Utah’s Trevor Reilly may be one of the better stories in all of college football. The talented defensive end and outside linebacker has been productive as a senior, but he played all of his junior year on a torn ACL demonstrating his toughness and will. He also has played with an added sense of working hard and putting the amount of time and energy on football but keeping in its proper place when it comes to his life due to the battle his young daughter has waged against cancer.
Before beginning his football career for the Utes, he went on an LDS mission to Sweden, so he is going to be 26-years old when he is drafted, which will have an impact on where he goes. Playing for Utes, he has been an incredibly versatile playing with his hand in the ground, as a leo backer and as a more traditional outside linebacker that can drop into coverage.
Projecting to the NFL, Reilly’s length, quickness, and speed make him an intriguing prospect. Reilly has impressive quickness and bend at the point of attack and the ability to turn the corner well with the burst to close and make plays on the quarterback. He drops into coverage with a great back pedal and can play in coverage effectively. Reilly tends to play a finesse game and would rather work around opponents than power through them, having some trouble playing behind his hands which can prove a problem in the running game and he needs to be more physical in coverage. Reilly projects as a third day pick that could come in and make an instant impact for a team as a leo backer, 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 strong side linebacker or a few ambitious teams might even look at him as a weak side linebacker.
Vitals & Build
Reilly is listed 6’5” 255lbs and looks taller than his listed height with a lean build. His acceleration, body control, agility, and speed make him look both impressive and even graceful on the football field. Reilly’s functional strength is somewhat lacking and he needs to do a better job bending at playing low to the ground. There is no reason to think Reilly cannot continue to add to his body, but getting better at playing low and taking advantage of more of his strength might be just as important.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Reilly has experience from a three point stance as well as a standup end. His ability to anticipate the snap is pretty good but his first step can be inconsistent from a three point stance. Some of this appears to be due to the fact that Reilly is far more comfortable making his first step up the field than he is stepping to an opponent.
When he is in a three point stance and can make an uncovered step, he seems to have better results and cover far more ground than when he is covered up and stepping to an opponent.
There is an also an element to Reilly’s game where he likes to get a read of what the opponent is doing and reacting to it, so he is more comfortable with space to operate. So, some of his issue with taking a first step covered up appears to be attributed to the fact that he wants more space to see what he is dealing with and then make a move.
Reilly’s first step is far more consistent when he is in a two point stance and he really has a good sense of when he can attack whether he be playing from a static position or moving up towards the line. When he has open space, he attacks up field aggressively with a quick, strong first step.
As mentioned before, Reilly seems to like having a little space to make a judgment on what the opponent is doing and react to it. Reilly does a good job of taking advantage of his arm length and bracing himself against opponents as he works around them to get to the play, usually rushing the passer.
He has shown some willingness to use power, but he often plays too high. Reilly has trouble taking advantage of his strength and power as a result. If he can do a better job of sinking his hips and hitting with a rising blow, he would have better results and would probably trust in his ability to win with power more often.
When it comes to stopping the run, Reilly still tends to want to win by playing from the outside and coming in. There are plenty of times when he can have success by running outside, using his arms to keep the opponent out of his body, judging the play and chasing it down with his speed. The problem is when he does get caught in a phone booth or when he gets caught in a bad situation, he can get drilled by the opposing offensive linemen and engulfed. When he does not have space to operate, again, he needs to do a better job of getting low and winning with power.
To Reilly’s credit, he does have a tremendous amount of speed and range, so when he has a path to the ball carrier, he can fly all over the field and make plays. Reilly does a good job of judging angles, accelerates well, has good speed and the quickness to adjust and make plays.
When lined up as a strong side backer, he can do a better job when it comes to jamming opposing tight ends when they try to come off of the line and be a more violent player in general. He tends to be too passive and allows opponents to run by him and be content with the fact they are out of his way, so he can go make a play on the ball.
Reilly is a speed rusher off of the edge for the most part. He really wants to get out in space and race to the edge, bend around the corner and flatten out to the quarterback and does a nice job in that respect. In spite of the fact he does tend to play too tall, he is able to plant his foot in the ground and turn effectively.
