5’11” 200 lbs.
University of Tennessee
Strengths: Vision, instincts, reliable hands, reflexes, speed
Weaknesses: Average size, ‘tweener
By John L. Clarke
You can say that (James) Eric Berry was born to play football. Yes, he has the game changing interceptions and yes he can run like a deer and hit like a ram, but he was born to play football because he admires his father so much.
You hear all the time how parents have inspired their children to follow their dreams. Eric’s dream was and still is to be as good a person, and football player, as his father, James Berry. The elder Berry was a running back for the Vols from 1978-1981 and was the team captain during the ’81 season. Although James stayed out of pushing Eric towards Knoxville, Tennessee, he definitely played a big part in his life, and still does.
Now the son is on his way towards being a Top 5 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. With comparisons a plenty, the closest person that Berry’s game resembles is that of All-Pro Ed Reed. Both have outstanding instincts and can break on the ball better than most. They also both play the game very intelligently, as they are great at baiting quarterbacks into bad throws and capitalizing on mistakes. The instant recognition of routes and tendency’s an offense has makes these two appear to be psychic.
Berry exploded on the scene as a freshman, collecting 86 tackles to go along with his 2 touchdowns off of his 5 interceptions. After being named to every Freshman All-American team, his sophomore year didn’t slump as he again scored 2 touchdowns on defense, snagged 7 interceptions, made 72 tackles and also had 3 sacks.
It’s hard to find negatives on this kid. His lateral movements seem to be a bit stiff due to his narrow hips, but he still can fly around. Sure he is not as big as he could be for a safety, but he can clearly bring the wood as evident by his amazing hit on Knowshon Moreno.
He also is so fast (estimated 40 yard dash is about 4.3 seconds) that he could play either free safety or corner. I don’t see how that is a negative, but I have heard stranger things before. Pigeon holding him to one position may be too hard to do anyway. He already stars at strong safety, kick returner and is starting to see more time on offense. Even his Major is positive, as he is really focused on his pre-dentistry studies.
After breaking down the tape, I see a kid who very rarely takes false steps in his back pedal, can read the quarterback with ease and can bring the pain when needed. He may go number 1 overall, which is a feat very few defensive players have accomplished. His declaration for the 2010 draft may not happen after all, however. With Tennessee undergoing a face lift in the coaching ranks, it is hard to say if the Vols have enough fire power to keep up in the dangerous SEC. New head coach Lane Kiffin could be just the guy to turn around a once powerful program. If the Vols struggle, Berry may remain to help finish what he started and also to obtain his degree in Dentistry.
Awards and Accolades
- 2009 All-SEC First Team (Coaches, AP)
- 2009 Pre-Season All-American
- 2009 NFL Pre-Season Draft Dog All-American
- 2008 College Football All-American (Consensus)
- 2008 National Defensive Sophomore of the Year (Collegefootballnews.com)
- 2008 SEC Defensive Player of the Year
- 2008 Jack Tatum Award Winner
- 2008 All-SEC First Team (Coaches, AP)
- 2008 Vince Dooley Award
- 2008 Jim Thorpe Award Finalist
- 2008 NFL Pre-Season Draft Dog All-American
- 2007 First Team Freshman All-American (Consensus)
- 2007 National Defensive Freshman of the Year (Collegefootballnews.com)
- 2007 SEC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year (Sporting News)
- 2007 All-SEC 2nd Team (Coaches, AP)
- 2007 All-SEC Freshmen Team
- 2007 SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll