In the future, when people look back at the 2015 NFL Draft (and ensuing free agency period), there are likely to be two players who are seen as the biggest steals of the process. One is obviously La'el Collins, whose sudden signing has caused such glee here. The other is second-round pick Randy Gregory, who like Collins was seen as a top-20 or maybe even a top-10 talent before off field issues intervened.
As part of the series of posts Dawn Macelli and I are doing, I reached out to SBN college site Corn Nation to get some in-depth answers about his career with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They really stepped up, and I got answers from not one but three writers. My thanks to Ranchbabe, Jon Johnston, and Brian Towle for taking time to help increase our knowledge base about the Cowboys' new 94.
1. The national media has been all over the failed drug test for Randy Gregory, and have painted a pretty bad picture of him. Can you give us your view of him and what kind of person he really is?
Ranchbabe - No, I really cannot. He was very reluctant to talk to the media, and kept to himself. He was never in trouble and Bo Pelini, for his perceived faults, ran a clean program at Nebraska. The support system at Nebraska and "family" atmosphere that was generally lauded during the Pelini administration seems to have been a real positive for Randy. He was quiet, worked his tail off, and never got in trouble while here. He is uber-talented and if the turbulent Pelini provided some stability, I have to assume that the Cowboys - who understand how to mentor players like this - will get the best effort from him.
Jon Johnston - As ranchbabe said, Gregory was a pretty quiet guy personally at Nebraska. It was a shock to Husker fans when it was revealed he had failed drug tests. Otherwise, no trouble, but not a lot of information either.
Brian Towle - If anything, people wondered if Gregory was going to be a more vocal leader during his last year in Lincoln. However, it was quickly apparent that it wasn't going to be the case. Not saying he wasn't motivated to play, but he's not going to scream and chirp at the media, which may drive some DFW guys nuts.
2. The general feel is that Gregory can be one of the biggest steals of the draft after slipping all the way to the Cowboys at pick #60. Just so we can drool a little, give us the Cornhusker take on how good he was on the field.
Ranchbabe - Randy's football instincts rival those of one former Husker great, Lavonte David. If you want to drool, just look at the photo Cornnation's photographer David McGee captured at: http://www.cornnation.com/2015/5/1/8525911/2015-nfl-draft-randygregory-dallas-cowboys-nebraska-huskers . Look at Randy's eyes in that photo. This is a kid who understands the purpose of a pass rusher. He never wavers in that purpose. His closing speed on a ball carrier (QB, RB, or anyone unfortunate enough to possess the ball behind the LOS) is remarkable. Never count him out on a play. Never.
Addendum: He also can do some work in the blocking department. Enjoy - Cowboys fans.
Brian: If you're looking for a guy who could rush like DeMarcus Ware, you're in the right state of mind. He's probably not going to be a big run stuffer due to the lack of weight, but as a pass rusher in a pass happy league, you're going to like the way he can disrupt. He's also been able to show that he can drop back in coverage and cover backs/Tight Ends. Pelini made sure to give him different looks out of the A gap as well as off the corner last season in Lincoln.
Jon: I'm going to admit that I'm not as high (PUN?!) on Gregory as others. 2013 was an amazing year for him, 2014 was full of injuries, but I didn't see him as a guy who was constant motor motor motor. I felt he was lackadaisical at times. He has tremendous talent - that's a given, but... sorry for not giving you reasons to drool.
3. Dallas has a history of working with players who have various off field issues, including Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Josh Brent. So far, Gregory has been saying all the right things about this. Do you think he will hold up his end of the bargain?
Ranchbabe - Yes. He has never done anything but his best as far as I know. Injuries and light weight have been an issue, but he always gives his best effort on the field and finishes every play. He seems to love the game and will do whatever he can to excel. Unlike other players (cough*Ricky Williams*cough) I believe Randy will try to move past his personal issues in order to excel at football.
Jon: Let's grant that it would have been discovered Gregory failed two drug tests. He might have dropped in draft status on that alone, but there were reports that he and/or his family were looking for specifics on support from the team that drafted him. The fact that he looked for this rather than just taking some money for a higher draft status ought to shed light on how sincere he is.
Brian: I do, I mean he's not like a big party guy, he seems like a guy who just needs to be made sure that the folks that follow him are the right types of guys. He's not going to go into Uptown or such and party his tail off, but he's going to need to make sure that he has folks around that want Randy to do well & not just sponge him for $$$
4. One thing that Dallas likes is position flex. With Gregory, they would like to possibly flip him from LDE to RDE, perhaps kick him inside for a few plays at the 3 tech DT spot, and might even stand him up as a SAM linebacker at times (usually to get a five man rush in certain passing downs, you'd think). Tell us how he was used by the 'huskers coaching staff.
Ranchbabe - Nebraska moved RG4 around. A lot. His football IQ seems to be off the charts and he quickly catches on to the job he is given for any play. If your S&C coach and nutritionists can figure out how to put "good" weight on him - the sky is the limit.
Brian: Like I mentioned above, Pelini liked to float him around the front 7, showing blitzes right up the A gap as well as stunting his DT's (Maliek Collins, Vincent Valentine) into the line and throw Gregory around into the void. The block on the interception vs. Illinois gets played on a loop around here, and he's able to move at will and make interceptions like he did vs. Michigan State.
5. Could you give a general breakdown of his strengths and any weaknesses you see in him?
Ranchbabe - Strengths: Football instincts and athleticism. This kid understands football and his role in football. He chose Nebraska over Purdue for goodness sake - that has to count for something in the "brain" department. He has exceptional closing speed and reach (I did not look up his arm length but he totally has "go go Gadget" arms).
Weaknesses: Weight is an issue. He is undersized for college, much less the NFL. If it makes you feel better, Husker fans also watched as teams passed on Lavonte David (main criticism as being undersized) and brought out the "I told you so's" as David was included in conversations for rookie of the year. Gregory's "anxiety" issues are probably manageable and coachable. He is a good risk at the spot the Cowboys drafted him.
Brian: Weight is a big time issue, as there were whispers he had to be supervised by his position coach so they made sure he ate, which he did. He just didn't add on much weight. Now, there was talk of the Strength and Conditioning coach not doing a great job team-wide, so take it with a grain of salt.
Jon: I guess I'm alone in questioning how hungry he was. Maybe now that he dropped in the draft and has something to prove that will be made moot. For Dallas' sake... well, wait, I hate the Cowboys... for Gregory's sake, I hope that it is.
6. Finally, how come they opened a Nebraska Furniture Mart in Dallas? Is there some connection? (True fact, I once got a price marked down for me by Rose Blumkin in the original NFM.)
Ranchbabe - The only thing I can confirm is that furniture purchased at NFM is totally NOT wired with secret sensors and devices whose sole purpose is to gather data that keeps the Big XII out of the college football playoffs. (Urban Meyer also is NOT a major donor). Shhhhh! It will NOT be expanded to undermine NFL football teams in the area. Nope. Never.
Brian: Listen here... I live in the metroplex (South Grand Prairie) and went all the way over to The Colony to check this out. It's huge, but it does have the Nebraska feel with it. So if RG needs furnishings, he's good there. That being said... a Subway in the darn thing? It would be PERFECT to have a Runza in there to show the whole dang metro how good they are.
There you have it, and thanks again to all three of the contributors. Oh, and sorry about the inside baseball on the last question. I lived in the Omaha area for several years courtesy of the USAF, and NFM and Runza are legends there. The Furniture Mart is kind of self-explanatory, and you can think of Runza as kind of the Whataburger of Nebraska. If you are ever there, it is worth a visit for a very different but delicious kind of food.