Prospects

Prospects
Photo of Peria Jerry
Peria Jerry (DT)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 299
College: Mississippi
Conference: SEC
Hometown: Batesville, MS
High School: Hargrave (VA) Military Academy
Featured Prospects
Selected by: Atlanta Falcons
Round: 1
Pick (Overall): 24 (24)
Discuss
Pick Analysis: The Falcons address their thin defensive line by picking up Jerry. As a hard-working one-gap penetrator, Jerry gives Mike Smith the "3-technique" that he covets in the middle of the defense. Though Jerry's production in college was a byproduct of an aggressive movement system, he's a solid player who fits in well with the Falcons.
  1. Overview
  2. Analysis
Overview

The Rebels' remarkable turnaround on defense in 2008 was thanks largely to the stellar performance of Jerry, who made a quick recovery from August arthroscopic knee surgery to have the most dominating season for an Ole Miss defender since the departure of All-American linebacke, Patrick Willis.


Mississippi finished 101st in the nation in rushing defense (199.08 ypg) and 88th in total defense (423.42 ypg) in 2007. With Jerry wreaking havoc in the opposing backfield, the team ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense (85.54 ypg) and 19th in total defense (307.23 ypg) in 2008.


Jerry led the Southeastern Conference and ranked second among the nation's defensive tackles (11th overall) with 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, an average of 1.5 stops for loss per game, in 2008. During last two seasons, he registered 32 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, establishing his dominance in the middle of the field.


"Peria rises to every occasion that we've challenged him to this season," Mississippi defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "There are so many people across the country who haven't seen him and what he can do. He's a kid that's been a force for us in the run game, in the pass game and in every aspect. I'm just proud to be able to say that I coached him his senior year."


Jerry's family roots are deep in football tradition. His cousin, Dwayne Rudd, was an All-American linebacker at Alabama (1994-96) and was selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft by Minnesota, playing for the Vikings (1997-2000), Cleveland (2001-02) and Tampa Bay (2003). Their cousin, Derek Pegues, was an All-Southeastern Conference defensive back at Mississippi State (2005-08).


Jerry's brother, John, is an offensive lineman and teammate at Ole Miss (2006-present). Their cousins, linebacker Eddie Strong (1998-2002) and running back Toward Sanford (1999-2002), played at Ole Miss. Toward's brother, defensive back Jamarca Sanford (2005-08), played on the Rebel defense alongside Jerry during their careers.


Like most of his cousins and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback DeShea Townsend, Jerry was a product from South Panola High School. During his prep days, he earned first-team All-State and Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Mississippi Association of Coaches. He was also named first-team All-State by The Clarion-Ledger and was a member of the RebelGrove.com Mississippi 15 Finest list.


Jerry made the Rivals.com Mississippi Top 20 and Mobile Register's Super Southeast 120 lists, in addition to being a member of Max Emfinger's Super South Top 200, which rated Jerry as the sixth-best inside linebacker in the region. He added the Clarion-Ledger's Top 40 recruits in Mississippi and The Sun-Herald's Top 30 accolades, while also being selected to Prep Star' All-Region and Super Prep's All-Dixie. After his senior year, he was chosen to play in the 2004 Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic in Mobile, Alabama.


A three-year starter, Jerry capped off his senior season by leading South Panola with 104 tackles, which included seven tackles for loss and three sacks, helping the team finish with a perfect 15-0 record in 2003, which was good enough to win the Class 5A state championship and earn a final ninth place national ranking by USA Today. He sat out his junior season due to injury, but recorded 255 tackles and 16 sacks for his career.


Jerry signed with Mississippi in 2004, but later enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy to improve his academics. He appeared in eight games that year, posting 30 tackles and five sacks, but was hampered by ankle problems. He enrolled at Ole Miss in 2005, playing in six of the Rebels' final seven games, as he missed the first four games overcoming his prep school injury. He finished with just three tackles.


Jerry saw action at every defensive line position in 2006, starting a total of six of the eight games he played in -- two each at left end, left tackle and nose guard. Foot and hand injuries forced him to miss four contests, but he still managed to record 22 tackles (17 solos) with two sacks and five stops for losses.


