The South Carolina Gamecocks have established a pretty strong track record for putting cornerbacks in the NFL. This year they may have pair of future NFL starters entering the draft.
While Darius Rush hasn’t been getting as much attention as his teammate Cam Smith, Rush has been coming on of late. He started raising eyebrows with a great week of practice at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he terrorized opposing receivers. Rush followed it up with a great workout at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. In the span of a couple months, he’s gone from being the “other” cornerback at South Carolina to being one of those prospects who scouts say “hey, have you watched this guy?”
The New York Giants could certainly stand to add both depth and starters to their defensive secondary. After all, even depth players get plenty of snaps in Wink Martindale’s blitz-happy, subpackage-heavy defense
Could Rush fit their defense?
Prospect: Darius Rush (28)
Games Watched: vs. East Carolina (2021), vs. Arkansas (2022), vs. Georgia (2022), vs. Kentucky (2022)
Red Flags: Hamstring (2022)
Games Played: 26
Tackles for a loss: 5.0
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 15
Games Played: 10
Tackles for a loss: 2.0
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 7
Best: Length, linear athleticism, competitive toughness, ball skills
Worst: Hip fluidity, press technique
Projection: A developmental cornerback with starting upside in a Cover 3 scheme.
(Rush is South Carolina CB number 28)
South Carolina cornerback Darius Rush has an excellent combination of size and athleticism for the position at the NFL level.
Rush is a good-sized cornerback at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds with very good long speed (he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash). In addition to his height, he also has long 33 ⅜ inch arms, allowing him to close down receiving windows from a ways off. Rush’s speed allows him to carry all but the fastest receivers vertically. Likewise, it allows him to close down quickly on running plays or underneath passes.
Rush’s background as a wide receiver shows up at the catch point, and he does a good job of using his length to attack receivers hands. He also shows the understanding to position himself and high-point the ball, and come away with passes defensed, if not the interception.
He has a good downhill trigger in zone coverage and is a willing run defender. Rush’s size lets him take on bigger receivers who are attempting to block, and he’s able to set a firm edge on the perimeter. He also has good competitive toughness and is willing to take on contact and get his hands dirty as a run defender.
Rush is relatively new to the cornerback position, and that shows up on his tape. He transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback prior to the 2019 season and is still learning the intricacies of the position. He can occasionally be a bit slow in his processing during the play and at times appears to be thinking things through rather than reacting. Rush also needs to continue to work on his technique, particularly in his jams and at the top of routes. He can get “grabby” when he tries to get too physical, which will make him vulnerable to savvy receivers looking to draw pass interference flags at the NFL level.
Rush shows some hip tightness, particularly when forced to open his hips, turn and stay in phase with receivers throughout their routes. He will struggle to stay with quick receivers, and good route runners can easily get separation out of their breaks against him.
Darius Rush projects as a developmental cornerback at the NFL level.
His ceiling is likely highest in a Cover 3 scheme, which will allow him to use his size, long speed, and ball skills to their fullest while minimizing the exposure of his (relatively) tight hips. Rush could develop to be a starting cornerback in the NFL, but he’ll likely need some seasoning first.
His size, length, competitiveness, and athleticism are all assets to his game. However, NFL offensive schemes look to put defensive backs in conflict. Likewise, receivers who know how to use their routes as weapons and think several plays down the line. Rush will likely struggle early in his career, at least until he gains experience and polishes his technique.
That said, he should be adequate depth early on, as well as a good special teams player while he finds his footing in the NFL. Rush’s best football is likely still ahead of him, and he could be a good player in the right scheme once he finds the comfort to play fast and trust his instincts.