2017 NFL Draft

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C.J. Spillman

Height: 6-0 | Weight: 197 | College: Marshall
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Spillman was the heart and soul of the Thundering Herd defense the last three seasons and one of its few bright spots. The hard-hitting safety is known for his ability to create the turnover, as he registered six forced fumbles during his career. Despite playing with shoulder and hand problems as a senior, he finished with 319 tackles (162 solos) in 46 games for the Thundering Herd.

The two-time All-Conference USA selection had at least three tackles in every game he started (33). His 319 hits were the most by a Thundering Herd safety. As a junior, he delivered 131 tackles, the 11th-best season total in school history, as his average of 10.92 stops per game ranked tied for twelfth in the nation.

Spillman played just one season on defense before enrolling at Marshall. During his career at Central High School, he was a standout running back before moving to the defensive backfield. He earned All-State and All-Conference honors in each of his final two seasons, leading the team in interceptions as a senior. He also lettered three years in track. After graduation, he spent the 2004 season at Fork Union Military Academy before attending college.

Despite overtures from the school his father, Claude Sr. played for, Spillman decided to enroll at Marshall instead of attending Western Kentucky. As a true freshman, he appeared in 11 games, earning one start vs. Southern Methodist at free safety in 2005. He ranked eighth on the team with 38 tackles (20 solos), as he intercepted one pass, deflected three others and caused one fumble.

Spillman switched from jersey No. 41 to No. 4 before his sophomore year, a season that would see him start nine contests at free safety. He picked off two passes, returning one 85 yards for a score, the fourth-longest runback on a pass theft in school history. He broke up four other throws, caused a fumble and placed third on the squad with 79 tackles (43 solos).

As a junior, Spillman finished third in the league and tied for 12th in the nation with a career-high 131 tackles (64 solos). The second-team All-Conference USA choice caused three fumbles and recovered another. He also deflected six passes.

Hand and shoulder injuries would force Spillman to sit out the Houston clash in 2008, the only time he missed a game as part of the Thundering Herd. The free safety was again named second-team All-Conference USA. He finished fourth on the squad with 71 tackles (35 solos), as he batted down four passes and caused a fumble for the fourth consecutive year.


Positives: Solid free safety prospect with adequate size and good speed. Good backpedal, stays low and shows quick feet. Has fluid hips and short-area quickness to handle man coverage when needed. Can make a play in the air, high-pointing the ball. Comes downhill to hit receivers coming over the middle. Closes quickly on ballcarriers from the deep defensive backfield. Willing to take on fullback block to force play inside. Forces fumbles by putting a shoulder on the ball or stripping after the ballcarrier is held up. Gunner on special teams due to his size, speed and toughness.

Negatives: Will take false steps on play-action, but recovers adequately. Willing to hit a receiver off the line, but doesn't always use his hands to win the physical battle. Doesn't get off receiver blocks often enough. Must improve his hands for making an interception. More of a hitter than a form tackler, although he can wrap up on occasion. Will freelance, losing discipline to stay deeper than the deepest receiver.

Compares To: QUINTIN MIKELL, Philadelphia -- Like Mikell, Spillman is a hard-hitting tackler who is better when working downhill than in man coverage. He freelances quite a bit and that will see him miss a few potential stops, but he has the range to recover in the short area. Despite his light frame, he's had good success filling the rush alleys. He just needs to learn how to use his hands better in attempts to reroute receivers, shed blocks and try to secure the interception.

Scouting Report


Body Structure: Spillman has a lean frame, built more like a sprinter's - tapered thighs and calves, tight waist and hips and long limbs. He could use more bulk on his frame, but the added weight could impact his overall speed. He has good muscle definition, both in his lower and upper body region.

Athletic Ability: Spillman might lack bulk, but he is a good overall athlete that shows the range needed to cover the entire field, but is best as a downhill player. He plays with good leverage and shows the functional strength and pop on contact. He has loose hips and quick feet, but does not always play up to his timed speed, making him better playing in zone rather than in man coverage. He plays with good balance, doing a nice job of adjusting in space. He is a fluid mover with good reactions when he locates the ball. GRADE: 6.4

Football Sense: Spillman excels playing downhill, as he shows good aggression in action in front of him. He will bite on play-action and must stop taking false steps coming out of his breaks. He lacks good hand placement skills, whether in attempts to shed blocks or when trying to reroute his receiver assignment. He makes calls on the field, but is not always aware of backfield activity. GRADE: 5.7

Character: Spillman is a solid character type who gets good family support. His dad is a former football player at Western Kentucky. He has a good personality and the coaches speak highly of his work ethic. GRADE: 6.0

Competitiveness: Spillman plays with good aggression. He might get bounced around by offensive linemen at the Xs, but won't back down from a fight. He plays with good effort and works hard to prepare himself for his game's assignment. He takes the game seriously and has a quiet confidence to him. GRADE: 6.0

