Making mark at the corner Shawn Springs: Quick recovery time and leaping ability have turned him into a defensive backfield force

Nfl Draft Preview

April 16, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

For a guy who was usually absent from the college football highlight reels last year, Shawn Springs is sitting in an unusually high position as the NFL draft approaches.

How good is Springs? Most NFL coaches and scouts scoff at the statistics he produced as a junior last fall at Ohio State. The numbers are strikingly ordinary -- 38 tackles, 15 passes broken up and no interceptions. Not exactly eye-popping numbers for a cornerback.

No matter. Springs has been turning heads for several years with the Buckeyes with his combination of size, quickness, strength and aggressiveness in man-to-man coverage. By the time Springs began his junior season, most opponents wanted no parts of him, and they often elected to test Ohio State's pass defense in other areas. Still, Springs was a cinch All-America pick.

"It's frustrating to know I didn't have the stats like some of the other guys across the country. I wanted to win an award signifying the nation's best defensive back and I wanted to have eight interceptions," Springs said. "If you don't have stats, people really don't know about you. They say, 'Look at this kid. He had 36 tackles and no picks. How did he make All-American?' "

That Springs, the son of former Ohio State and Dallas Cowboys running back Ron Springs, earned Big Ten defensive player of the year honors in 1996 tells much about the respect he enjoys. The Seattle Seahawks figure to show him their deepest admiration by making Springs the draft's third overall pick, several weeks after Seattle moved up eight spots by swinging a trade with Atlanta.

To Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the proof of Springs' potential value is unmistakable on game videotape. A typical piece of footage has Springs challenging an opposing receiver with sticky, bump-and-run coverage. And even if Springs appears to fall out of the play, he is quickly back in the thick of things with his explosive recovery speed and leaping ability.

On the NFL workout circuit, beginning with the scouting combine two months ago, Springs has reinforced his blue-chip draft status. He has a 40-inch vertical leap and has been timed in 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, his size presents an ideal matchup against the NFL's increasingly bigger receivers.

Then there is Springs' attitude, which is balanced with equal doses of easygoing flamboyance, a businesslike willingness to learn and a healthy dash of cockiness.

Said Springs: "I'm an IBM-type dude who comes to work with a business suit on and goes home. I don't drink or smoke. I like to play a few video games and shoot a few games of basketball. I'm a simple guy."

"He's a bright-eyed kid with a great personality. He converses easily, and he's a leader who has an air of confidence, not arrogance," said Lewis, who added that Springs' football pedigree -- he is the godson of Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, his dad's former teammate -- adds to his allure.

"This is a guy who has been bred to be an NFL cornerback," Lewis said. "He has been around the game. This is not a new league for him. It's not too big for him. This is just another step in his life."

Springs, who attended Springbrook High School before redshirting as a college freshman, took many of those steps at Ohio State practices. He often faced bigger challenges than those offered by his Big Ten counterparts by working against former teammates like Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn. Each of those receivers already has made a major impact in the NFL.

Although his junior year was sprinkled with some highlights -- he shut down Arizona State receiver Keith Poole by limiting him to one catch for 10 yards in the Buckeyes' 20-17 Rose Bowl victory -- Springs began to think about skipping his senior year as the regular season rolled by with so many teams refusing to challenge him.

Ravens officials are certain that Springs will be gone by the time they are set to select the fourth overall pick in Saturday's draft. They also are in agreement that Springs is ready for the next level.

"[Springs] is not coming into this league in awe of anybody, because he's been brought up around the NFL," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "He's pretty much the complete package as far as a corner is concerned. He has it all."

Week ahead

Tomorrow: Is Florida State's Peter Boulware still in the Ravens' plans after the signing of free agent Michael McCrary? A look at the defensive linemen, with the spotlight on USC's Darrell Russell.

Friday: One more look at the Ravens' needs and a team-by-team overview the day before the draft.

Saturday: What goes on in a draft war room.

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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