Jerry had his first injury-free season in 2006, starting all 12 games at left tackle. The All-Southeastern Conference second-team choice finished second on the team and seventh in the conference with 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, adding 3.5 sacks and a career-high 58 hits (40 solos). He also had his only career interception.


A right knee lateral meniscus tear required surgery in August, but after missing just the 2008 season opener, Jerry returned to the field, starting 11 of his final 12 games. The All-American and All-SEC first-team selection posted 49 tackles (25 solos), as he ranked second on the squad with seven sacks. He led the league with 18.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage, racing 13 yards for a touchdown on a fumble recovery.


High School

Attended South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) High School, playing football for head coach Ricky Woods...Earned first-team All-State and Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Mississippi Association of Coaches...Named first-team All-State by The Clarion-Ledger and was a member of the RebelGrove.com Mississippi 15 Finest list...Made the Rivals.com Mississippi Top 20 and Mobile Register's Super Southeast 120 lists, in addition to being a member of Max Emfinger's Super South Top 200, which rated Jerry as the sixth-best inside linebacker in the region...Added the Clarion-Ledger's Top 40 recruits in Mississippi and The Sun-Herald's Top 30 accolades, while also being selected to Prep Star' All-Region and Super Prep's All-Dixie...After his senior year, he was chosen to play in the 2004 Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic in Mobile, Alabama...A three-year starter, Jerry capped off his senior season by leading South Panola with 104 tackles, which included seven tackles for loss and three sacks, helping the team finish with a perfect 15-0 record in 2003, which was good enough to win the Class 5A state championship and earn a final ninth place national ranking by USA Today...Sat out his junior season due to injury, but recorded 255 tackles and 16 sacks for his career.


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Analysis

Positives: Quick, active three-technique tackle. ... Good height and adequate girth inside. ... Very quick off the snap, able to beat the down block by tackles or penetrate to force the quarterback to rush his decision. ... Gets his hands inside guards' jerseys to push the pocket. ... Chases downfield on plays away from him, and works hard to make a tackle when the ball is in his area. ... Uses his hands well to defeat cut blocks inside. ... Handles double-teams pretty well when playing the nose considering his height, and is able to get off the double to get to the ball. ... Emerged as the unquestioned leader of the Ole Miss defensive line. ... Dominant week at the Senior Bowl. ... Good bloodlines. ... Cousins Eddie Strong and Dwayne Rudd both played linebacker in the NFL.


Negatives: Makes a lot of plays when slanting toward the action. ... Needs to play stronger at the point against the run. ... Can play a bit high in rushing situations, causing him to lose the leverage battle. ... Lacks great awareness, as he does not keep his eyes in the backfield. ... Takes himself out of plays too often. ... Needs to stay on his feet against stronger linemen. ... Low test score. ... May struggle with a complicated playbook.


Compares To: ANTHONY McFARLAND, ex-Indianapolis -- Like McFarland, Jerry is an undersized defensive tackle with a high motor. His versatility (can play zero, two- or three-tech), initial burst and active hands made him the most disruptive force in the SEC in 2008. While he did not do it in the past, Jerry showed marked improvement reading blocks, feeling pressure and redirecting to the play. He has become a force from the off-side and became a challenge for offensive linemen as he showed a more physical nature in his play. He won't maul a lineman, but has developed capable hands (wax on, wax off moves) with a quick swim to gain penetration. Still, like McFarland, injuries and durability issues are a concern.


Injury Report

2004: Sat out the final four games with an ankle sprain.


2005: Missed the first four games with an ankle injury.


2006: Bothered most of the season by foot and hand problems that eventually saw him sit out the Wake Forest (9/23), Georgia (9/30), Arkansas (10/21) and Auburn (10/28) contests.


2008: Missed the season opener vs. Memphis (8/30) after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery (8/18) to repair a meniscus tear.


2009: Could not complete agility tests at the NFL Combine and limited on Pro Day due to a hamstring strain.


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