Mining for UDFA Gems ep 5: ILB/OLB Jeff Tarpinian

Still in the throes of the lockout, we are left with not much to ponder these days, save for the occasional lockout notes and what free agency targets we may pursue. So with topics still being sparse, I decided to start a new series that focused on potential UDFA targets. No matter how bad the cap crunch gets, many transgressions can be forgiven by finding the next Tony Romo or Miles Austin.

While inputting data on the previous series, Grading the Numbers, I came across a few prospects that caught my eye, and really left me wondering why they were not drafted. Of course there are a myriad of reasons, but if a team can draft a learning challenged DE in the 7th round based solely on potential (Lawrence Guy, fantastic story of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream and a highly recommended read), surely someone would have taken a flyer on this guy at some point, just based on athletic potential.

But for whatever reason, this player was completely passed over, and is now a street FA with his NFL dreams in dire jeopardy. I encourage everyone to delve a little deeper into the potential of these prospects, and feel free to opine your two cents about them as well, specifically if you like the prospect or didn't, and how you feel they may help our team.

Episode 5: ILB/OLB Jeff Tarpinian, Iowa



Combine Invite: 
Height: 6021
Weight: 235
40 Yrd Dash: 
20 Yrd Dash: 
10 Yrd Dash: 
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 
Vertical Jump: 
Broad Jump: 
20 Yrd Shuttle: 
3-Cone Drill: 

Dates: 03/21/11
Height: 6021
Weight: 235
40 Yrd Dash: 4.56
20 Yrd Dash: 2.65
10 Yrd Dash: 1.54
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 16
Vertical Jump: 37
Broad Jump: 10'05"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.10
3-Cone Drill: 6.78

   40 Time Range: 4.56 twice



Please note that I have begun working on and implementing a new formula for Physical Presence, so these numbers may not be indicative or accurate of the prospects final Presence score. I will indicate here when the new formula is completed. 

Prospect Overview:

Monster athlete. Blue Chip caliber measurables, period. You can compare this guy to any position in the draft and his athleticism stands out. The only knock on this guy was his inability to stay healthy. Apparently he has had a lot of semi-serious injuries, though none to permanently threaten his elite level athleticism. Very little video exists on this prospect, but from what I have seen, he can definitely play, and his athleticism translates to his play.

In coverage, was one of the best at his position in the college level. Unlike some of the other UDFAs profiled recently, he also played at a big time college, which provided a better barometer of skill, as well is likely an expected easier transition to the pro game. Solid understanding of schemes, and was rarely caught out of position (though he was so fast it is hard to tell), and his intelligence is further boasted by his numerous academic awards. Tight ends, running backs, wide-outs... it didn't matter. Whoever he was lined up against was only a mismatch in favor of the defense. Apparently, he was initially expecting to be a DB at Iowa, but they moved him to ILB due to his size. One thing is for sure, he never lost his cover skills.  

Plays with a mean streak, and liked to lay the wood, which is a bit of a divergence from other LB's with his type of measurables, as they tend to be more finesse types. This was very good to see.

The only negative I saw was that he could sometimes get lost in the wash in the running game. While adept at disengaging from his man and making a play, especially on the edges, he seemed to have a difficult time picking through the trash when it gets clogged up in the middle. Otherwise, once again his athleticism is evident, and he is aggressive in his breakdown and attack. It was amusing at times to see agile RBs breakdown and try to juke him, only to have him shake and bake right back and make the tackle.

I was a bit concerned with his tackling form, as he seemed to be more of a hitter than a wrap tackler, and that could lead to some problems in the NFL. While the hit was good, and could set the tone for the game, he needs to learn that it is important to ensure that he maintains proper form, mainly to ensure that he makes the play, but also to AVOID INJURY. You would have figured a big time program's coaches like Iowa's would have been all over him for that one.  

For the cowboys, should he be a UDFA pick up, I think he would be a perfect fit, adding depth at the ILB position, and the versatility to play and back up OLB. In the RR scheme, he also has the coverage ability to play Safety (at least better than Alan Ball). I am not big on position transfers, but I must admit that while writing this I kept thinking back to Darren Woodson, who once made a similar transfer. Just something to chew on...Or maybe a Jason Williams with smarts...

He is adept at playing special teams, as evidenced by the vid below, and has the ability to start, but would need some time to season. With both Lee and now Carter now at ILB, Tarpinian would provide a capable backup who could step into a starter's (or nickel) role if/when the injury bug bites one of our new ILBs, and we would not lose any athleticism on the field. Between the three of them, we should be set from a development standpoint to have Lee/Carter start by 2012 with Tarpinian holding down the nickel, and providing scheme versatility at OLB and S.  

Notes on the prospect from around the interwebs:


Iowa career profile and stats.

Nasty tackle

cbbsports player information:


An option quarterback in high school, Tarpinian was named Nebraska's Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, but his size made Iowa coaches project him as a potential playmaker at linebacker early in his career. Injuries robbed the Husker State native of the expected production over the past four years.

Tarpinian missed the beginning of his redshirt freshman season due to a preseason injury, accumulating 13 tackles on the year. He won the starting weak-side linebacker job the following spring, but missed the first four games of the year with injury (he finished with 17 tackles on the season). His healthiest season was 2009, but he was not on the field enough to make a major impact (20 tackles). Expected to start at middle linebacker in 2010, similar to 2010 second-round pick Pat Angerer, hand and neck injuries again limited his ability to be the difference-maker coaches expected (46 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two sacks in eight games).

Angerer's success as a rookie starter last fall will undoubtedly push teams towards Tarpinian despite all of the injuries he suffered during his time in Iowa City. With excellent pro day numbers (4.56 40, 37-inch vertical, 10'5" broad jump, 6.78 three-cone) and good film when healthy, a team may take a shot on him in the late rounds.


Positives: Explosive tackler, stays low, wraps strong in space and puts hands on ball to cause fumbles. Plays physically against the run, takes on blocks in the hole and can disengage to chase outside. Anchors piles inside and comes off to make plays. Athletic enough to handle tight ends in man coverage, gets out to flat to take on running backs. Good awareness in zone, takes away underneath routes. Comes hard on blitz, can defeat blocks on his way to the quarterback. 2010 Academic All-American, four-time Academic All-Big Ten.

Negatives: A bit undersized for second level, gets washed out by linemen and even fullbacks at times. Lack of length allows larger or elusive ballcarriers to slide off his tackles. Takes aggressive angles to the ball. Doesn't have much film to evaluate because of consistent injury issues (though nothing so major that has affected his athleticism.)

What do you think? All posts and opinions encouraged.

If you have a particular prospect or pet cat that is UDFA and would like them to be a subject of one of these posts, please say so below. Likely the prospect has already been graded, and if the score out justifies it, I will work them in. Freaks of nature preferred but not required.

Thanks for reading.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.