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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Know some of you are done with the whole Eric Berry vs. Taylor Mays debate, but obviously there's some interest.
At Pac-10 media day I chatted with the one coach who can provide real insight into the discussion: UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.
He's faced both Berry and Mays in 2008.
Here's what he said about Mays:
"Taylor is the unblocked tackler. Because of their defense's structure, it's hard to get a body on him. So he comes down and becomes that extra guy at the point of attack who makes a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage... His impact is more felt in the run game... Taylor is more of a downhill player, although he plays centerfield very well. He can do both, which makes him unique. He's Steve Atwater but can also play centerfield."
"Berry is more of a guy who makes plays on the back end. He's an Ed Reed type of guy who sort of wanders around and doesn't necessarily play the rule of the coverage and trusts his instincts. Coaches get to a place where they are so comfortable with his instincts they let him gamble a little bit."
What I read into this is Berry perhaps made more plays on the ball because he's allowed more freedom in the Volunteers' system. Considering the Vols will use a new system this fall -- and with Monte Kiffin making the calls it will be similar to USC's -- it will be interesting to see if Berry gets to freelance as much.
Neuheisel also has coached in the NFL. I asked him what he thought of each as NFL prospects. He focused on Mays more than Berry.
"The only question they have about Taylor is what position. He runs a straight line as fast as anybody. The question is how he'll do on the agility drills. And I would bet he will be terrific at them and be highly sought after."
What I read into this is what I've heard from other observers: Berry is a sure-thing. Barring injury, he's going to be a great NFL safety -- the Reed comparison seems compelling on many levels.
With Mays, his freakishness actually creates questions: Will a 235-pound guy, no matter how fast, be quick enough laterally to do what NFL defenses need a free safety to do?
Or his he a strong safety? Or a hybrid linebacker.
Berry is plug, play and go.
Mays, a great athlete and great football player, is a bit of a mystery, though he could end up with more upside than Berry.