Exhibits above-average range when asked to run sideline-to-sideline, works hard in pursuit and can consistently make plays away from his frame. Does a nice job keeping himself clean, as he isn’t a guy who can take on blocks inside. Is easily sealed from the play once an opposing lineman gets his hands on him, but has a good feel inside with the body control to spin off/run around blocks and quickly close on the football.
Exhibits slightly above-average instincts in coverage with the balance and fluidity in his drop to quickly make his way down the field and redirect out of his breaks. Loves to be really physical off the line, consistently delivering a good jolt on contact and disrupting the timing of receivers into their routes. Has the range to run down the seam and can be difficult to separate from down the field in man coverage.
Impression: A nasty little linebacker who is a bit limited because of his size, but is the ideal kind of late round, cover two type pick who can end up making and eventually contributing to an NFL roster."
As a freshman Brian Rolle played mostly on special teams and recorded 18 tackles and a sack on the season. As a sophomore he totaled 21 tackles with an interception, playing primarily on special teams. He started at middle linebacker as a junior, posting a career-high 94 tackles and an interception. As a senior captain in 2010, he put up 76 tackles with three sacks and two interceptions and was named first-team All-Big Ten.
Rolle is a very athletic, undersized linebacker who needs to find the right system to be successful in the NFL. He projects to be drafted as an outside linebacker in the mid-to-late rounds. He plays at top speed and is capable of making big hits, but he has below-average awareness and gets engulfed by big offensive lineman. His best chance to be successful is most likely with a team that runs the Tampa Two and can take advantage of his speed and agility.
Strengths: Good overall athlete with a quick burst. Has good agility. Plays on the balls of his feet and can change direction quickly. Can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. Aggressive tackler and can make the big hit. Flips his hips open in coverage to turn and trail. Drops quickly and can get back and cover deep zones. Keeps receivers in front of him and his eyes on the quarterback. Very aggressive in coverage, regularly knocking receivers off their routes. Runs well with tight ends and running backs in man coverage. Tackles with a low base and attacks the ballcarriers' lower body. Avoids cut blocks. Gets into the backfield very quickly when blitzing. Effectively weaves his way through the interior of the line. Good blitz timing.
Weaknesses: Undersized and really struggles to fight off blocks. Does not have great balance and is knocked to the ground easily. Overpursues and struggles to break down and square himself up for the tackle. Struggles to work his way through traffic. Does not take good angles on inside runs. Tends to lead with his shoulder rather than wrap up ballcarriers. Does not read misdirection well. Does not possess good instincts as a blitzer. Will takes plays off. Does not get into a ready position fast enough and is often caught off guard by the snap."
Positive: Small yet fearless linebacker who makes plays sideline to sideline. Fast moving in all directions of the field, fluid getting out to the flanks, and gets depth on pass drops. Quick to read and diagnose the action. Fires up the field filling gaps in run defense then immediately changes direction and loses no momentum. Displays tremendous range on the field, has a burst to the play, and is effective in pursuit. Breaks down well, gets his hands up, and is rarely off his feet.
Negative: Does not have great size. Easily turned from the action by single blocker and gets swallowed up in the trash. Drag-down tackler and struggles to bring opponents down at the point of attack.
Analysis: Rolle has been a terrific linebacker who was out of place in the middle of Ohio State's defense. Size limits him at the next level, but he could be an effective backup in a one-gap system or potentially get consideration at strong safety. Plays with a special teams mentality, which enhances his possibilities in the NFL."
Negatives: Undersized for the position, plays a lot more like a hybrid safety/linebacker, has good speed, but is very small... Has not put up flashy numbers in any given year, especially in the solo tackles department (86 career solo tackles)... Only four career sacks, three of which came in 2010, went 2008 and 2009 seasons without a sack... Inconsistent production, recorded five or fewer tackles six times in 2010... Tackles a little high at times, leaves feet or drags down ball carrier at the shoulder pads, which he will not be able to do against larger backs in the NFL... Has limited upside at the linebacker position, may find himself as predominantly a special teams contributor early in career... May project better as a safety in the NFL, has the speed, quickness and ball skills to play safety, and is simply too small to be a productive full-time linebacker at the next level."
The problem for Rolle though is that he is extremely undersized for the position at the NFL level. Prototypical outside linebackers are at least a few inches taller and inside linebackers can sometimes be even bigger. But because of his speed and penchant for tackling, it is possible that Rolle projects as a strong safety in the NFL.
Due to that positional projection though, Rolle doesn't quite fit with what most teams want out of the strong safety. For teams that line up their strong safety to assist in run support, Rolle is a good fit. He plays downhill toward the football. If he is going to stay at OLB, he needs to work on his hands, not for catching, but for disengaging from would-be blockers. Using his hands in space to get free from blockers who, in the NFL, will be much larger and stronger than him.
Brian Rolle projects as a late sixth to seventh round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft."
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