Most defensive backs from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga go unnoticed by NFL types.
Unless your name is Buster Skrine. Well, let’s be honest, unless you’re fast. Very fast.
“He’s as fast as anyone I’ve seen in person,” said John Fierson, who is the UTC beat writer for the Times Free Press. “You can tell he works on it. Other guys it comes easy to, but Buster is a block of muscle and he flies.”
The Cleveland Browns selected Skrine in the fifth round with the 137th overall pick of last April’s NFL Draft. Skrine has the type of build you would expect from an FCS player. He is listed only at 5-foot-9 1/2, 186 pounds.
“If he was an inch taller he would have played in the SEC,” Fierson said.
Skrine had 11 FCS offers coming out of high school, when he was 5-7, 145. Yet Skrine (pronounced “Skreen”) was never deterred by the size and is confident in his skills.
“I just play bigger than what I am,” Skrine said in a conference call last April. “The size thing doesn’t really get to me so I see myself as a player just like any other player on the field. I go out there and play my game and try to play better than everyone else out there.”
In order to get better, Skrine works out and works out hard. His numbers at the NFL Combine were the result. He was a top performer in the 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle and he did 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. His max is 360.
Officially, Skrine ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash, but unofficially he clocked in at 4.29 and 4.36 (with a stumble). Skrine said he would have ran a 4.2 if he didn’t slip.
“He’s said to me on a couple occasions, when he got to UTC, as he would have anywhere, he hit the weight room to put on good muscle and that made him faster,” Fierson said. “He works hard in the weight room. Pound-for-pound he was the strongest guy on the team, he was always in the film room and everything he approached he did it as a job with the discipline of that and it carried over onto the field.”
Skrine played in 42 games in college, even starting three as a freshman. He finished with 155 tackles, 21 pass break ups and five interceptions.
As for his size, Fierson said Skrine once faced a receiver with an NFL-type body in Elon’s Terrell Hudgins. Hudgins (6-2, 229) broke several of Jerry Rice’s career records, including receiving yards (5,250) and receptions (395). Against Skrine on Oct. 24, 2009, Hudgins caught six balls for 74 yards and three touchdowns (2, 41, 5), as Elon beat Chattanooga 45-10.
“It was a power forward against a guard,” Fierson said. “Sometimes, Skrine suffered a little bit. I still think the level of coaching he’ll get at the next level will fix a lot of those issues. He has so much athletic ability, he is going to be able to figure out a way to cover pretty much anybody that can be covered.”
Skrine is the highest player from UT-Chattanooga to get drafted since Terrell Owens was selected in the third round of the 1996 draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
“Buster made the most of his opportunity here,” Fierson said. “When he got here, I don’t know anyone who foresaw him being a fifth-round pick.”
Before the draft, Skrine held a private workout for Browns’ defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.
“How he’ll translate to the NFL is another matter,” Fierson said. “He’s a tough, aggressive player and that’s why the Browns wanted him. I’m interested to see how a professional corner coach can work with him and how Buster blossoms in that environment.”