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.
Boston’s ability to fly around the field and make plays on the football is certainly something that will draw notice. He has the ability to support in the running game but his tackling is inconsistent, which could make it difficult for teams to rely on him to protect the back end. Boston projects as a fringe top 100 prospect with what he can bring to a team but needs to be more consistent. If he can do that, he can be a starting safety at the next level for quite a while.
Vitals & Build
Boston is listed at 6’1” 205lbs, which is a significant jump from last year where he looked like a corner playing safety for the right and wrong reasons. He is extremely athletic and can cover a lot of ground. Boston can probably still continue getting stronger and just improving his overall body composition to maximize his athleticism, but he is a pretty impressive athlete.
From a technical standpoint, Boston has gone from a terrible form tackler to a wildly inconsistent form tackler. Last year, he dove too much and tried to shoulder bomb rather than really tackle. That certainly still happens this year, but Boston showed the ability to chest guys up, wrap and drive his legs through contact. Perhaps a function of getting stronger and as a result more confident, Boston can do it the right way and just needs to keep increasing the amount of times where it happens as opposed to slipping into bad and ineffective habits that make him too much of a feast or famine player.
Boston is willing to come down and fill in run support. He will come down hard and at times almost too much so and can get stuck in the wash, so he needs to work to break down and keep himself in position to take the proper angle and make the play. At times, Boston will fill correctly and make the play with a good tackle, but when opponents are on his side or making a move, he tends to fall back into bad habits and opts to lunge at the opponent.
There are times when Boston will end up being a spectator and watch the play going on in front of him but these are pretty infrequent. Boston has a lot of work to do in this area but he shows the effort, athleticism and strength to be a good run defender.
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 really works to make sure he is the deepest guy on the field and does not want to have to work back to get to the football, so he does not have a ton of experience in that respect. He wants to keep plays in front of him and either make plays deep or come up and attack the football.
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 or make false steps trying to anticipate a route. 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.
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.
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 and becoming a more consistent as a run defender and a tackler. Boston has the potential to come in and start right away but if he can improve in those areas, he will not be a backup long. 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.
Boston’s game might be somewhat similar to that of Antrel Rolle of the New York Giants. Both bring a ton of physical ability and are better at making a play in coverage than they are at playing the running game. They both demonstrate some good ball skills with the ability to make plays. Rolle was a little more athletic coming out of the University of Miami being drafted as a corner in the top 10 by the Arizona Cardinals right as the rules for contact were being changed. That resulted in him being moved to safety and he has been able to cause a lot of turnovers in his career which is where Boston could be an impact player.
Boston’s ability in coverage and his knack for making plays on the football will make him an intriguing player and with the strength he has added, he brings a lot to the table, but he still has work to do as a run defender and tackler. There is a lot to like about Boston even if he may not be ready to start immediately and if he can improve defending the run, he has the potential to be a long time starter. Boston projects as a fringe top 100 pick and could find his way into the second day of the draft.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com