#100 Bengals: OLB Dorian O'Daniel

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Overview
A two-year starter at Clemson, O’Daniel served as the starting SAM linebacker the past two seasons, which was basically a hybrid nickel role, often covering the slot receiver. Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables did a great job using O’Daniel to his strengths, putting him in space and allowing his athleticism to take over, finishing the 2017 season as one of five finalists for the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker).

O’Daniel consistently rallies to the ball on film with steady ball awareness and aggressive intentions in pursuit. He plays tougher than he looks, but isn’t a power player and will struggle to discard blocks once engaged.

BACKGROUND
A four-star linebacker recruit out of high school, O’Daniel was the starting running back and linebacker at Our Lady of Good Counsel, earning all-state honors on offense with 1,307 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. He received some looks as a running back recruit, but most schools viewed him best at linebacker where he was considered top-10 at his position nationally. O’Daniel collected a few dozen scholarship offers from all the top programs, ultimately choosing Clemson (first Maryland native to sign with the Tigers since 1991) over Alabama, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.

After redshirting in 2013, O’Daniel served as a reserve linebacker in 2014, including one start, posting 31 tackles. He again served in a back-up role as a sophomore and finished with 32 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. O’Daniel moved into the starting line-up as a junior SAM linebacker (12 starts) and recorded 60 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and his first career interception. He had his best season as a senior in 2017 (14 starts) with a team-best 103 tackles, adding 11.5 tackles for loss, five passes defended and two interceptions to earn Second Team All-ACC and multiple All-American nods.

Analysis
STRENGTHS
Loose athlete whose game is built around speed. Uses quickness to cross the face of blockers and keep himself clean. Trusts his eyes to get a head start on the play. Takes proper pursuit angles. Disruptive blitzer, threatening the edge, retracing his steps and tracking the ball. Violent tackler. Appears comfortable turning and dropping in coverage with slot receivers. Jockeys for position to make plays at the catch point. Returned both of his 2017 interceptions for touchdowns (44-yarder, 22-yarder). Work ethic and study habits matured, earning praise from the coaching staff for his improvements (he is “probably as good as any player that we’ve got on the team,” according to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney). Graduated with a degree in parks, recreation and tourism management (Aug. 2017). Led the defense in tackles (103) and snaps (708) as a senior. – Dane Brugler 1/17/2018

WEAKNESSES
Undersized frame with below average bulk and length. Out-muscled by size. Struggles to disengage blocks, especially vs. long-armed opponents. Fills with purpose, but lacks the stopping power to overwhelm runners in the hole. Bad habit of chopping his feet in space, giving the ballcarrier a chance to make a move and escape. Falling off tackle attempts due to his shorter arms. Left the Boston College game with a right quad injury (Sept. 2017), but didn’t miss his next start. – Dane Brugler 1/17/2018

IN OUR VIEW: O’Daniel lacks ideal size and strength measurements, but he is always hunting and quick to key, diagnose and attack, projecting best in a box safety or hybrid outside linebacker role.

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