SEC's Best Safety Prospect: Clinton-Dix Or Loston?
By Matt LaPan
The safety position in today's NFL requires a player with the size of a linebacker and the speed and coverage skills of a defensive back. With the evolution of the tight end position from inline blocker to oversized receiver, safeties are asked to do more and more each year.
As the demands of the position continue to grow, the caliber of players at the position are evolving just as fast, if not faster. There are few better examples than Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Craig Loston of LSU. Both of these standout SEC players face top-flight talent each week yet excel at leading their respective defensive units. Both players display the size, speed, coverage ability and hitting power that is required in a modern safety, but does one have an edge over the other?
Case for Clinton-Dix
At 6-foot-1 and close to 210-pounds, Clinton-Dix has great size, but he also shows great speed and coverage ability. He covers a ton of ground in both the passing game and in run support, a skill he showed very well in Alabama's recent win over Texas A&M. One great example came with 4:45 left in the first quarter. Clinton-Dix was covering a six-yard crossing route when a pass was completed to Mike Evans 23-yards downfield. After Evans makes a break for the open field, he is met by Clinton-Dix, whom was flying upfield to make the tackle. Clinton-Dix also shows instincts that are second-to-none in both the passing and running game, although sometimes his aggressive play overshadows his instincts.
Clinton-Dix also displays one talent that is becoming a lost art in the NCAA. He is a heavy hitter. Clinton-Dix can "lower the boom" when he wants and usually does so without going for the head, which would have him thrown out for targeting.
Case for Loston
Loston is a physical freak (in a good way). He's 6-2 and just under 210-pounds and moves like someone much smaller. Loston is extremely quick out of his breaks and shows fantastic instincts. Loston covers tight ends very well and is good in run support. He has shown these instncts on multiple occasions, but one play that stands out was in LSU's season-opener against TCU. Loston was involved in a screen play, which was tipped at the line, yet Loston had read screen and broke on the play so early that even when it was tipped, Loston was still in position to make the big hit even though the receiver was nowhere near the ball. This play shows the good and the bad of Loston's game: great instincts, but he gets himself in trouble trying to make the big hit.
The best safety prospect in the SEC is . . .
This was a difficult decision but Loston gets the slight nod in this case. Loston comes from LSU, a school that consistently has produced top-flight NFL talent, while Clinton-Dix comes from Alabama, which has seen some of its defensive backs struggle in the NFL. Both have great measurables and on-field talent, but Loston has the slight edge in pass coverage.