Some players are said to play bigger than their size. Jachai Polite looks bigger than his size and plays faster than you think. His highlights are over so quickly it is hard to see his technique and hand usage. He has an incredible first step, with the agility to get skinny going by his opponent and the dexterity to dip under his opponent. He will get a good test of his skills against Michigan in the Peach Bowl today at 12 Noon on ESPN.
Jachai Polite, Edge Rusher, University of Florida. 6’ 2”, 260 lbs. True Junior.
The first thing you notice about Jachai Polite is his long, lean frame. His game and frame are similar to another Florida Gator who played 20 years ago, Jevon “The Freak” Kearse, who was a first round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans and ended his career with 74 sacks. Kearse was a monster off the edge (just like Polite) and would have had many more sacks if he didn’t have a severe foot injury that bothered him his entire career.
Polite is about the same weight as Kearse and a couple of inches shorter. He has elite quickness and balance and a wild style of play. Polite played at Florida as a true freshman but was used sparingly his first two years by then coach Jim McElwain. New coach Dan Mullen saw the elite talents of Polite and moved him into the starting lineup. In 12 games this year Polite has 43 tackles (26 solo), 18 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, four passes defended and seven forced fumbles.
In addition to being used as a pass rusher, Polite also dropped into coverage frequently. He showed good instincts in space and didn’t look like a fish out of water in coverage. Polite doesn’t have tight hips, which makes it possible for him to be taught and used as an OLB in the NFL.
Here are two plays against LSU this year in which Polite terrorized a 6’5 305 LT so much that LSU left a RB in to help with protection.
On the first play Polite uses his quick first step to gain an advantage on the tackle. When the tackle tries to catch up he over sets to the outside. Polite instinctively feels this and spins back to the inside, using his right hand to push the befuddled tackle off into oblivion. The second play he beats the tackle off the snap so soundly that he is now almost one on one with the help blocker (RB) who is no match for him. You can see that Polite plays with a wild, frenzied style that exudes enthusiasm. His team mates should feed off that.
The next two plays are from the Georgia and the LSU game again. Both show Polite’s outstanding athleticism and speed to the play.
The first play is a two point attempt after Georgia scored. They are trying to use the speed of the defense against them by running a speed option back against the flow of the play with a slot receiver. Polite is not a “glory seeker” and holds his position on run plays. He shows good speed to the play and makes a sure tackle. On the second play poor #77 from LSU has to pick up the outside blitz (he does a decent job) and leaves Polite to the left guard to handle. This is a severe mismatch. It looks like the guard’s feet are stuck in mud as Polite flies by him. The sack and fumble recovery deep in Florida territory were a huge play early on in this game.
The next clip shows three plays against Dan Mullen’s former team. Again the speed and athleticism are on display but he also shows tenacity and discipline.
In the first play Polite beats #51, a 6’ 5” 340 lbs tackle, around the edge to make contact with the QB as he is about to throw. The play is miraculously a reception but is limited to a two yard gain. The second play Polite is trying to hold the edge against the 340 lbs tackle and is pushed off the line. He stays with the play and is able to ride the RB out of bounds for no gain. The third play is a read option and Polite holds his ground and doesn’t chase the RB into the hole. When the QB pulls the ball out and rolls Polite is able to read the play and quickly run down the QB. He forces a hurried throw that results in an incomplete pass.
The last clip comes from the same game late in the fourth quarter. The Gators have held Mississippi State to six points and now is the time to drive the nail in the coffin. It is nice to watch prospects from this part of a close game to see if they elevate their game or become shrinking violets.
In the first play the Gators are blitzing two men (six total rushers) so Polite must stay disciplined in his lane while pass rushing. If he gets too wide and the tackle is able to push him by the QB there is man coverage all across the board on this play and the QB could possibly scramble to mid field. Polite pushes the pocket but is stymied; he then reads the QB’s eyes and positions himself in the passing lane. The ball is batted away from a crossing receiver who has a step on the coverage man. The second play Polite is rushing from the right side. He uses his speed and bend to go around a 6’ 8”, 335 lbs tackle for a huge sack. The explosive first step he displays is impressive. Polite just has a different gear than the other players on the field. The last play Polite is back on his right side and is now free to rush the passer without restrictions. This is the next play after the sack and he goes around the offensive tackle like he wasn’t there, forcing the QB to scramble and destroying any design of the play.
Polite is a player with elite athleticism for his size, possessing unique pass rushing skills that cannot be taught. However, he is a bit small to play on the edge. He struggled to hold the edge in college against the run and could be a liability in the NFL doing the same.
Polite tends to have some lulls in his play; he seems a lot more feisty on third down than on first down. Situational pass rushing and a coach like Kevin Greene should fix that.
Polite, who has a year of eligibility left, hasn’t yet divulged if he is entering the draft. Two quotes of his might give us some insight. About playing in the Peach Bowl, Polite had this to say:
I’m playing a regular game, like I did LSU, any game, regular playing time. I don’t know why [people] would think that [I’d shut it down]. I’m not that type of player. I’m a team guy, and I just want to be with my team for as long as I can.
I heard [from the NFL], and I got my grade back and stuff. But that was just because they made me submit it and stuff so that’s it. Oh, I can’t discuss that. Just don’t want to.
Why would he keep it a secret if he is coming back? In any event he will be on display in the Peach Bowl today.
I have a low first round grade on Polite right now, subject to further review as more tape becomes available and the NFL Combine workouts are done. I believe Polite can be at least a situational pass rusher his first year as he learns the defense, builds more strength and works on bettering his technique. A few more pass rush moves wouldn’t hurt either.
Tune into the game and tell me what you think.