Nebraska ended a 91-day drought Monday, as Jacksonville, Florida, cornerback Quran Hafiz verbally committed to Nebraska. Hafiz is Nebraska’s 14th commit in the 2017 class and the first cornerback commit in the class. As a senior, Hafiz helped lead the Saints to a 7-2 record and the first round of the Florida Class 8A state playoffs.
Hafiz is listed as a three-star recruit with an 84.5 rating in the Hail Varsity national composite ranking.
Current Nebraska cornerback Chris Jones gets an assist in this recruiting victory, as the current Blackshirt played a huge role in alerting Nebraska to the talented Floridian. Hafiz finished his recruitment with 35 FBS offers, including tenders from Virginia Tech, South Florida and Minnesota.
Hafiz took a deliberate approach to the recruiting process, as he took five official visits before making his collegiate decision. Despite taking visits to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State and Minnesota, Hafiz chose the Huskers where he will be an early enrollee. This will allow him to take part in Nebraska’s spring practices.
Hafiz measures in at 6-1 and 175 pounds. Hafiz looks more like a college point guard than a football player at this point, as he has an extremely lean build along with extremely long arms.
Hafiz fits the mold that Nebraska is looking for in its cornerbacks, as he has the length necessary to play press coverage in defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s press quarters scheme. Hafiz will definitely need a redshirt season, as he is currently too light to play consistent snaps.
Hafiz has a tremendous frame to work with, so he should measure in at around 6-1 and 195 pounds once he is finished filling out.
His tackling ability: There are very few cornerbacks that come out of high school that can be defined as intimidating tacklers, but Hafiz is one of the few that fits the bill. Hafiz shows tremendous explosion when entering contact, as he does a tremendous job of stopping opposing ball carriers in their tracks and driving them backwards. Hafiz also does a solid job of shooting his arms on contact, allowing him to consistently make tackles in one on one situations. This skill will translate well to Nebraska, as Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu were both counted on for their support in the run game.
His press coverage ability: Hafiz has long arms and solid athleticism, allowing him to bully opposing wide receivers off of their route. This is an invaluable skill at the collegiate level, as college offenses are extremely reliant on RPO’s, which can be disrupted by physical press coverage. Hafiz also shows the ability to release his press and turn and run with receivers, meaning that he isn’t just a one-trick pony when it comes to pass coverage. Hafiz’s ability to play press coverage makes him a solid fit for Nebraska’s press-quarters scheme.
3- His coverage instincts. You can be the most talented athlete in the world, but if you aren’t able to track the ball in the air and get into the right position, it won’t matter. Hafiz isn’t the greatest athlete in the 2017 class, but he does a tremendous job of tracking the football in the air and getting into position to make a play on the football. This allows Hafiz to use his long arms and strength to outmuscle receivers and win the 50/50 battles.
4- His on-field mentality. You have to have a certain amount of swagger to be an effective cornerback, and Hafiz certainly brings that swagger to the football field every time. Hafiz plays with an angry edge, as he goes out every play looking to dominate his opponent and prove that he is the best player on the field. This is a tremendous mentality for a cornerback to have, as Hafiz will need to bring an edge to the practice field every day in order to crack a loaded cornerback group.
1- His makeup speed. Hafiz is dependent upon his press coverage ability, meaning that he needs solid makeup speed in order to catch up to receivers if he is beaten off the line of scrimmage. Hafiz has decent make-up speed that has allowed him to be effective at the high school level, but he will need to improve his speed if he wants to continue to be effective at the collegiate level. Speed is something that can be improved as Hafiz matures and works on his craft, which will allow him to become a more complete cornerback during his time at Lincoln.
2- His technique when taking on blocks. Hafiz is a very physical player that looks to impose his will on opposing receivers. That is usually a good thing for Hafiz when it comes to taking on blocks, but Hafiz tends to sacrifice his technique for intensity, as he has a bad habit of turning his shoulders when taking on blocks and opening up lanes in the run game. Turning your shoulders when taking on blocks is the cardinal sin when defending the run, so Hafiz will need to nip this bad habit in the bud as soon as possible. This is an area that will improve as Hafiz adjusts to improved competition, as long as he takes well to coaching in Lincoln.
3- Adding good weight to his frame. Hafiz was a very effective player at the high school level when he was playing at 175 pounds, but he is simply not big enough to be a consistent contributor on a Big Ten defense at his current weight. Hafiz will need to add at least 10 pounds to his frame in order to be an effective defender at the collegiate level. Hafiz certainly has the frame to add weight, but he will need to dedicate himself to the weight room and the training table this spring and summer if he wants to have a shot at contributing as a freshman in 2017.
Husker fans were bummed when Nebraska lost out on Thomas Graham, but Donte Williams got a nice consolation prize in the form of Hafiz. Hafiz isn’t as polished as Graham is coming out of high school, but Hafiz does have tremendous upside and is a better fit for Nebraska’s press quarters scheme. I believe that Hafiz would benefit from a redshirt season, allowing him to add strength and avoid wasting a season behind Jones, Kalu, Jackson and Lee. After his redshirt season, Hafiz should step right into the cornerback rotation and battle for the third cornerback spot. Nice find by the Huskers, and kudos to Chris Jones for pointing Nebraska in the right direction.
College Comparison: Leaner version of Iowa cornerback Greg Mabin
Pro Comparison: Houston Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson