Gilmore was a Parade All-American and South Carolina's "Mr. Football" who led his high school team to a state title as an athletic quarterback in 2008, but most colleges saw him as a top-notch defensive back waiting to happen--though Spurrier and the rest of Gamecocks Nation didn't have to wait very long for him to realize his potential.
Gilmore started every game at cornerback in his first year on campus. He earned several Freshman All-American honors and Freshman All-SEC accolades from league coaches after making 56 tackles, six for loss, three sacks in addition to his intercepting of one pass and breaking up eight others. He also contributed as a punt returner (10.1 yard average) and as an occasional Wildcat quarterback. He continued his success in 2010, garnering third-team AP All-American and first-team All-SEC honors with 79 tackles, six for loss, three sacks, three interceptions and two pass deflections.
He may not put up a great forty yard-dash times at the Combine and his lack of bulk will put off some scouts, but Gilmore's height, aggressive nature in coverage, and ball skills make him a top 50 talent. Another big-play year in 2011 should be enough to entice a team utilizing zone schemes to project him as a long-time NFL playmaker.
Man Coverage: Plays mostly in press-bail or off-coverage. Flashes a tough, aggressive punch after the snap in rare press coverage occasions, but may not have the strength to knock NFL receivers off their routes. Not elite transitioning forward from backpedal, will take an extra step or loop a bit when closing on slants. Lacks elite recovery and straight-line speed to stay with faster wideouts down the field if beaten on a double move or losing a step off the line.
Zone Coverage: Fits best in a zone system like he currently plays. Knows his, and others', assignments on every play. Comes out initial read quickly to stop the underneath route dead. Quick feet in off coverage to adjust to inside routes, even when playing outside technique. Explodes to plays in front of him, cutting down his target or wrapping up if able to line up the receiver. Forces turnovers and dropped passes with his ability to arrive strong at the receiver with the ball.
Ball Skills: Makes quarterbacks pay for poor throws with centerfielder-like instincts and hands. Uses his height in full advantage on jump balls, make difficult catches with his hands extended away from his frame. Excellent elusiveness after the catch that shows as a punt returner. Has solid hands and typically makes the right decision to fair catch, but does not have breakaway speed and will dance or move east-west instead of heading straight upfield.
Run Support: Takes run support very seriously, seeking out contact. Chops down runs to his side when able, evades most receivers blocks with quickness and quick hands -- though NFL receivers will have regular success holding him up on the outside because of his slight build.
Tackling: Aggressive hitter in the secondary who plays without regard to his own safety. Best when coming downhill and cutting down ballcarriers with a low shoulder. Constantly looking to strip the football from ballcarriers while other defenders are making the tackle. Man-up tackling is a challenge for him, however, when facing a strong runner who lowers his pads or larger receivers with the length to stiff-arm him. Plays on coverage units. Brought on edge blitzes regularly when front four isn't getting there, uses quickness and big hits to create turnovers from the blind side.
Intangibles: Quiet, hard-working player who consistently gets praises from coaches and teammates about his work ethic and attitude. Puts in time in the film room, knows his opponents and defensive scheme inside and out. No worries about on-field effort, brings tenacious attitude on every play."
Can keep his base down and under himself initially, but his base level rises the longer he's asked to sit into his drop. However, collects himself quickly and showcases a good initial burst when asked to turn and run. Uses his length well to work an arm bar toward the sideline. Is fluid in his hips, cleanly out of his backpedal and gets up to speed quickly.
Exhibits good straight-line speed for his size (played like a mid 4.4 guy) and made it tough on defenders to separate vertically. Showcases some strength off the line when asked to press, has the ability to re-route because of his size, length and quickness, but needs to continue to improve his footwork in order to stay more compact/balanced.
Isn't nearly as balanced in off/zone concepts. Has a tendency to want to get upright and open up his hips prematurely. Doesn't feel the routes of receivers overly well, at times he gives up far too much cushion underneath and struggles to get back out of his breaks.
Will get caught with his hips locked prematurely with his back to the sideline and is forced to get overextended with his footwork in order to click and close or simply bail out of his drop and turn his back to the receiver in order to loop around toward the football.
