After examining where fellow safety recruit Ykili Ross might fit with the Trojans, it's clear the type of safeties USC is looking for -- big, long and versatile. They want Sua Cravens-types who can drop down into the box and play the run, if need be. And that's the way football is headed, toward athletic guys like Dion Bailey (in his USC days), as well as Lavonte David, Jamie Collins, and DeAndre Levy in the NFL who can do a variety of things in today's world of matchup-based football.
Marvell Tell appears to be exactly that. Check out his tape:
The first thing that sticks out is the fact that he's such a smooth athlete. He changes direction so easily and has great feet and hips. Check him out in coverage:
Tell starts off in a backpedal, then flips his hips and effortlessly transitions to a sprint. He goes on to make the interception on this play, but his awesome technique is what is the most important. Coverage ability is essential in today's style of football and Tell certainly appears to have it.
He wasn't ever matched up in single man-coverage on his tape, so it's hard to envision what his ability will be if he's ever forced to cover slot receivers. Still, as a safety, dropping back into a deep third or quarter zone of the field is what he'll likely be asked to do most often, and it looks like he'll be just fine doing that.
Ball skills are also a major bonus for a defensive back, and Marvell Tell has shown an excellent ability to use his hands to catch the football (as opposed to letting it get into his body) as well as "high-pointing" the ball. Here's what I mean:
You can see Tell go up and attack the ball, catching it at its highest point. His size along with these ball skills give him more range than defensive backs who may be better athletically (see: Sherman, Richard).
But perhaps where Marvell Tell will be most valuable will be in run support. Not only does he deliver big hits, but his tackling technique is natural. On his film, he consistently goes low, gains leverage, wraps up, and runs through the tackle, which is exactly how it's done. The fact that he can tackle so soundly at 6'2" is a great sign, and combining his technique with his natural size means he'll be the one delivering the hits, not taking them.
Tell is an impressive athlete, but his natural football ability (hips, ball skills, tackling) is what really sets him apart. It appears that he will make an excellent safety who can play deep in coverage or fill in run support. After this past year's secondary performance, Tell will be a sorely needed addition in 2015 and on.