Today’s NFL requires versatility at the safety position, asking back-line defenders to hang with the league’s athletic pass-catchers at all levels of the field, as well as getting their hands dirty in run support.
Middle Tennessee State has been sending underrated defensive backs into the NFL in recent years, and Jovante Moffatt is this year’s candidate for draft-day sleeper.
Moffatt recently spoke exclusively with Draft Wire about what the success of former teammates Kevin Byard and Charvarius Ward means for his confidence, which receiver has been the toughest to line up against, and what kind of skill set he’ll bring to the next level.
Moffett: I’m an aggressive tackler in the box. I play well in coverage. Our defense here at Middle Tennessee State, we play some zone, we also drop a lot of guys in coverage. I’m used to dropping back and having to cover. We’re multiple here. That’s football wise. Aside from the skill set, I’m pretty much the leader of this defense. I call the plays and make the checks. I have a high football I.Q.
Moffett: I get that question a lot. I’d say I’m a free safety or a nickel corner actually. I have a lot of tackles to my name, and that’s why people often associate me with the strong safety position. I came in as a free safety originally. I switched over when a younger defensive back arrived here and we gave him the free safety job. I just ran away with the strong safety position after that. I feel like I can play both. It doesn’t matter.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Moffett: Looking at those guys, it does a ton for my confidence. It really makes me feel like you can do anything you put your mind to. It doesn’t matter where you come from, a big school or whatever. We’re a mid major and you know how that goes, we get a lot of blue collar guys with a chip on their shoulder. I keep in touch with both Byard and Ward. They’ve helped me throughout the process. I just hope to continue the legacy they’ve helped lay down here so I can continue to help the guys behind me.
Moffett: I feel like when you get to the tight end side of things, you can be physical and get your hands on them. Sometimes more-so than these smaller, speedier receivers. I will say this though, these tight ends are built different nowadays. They’re a lot more versatile now. You have a lot of tight ends that can run nowadays. That changes things from a physical standpoint. At the end of the day, I gotta be able to cover and play ball. That’s what it always comes back to.
Moffett: Yeah, there’s no doubt about that. The way football is being played has changed a lot. We have to be able to turn and run nowadays. We gotta cover. You won’t survive with stiff hips. Whether that means you have to be smaller or whatever, it doesn’t matter how you get it done, but you gotta cover. We have to be versatile. We have to tackle as well.
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Moffett: I love being the leader of the defense. I love being the one responsible for making the checks. I wanna be the one to put my defense in the best situation possible. I know this defense in and out. One of my favorite things about this defense is being able to drop in coverage and read the quarterback. There’s no better than feeling than being able to read the quarterback and make a play on the ball. Our coaches have helped me with that along the way. I plan on continuing to do that.
Moffett: That’s a great question. I have to say a former teammate of mine, Richie James. You know he’s with the San Francisco 49ers now. We can talk about games and other opponents and such, but my answer is Richie James in practice. We were 1-on-1 partners back in the day. Defensive backs versus wide receivers, it was always Richie James and I. I can mention one opponent though. Ironically, he’s Richie’s teammate now with the 49ers. Trent Taylor. He played at Louisiana Tech. He’s a good, shifty little receiver. He had a good game against us. Richie was the best receiver I ever faced in college though. He gave me a lot of work in practice.
Moffett: I’m just trying to leave everybody on a positive note. I want my teammates and coaches to smile when they think of me. I want them to say that Jovante did everything he could to leave this school in a good place. I just wanna go out there and make plays on the ball and help the team win games. We had a lot of younger guys playing on the back-end this year. I wanna be a positive influence on them. All I can do now is try to lead those guys in the right direction. I hope I set an example for them just like guys like Kevin Byard and Charvarius Ward did for me. When I leave, I hope I influenced them to leave a better legacy for themselves.
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