Continuing my ongoing series about prospects for the Dallas Cowboys, “The Guys No One Is Talking About”, I had to consider the Cowboys recent switch to a Tampa 2 Defense. This change in defensive philosophy creates a need for depth at the LB position. With the Cowboys dire need for depth on both the offensive and defensive lines, they need to find a solid LB in the middle to late rounds. Keith Pough is a good candidate for the position.
Keith Pough, OLB
Height/Weight: 6-2 239
Projected: 3rd to 4th round
School: Howard | Conference: MEAC
College Experience: Senior | Hometown: Orangesburg, NC
When I studied Pough, I was impressed by his motor. This guy possesses some excellent natural athletic ability. He has impressive range, and he is a good tackler. He doesn’t posses elite speed, but he is always around the ball. He is effective in coverage and plays the run well too. He does a real nice job of shedding blocks. He tends to keep his head down at times, so his eyes occasionally end up somewhere other than where they should be. He has extremely fluid hips and a nice pedal. He does a good job of getting up the field and being disruptive in the backfield. He doesn’t possess elite upper body strength, but he makes up for it by playing with good technique and quickness. As a 3 year starter, he amassed 292 tackles (97.3 per year on average), 17 sacks, 2 interceptions, deflected 9 passes and recovered 4 fumbles. Given that he played WR in High School he has excellent hands and ball skills which is a huge plus for a Tampa 2 LB.
Pough finished his career as the all-time leader in tackles for losses (71) in the FCS, earning MEAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2012. He was also the first Howard player to ever get invited to the East West Shrine Game where he really stood out to scouts. The big play making ability he showed will make him a top 5 small school prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. They have him listed as the 15th ranked OLB in the draft, but I disagree. I think the small school label has effected his stock.
According to NFL Draft Tracker:
It’s hard to imagine the tall, lean Pough as a 5-foot-8 wide receiver, but that’s exactly where he was his first two years of high school. By the time his senior year arrived, he was an all-state linebacker in South Carolina with offers to walk on multiple FBS programs. But he decided Howard was the best place for him to be, and his father Sam joined him as a wide receivers coach and video coordinator through the 2011 season. Five years later, “Kiwi” one of the most productive linebackers at any level of college football and has the athleticism to be a Will or Sam ‘backer at the next level.
Pough expected to start as a true freshman, but was forced to redshirt to get his academics in order. He started 10 games in 2009 (57 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, interception) and then earned first-team All-MEAC honors after leading the Football Championship Subdivision with 28.5 tackles for loss, tying for fifth with four fumbles, and tying for 10th with 10.5 sacks (he also had 100 total tackles on the year). Pough started every game and was first-team all-conference for the second straight season in 2011, also grabbing third-team AP FCS All-American accolades by racking up 120 tackles, 21 for loss (ranking 8th in the FCS), three sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. As a senior, Pough registered 72 tackles (10 for loss), and 3.5 sacks, while breaking up 4 passes. He finished up his career as the FCS all time record leader for tackles for loss.
Athletic chase linebacker with speed to close on quarterbacks in the pocket and running backs from the backside. Hustles to track down ballcarriers from across the formation, and has the length and change of direction skills to grab ballcarriers after engaging a lineman in a different gap. Usually finds the ball on misdirection plays. Brings bad intentions in his tackle attempts; drives targets back by dropping his hips and keeping his feet moving and straight-on meetings and throws down any ballcarrier in his path. Stays true to his containment responsibility and sheds blocks of FCS tight ends and tackles adeptly with strong hands and quickness. Willing to take on blockers in the hole or throw his body into tackles on the edge to help others make the play. Tosses aside running backs with strong hands when rushing the quarterback. Should be an effective open-lane blitzer due to his speed and flexibility to turn the corner or move around traffic in the pocket. Good movement skills in coverage, willing to lay the wood on short crossers when playing zone. Weaves his way through traffic with quick feet.
Presents a leaner build. Many of his plays occur when he’s unblocked; must prove he possesses the strength at the point of attack to take on NFL linemen if he expects to win one-on-one battles on blitzes or hold up against the run on the edge. Can also struggle to bring down stronger ballcarriers in the open field. Often leaves his feet before making the tackle, his speed and length make him effective bringing down FCS ballcarriers but he might lose those battles versus pro backs.
Pough is a tackles-for-loss machine, using his length and speed to chase ballcarriers from behind, as well as attitude to attack them in the hole. His tall, lean build and movement skills could make him a mid-round pick for teams looking for a coverage ‘backer or potential blitzing threat on the weak or strong sides of the formation.
You are entitled to your opinion, but I believe this player has the potential to develop in to a stud at the next level. If he is on the board when the Cowboys pick in the 4th round, I would take a flyer on him. He had been “A Guy No One Was Talking About” , but he is rapidly finding his way on to NFL team Radars. I included a video. I hope you enjoy watching him play as much as I did.