When the Reese’s Senior Bowl Media Breakfast kicked off Wednesday morning, I made sure to search out Cincinnati LB Darrian Beavers from the National Team to ask him some more questions.
I had the opportunity to profile Beavers for Steelers Depot, and have gotten a lot of inside information on the linebacker from my friend and current Cincinnati Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeremiah Ortiz, who was a co-worker back with the Florida Gators in 2018. He put me on Beavers’ radar halfway through the college season, stating his size, athleticism, and character should make him a quality player in the pros.
JH: So, tell me a little bit about your interactions with having all your teammates here and your interactions with the guys on the strength staff back at UC. Do you think that it was better for you having started out as a wide receiver and safety in high school and put on 100 pounds, go to UCONN to play defensive line, and then your transition back to on your feet off the ball? How has the weight room and the strength and conditioning department benefited you in that way?
DB: It’s been something that I’ve put my dedication into and that I’ve took really seriously this past year. Something that I just I love to do something that at first, in my younger years I didn’t take very seriously or just want to play football and stuff like that. But there’s another side of football to handle you got to handle your weight room stuff to be able to be a better football player. And I realized that this year and I took advantage of it and the strength staff like you said is just amazing at UC. It took me in and they had the blessing ever since.
JH: Absolutely. You’ve kind of gone through a little bit of a position change starting out more as a skill guy going to be more of a guy with your hand in the dirt and now you’re having your feet on the ground. Right now you’re being able to move back and forth. What was it like making that transition from being more of a defensive lineman and going back to on your feet as an off-ball linebacker, and how does that kind of help your game showing that to these coaches today?
DB: All the positions that I played in my college career has just helped me right now. Yeah, I’ve experienced like you said in safety, outside linebacker, EDGE, DE and all the experiences all the positions that I played, helped me to be who I am today because I play at all different that they asked me to play last year: MIKE, WILL, outside backer, EDGE at different positions and I think I’ve got the skill set for it.
JH: When it comes to your skill set, you’re well-documented in how you play against the run and your ability to be going downhill as a big, strong, physical linebacker. The ability to stack and shed blocks. What’s something that you came here to Mobile this week to showcase in front of scouts that might have questions about that are going to come up at the Combine? They’re going to talk to you and be like, ‘Okay, this is a point that we’re seeing out on your film.’ What kind of things are you looking at your film and think this is something that I want to address that you’re working on this offseason in order to make yourself the best draft prospect possible?
DB: I’m going to say the one-on-one man coverage aspect is something that I wanted to show as well as the zone coverage. Just is my instincts to play football. We’re learning a new scheme and stuff like that. Just picking up a new scheme very well. We’re not perfect. That’s the three top things that I wanted to showcase to the scouts this week.
JH: Do you see yourself more as a fit in a traditional 3-4 or 4-3? Do you feel like you can do either as you have shown that you can put your hand in the dirt and rush the passer having nice plays against Notre Dame just to name one example. Do you feel that you add that versatility as being able to play BUCK, play MACK, play more of an edge like a JACK role? What do you think that your best fit is?
DB: I think that’s one of my biggest key factors is that I can play all different kinds of positions. I’m very versatile when it comes to that. I wouldn’t say that I have one that’s my favorite. I feel very comfortable playing every position out there. If it’s if it’s MIKE, if it’s outside backer, if it’s EDGE if it’s even me gaining a couple pounds, all those positions don’t matter to me. It’s just I feel like whatever. Whatever team drafts me, whatever they want out of me, I’ll be able to do.
JH: Absolutely. So, I covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for the site I work for, and Coach JO (Jeremiah Ortiz) actually was a big Steelers fan. We’ve kind of talked about that even though he’s in Cincinnati. Have you had any conversation with the Steelers? I know that obviously being a Cincinnati-born guy and having the Bengals go to the Super Bowl that may be tough. Have you talked to anyone from the Steelers or do you know anything about the culture there?
DB: You know the culture there. Yeah, I really respect the program. It feels like if they draft me and I’d be able to come there, it would be an honor.
JH: Absolutely. Have you been talking to anyone from the Steelers, though from your understanding yet?
DB: Um, you have a lot of interviews that you have to go through and stuff like that. So I talked a couple people from Pittsburgh. I saw Mike Tomlin on the field yesterday at practice. I was trying to stay focused though. But it was nice to see him down there on the practice field. What a crazy experience!
JH: Do you know anything about Coach Tomlin? Like just, besides a brief interaction, anything from him just as a coach or what he’s done in the past?
DB: Not like that well. Well, I know that obviously, the accolades that he’s got as a coach and stuff like that the Super Bowl he’s got I know. That’s kind of stuff.
JH: So where are you training right now in the offseason, before you get to improve your numbers and improve your draft stock as you go and try to have good testing out at the Combine? My boy JO has told me about you know, ‘My guy’s, 6’4″, 255 lbs. and jumps legit 40-inch vertical.’ What are you hoping to showcase or where you think that you’re gonna stand out in your testing at the Combine here in a month?
DB: I’m training at Exos in Pensacola. I’m really expecting my vertical to stand out. I feel like in the change of direction stuff I feel like that’s gonna be a big thing that people eyes are going to be opened by like my shuttle, pro agility, and stuff. I feel like that’s gonna be a really good thing to me. Obviously my 40, and just to try to do the best as I can. Besides that, I guess, showcasing that I can move at this size. Those are probably the biggest things.
JH: So, when it comes to leadership, obviously being that senior leader at University of Cincinnati, what do you think that you’re going to be able to bring in Day 1 to an NFL team in terms of obviously being a rookie, but also being a seasoned leader having been to multiple programs and the work that you did to make Cincinnati at the height that it was last year as a CFP team?
DB: I would say it’s my mentality. I don’t get really nervous. I don’t really get shaken up when something is bad. I feel like I keep a calm and have a steady attitude. I got there and I attack every day. So and I feel like having that, it’s like a veteran mindset that’ll really help me when I come in.
JH: All right, thank you. That’s all my questions. You have a good one. All right? Keep crushing it.
DB: Thank you. I appreciate it man.
While Beavers didn’t want to dive too far into his interactions with Pittsburgh, I did spot him talking with Coach Tomlin on the sideline for nearly a full series in the team session, having a positive conversation where both guys came away laughing. Tomlin has had his eyes on the defensive side of practice heavily the last two days, and for good reason. His defense ranked dead-last in the league at stopping the run, and Beavers is that type of defender that excels coming downhill against the run.
Given the uncertainty of how the LB core with look next season with Devin Bush not likely getting his fifth-year option picked up and Joe Schobert being potentially a cap casualty this offseason, Beavers could find himself in-play for Pittsburgh likely somewhere on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft. Should he continue to play well this week and test like he is leading on during his interview, he could be a name that rises to the forefront over the next couple months.
What are your thoughts of Darrian Beavers and his interview? Do you think he’s a potential fit for Pittsburgh? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!