Size doesn’t matter to Northwestern High's Seargent at Shrine Bowl

bmccormick@heraldonline.comDecember 20, 2013 

Spend 2 minutes, 11 seconds watching Northwestern senior safety Corey Seargent’s highlight film from this past season and it’s obvious he doesn’t have a nose for the ball, he has hands and arms for the ball.

When Seargent’s not making interceptions, returning kickoffs past midfield or catching an 80-yard halfback pass touchdown in the video, he’s weeding through blockers and reaching opposing ball carriers first, before bringing them down. Not with the head-hunting, knockout style made popular by many safeties, but by wrapping his arms around their legs and dragging them down.

“He’s a great tackler,” said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson, who called Seargent a Ronnie Lott-style player. “You didn’t see Ronnie Lott and guys like that miss tackles. They brought it, but they also made sure they made the tackle. That comes from a lot of hard work and killing it in the weight room, and he did that.”

Seargent’s sure-handed tackling was one of the several attributes that helped him make the South Carolina Shrine Bowl squad.

“He’s one that we play at safety and corner, and he’s doing a good job,” said South Carolina coach Tommy Brown, who is focusing his coaching on the team’s defensive backs.

“The thing I like about him is his presence on the field. He communicates real well and he goes to the ball real well. And he’ll come up and hit somebody too.”

Northwestern played a tough regular season schedule, especially in the non-region, so a week of Shrine Bowl practice hasn’t left Seargent over-awed.

“It’s real exciting,” he said. “It’s like the best 40 players in South Carolina and there’s a lot of competition.”

The 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back’s highlight film gels with his season statistics. Both video and stats paint a picture of an all-action safety that showed up in his team’s biggest moments:

• Northwestern only allowed 14 passing touchdowns in 15 games this season, with Seargent a big contributor to the Trojan secondary’s aerial stinginess. He intercepted four passes and broke up seven more.

• Seargent led the Trojans with 148 tackles, including a team-high 31 solo and 60 primary stops, indicative of his ability to make plays on his own and be the first to the ball. He only missed 12 tackles the entire season, bringing down 92 percent of the ball carriers he encountered while also forcing three fumbles.

• Seargent saved a couple of his biggest games for Northwestern’s best opponents. He racked up 27 tackles in the Trojans’ win over Charlotte Catholic and North Carolina-bound Shrine Bowl running back Elijah Hood, as well as 28 tackles, two deflections that led to interceptions and a pick of his own in the 42-35 win over Byrnes. He also produced six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in the Trojans’ state title victory over Stratford.

“The Byrnes game is probably the ultimate film for him,” Richardson said. “If they snapped it 80 times, he was in on 50 plays, 60 plays. He was either making the tackle, assisting the tackle or making a pick.”

Richardson said the Byrnes game was the only one this season where the Trojans’ defensive starters played the entire game.

“He played from the first quarter to that last play in overtime like a big-time Division I player, which he is.”

That kind of prime time production inevitably leads to college attention, and Seargent has received his share. The senior has offers from Kansas, Charlotte, Appalachian State, Nebraska and East Carolina, and he’s scheduled official recruiting visits to Nebraska and East Carolina, both in January.

This week in Spartanburg will give Seargent some experience playing corner, possibly his college position. Seargent may not have the size of Shrine Bowl teammate Zeke Walker, a 6-foot-3 converted quarterback from Brookland-Cayce, but he’s perfectly built to play on the boundary in one-on-one situations.

“His size might be fooling to you,” said Brown. “It looks like with his size he won’t come up and hit you but he will strike a lick.”

“Everybody underestimates my size and they try to come at me, but I have to show them size doesn’t matter,” said Seargent. “I’m real aggressive; sometimes it gets me in trouble, but I make plays.”

Seargent showed he could do that in almost every game he played in during Northwestern’s undefeated 2013 season. A two-minute, 11-second video clip on YouTube serves as confirmation, and there’s a fair chance Seargent will be reacquainted with N.C. Shrine Bowler Hood in a running lane on Saturday during Saturday’s all-star game.

“He’s an old school free safety,” said Richardson. “He doesn’t look real big, he’s skinny, but he’s so fast and explosive that when he collisions with somebody, it makes an impact.”

Bret McCormick •  803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

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