Needs to do a better job being more patient in his drop, sitting lower and staying more compact with his footwork. However, he is the kind of athlete that can improve in this area.
He showcases natural bend, quickness and fluidity to his game. When he does set his feet, showcases a good closing burst on the football. Exhibits good range in the deep half with above-average ball skills in space.
Will even line-up at safety at times. Does a nice job reading the action in front of him and getting early jumps on the ball. However, doesn't always trust what he sees when asked to close and can get a bit tentative at times.
Nevertheless, is a "plus" tackler at the position who isn't afraid to come up near the line of scrimmage and throw his weight around. Is a strong kid who generates a pop on contact and will wrap on the play. At times gets a bit lazy wrapping, but has the skill set and length to fend off blocks on the edge and breakdown on the ball carrier.
Impression: Is a "plus" sized corner with good quickness and fluidity. Needs to clean up his footwork in off/zone concepts, but has skill set to play near the line, check receivers and turn and run. Should be able to fight for a starting role during his rookie year."
Gilmore plays boundary cornerback for South Carolina and is routinely asked to cover the opposing team's top wide receiver. The only thing keep Gilmore back from being considered a top prospect is that he's raw. His skill and athleticism are evident and he shows advanced football intelligence for a junior-to-be.
But Gilmore really needs to improve on his technique. It would also help Gilmore's game if he got stronger. He's a long, lean cornerback who lacks some strength but could be great if he's stronger.
Games Viewed: (All 2010) Auburn, Florida, Florida State
Bold Statement: If Gilmore can improve his technique and get stronger, he'll get strong consideration for the first round whenever he chooses to enter the draft.
• South Carolina plays in a lot of zone coverage, so Gilmore doesn't have a lot of good bump and run experience. Plays more off-man coverage and will need to get stronger to make it in tight bump and run.
• Is a smooth, fluid athlete who can flip his hips open to turn and run with the wide receiver.
• Helps make the calls in the secondary which is impressive for a player with only two years experience.
• Speed appears decent but nothing special. Has some trouble recovering when he's beaten over the top.
• Shows good but not great hands in coverage. Had three interceptions and two pass deflections in 2010.
• Solid tackling as a cornerback. Knows proper form and can get aggressive.
• Gilmore has been a versatile player for South Carolina. In addition to cornerback, he returns punts and has even lined up at quarterback in wildcat formations."
Physical player led the team in tackles last fall with 79; likes to get in the face of receivers at the line of scrimmage;
Also can turn and run, but has only average recovery speed; tracks the ball and has good hands, but could make more plays when the ball is in the air;
Experienced player gets to battle with Gamecocks’ WR Alshon Jeffery, arguably the best receiver in college football every day at practice; outstanding athlete ran for over 1,300 yards and passed for another 1,700 while accounting for 37 TDs as a high school senior and has worked some as a wildcat QB at USC;
Still may lack the pure foot speed to be a lockdown corner at the next level, but has the overall tools to be a solid #2 and could also get some looks at FS."
As a sophomore he was named by the Associated Press to the All-America Third Team and to the All-SEC Second team. The conference's coaches named him to the All-SEC First Team.
In 2010 he had three sacks, six tackles for loss, and led the Gamecocks with 79 tackles. So far this season Gilmore has 29 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups through seven games to go along with a fumble recovery that he returned 56 yards.
A native of Rock Hill, SC, Gilmore stands at 6'1'' and 193 pounds--good size for a player at his position. He generally runs around a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash, but has been clocked as fast as 4.42 from that distance.
His speed will have to improve a little bit if he wants to become an elite cornerback in the NFL.
Taylor is not afraid to be physical with wideouts at the line of scrimmage and he is a sound tackler in addition to excelling when asked to blitz. His coverage skills are average or slightly above average, but he has to get better around the ball."
+ Size- 6’1 195lb cornerback
+ Versatility- can rush the quarterback, equally effective in zone and man
+ Strength- can jam receivers effectively in press; good tackler
+ Instincts/Intelligence- understands offenses, great on field awareness, has a nose for the football
+ Character- plays hard, SEC all-academic
+ Returns punts
- Average speed (anything average is a negative for a first round prospect)
- Average fluidity
- Below average ball skills
- Didn’t actually return punts effectively
I love South Carolina junior cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The value he has on the Gamecock’s defense is immense. I don’t know where they would be without him.
Gilmore has good physical tools. He has tremendous height for a corner (6’1), solid bulk, and decent speed for his size. He also has good strength. However, he isn’t the most fluid athlete changing directions, and he takes a while to reach top speed, which can occasionally hurt him on the deep ball when he is trying to recover.
Gilmore is excellent in man coverage. He displays ideal route recognition skills, and he uses his strength and physicality to dominate in press man coverage. He also uses his hands well to prevent separation and reroute receivers in press coverage. SEC quarterbacks rarely look his way in man coverage.
Gilmore is a natural in zone coverage. He is one of the most instinctive corners I’ve ever seen. He is a natural at reading the quarterback’s eyes, he has a sixth sense of knowing what receivers if any are running through his zone even if he is staring at the quarterback (probably just great peripheral vision), and he is always in position to make a play on the receiver. He is also disciplined in coverage.
Gilmore has great instincts and knowledge of the game. He isn’t fooled by play actions or trick plays, he has ideal discipline in coverage allowing him to be there to make a play, and he has a nose for the football.
He has a great knowledge of the game that allows him to read offenses and send signals to other defenders, and his on field awareness & intelligence is fantastic. A great example of this can be seen early in the 2010 game against Georgia.
Gilmore intentionally did a stutter step with his feet before the play without going in to the neutral zone and successfully tricked a receiver into doing a false start.
He also makes sure to disguise his role in the defense’s coverage scheme, often moving farther off the receiver or getting into position for press man after the quarterback has done his pre-snap reads and is about to snap the ball.
Something that I also saw with Gilmore is underrated versatility. To start, he is probably the best blitzing cornerback I have ever seen. He disguises his blitz brilliantly, he does a good job of using his hands and quickness to shed off blocks, and he hits the quarterback quickly enough so that the quarterback doesn’t have time to get rid of the football if/when Gilmore sheds his block.
He also shows run stopping ability, and he always does a good job when playing a deep zone (mainly in cover 3), which makes me think that if he doesn’t do a great job at corner in the NFL (which I doubt will happen), he could have an effective career at safety.
He also is South Carolina’s punt returner, which shows he has some explosiveness and power with the ball in his hands (Admittedly, he isn’t a great punt returner). Also, in the Florida State game, South Carolina used him as a wildcat quarterback for a few plays in the 4th quarter, and he was brilliant.
He played quarterback in high school, and threw a perfectly accurate 29 yard pass to Alshon Jeffrey in the drive, and he did a good job of running the football. Don’t be surprised to see Gilmore play in Wildcat formations every once in a while in the NFL.
Gilmore’s biggest issue is a lack of ball skills. He doesn’t accelerate quickly enough to jump routes, and he has short arms that can make it difficult to deflect passes. However, he rarely drops potential interceptions.
In the end, I think of Gilmore as a future NFL pro bowl corner. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I love corners with size (for those who don’t want to read the whole thing, I’ll summarize it; big corners with strength can jam the release of wide receivers to the point that safeties have the freedom to line up closer to the line of scrimmage and still cover a deep zone, because the receivers took a longer time to get into their route). Gilmore’s size and strength entices me. His production in coverage is phenomenal. And he will be a great player in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Charles Woodson. It’s funny that the first 3 players I wrote scouting reports on for the 2012 draft were all compared to Packers (Andrew Luck to Aaron Rodgers for underrated mobility, Joe Adams to Greg Jennings for their ability to create yards after the catch). Gilmore bears much resemblance to Woodson; excellent size, average speed, returned punts in college, great strength, and outstanding ability to stop the run. Woodson has more of a knack for interceptions, but what is probably the biggest evidence of resemblance is their pass rushing ability. They are 2 of the best blitzing corners ever to play the game. And they are both great players
Grade: 98 (deserves to be a top 6 pick)
Projection: 96 (likely to be drafted around pick 12)"