Work Habits: Spillman is a good worker who does the little extras in the training room. He is not overly vocal, but is respected and looked up to by his younger teammates. He is very coachable and plays with a good attitude. GRADE: 6.0


Key and Diagnostic Skills: Spillman plays with good field awareness, but will bite on play-action and misdirection. He has a better feel playing in the zone than in man coverage. He flies around the field quite a bit and this causes him to lose some discipline staying tight on the receiver in deep routes. His leaping ability and timing help him high point and make plays on the ball in the air, but lacks natural hands for the interception. GRADE: 5.8

Man Coverage Ability: Spillman has good timed speed and quick feet, showing good turning motion out of his breaks, thanks to loose hips. He plays better in the short area than in the deep secondary, as he closes quicker on plays in front of him. With his nimble feet and strong angle, he does a nice job of making open-field tackles. He just does not use his hands effectively in attempts to reroute, and for some reason he does not open his hips as well in the deep portion of the field, which will see a receiver get behind him. GRADE: 5.7

Zone Coverage Ability: Spillman plays the ball better than he does the man. He has a good feel to locate the action in front of him and is much more successful picking up receivers on underneath routes than in deep patterns. When he locates the ball, he is quick to anticipate and jump the play. It is rare to see him late at the hash or freeze at the Xs. GRADE: 6.6

Backpedal Skills: Spillman has loose hips, but does take some wasted extra steps in transition. He has fluid hips and good balance, but when he gets high in his pedal he is not able to turn quickly and stay on the receiver's hips on deep patterns. He has a better short transition burst and the speed to recover, but just lacks consistency. GRADE: 5.8

Ball Reaction Skills: Spillman has good field vision to jump the play. He takes good angles and shows the range to chase down outside ball carriers. He has that short-area burst needed to close on action in front of him and never stalls underneath. GRADE: 6.3

Range/Recovery: Spillman has the range to make plays in front or the side, but is a bit slow coming out of his breaks when he stays in his pedal too long. He has good anticipation skills and takes good angles to the ball, playing faster than his timed speed indicates when working downhill. He shows good lateral agility working his way down the line and will throw a shoulder to stall the lead blocker. GRADE: 6.3

Jumping Ability: Spillman has exceptional leaping ability (41.5-inch vertical jump). He shows excellent body control to adjust on the move, but lacks good hands to secure the interception. He will generally be in the right position to make plays on the ball in flight. GRADE: 7.0

Hands: Spillman lacks natural hands to make the interception. He does a nice job of deflecting passes, thanks to his timing, elevation and reach, but he will let the ball into his body too much to secure the pass theft. GRADE: 5.6

Run Defense: Spillman likes to come up in the box to fill the rush lanes. He closes quickly on ball carriers and knows how to toss his shoulder into the ball when attempting to cause the fumble. He has good eyes to locate the cutback lane and is quick to force the action back inside. He runs the alley well and stays low in his pads to generate more force when tackling. He just needs to use his hands better when trying to shed and disengage. GRADE: 6.5

Tackling Ability: Spillman takes good angles in pursuit and is able to fit in space, but must do a better job of staying in control (freelances too much). He can strike with good pop on contact, but does not always bring his arms to wrap and secure. He is a better high tackler in space and a low striker working in the alleys. GRADE: 6.3

Compares To: QUINTIN MIKELL, Philadelphia -- Like Mikell, Spillman is a hard-hitting tackler who is better when working downhill than in man coverage. He freelances quite a bit and that will see him miss a few potential stops, but he has the range to recover in the short area. Despite his light frame, he's had good success filling the rush alleys. He just needs to learn how to use his hands better in attempts to reroute receivers, shed blocks and try to secure the interception.


--Report by Dave-Te' Thomas

Career Notes

Spillman started 33 of 46 games at Marshall, recording 319 tackles (162 solos) with 6.5 stops for losses of 23 yards … His 131 tackles in 2007 rank 11th on the school single-season record list … Had six forced fumbles and recovered a fumble that he advanced 5 yards … Deflected 17 passes and intercepted three others for 145 yards in returns (45.33 avg) … His 85-yard interception return vs. Memphis in 2006 was the longest runback by a Thundering Herd player since Melvin Cunningham's 100-yarder vs. James Madison in 1994.

2008 Season

All-Conference USA second-team selection … Started eleven games at free safety, missing the Houston clash with a shoulder strain and a hand contusion … Still managed to finish fourth on the team with 71 tackles (35 solos), including 1.5 stops for minus 3 yards and a QB pressure … Had four pass deflections and caused a fumble.

2008 Game Analysis

Illinois State … Spillman opened the season by leading the team with thirteen tackles (5 solos) … In the third quarter, he took down Parrish Fisher on a first-&-goal rushing attempt for a 1-yard loss.

