Nov 10, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Orwin Smith (17) with ball as North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Kevin Reddick (48) and safety Tre Boston (10) defend in the first half at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Tre Boston, S North Carolina

Another year, another North Carolina team loaded with talented athletes, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  One of the players on the Tar Heels this year that stands out is their free safety Tre Boston.  He is a rangy safety that can make plays on the football in coverage and cause turnovers.  As a junior, Boston had 49 solo tackles, a tackle for loss, 6 pass deflections, 4 interceptions, and a touchdown.  Boston is coming into his senior year with a ton of experience and looking to really make a statement this season, putting it all together.  In order for that to happen, Boston is going to have to make significant strides with his tackling, both in form and his aggressiveness.

Boston’s ability to fly around the field and make plays on the football is certainly something that will draw notice but it is difficult to find ways to use him when he is unreliable at making tackles.  As a result, he enters the year as a day three prospect but if he can continue to make plays on the football and really improve as a tackler, he will easily climb into the top 100.

Vitals & Build

Boston is listed at 6’1” 190lbs and looks like a corner playing safety.  He is extremely athletic and can cover a lot of ground, but he needs to continue getting stronger.  If he can get closer to 200lbs this year with added strength while maintaining his athleticism, he could be a much more physical player.  His frame looks like he can easily continue to add weight, which would help him look and perhaps play the part of a safety more effectively.

Tackling

When it comes to technique, Boston is a terrible tackler and the actual results are mediocre.  Boston tends to try to shove guys to the ground or shoulder bombs them too often.  The times when he wraps up, he is too high and has no power, so he is trying to spin them on the ground.  He will also lunge and try to wrap up their ankles at times as well.

Other than the fact Boston tackles too high when he wraps up, he has an idea of how to do it.  If he was to go lower, he could drive through with more power.  Nevertheless, Boston knows how and often does not seem all that interested in doing it correctly until he has to and not making it could result in a huge play or touchdown.  In those situations, his habits are so bad that even when he knows he needs to make a play, he will get beat on bad positioning or failing to break down.  This is an area that requires significant work and renewed focus for Boston this coming season.

Run Support

Boston is not unwilling to come down and try to make a play but he just needs to be smarter with how he approaches running plays.  Most times, when he does it correctly, he is not going to make the tackle but either helps finish it or slow the guy down and his teammates make the play.  There are too many situations where he gets shielded out of the play and is not in the right lane to make a stop or even be involved in the play.  The plays then can result in the ball carrier breaking through and getting a bigger play due to Boston being boxed out of position.

Coverage

Boston is a free safety for the most part patrolling the back end in a deep zone that enables him to fly around and make plays.  He is often responsible for a ton of ground but a combination of instincts, reading the quarterback’s eyes and his athleticism allow him to cover a large amount of real estate.  For the most part, he is aggressive and willing to make plays but understands that he is still the last line of defense and cannot get beat deep.

Boston does have experience in the box and in man coverage with good fluidity to respond to the opponent.  He is going to have to prove he can hang with big tight ends but athletically, he has the ability to contribute.  Boston’s aggressiveness can get him in trouble and he will occasionally bite on a fake.  With the way the rules have moved, it is difficult to blame him, but Boston can be more physical when it comes to separating receivers from the football and being more of an intimidator.  Boston is always looking to make a play on the ball, so it can be tough to also think about making a hit, but it could help him have a better rounded game in coverage.

Ball Skills

Boston’s ball skills are impressive.  Not only does he have soft, natural hands but he is extremely comfortable going up for the football.  He tracks the ball extremely well and times his jumps so he can catch the ball at the highest point.  His instincts and ability to react quickly make him dangerous even if he has minimal time to adjust and make a play.  Even on situations where he is not going to get an interception, he can get in and knock the ball down.  Boston is someone who can make things happen with the ball in his hands and can pick up yards with a chance to score.

System Fit

Boston’s best fit is as a free safety but he does show the ability to be a versatile player.  He is at his best covering the back end and could excel there, but he does have the ability to play in the box and play in man coverage.  The big issue for Boston is improving as a run defender and a tackler.  Added muscle will help but he needs to substantially improve his technique and just decide it is important to him.  If Boston can do that, he could go from a fringe starter to being someone who can step in right away at the next level as a rookie.  His ability to make plays on the football and his instincts in coverage will make him extremely attractive to a number of teams.  Turnovers are at a premium, especially the way defensive rules are going.

2013 Schedule

Thu, Aug. 29 at South Carolina
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Middle Tennessee State
Sat, Sept. 21 at Georgia Tech
Sat, Sept. 28 vs. East Carolina
Sat, Oct. 5 at Virginia Tech
Thu, Oct. 17 vs. Miami
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. Boston College
Sat, Nov. 2 at N.C. State
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. Virginia
Sat, Nov. 16 at Pittsburgh
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Old Dominion
Sat, Nov. 30 at Duke

Notable Games

South Carolina in the opener could force Boston to show the full range of skills from being a playmaker in coverage to showing more in run support.  If Boston wants to prove he is a more physical player and a better tackler, Georgia Tech’s triple option could be a good place to do it.  Lastly, the game against Miami should be a good test for him because Stephen Morris is not afraid to test defenses deep and be aggressive.  At the same time, they have Duke Johnson, who is an extremely talented runner.

NFL Comparison

In a lot of ways, Boston could end up being similar to Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints. Jenkins was a former corner who moved to safety when he was drafted and he is someone who can play in man or zone coverage but is an extremely poor tackler.  Jenkins is good at what he does and can be a useful cog in the Saints defense, but his lack of tackling is problematic and that is the issue that faces Boston going into his senior year for the Tar Heels and potentially going forward.

Draft Projection

Boston’s ability in coverage and his knack for making plays on the football will make him an intriguing player, but if that is all he can bring to the table, it is difficult to take him until the third day of the draft.  If he can continue getting stronger and become a more physical player and get better as a tackler, he could get into the second day and be a player who could contribute to play as a rookie.  Boston is someone who can make plays in coverage and there is no reason to think that will stop as a senior but he has an opportunity to really show how well rounded he can be as a player.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft North Carolina Tar Heels Football Safeties Tre Boston

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