Summary: Spence is a linebacker who is impossible to ignore when watching Miami film. He was all over the field and was constantly around the football. Spence had 106 tackles with 14 tackles for a loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in 2011. He played very well against Georgia Tech and many other opponents after being suspended for the season opener against Maryland.
Spence has good instincts with the speed to run from sideline-to-sideline. He played middle linebacker for the Hurricanes, but he will have to move outside in the pros. He'll have some issues with taking on and shedding blocks, so the move to the outside will be able to decrease the number of linemen he takes on. However, Spence is going to to have to improve there because it is a major weakness. He can't run around blockers in the NFL, as that will allow some open gaps for offenses to exploit.
There is no doubt that Spence can run down backs and make tackles in pursuit. He is a reliable tackler and can take on bigger backs. His instincts consistently get him in position to make plays.
Spence has a number of strengths in pass coverage. He has the speed to cover a lot of ground and get deep in his drops. Spence also has the quickness and athletic ability to cover backs out of the backfield, or be a good spy on the quarterback. He also is a quality blitzer.
Spence's size is the major hurdle, and he just has to overcome it. Some great NFL players have overcome being undersized, while the majority don't make it. He was a superb college player, but may just be too small for the NFL. Because of the size issues, Spence figures to be a mid-round pick.
Player Comparison: Geno Hayes. Spence looks like a fourth-round pick with a remote chance at best of making it into the third round. It isn't out of the question for Spence to fall in the draft and go in the fifth or even sixth round.
Hayes was a sixth-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2008. He had a good season as a starter in 2009, but did not play well in 2010 or 2011. Both Spence and Hayes are speedy sideline-to-sideline defenders who are very undersized. I see Spence as being a player who is comparable to Hayes.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Tennessee, Detroit, New York Giants, Oakland
One major thing that hurts Spence's draft stock is he is only a fit in a 4-3 defense. The Buccaneers could be a fit for him, but they let Hayes go so Spence wouldn't bring the size upgrade they need. The Browns could use an outside linebacker like Spence to pair with D'Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong. Spence would be a great scheme fit in Chicago, and their linebackers are getting old.
The Titans are looking at linebackers and could use a Will to go with 2011 NFL Draft picks Colin McCarthy and Akeem Ayers. Spence could form a trio with them. Detroit needs some youth at linebacker, and Spence should fit their defense well. The Giants like prospects with big-time production, and Spence matches that criteria, but is smaller than they typically like.
The Raiders could target Spence with one of their early compensatory picks at the end of the third or fourth round. Oakland was showing a lot of interest in outside linebackers at the Senior Bowl.