Since the Jacksonville Jaguars seem to specialize in drafting "unknown players", I felt it necessary to try and get some information on the players for the readers so that we can "know" them. I was able to catch up with Adam Sparks from BlueRaiders.com and a Middle Tennessee State beat writer, to ask some questions about the Jaguars fifth round pick.
What position did Rod Issac play specifically at MTSU?
Cornerback for the majority of his career. But because of his experience - he started five games as a true freshman, etc. - and versatility, Rod was MTSU's swingman in the secondary. He is proven guy at nickelback, where a lot of NFL teams projected him at. I think he'll play nickel and corner for the Jags. He's also been a standout player on special teams his whole career. He's a good returner and especially an exceptional cover guy on kickoff and punts, mostly because he loves contact. I think his versatility and special teams value could help his chances in making the team.
What does he (Issac) excel at, what is he known for on the field?
Two things - (1) Playing very physical against the run. He loves contact and never shies away from hitting a running back, no matter how big the ball-carrier. Rod prides himself on playing with an attacking style. For example, you rarely see him make tackles falling to ground, as some DBs do. He likes to put the ball-carrier on his back. In that way, Rod's style has always reminded me of a linebacker's mentality, more than corner.
(2) Rod has good speed (4.38 in 40), but his game-speed (especially closing speed) is even better. Since his freshman year, Rod has made a habit of running down ball-carriers from behind. For just one of many examples, see him run down Miami (Ohio) WR Armand Robinson (No. 11) in GoDaddy.com Bowl... it's the second play of the highlight video. In a game a couple years ago, Rod was questionable with an ankle injury. But when Louisiana-Monroe QB Kinsmon Lancaster (a running QB with 4.4 speed) broke a long run, Rod closed a 15-yard gap in a couple seconds and tackled him from behind - again, with a bad ankle.
What is something he'll really need to work on at the NFL level?
General pass coverage. Not that it's a weakness, but Rod has been a better run stopper than pass defender in his career. His pass coverage improved a lot the last couple of seasons. Because of his speed, Rod hardly ever gets beat deep. But there have been a few times when he was a half-second slow to react to the ball when it arrived. Most of that was early in his career, but I'd say pass coverage needs the most work - especially against NFL-caliber receivers.
How is Issac known as far as being a hard worker, film study?
He's very coachable, very motivated, and he loves a challenge. His work ethic is very strong. Rod spent his entire college career playing with 3- and 4-year starters in the secondary, so they have all learned the value of good communication and film study.
What's something about Issac off the field Jaguars fans should know about, non-football related?
This is kind of a follow-up to the last question, but Rod is a chip-on-the-shoulder guy (in a good way). On the field, some of his best plays were made soon after a bad play (which shows a short memory, a good trait for a DB). He seems to always be motivated by the possibility of failure. But that mentality is simply an extension of his off-the-field personality. Rod said he grew up in "bad part" of Miami (drugs, crime, gangs, etc.), and he was motivated to work his way out of that type of life. As a result, he worked his way into becoming an NFL prospect and, just as important, a college graduate in only three-and-a-half years. Rod doesn't take anything for granted.