By virtue of playing leo at times, he can come off of the edge without anyone responsible for him and get behind the line of scrimmage really well and while there are times he will get too deep and get victimized by the run, he has definitely shown the ability to get heel’s depth and work down to where the running back would get the ball or adjust to where the quarterback is.
Reilly does have experience attacking inside as well and again, while he does tend to play too tall, his speed and quickness combined with effective hand use makes him viable. He has a good sense of timing can be devastating with how quickly he can get into the backfield and get to the quarterback. At times, he has flashed an impressive snap spin move which is extremely quick and controlled.
For the most part, Reilly tends to avoid using power too much, but has shown he can convert speed to power and catch opposing tackles off balance. If he can sink his hips and play lower, power would be a more viable option more often and make him a far more effective pass rusher as he keeps opponents more honest and guessing in what he will do.
Reilly has the ability to play as a defensive end with his hand in the ground, but he has been far more effective and seemingly far more comfortable attacking from a two point stance. He just looks more comfortable and confident when he can sort of dictate the action out in space rather than feel like he has to go in a certain manner when covered up on the line.
Reilly’s athleticism and length make him a uniquely skilled player for playing coverage. He really drops into coverage well and looks extremely natural and fluid. In many ways, Reilly looks like a basketball player playing defense with how comfortable he is moving around the field. He is able to either drop straight back with an effective backpedal or he can turn and slide while keeping his head in the backfield on the quarterback. When he slides, he is able to keep his head on a swivel and keep an eye on potential receiving threats while seeing the quarterback.
He does a nice job in zone but can run and stay with opponents in man to man coverage. His size and athleticism make him somewhat of a unique player in what he could potentially do in matching up against giant tight ends in the NFL.
The one area where Reilly really needs to work to improve his how physical he is in coverage. Reilly allows opponents to run by him without jamming or working to stop their momentum at all. If he would do a better job of so called ‘raping and pillaging’ in coverage, it would only make his job and those of his teammates easier as an entire unit.
Reilly looks like he can contribute as a leo, outside linebacker in a 3-4 or a strong side linebacker. Perhaps the most intriguing part of what Reilly could do for a team comes as a sub package player in passing situations.
Reilly has a lot of potential and ability both as a pass rusher and in coverage. The ability to mix those two things up as well as be a huge player physically that can contribute in a coverage scheme is certainly an attractive quality. His size and length are valuable in zone, but they would seem to have far more value when it comes to matching up against tight ends and if he can do that consistently, his value goes up substantially for a team that would otherwise be terrorized by that position.
Reilly certainly has the potential to be a full service player but does need to do a better job against the run in terms of being physical when stacking and shedding against opponents. Given that if he were to play outside linebacker, it would make the most sense to play him on the strong side where the tight end is likely to play, being better at jamming them at the line, being more physical with blocks. Still, he could conceivably be a weak side linebacker with his length and athleticism that protected by the defensive line, could fly around and make plays.
Reilly is the type of player where he can do so many things well, it just comes down to where a team wants to use him. If his time at Utah is any indication, he seems to absorb information well and could move around and play a number of different positions. Creative teams like the New England Patriots, New York Jets or San Francisco 49ers might be really intriguing to see the amount they could do with a player like Reilly in their lineup with all of the tools he has.
Reilly’s game is somewhat similar to Michael Johnson, the defensive end of the Cincinnati Bengals. When Johnson came out of Georgia Tech, he was extremely tall and lean, was called soft by many critics and was just not a physical player. He was supremely athletic and flashed tremendous ability just like Reilly. In the same sense, Johnson has developed into a great defensive end, but from an athletic standpoint, he could do all of the things that Reilly shows he can do. The question with Reilly will be which team takes him and applies him. The Bengals made Johnson into an end and he has been a good one. It remains to be seen who will take Reilly and what they will do with him.
Trevor Reilly is one of the most unique prospects in this upcoming draft. He has a varied skillset that allows him to be great in space, has tremendous athleticism and speed with good body control. Reilly needs to play more physically, do a better job getting low, sinking his hips and using more of his strength. His fit in the NFL makes him such an intriguing prospect and while his age may be a factor, he has the ability to step in and contribute in a meaningful way the second he is drafted. Reilly projects as a day three pick, but it is not out of the question if he goes earlier than expected.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com