While Louisville isn't a small school, less is known from most Louisville prospects than their counterparts at Florida, Alabama, or Miami. That's why we went to Card Chronicle and asked Mike Rutherford five questions about our newest safety:
1. What are James Sample's strengths? What would his roles and responsibilities be in an ideal secondary?
Sample's biggest asset is his tackling ability. He was without question Louisville's best tackling defensive back last season, and might have been the best tackler in space on a defense that spent most of the year ranked in the top five nationally. He pursues ball carriers extremely well, and also showcased a knack for covering a great deal of ground when the ball was in the air.
If Sample had a major weakness last year it was biting on play fakes and trying too hard at times to make a play. You can chalk up much of the reason for that to the fact that last season was his first one playing extended snaps at the major college level. He arrived at Louisville right at the start of fall camp, and was the team's starter at safety for its season-opener against Miami less than a month later. For how little experience he had both at Louisville and in major college football in general, it's pretty remarkable how stellar he was in 2014.
2. Does Sample have any glaring weaknesses? Anything teams will take advantage of?
Again, his biggest is lack of experience. The good news is that all his major flaws -- biting on play fakes, taking unnecessary gambles, waiting for ball carriers to come to him -- are all ones that practice and coaching can fix. He's got all the physical tools necessary to play in the league for a long time, but it might take time for that potential to show its head to the fans in Jacksonville following him closely.
3. Should Sample have stayed at Louisville for an extra year?
Given the previous responses, it seems like the answer here should be yes, but I'm going to say that he made the right choice. Sample first played college football at Washington in 2011, which means this would have been his fifth year removed from high school.
Age is always a factor when it comes to the NFL Draft, and with it clear that Sample was going to be drafted at some point this year, it was hard to blame him for jumping at the opportunity.
4. What are some reasonable expectations for Sample's rookie year with the Jaguars? Can he realistically compete for the starting job?
I think it all depends on coaching and his ability to adapt. I wish I could give more insight into Sample's ability to adapt and develop, but the fact of the matter is he was only at Louisville for about five months. He was a tremendously consistent contributor throughout 2014, but the fact that I never had a chance to see where he was before leaves me unsure of just how good he could have been this season, or how good he could be as a professional. I'm really intrigued to see how he does this summer.
5. How do you like Sample's skill set with the Jaguars? Do you think he'll fit well, or are there some things he and the team will have to change?
I think Jacksonville is pretty much the perfect situation for Sample because the Jaguars have three safeties with considerable experience who are probably going to be tough for him to beat out. I think he could be utilized in certain packages and I think he could be a big asset on special teams, but he probably needs this year to learn and develop before he's viewed as a potential every down player at safety.
Then again, none of us here in Louisville expected him to be as valuable as he was for the entirety of last season, so there's certainly a chance that he surprises everyone down there and is a standout right out of the gate.