If you know Jeremy Pruitt, then you know his specialty is coaching the defensive backfield.
We’ve seen it on game day and we’ve seen it when it comes to the development of his players, e.g. Nigel Warrior. The man knows how to reach his defensive backs and get them in the best position(s) possible to succeed.
When you think of Tennessee’s secondary, the first names that likely come to mind are Bryce Thompson, Theo Jackson, Baylen Buchanan, Jaylen McCollough, and Alontae Taylor, but there’s one kid who can really make a name for himself in 2020 and that’s Shawn Shamburger.
It’s time to meet the “Star” of the defense.
Shawn Shamburger’s 2019 season
Final stat line: 47 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBUs
A lot of folks may remember Shamburger for his late hit on Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant that prompted a penalty flag and subsequent dressing down by Pruitt on the sidelines, but the then-junior had a lowkey good year in 2019.
He really found a home playing the “Star” (nickelback) in Pruitt’s defense. Shamburger finished fifth on the team in total tackles and tackles for loss, tied for second in sacks, tied for fourth in interceptions, and tied for fifth in pass break-ups.
It takes good quickness, solid tackling skills, and coverage ability to play the position, and Shamburger demonstrated that he can do all of the above.
What needs to happen for Shawn Shamburger to take the next step in 2020?
The former three-star recruit is an excellent run defender at 5-foot-11, 185-pounds. He knows how to read his fits, is very physical and is about as sure a tackler as you can find. Receivers can’t block him 1-v-1 for the most part, which makes Shamburger an asset in the nickel defense.
He has good coverage skills, but that’s certainly the area he needs to work on the most in order to have a breakout year. Shamburger uses his physicality to jam receivers at the line and throw them off routes in the open field, but that can hurt him if he isn’t in the proper position or is taken out of the proper leverage.
The final six games saw Shamburger record 17 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, and two pass break-ups compared to 30 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one interception.
Just get those interception and PBU numbers up, kid. If he can continue the momentum from 2019, then the sky is the limit in 2020.
I think Shamburger is poised for a major year, but it’s not just about what he can do. I think an ever-improving defense on all levels (even if they have to replace some major contributors) will help push Shamburger to the next level.
Don’t be surprised if he takes a Warrior-like step improvement-wise in 2020. That’s not to say Shamburger hasn’t lived up to expectations like Warrior did over his first few years, it’s just saying that he will take a big, big step forward this year.