Senior 6’0 235
– Short area quickness
– Timing blitzes
– Play recognition
– Team Captain
– Will misread run plays
– Bad angles
– Can’t get off blocks
– Doesn’t fill gaps downhill
– Doesn’t hold ground when blocked
– Poor pass drops
– Struggles in man coverage
– Doesn’t have good ball skills in coverage
– Refuses to work over the top of blockers
– Below average hit power
– Tackling form
– Noticeably short arms
Ben Boulware was a highly recruited player that ranked as the third inside linebacker by ESPN recruiting in the 2013 class. Being from South Carolina, it seemed to be a natural choice to play at Clemson following high school. Boulware played in a reserve role as a true freshman totaling 21 tackles. His sophomore brought more playing time but still in backup role behind Stephone Anthony while finishing with 43 tackles.
Following Anthony leaving for the NFL, Boulware took over as the full-time starter his junior season compiling 81 tackles with seven and a half for a loss, three sacks and three forced fumbles. Probably his most impressive statistic from that junior season was his seven passes defended, which is a good number for an inside linebacker. His final season was his best statistical year setting a career high with 116 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, four sacks and three more forced fumbles.
As a NFL prospect, there has seemed to be a bit of hype around him using buzzwords like “tough”, “gritty”, and “heart”, among others. He was undoubtable a leader at Clemson. Not only was he named a captain, but he was the voice that came forward to defend the comments and reactions toward the replays that surfaced of Clemson players hitting opposing ball carriers below the belt at the bottom of piles. For anyone that has played the game, this surfacing was most likely not a shock since it occurs at almost every level and has for decades. Some thought his comments didn’t do much to help, but cleaning that up is something that can be corrected by PR departments at the next level if there is an issue. I thought it was more important that he took the initiative to address the situation.
Boulware appears to spend plenty of time in the film room studying opponents and looking for tendencies. He was able to check defenses into better positions based on pre-snap recognitions and was able to beat the play to the point of attack in order to disrupt plays. Boulware has good short area quickness when moving between the tackles and has the balance to not be knocked to the ground when taking on blockers. He also is excellent at timing blitzes to gain an advantage right off the snap.
Although Boulware succeeded as a collegiate linebacker, he lacks most of the baseline traits of the position to translate to the NFL. He doesn’t posses the speed to play sideline to sideline or to be effective in pass coverage. On top of the lack of speed, he struggles staying with tight ends and running backs in man coverage, has some poor (but correctable) pass drops and poor ball skills.
Based on Boulware’s tackling numbers, it was surprising to see his overall ineffectiveness as a run defender between the tackles. Unless he was unblocked it didn’t seem to ever make plays. He doesn’t fill run gaps very hard, gets driven out of his gap consistently and has almost no block shedding ability, including versus tight ends and running backs. It seemed like he refused to work over the top of blockers by instead undercutting them, effectively completing the block for the offensive lineman and taking himself out of the play. Boulware also doesn’t possess big time hitting power and struggles with his tackling form. He tackles too high and has noticeably short arms that combined to create several missed tackles throughout the games I studied.
Boulware isn’t draftable. It doesn’t look like he played special teams the last year or two, so unless teams think he can make a significant impact on one of those units at the next level he’s probably not roster worthy.
Round Grade: UDFA
Games watched: Alabama 2016, Ohio St 2016, Troy 2016, Pitt 2016, Louisville 2016, Florida St 2015