03/21/2012 - After posting 126 tackles and earning Duke's MVP honors as a senior during the 2011 season, it only makes sense that senior safety Matt Daniels has spent the last few months training for the school's annual Pro Timing Day, which will take place on Thursday. Four years as a Blue Devil and an All-America selection on the gridiron, Daniels, a native of Fayetteville, Ga., has decided to explore the opportunities that lie within the National Football League. Pro Timing Day will be a chance for NFL scouts to get a close-up look at Daniels doing various workouts as the young athlete positions himself for employment with an NFL organization either as draft pick or free-agent signee. Daniels has gone through weeks of vigorous training and hasn't wasted any time preparing for the big day. Since January, he has been training in Georgia five days a week to get in the best shape possible. The other two days, he's been in Durham attending class. "I fly back and forth," Daniels stated. "So what basically happens is that I fly in on Sundays, and I go to class on Monday. Then I fly back out to where I am training down at CES in Georgia and train there Tuesday through Saturday." Most of his training, according to Daniels, has focused on smoothing out his back pedal, improving the fluidity of his hip movement and working on his change of direction abilities. He has gained 10 pounds since training to add to his agility and strength. "I am weighing about 215 pounds now," Daniels said. "I still feel like I only weigh about 200 pounds which is a really great thing. The most important thing is that I am becoming a lot more explosive in what I do." - Duke football
Daniels was a decorated high school football player, athlete and student, ranking as ESPN's 27th-rated safety prospect and winning the Watkins Award as the nation's top African-American Student-Athlete.
Daniels has been a tremendously productive safety for Duke as a starter over the past three years, finishing 2011 with 126 tackles, 14 passes defensed, and two interception after posting 93/7/1 in 2010 and 83/5/0 in 2009, never missing a game and twice being named to the Academic All-ACC team.
Duke credits Daniels with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash.
He projects best as a traditional strong safety with plenty of assignments in the box as well as deep zone, but not a lot of man. Daniels also offers potential as a defensive leader and signal caller, as well as a gunner. His combination of production, durability, intelligence and character is sure to interest NFL teams. However, issues with his ability to turn, cut and change directions limit upside.
Strengths: Superior anticipation and football IQ, can sniff out where the ball is and rocket towards it. Strong, sure tackler. Puts shoulder to chest and tackles through the ballcarrier. Heads up in coverage, good zone instincts and ball skills. Has speed, takes good angles and closes fast with burst. Hard worker, smart, durable, top intangibles.
Weaknesses: Narrow boned, high hipped build. Was a track star, and doesn't turn or change directions well. Projects to struggle with NFL man coverage assignments. Can have difficulty disengaging from blocks. Marginal hands, very few career picks for number of passes defensed.
NFL Comparison: Gerald Sensabaugh, Dallas Cowboys