Dillon Bates: Top Coverage LB in Nation?
*Photo courtesy of The Bleacher Report
Player: Dillon Bates
Position: Outside Linebacker
Height/Weight: 6'3 215
High School: Ponte Vedra Beach (FL) High School
Dillon Bates is a 2014 outside linebacker from Ponte Vedra, Florida. Dillon has offers from over two dozen schools, including Texas, Notre Dame, Florida, Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCLA and Virginia Tech. His father is former Tennessee Vol and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates. The Volunteers are thought by some to be the leader for his services, along with Notre Dame, Florida, and Alabama. Bates is expect to trim his list to five by the end of the summer.
Pros: Westcott Eberts (@ghostofbigroy) sums up Bates' overall appeal nicely:
"Bates is a prospect who projects as versatile enough in college to handle himself in space against spread teams, but also has the frame and overall size to be able to match up against offensive linemen at the second level."
Bates is also an instinctive, intelligent playmaker at linebacker. There were several plays on his highlight tape where Bates simply ran the route with the receiver and made the interception. He's as good as the come at playing the pass at the linebacker position.
Here, we have Bates lined up on the outside near a three receiver set. Ponte Vedra is in a zone.
When the ball is snapped, the two outside receivers immediately move to block the corner to free up the slot receiver (circled in yellow) for a quick screen.
Bates diagnoses the play correctly, breaks his zone coverage, and jumps the route. Had Bates hesitated, the play was blocked and set up well for a big gain.
Lets look at one more. This one might be favorite play in the whole reel. Here's how the play starts out:
Once again, Ponte Vedra is in zone. Although this is tough to see from a still frame, Bates is drifting to his right. The opposing QB sees that and waits for his receiver to clear Bates so he can hit him on the slant.
As soon as the flanker goes into his break on the slant, Bates quickly changes direction back to his left and makes the interception. It's tough to tell, but it looks to me like he baited (or Bated? Too much?) the QB into the throw to make the pick. Heady stuff if so. It comes as no surprise. Bates has consistently been lauded as a great coverage linebacker at the camps he's attended.
Bates is also a good open field tackler. He's not flashy and he rarely blows people up, but he displays good form and wraps up solidly. Frankly, you'd don't need more than one or two headhunters on a college defense. What you need is a bunch of solid, disciplined football players who know their assignments and eliminate mistakes. That's what you're going to get with Bates. He's going to read the play, take good angles to the ball carrier, and bring him down effectively.
Several other industry experts have also raved about his versatility. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bates crosstrain at outside and inside backer in college. Bates is very good at knowing how and when to shed blocks, which is necessary to play on the inside.
Cons: Bates didn't blow me away with his lateral quickness and overall athleticism on film. He has solid, but not elite ability in those departments. I was initially surprised by that, since I've seen some impressive numbers listed for him, i.e. a 35 inch vertical leap. Speed has also been raised as somewhat of a question mark surrounding Bates. ESPN lists a time of 4.78, which I assume to be a camp time. Scout lists a 4.6, which is probably inaccurate.
Bates will struggle breaking out of blocks and getting caught up in the wash until he puts on some weight.
Bottom Line: Bill Bates always got the most out of his ability. Tom Landry once said:
"If we had 11 players on the field who played as hard as Bill Bates does and did their homework like he does, we'd be almost impossible to beat"
His son plays a similarly disciplined, smart brand of football, but Bates has more raw talent than his dad and will end up being bigger. Bates can easily add more weight to his frame. He's a guy that could crack the two deep as a freshman. I'm not quite as high on him as Rivals (#58 in the nation), but he's very good. Solid four star talent who may not have the athletic ceiling of some, but he has a much higher floor. He reminds me of former Longhorn linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Full highlight video can be found below.
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