Sean Spence (Miami)
-- Courtesy of Ben Glicksman --
Height: 5110 Weight: 231 40 Time: 4.71 Bench: 12 Vertical: 33.5 Broad: 9’9
Final Grade: 8.5
Projected Draft Position: Second
Ranked as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the country by ESPN, Sean Spence joined the Miami Hurricanes and made his presence felt immediately. Spence earned 2008 ACC Defensive ROY and earned a spot on the All-American Freshman team. Despite missing three games late in the 2009 season, Spence strung together another productive sophomore season, ranking fifth on the team in tackles for loss. Spence had his best statistical performance during his junior season in which he started all 13 games, earned team co-MVP honors and made All-ACC Second Team. As a senior, Spence was one of the leading tacklers in his conference and was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. Spence was also named to the All-ACC First Team following his senior campaign. Spence doesn’t appear to enjoy camera attention off the field, but he loves becoming part of the on-field highlight reel. He’s a respected teammate, leader and captain amongst the Miami Hurricanes community.
In terms of athleticism, Spence ranks among the top of the linebacker class. In fact, if Spence displayed just a bit more fluidity in his hips, we could be talking about him at a different ideal position. He has above-average coordination for the linebacker position, but is very much undersized at under six-feet tall. Even so, Spence is a solid and compact frame with proportioned weight and muscle. Spence displays good physical balance as an athlete, but even better balance for a linebacker. Dropping into coverage comes very easy for Spence and his speed allows him to hang with most receivers and tight ends. Spence is also effective at filling gaps, showing his speed to come up into the line and using his deceiving upper-body strength to stuff opposing rushers. Spence has room for improvement in terms of his agility. From a speed standpoint, Spence is an agile athlete and can manuever through traffic, but effective skill moves would improve his game. There are very few questions pertaining to Spence’s athletic ability, but his overall size creates the most issue and makes him strictly a schematic fit in a team’s defense.
Spence’s athleticism and speed give him great range for the linebacker position. Spence has experience lining up very wide in the defense, an assignment that could send him on a blitz or remain in coverage. Spence’s size limits his play strength, but his instincts and aggressiveness help make up for it. Spence is also explosive through his plays, which in turn results in stronger play, especially from his upper body. Spence reads and reacts to plays very well and seems to have a natural talent and feel for the game. Following a read, Spence demonstrates solid pursuit, keeping his head up and eyes on the ball. Consistency isn’t necessarily one of Spence’s strong suits. His aggressiveness can often times force him to overpursue plays and he can be seen abandoning cut-back lanes from time to time. At the same time, Spence’s aggressiveness is a vital part of his game. Spence was overly productive in college, becoming a disrupting force in the backfield.
Spence is an impressive tackler who appears to be even more effective in open-field and one-on-one situations. With a nose for the football, Spence finds away to get his helmet in on the ball carrier, making him a constant contributor in tackling efforts. With his explosiveness, Spence can catch ball carriers off guard and his speed is effective enough in pursuit to chase and drag. In the open field, Spence is disciplined and positions his body well. Despite a weak showing at the Combine, Spence has impressive upper body strength and he uses it in driving through his tackles. Solid and effective read-and-react make Spence a very productive gap-filler and his initial quickness gives him a leg up in most plays. Spence can get through traffic, but reverts to speed to get around opponents rather than developing a manueverable skillset or effective use of his hands. This is also apparent in Spence’s attempts to shed blocks, as he doesn’t have the strength to fight off and he doesn’t have the moves to create problems for blockers. Regardless, Spence is very threatening in run-support as long as he can tame his aggressiveness.
Spence is undoubtedly one of the top covering linebackers in his class. His athleticism and speed carve out the framework, while his instincts and reading ability help to sharpen the edges. Spence has a unique ability to mirror receivers and he reacts to the ball very well. In wide sets, Spence can lineup on a slot receiver in zone-coverage and remain effective. Given the cushion to perform his read-and-react, Spence can be considered a playmaking linebacker. Spence is a very threatening pass-rusher, ideally from schematic positions. With a straight line of pursuit, Spence is a tough thought for quarterbacks. Spence could drastically improve his pass-rushing ability with developed hands, but there’s potential result from professional coaching. Spence appears to be an ideal fit in zone blitzes. Because quarterbacks need to factor Spence in both run and pass, blitzing from the zone could be Spence’s bread and butter.
Based on athleticism and football instincts alone, Sean Spence is a top-notch prospect in this year’s draft. Throughout his four years at a classifed “football” university, Spence has been overly-productive and has seemingly established his name in the backfield of opposing offenses. Spence has a very advanded skill to read and react to a play. He fills gaps off instinct and is very sure at finishing his tackles. Due to his lack of size, Spence plays with aggression and rewarded explosiveness. Often times, Spence can create bad angles for himself and lead himself out of cut-back lanes because he lets his aggression get the best of his play. Spence has an impressive and accurate pursuit of the football, keeping his head up in traffic and eyes on the ball. Spence is a very solid cover-linebacker prospect, with the ability to mirror most receivers and become very threatening in zone-coverage with the cushion to use his instincts to make a play on the ball. Given his speed, pursuit and instincts, Spence is a sound blitzer from the second-level and his ability to cover the entire field can also cause problems for offenses when he lines up out near the slot receiver. Spence needs to develop his hand use, as he relies solely on natural agility and speed to beat blockers. Even after four years of quality playing time in the ACC, Spence has yet to develop skill moves that better help him to manuever as a pass-rusher or through traffic. Combine poor manuever skills with the aggressive play and you can often times find Spence out of the play due to over-pursuit. Spence was suspended for the season-opener his senior season after becoming part of the improper benefits scandal that rocked the University of Miami. However, Spence has demonstrated his leadership on the field and is a respected captain amongst his teammates. Although his size and questions pertaining to coachability make Spence more of a third-round value, he likely won’t make it out of the second round based off athleticism, instincts and range. After four years of starting time, there are questions regarding Spence’s discipline in pursuit and development of technical skills.