You have to make the most of opportunities in life. This is especially true for football prospect from a Non-Power 5 conference, hoping for a shot in the NFL. The NFL career is a short one for most players, 3.3 years according to statista.com. Without a Combine this year the chances of making impressions to NFL scouts on a national stage fell to players at the Senior Bowl.
The Senior Bowl game actually takes a backseat to the 3 days of practices before the game. This is where scouts can see rep after rep of players in one on one battles. If you are from a small school, this is where you can make your mark. It could be said that no player in the 2021 Senior Bowl did more to help his chances than Cameron (Cam) Sample, a DT/DE from Tulane University.
Cam Sample is not an overly big guy at 6’ 2 3/4” 274 lbs, 81” wingspan, and 32 1/2” arms, but he has good power with a lightning quick first step. He has just decent length for a defender, but his hand usage is very good. He has numerous techniques and quick hands that have some pop. Here he is at the Senior Bowl getting behind Trey Smith who is a mammoth offensive guard from Tennessee at 6’ 5 1/2” 331 lbs.
On this rep he doesn’t get totally by Smith, but it is a win. You can see the quick hands. Smith dwarfs Sample even though Sample is a respectable 274 lbs. This is an interior line drill, but Sample only played inside on maybe 20% of his defensive snaps. He is more of an outside rusher, but the ability to slide down inside on passing downs is a plus.
This next play Sample is going against someone closer to his size in Jack Anderson who is 6’ 4 3/4” 309 lbs. Again you will see the quick feet along with the quick hands to work right by the big guard.
This is a clear win from a 3-tech position which Sample has prepared for very little. Again he played primarily from the outside. Displaying versatility can only help him.
This next rep against Carson Greene a 6’ 6” 319 lbs tackle playing on the right side of the line in the guard position. You would think a tackle with very good length (34”) like Green would have a better rep than this.
This rep is more like the natural snap for Sample since he he was mainly a left side DE/DT for the Green Wave. This was a nice move to drive off the line at the lineman’s left shoulder only to make a quick shift to the inside with the space generating hand swipe. It’s a nice rep for Sample as he flies right by.
This next rep is against David Moore who is a very stout guard prospect with great power. At 6’ 1 5/8” 350 lbs Moore is quick for his size. It is like trying to get around a fire hydrant that outweighs you by over 75 lbs.
Still this is a win on the outside shoulder for Sample as he is able to get around the big guard in about 2 seconds. The quickness, the speed, and the arm under move gets him a QB pressure. This at least gets the QB off his spot as he has to step up to avoid the rush.
In the Senior Bowl game itself Cam Sample was named the defensive MVP with 7 tackles on the day and this half sack of QB Ian Book.
Playing from the defensive tackle position Sample uses a nice inside out move to split the guard and tackle to make the sack. He was also named the Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman of the Senior Bowl week of his team as voted by his opposing offensive linemen.
“It is definitely a great compliment when the guys that you are going against give you that kind of recognition. Going out there and playing against great talent and doing well definitely adds some confidence, but it’s also fueling that hunger. I’ve got this chip on my shoulder. I’m just a hard worker who puts his head down and works,” Sample said
His week in Mobile did not go unnoticed by the scouts or media. “He’s so disruptive, he plays with an attitude and plays hard every play. He doesn’t have any lack in his ability to show consistency in terms of motivation and hustle. Some guys take plays off. Cameron Sample doesn’t,” said Mel Kiper.
In games earlier this year playing at the left end position Sample showed the burst off the edge that makes his a viable NFL talent. This is against South Alabama, but the speed is there along with a nice jump off the snap.
Competition is always a key component in viewing tape, but it should not take away from traits players have. The speed Sample shows travels everywhere he goes. The problem with playing against lower level competition is in the power-agility areas most of all. You can’t teach speed or high level quickness. Power and strength can be developed.
Here against East Carolina Sample gets off the ball quick and is severely held by the right tackle. Still he is able to power through the hold to get a swipe at the ball causing a fumble.
Sample works hard on the field but also in film study where he is considered a “film junkie” by coaches. He had some nagging minor injuries to a knee and ankle the last couple of years which slowed his development. He is finally clear of those problems.
“I just want to put a complete season together. Sometimes in the past I got hurt or have gone quiet. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity. I’m going to attack every game and every rep and definitely just let my elevated game speak for itself,” Sample said.
Here against UCF he has a two blockers to his side, but he never gives up on the play. He is a player who always pursues. He is relentless. You can see the speed as he run down a QB in the open field.
“He’s got tremendous movement and really has great change of direction. He uses his hands well. He can play inside and can also play outside edge for us. He does a good job getting off blocks. He’s really an intelligent young man both in the classroom and playing football” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said.
He relished the opportunity to make more plays in the Tulane defense.
“I’m in more of an attack position now, I get to make more plays and show more of my athleticism,” Sample said. He played in 41 games for the Green Wave.
“We’ve played so much football and there’s not too much scheme-wise at the college level I haven’t seen before. I can diagnose it quickly. It’s just a blessing to be able to play all those downs and have that experience,” he said.
You can see Sample is much more fluid coming off the ball playing as an end as opposed to inside where he is kind of undersized. He enjoyed the opportunity to play once he became healed from his injuries.
“My conditioning wasn’t all the way there. Some lingering injuries week to week, an ankle or a little knee, elbow here and there, but I worked really hard this offseason. I pushed myself in fall camp to come out here and bust my butt every day. I dropped a little weight since last year and feel like I’m more explosive, faster and in better shape,” Sample said. On this play he looks very explosive against a decent Memphis squad.
Cameron Sample is an interesting study of an under the radar player who is now just getting noticed. He still has plenty of developing to do. He has speed and quickness but will need to gain strength to be more than a rotational edge player. If he can become stronger he has Shaq Barrett type of upside, but he has a lot of growth to do to get to become that type of player.
As it stands now I think Sample will be selected somewhere in the top to middle of the 3rd round in the 2021 NFL Draft. Edge rushers are always a premium in the NFL so if you can get one for after the 2nd round it is a blessing. Things will change slightly as more information on Sample and other prospects become available. Without the national spotlight of the NFL Combine the information for the pro days will be essential to get a full picture of all the prospects.
Let me know what you think.