another detail that Tanner will need to improve on is his run/pass recognition. Again, this goes back to the types of teams that he is playing against on a weekly basis. It also illustrates why I chose the St. Charles game to evaluate as they are not only the best team that Eastmoor has played to this point, but they are the most balanced offensively. Tanner can be a little slow to recognize and react to the pass and also has a tendency to creep up a little too close to the line of scrimmage. That type of mentality is what makes Tanner a great tackler and so effective in run support but it can also lead to big plays. Channeling that desire to get up in the box and make the big hit all of the time will go a long way towards making Tanner an even more complete safety.

  • Finally, and this is something that any defensive back needs to constantly work at, is foot speed. On film, Tanner is a quicker, faster, and more explosive football player than he was a year ago. He needs to continue to work hard on his speed and continue to get faster.

    Outlook

    While it's still early in the evaluation process for the 2011 class, Tanner will certainly have a strong claim as the number one junior safety prospect in Ohio. His combination of size, athleticism, ball skills, and tackling ability make him an intriguing prospect and one that should garner offers from many of the top programs not only in the Midwest but around the nation. The only question might be his future position. As a prospect that may still be growing, it is entirely possible that he grows into a Linebacker/Safety hybrid type of player, depending on the defensive scheme of the schools that are recruiting him.

    Current Buckeye that Tanner most favorably compares to... Jermale Hines


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