Meet the Prospects: Cameron Heyward

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Moving on in the Jets Insider’s “Meet the Prospects” week, we have Ohio State’s senior DE/OLB Cameron Heyward. Heralded as a beastly defensive end who’s freakish abilities could be greatly utilized in an aggressive 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker, he played every position on the defensive line for the Buckeyes. Projected as a potential top-15 pick, his stock has slid due to an injury to his elbow in Ohio State’s victory in this year’s Sugar Bowl. The son of the late NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament which required Tommy John surgery — a procedure usually reserved for baseball pitchers — on January 12, which forced him to miss the NFL Combine last month. We will all get a better read on Heyward once he performs for the scouts on his Pro Day on March 30th.

A four-year starter for the Buckeyes, Heyward enjoyed a breakout 2009 junior season only to struggle in 2010, recording only four sacks. Physically he has all the tools to be a defensive monster. However, I can’t help but be reminded of the 2008 draft where the Jets selected another Ohio State defensive end sixth overall who wowed scouts with his physical prowess. I’m referring to non-other than the original sack master, Vernon Gholston. Now I know it’s not fair to typecast Heyward in the same class Gholston, but certainly I’m not the only one who saw a little bit of Gholston when Heyward’s name started to be mentioned with the Jets. But before I officially judge this book by another cover, let’s take a look at the scouting report on Heyward.

Cameron Heyward, DE/OLB, Ohio State:

  • Class Standing: Senior
  • Height: 6-5
  • Weight: 288
  • Hometown: Suwanee, GA

Collegiate Career: Cameron Heyward Highlights vs. Oregon (Rose Bowl)

  • 2010 – A senior captain, Heyward started all 13 games at defensive end; recorded 48 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks; had an interception and a fumble recovery; earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media.
  • 2009 – He had 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks for the Rose Bowl champs; Elected to the second team all-Big Ten, Lombardi Award nominee Jack Stephenson Award (outstanding defensive lineman) from Ohio State coaches; Big Ten player of week: Penn State, defensive player of week: Penn State, Attack Force award: USC, Toledo; Top Ten Tenacious five times, third-year letter winner.
  • 2008 – As a sophomore was a rotating starter along the defensive front who is equally comfortable at tackle or end. Recorded 36 tackles, three sacks for season, second-year letterman; Attack Force award: Penn State, Michigan; Jack Tatum big hit: Penn State.
  • 2007 – Became a starter along the defensive line as a true freshman; Freshman All-America (Sporting News, Rivals, Scout), freshman all-Big Ten (Sporting News); 30 tackles, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks on the season; Attack Force award: Penn State, Jack Tatum hit of week: Michigan State, Penn State; team’s outstanding first-year player on defense, first-year letterman.

Calvin Pace, along with Bryan Thomas and Shaun Ellis, could be the perfect mentors for a young, charismatic Heyward. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Strengths:

  • Versatility: In 2010, he played every position on Ohio State’s defensive line depending upon the situation. He can play the defensive end position in both the 4-3 and 3-4 and can move inside to play defensive tackle in the 4-3 scheme. But his innate ability to get to the quarterback makes him an ideal NFL DE/OLB.
  • Given his size, he has a good athletic frame. He is fast, has good balance and does a good job controlling his body. He has the strength to anchor against the run and eat up offensive lineman’s blocks.
  • Experience: A four-year starter in the competitive Big Ten, Heyward has seen it all; from O-Line double-teams to RB/FB blocking schemes.

Weaknesses:

  • Technique: He needs to continue to develop different and effective pass rush moves. He won’t be able to get away with just straight rushing the passer against the advanced linemen in the NFL.
  • Needs to remain focused on the fact that he needs to play the run.  He has a tendency to pin his ears back and go after the quarterback.  This is a concern because he sometimes takes himself out of certain running plays.
  • Recovery Process: It’s going to be interesting to see how he responds to rehabbing following Tommy John surgery, the first major injury of his career. Given the untimely timing of the injury, he may suffer for a lack of coverage having missed the NFL Combine last month.

Why the Jets?:

  • Along with nose tackle and cornerback, the pass rush position is extremely pivotal in the success of Ryan’s defense. With the subtractions of dead weight (Gholston) and aging players (Jason Taylor), the Jets are paper-thin at the DE/OLB position. Calvin Pace and Shaun Ellis could mentor the young Heyward and mold him into a premier player for the Jets.
  • They need an infusion of youth on the defensive front seven. The average age of the front seven is 30.5 with the elder statesmen, Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas, getting in over 10 seasons in league.
  • Although the Jets ended the 2010 season ranked eighth in the league with 40 sacks, they lacked pressure when needed most. The majority of those sacks came in bunches against inferior teams. They need to be able to get to the Mannings, Bradys and Roethlisberger’s of the league.

In his own words:

  • “I’m not asking anybody to give me a second look just because my dad was Ironhead. But they all know I have a big head like him.”
  • “I want to leave a legacy of my own. I don’t want to live in his shadow. But he was a great player. He’s always in my heart and I appreciate everything he’s done. … But I want to do everything on my own.” – on his late father Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.

2 Responses to “Meet the Prospects: Cameron Heyward”

  1. Daily Links: Any Fool Can Make A Rule Says:

    [...] Take a look at Cameron Heyward. [Jets Insider] [...]

  2. Writer Blog By Wesley Sykes » Blog Archive » With Jenkins out the door who will step in? Says:

    [...] had their wish list as the following: 1. Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia 2. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA 3. Cameron Heyward, OLB/DE, OSU 4. Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor 5. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA. The need for a 5-technique player is that [...]