Wilson’s seen some ups and downs in his career at South Carolina, and certainly hasn’t been a big name on a Gamecocks defense including the likes of defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. His size isn’t what many NFL scouts look for at the position, either. But head coach Steve Spurrier will tell you that Wilson is the engine of his defensive unit, and to discount his pro future based on his size would be a mistake.
The Florida Times-Union’s Jacksonville-area Defensive Player of the Year was among the top 20-25 weakside linebacker recruits in the country, but Florida and Florida State decided to pass. Wilson showed he belonged early on, playing every game as a true freshman (16 tackles, two for loss, one sack, one interception). In 2009, an injury to Rodney Paulk got him a starting job for 11 games on the weak side, and he wound up leading the team with 85 tackles on the year (4.5 for loss). Unfortunately, he suffered a hamstring injury leading up to his junior season, causing him to redshirt after trying to go in one game (seven tackles in week four against Auburn). He started eight of 13 games played in 2011, making 52 stops, five for loss.
Active, sideline-to-sideline linebacker with a thick lower body. Downhill defender who lays the wood whether attacking a running back or pounding a receiver in coverage. Also a secure tackler in tight quarters, however. Works hard to get leverage inside or spin out of lineman blocks in the box. Drops his hips and anchors to prevent backs from churning past him in the hole. Good movement skills in zone and man coverage, stays in an athletic position and uses quick feet to get to backs flaring out or to run with receivers. Eyes follow the ball in the backfield, but also is aware of targets in his zone. Displays the hands to bring in tipped passes and reach up for more difficult interceptions. Smart player, team leader on and off the field.
Shorter than most scouts prefer on the outside, will give up several inches to tight ends in coverage. Lacks pure bulk to play inside in most systems, can be controlled and pancaked by better linemen in the box. Overall straight-line speed must be proven, might lack the explosive to recover or chase from behind at the next level.
Wilson’s seen early success, injury disappointment, and then a renaissance during his career at South Carolina. Most casual college football fans don’t hear much about him because of the other star players on the Gamecocks’ defense, but scouts are certainly aware of his leadership ability and on-field acumen making him a potential late-round pick despite his average size for a pro weak-side linebacker.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.