Eric Berry is a joy to watch. He not only makes plays, but he leads, calls coverage audibles and most impressively, always, always seems to be in the right place ready to make the play. For his game alone, Berry is a top prospect. Combine that game with freakish athleticism, and you have a talent no team should pass on.
Virginia Tech had a formation du jour, and apart from variations and one two tight end look, played every down of the next two series out of some variant of: 2WR (one side), WR (opposite side), TE, RB, Shotgun. The formations were balanced. If a tight end was right, the running back would be left.
1. 1st and 10 at VT 21 Tyrod Taylor pass complete to Ryan Williams for a loss of 6 yards to the VTech 15.
Berry is both safety and corner. He starts shaded deep, or, precisely, 9.5 yards from the line of scrimmage and over the right slot. The right slot receiver runs a square in. Williams shades right and receives. The slot receiver is supposed to clear space for Williams - specifically, clear Berry. He doesn't. Berry reads the play right away, runs down, bubbles around his linebacker and towards the right sideline, sprints and delivers a form tackle in the open field to drop Williams for a loss of six.
2. 2nd and 16 at VT 15 Tyrod Taylor pass incomplete to Jarrett Boykin.
Berry is over left slot and seven yards from the line of scrimmage. He shades left into over cover, but does not factor further.
3. 3rd and 16 at VT 15 Tyrod Taylor pass incomplete to Marcus Davis.
Berry is again over left slot, and again well off his receiver. He starts 10 yards off, but drops to 15 before the pass. Incomplete.
(Tennessee scores a touchdown)
1. 1st and 10 at VT 40 Ryan Williams rush for 5 yards to the VTech 45.
Berry is over the right slot and puts himself into outside/over position. It's a run left though, and Berry does not factor.
2. 2nd and 5 at VT 45 Ryan Williams rush for 5 yards to the 50 yard line for a 1ST down.
Ditto. This time on a run up the middle.
3. 1st and 10 at TENN 50 Ryan Williams rush for a loss of 2 yards to the VTech 48.
Berry plays deep center, but can hardly move before the run is sniffed out and squashed for a loss.
4. 2nd and 12 at VT 48 Tyrod Taylor pass incomplete to Dyrell Roberts.
Berry starts by bracketing the right slot, but his eyes are always darting back to the quarterback. When Taylor ducks pressure and attempts to scramble up the middle, Berry is there to cap his rush lane and force a throw.
5. 3rd and 12 at VT 48 Tyrod Taylor rush for 21 yards to the Tenn 31 out-of-bounds for a 1ST down.
Berry calls a coverage audible and the Volunteers move into what looks like man cover. Berry mans up the right slot receiver. He is initially run off right, but recovers. Taylor breaks contain and races into the open field. He rushes out of bounds left, and there's Berry, not blindly charging into the play, but running across the field to shadow, play safety should Taylor have broken even farther.
6. 1st and 10 at TENN 31 Tyrod Taylor pass incomplete to Jarrett Boykin.
I love this play. Berry is over the right slot receiver. A linebacker is playing over the right tight end. The Hokies run a combination route: The right slot receiver runs a square in, and the right tight end runs a streak. Just about five yards off the line, the two routes intersect, so that either Berry is rubbed off coverage from the slot receiver, the linebacker is isolated on Andre Smith, or both. Berry makes a split second read, and a good one. He sees the square in runs into the middle linebacker's hook zone and so the slot is effectively covered. He then negotiates the intersection and combines with the linebacker to double team Smith. Taylor passes left and overthrows Boykin. Berry does not directly factor, but he helps remove a target by reading the play and the making the best decision.
7. 2nd and 10 at TENN 31 Tyrod Taylor sacked by Dan Williams and Rico McCoy for a loss of 9 yards to the Tenn 40.
Berry starts over right slot and the right slot receiver again runs a square in. This time, Berry sinks into middle-deep cover. Taylor is sacked.
8. 3rd and 19 at TENN 40 Tyrod Taylor pass intercepted by Janzen Jackson at the Tenn 23, returned for 29 yards to the VTech 48 out-of-bounds.
Berry starts over right slot but separates and shades over Ryan Williams running towards the right flat. Taylor reads the coverage, sees his man running behind Janzen Jackson and delivers a good if not perfect pass. Jackson goes All-Madden, appearing in the throwing lane and stretching out to high point and intercept the pass. Game of inches.