Memphis … The free safety caused a fumble, broke up a pass and posted seven tackles (3 solos) …

Memphis was able to move the ball inside the Marshall 10 midway through the first half, but Spillman was able to jar the ball from QB Arkelon Hall as he scrambled from the pocket, setting up a recovery for Aaron Johnson. The Tigers were never able to get that deep into Herd territory again in the first half as Marshall took a 10-6 lead in to the locker room.

Southern Mississippi … Spillman had an interception nullified by a Marshall holding penalty in the fourth quarter, as he totaled just three tackles.

Cincinnati … Spillman added eight tackles (2 solos), including one that took down DeAngelo Smith on a 4-yard punt return after Marshall's first possession.

East Carolina … Spillman delivered seven tackles, as he also broke up a Pat Pinkney pass at the Marshall 34 early in the second quarter.

Rice … The free safety collected seven solo tackles and deflected one pass … He killed an early second quarter series by first tackling QB Chase Clement for a 2-yard loss on a bootleg and then knockdown down Clements' pass attempt on the next play.

Tulsa … Spillman closed out his career by making seven tackles (2 solos) … He also deflected a David Johnson pass at the start of the second quarter.

2007 Season

All-Conference USA second-team selection … Started all twelve games at free safety, ranking tied for twelfth in the nation while leading the team with a career-high 131 tackles (64 solos), the 11th-best season total in school history … Had 2.5 stops for minus 9 yards and advanced a 5 yards while causing three fumbles … Also deflected six passes.

2007 Game Analysis

Spillman opened the season with nine tackles and a pass break-up vs. Miami, adding eleven hits with 1.5 stops for loss and a pass deflection vs. West Virginia … Posted seventeen tackles (6 solos) with a forced fumble vs. New Hampshire and collected ten hits (7 solos) in the Cincinnati clash …

Had eight stops (5 solos), including one for a 3-yard loss and caused a fumble vs. Tulsa … Added eight more stops vs. Southern Mississippi and eleven tackles with a deflected pass in the Rice clash … Posted thirteen tackles (10 solos) vs. Central Florida and was in on thirteen hits in the East Carolina game … Returned a fumble recovery 5 yards, caused a fumble and registered sixteen tackles (6 solos) vs. Houston.

2006 Season

Spillman appeared in twelve games, starting nine contests at free safety, as he came off the bench vs. Hofstra, Tennessee and Central Florida … Changed from jersey #41 to #4 prior to the season opener … Ranked third on the team with 79 tackles (43 solos) that included 1.5 stops for losses of 9 yards … Caused a fumble and deflected four passes … Intercepted two passes for 85 yards in returns, including a touchdown.

2006 Game Analysis

Recorded ten tackles (4 solos) with a stop for a 1-yard loss vs. Central Florida … Made eight solo tackles, causing a fumble on a stop for an 8-yard loss vs. Southern Methodist … Produced nine hits vs. Alabama-Birmingham and returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown, as he broke up two passes and delivered eleven tackles in the Memphis game … Followed with eleven tackles vs. Tulane and was in on five hits, coming up with his second interception for the year vs. Texas-El Paso.

2005 Season

Played in eleven games, starting vs. Southern Methodist at free safety … Finished eighth on the squad with 38 tackles (20 solos), adding a stop for a 2-yard loss and a forced fumble … Batted away three passes and intercepted another for a 60-yard return.

2005 Game Analysis

Made his first tackle and forced a fumble vs. Kansas State … Added five stops (three assisted) in the Herd's 16-13 overtime win over Southern Methodist … Had eight tackles in a win over Alabama-Birmingham … Added seven tackles (4 solos) at Texas-El Paso … Made three tackles vs. Tulane and had a 60-yard interception return vs. East Carolina in the final home game of the season … Closed out the year with a season-high 11 tackles (9 solos) at Memphis.

2004 Season

Attended Fork Union Military Academy.

Injury Report

2008: Sat out the Houston game (10/28) with a hand contusion and a shoulder strain.

2009: Could not perform in the weight room at the NFL Combine due to a wrist sprain.

Agility Tests

Combine: 4.45 in the 40-yard dash … 1.49 10-yard dash … 2.57 20-yard dash … 4.33 20-yard shuttle … 7.05 three-cone drill … 41.5-inch vertical jump … 10'2" broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 15 times … 31 3/8-inch arm length … 9 1/2-inch hands.

High School

Attended Central (Louisville, Ky.) High School, playing football for head coaches Steve Serutte and John Shuman … Standout running back before moving to the defensive backfield … Earned All-State and All-Conference honors in each of his final two seasons … Led the team in interceptions as a senior. He also lettered three years in track.


Management major … Son of Carrie and Claude Spillman … Father played football at Western Kentucky … Born Claude Norman Spillman, Jr., on 5/06/86 … Resides in Louisville, Kentucky.


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