football Edit

Film Evaluation: Ken Talley

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Penn State has added another player with explosive speed. It would be unfair to focus on just one trait for four-star defender Ken Talley, but it all starts with speed, so much so that the defensive end from Northeast High School in Philadelphia will likely transition to linebacker. We’ll delve into his tape to find which skills translate both to the next level and his potential new position with the Nittany Lions.

*Important Note: Scouting notes are based on highlight videos. They should not be seen as a complete picture of the strengths and weaknesses of a prospect. As these young men are still in the early stages of their development, projections are based on potential and development.

Strengths

Speed: Without being too dramatic, Talley has impressive speed. His explosion out of his stance is smooth, instant and explosive. It’s to the point that it makes evaluating some of his other skills difficult because nobody can seemingly touch him in pass protection.


The 10-yard split for rushing the passer is one type of speed, but his reported 4.64-second 40-yard dash shows up in space as well.

It’s also pretty clear that Talley is faster than 4.64, which was over a year ago. He has more than enough speed to play linebacker in college, chasing plays down and into the flat. He's already shown that ability on tape.

Block Shedding/Pursuit: It’s actually a pretty brilliant strategy by Pry and Franklin to take defensive ends with great speed and move them to linebacker. While there is a transition to playing in coverage, those players are used to hand fighting and taking on offensive linemen on a regular basis. While the new prototype linebacker in both college and the NFL is great in coverage, they tend to struggle at stacking and shedding linemen on the way to the ball. That's one of the things that made All-American linebacker Micah Parsons exceptional over the past two seasons. Talley has the potential to do similar things with his skill set.

While it’s not a perfect translation to playing linebacker, Talley is able to work through blockers at the point of attack, shed, and attack the ball-carrier. Those skills are all necessary to play the run, regardless of position. Again, in this next clip, he’s able to attack and shed two blockers on the way to the ball.


Too many linebackers play around contact instead of through it. Talley has the potential to be a force in the running game as long as he can adapt to playing the same way from four yards behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also the quintessential "chase" player who can run plays down from behind.

Hand Fighting: The most exciting part about Talley’s tape is that he’s not simply a speed player. He is already using quality pass rushing moves in order to get himself free at the point of contact. The offensive tackle in this next clip is in about as good of a stance as you can be when facing someone with the speed that Talley has.


Watch how the Philly native swats the right tackle’s hands down at the point of contact and doesn’t allow the blocker a chance at a punch. Not only is that impressive technique for a young player, it’s an efficient way of beating a blocker that is repeatable and will work no matter the level of competition. Again, if they can’t get their hands on you, they can’t block you. Go back and watch the first clip in this article. Talley isn’t just winning with speed, he’s using his hands to get free and then exploding to the quarterback.

It’s also good to note that he has shown that he can perform more than one move effectively. On this next clip he uses the threat of outside speed to win inside.

Talley will still be asked to rush the passer in college and speed alone will not be enough to get pressure on Big 10 tackles. Being able to use your hands and be unpredictable with your moves will make him an asset in Pry’s blitz packages.


Areas of Development

Playing in Space: The downside of moving a defensive end to linebacker is that they likely have little to no experience playing in space. In reality, this entire section of his evaluation will be relatively short because what he needs to work on, there is simply no film to indicate his strengths or weaknesses either way.


Reading keys in the run game, knowing which gap assignment to adjust to on the fly and how to attack at angles are all skills that Talley will need to develop in the future. His physical gifts will give him a leg up on that process, but being out of position is almost as bad as being slow. The only difference is there is no cure for slow, but there is for inexperience.

Coverage Drops: Playing in space and dropping into coverage are related, but not the same thing. Players can be very good at playing in the box and attacking things either in front of them or laterally. It’s entirely different to have to swivel your hips and drop into coverage fluidly. Talley shows good movement skills, but just because you can move in a direction doesn’t mean you know how or how to do it well.

While we can’t see Talley drop on any of the plays he presents on film, we do see that he has the mobility and change of direction skills to do so.

These are not problems with his game, but simply unknowns. Once again, his speed and ease of movement skills will give him the best possible chance to make that transition a successful one.

Power: Earlier I made the comparison to Parsons in the fact that he made the transition from defensive end to linebacker and bringing those skills to his new position. The difference between these two, however, is that Parsons had overt power and physicality to his game. While Talley has plenty of physical gifts, he does not show much power on his highlight tape. Simply by omission we have to assume that it is not a strength yet in his game.

That is not to say that he's not strong. As we were able to show earlier, he can work through traffic and find the ball well. He shows multiple times on tape that he can fight off would-be blocks to get pressure on rollouts and bootlegs as well. The difference is that he does not get the same quick, dominant wins with power that he does with speed. That may come in time, but even if it doesn’t, it won’t affect his ability to play linebacker too much. He is well on his way to being strong enough to play the position. It’s simply the surety of seeing it on tape that is missing.


Projection

SAM Linebacker: With his speed, size and the skills he brings from the defensive line, Talley has the chance to be a force in the running game for Penn State as a strong-side linebacker. With his speed and movement skills, which are beyond impressive, he has the chance to develop into an all-around threat at the position. Throw in his ability to rush the passer and his above-average hand fighting skills, he can be a triple-threat at the position. Instincts in coverage and playing in space will be a critical factor in his development at the next level. But if Brent Pry has shown us anything, it’s that he knows how to coach the most out of linebackers.

Edge Defender: We have seen evidence of smaller edge defenders with explosive speed making an impact for the Nittany Lions defense. Shaka Toney is the best example of this. If Talley progresses to the point that he’s more of an asset rushing the passer than anything else, there is a chance he could stay as an edge defender. That would also coincide with his body and physical development dictating that to happen. Talley has the speed and explosiveness to be an asset wherever he lines up. Penn State has yet another defensive weapon to work with in the future.


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