By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Witherspoon was a steady cover corner for the Illini over his career. He made his way onto the field as a freshman, recording 33 tackles and two passes defended. In 2020, he picked up 33 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries, but zero passes broken up. As a junior, he recorded 52 tackles and nine passes broken up, but zero interceptions. Witherspoon showed improved ball skills in 2022, putting together 40 tackles, three interceptions and 14 pass breakups.
For man coverage, Witherspoon is a talented cornerback with speed and fluidity. He is a smooth cover corner capable of running the route to prevent separation with loose hips and the agility to stay on top of wide receivers. Witherspoon doesn’t take false steps and is sound in his eye discipline. With his serious quickness, Witherspoon can carry vertical routes and is capable of running with speed receivers. Witherspoon is excellent in zone coverage as well, using his speed to eat up ground and break hard on the ball.
Witherspoon’s tenacity shows up in run defense, as he will spring across the field and deliver some physical tacklers on ball-carriers. His ability to come downhill in zone coverage and lay a hard hit is impressive for a corner who is a touch undersized. When other Illini allowed a long pass or run, Witherspoon displayed good effort not to quit on plays, and he showed how fast he is by chasing down ball-carriers to make touchdown-saving tackles. Witherspoon plays hard and looks like a real competitor.
Scouts like Witherspoon’s cover ability, noting his speed and athleticism to run the route to prevent separation. They say he is a real “dog” and an ultra competitor. However, they would like him to get stronger because he has a skinny lower body. Witherspoon looks like a future NFL starter who might end up being a phenomenal a true No. 1 corner.
Player Comparison: Joe Haden. Witherspoon reminds me somewhat of Haden. In college, both were superb competitors with smooth athleticism to run the route and prevent separation. Both also had good, but not elite, speed.
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