Why Ragin' Cajuns nose tackle Tayland Humphrey decided wait another year for NFL Draft
The size is evident. The strength, unquestioned. The potential, apparent.
But when it came time to decide whether to turn pro or stay in school, Humphrey didn’t waver.
“The first reason I came back is because I feel like I wasn’t ready to go that next level yet and I wasn’t fully equipped,” he said.
“Not only that, I came back to win a championship.”
Yet Humphrey had made up his mind about returning long before UL, which lost at Appalachian State in the 2018 and ’19 Sun Belt Conference Championship games, was denied a shot at Coastal Carolina in the 2020 title game because of COVID-19 issues within the Chanticleers program.
He knew what he wanted to do, which is why this spring is so vital for the 6-foot-5, 333-pounder from Klein Oak High near Houston.
“The biggest thing right now is just his foot quickness,” defensive line coach Rory Segrest said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on that,” added Segrest, a former Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach, “and he’s really made a lot of progress this spring.”
More takeaways:Expectations for the Ragin' Cajuns defense are high
Cajun coaches approve
The improvement is met with approval from Cajun coaches who gave Humphrey a shot when he left Florida International after spending the 2018 season there.
“I think we are scratching the surface,” defensive coordinator Patrick Toney said when asked about Humphrey’s potential.
“Tayland played really well (last season), but I think Tayland has attacked this offseason probably as well as anybody. … He’s working on his lateral (movement) – change of direction – (and) his technique, fundamentals.”
It’s not just on the field, though, that strides are being made.
“(He’s) not just physically imposing, but (it’s) also the intangibles: The way he goes about his work, the discipline he has,” strength coach Mark Hocke said. “For being as big as he is, he’s also very athletic. … He’s focused, he’s locked in.”
“Tayland has really grown and matured as a person,” coach Billy Napier said of Humphrey, who played two seasons at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College before moving to FIU. “I think that’s probably what I’m most proud of from Tayland, is his consistency, his discipline, his loyalty to the team, his attitude and work ethic. … I think you see some of the maturity and growth, and we’re really proud of Tayland. He’s got such a high ceiling, right?”
That’s the big unknown.
Segrest isn’t big on comparisons, but the first name that comes to mind for him is Antonio Dixon, who spent time with the Eagles and Indianapolis Colts from 2009-13 after going undrafted out of Miami.
Segrest called Dixon “just a big, powerful, massive guy.”
“Tayland is a little bit longer,” Segrest said.
“He’s probably a little bit more developmental, probably a little more upside, just because of his length and his lack of playing time. … His ceiling is what he makes it.”
Humphrey started all 10 games in which he appeared last year, making 32 total tackles including a career-high seven in a win over Appalachian State.
“And that was a marquee matchup – him on the center (two-time first team All-Sun Belt pick Noah Hannon) at App State,” Toney said. “He (Humphrey) took that game over. And there were multiple games last year he did that. I think he can take that to another level.”
So does Segrest, who feels it starts with shedding some of the pounds Humphrey has added since last season ended.
“We had talked about him dropping potentially about 15; I think that’s probably a good range for him,” Segrest said.
“So I do think he’s a little on the heavy side right now, but he knows that and we have plenty of time to get that done and just continue to focus on the improvement areas.”
Areas like the footwork.
Areas like the use of his hands too.
“Just being able to strike, press, steer blockers, his feet – all those things kind of tie in,” said Segrest, who feels Humphrey is best suited to play on an odd-man front at the next level.
For Humphrey, it’s all about using his final college offseason to improve his chances at sticking in the NFL – and overcoming whatever odds are stacked against him.
“I just attack everything like this is my last day, like it’s going to be my last workout,” he said. “When I get out to practice I practice like it’s my last practice. I practice like the world’s watching.”