This series will feature the top NFL Draft prospects with insight from the beat reporters that covered them in college. This article is just a preview of the full interview which can be heard on the Deep Slant podcast.
Name: Tyree Wilson
Position: Defensive lineman
School: Texas Tech
Height/Weight: 6-6, 271
Hometown: Henderson, Texas
Sidhu: Tyree Wilson is emerging as a dark horse here with rumblings that he could go as high as No. 2 to the Texans over Alabama's Will Anderson. Why do you think that the tide is turning in favor of Wilson now at this point in the draft process?
Level: I think Tyree is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft just simply because of his measurables. And I think there's a bit of an unknown component with him, which makes people very intrigued because this guy from Texas Tech, he's on the defensive side of the ball and the Red Raiders obviously haven't cranked out a ton of defensive talent in the last decade or so. Now, they did have a first-round draft pick in Jordan Brooks a few years ago from the Seattle Seahawks that's done really, really well. But Tyree, I think his story really kind of flourishes late last season and then about that time he gets dinged up and misses those last three games. Otherwise, he would have played in maybe his future home stadium in a bowl game but didn't get a chance to do that at NRG. He transferred from Texas A&M and got here and he kind of just kept getting better and better and better. But the reason I think people are so intrigued is he's 6-6 plus he's 275. I mean, he's a big human with with a really big presence about him. Doesn't say a ton, always smiling. And he practices as hard on a Tuesday as he plays on a Saturday and I think that's what the NFL folks really, really like about him.
Sidhu: You've covered Wilson and seen him burst onto the scene as Tech's leading defender after transferring from Texas A&M. What was it about his role in that Red Raiders defense that made him such an impact player almost immediately?
Level: I think the the scheme that he played in this past year, you know, with (DC) Tim DeRuyter, really put him in a position to showcase his abilities. It allowed him to play all along that defensive line. He was allowed to play in the run game and really go after the quarterback and do some of those things. You hear the term hybrid and is he best in a 3-4 or a 4-3 or can you stand him up? Can he put his hand on the ground? He can do all of these things. I think it's fair to criticize him at times as he played too high. When you're 6-6, that can be a question that's very fair but he's just so strong and and his motor is just something that never stops. I know that when you're a young player and you are around him on this team in Lubbock and you see that he's going as hard on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and this is somebody with a lot of money that he could make and and you see how hard he's practicing, I think that goes a long way with being a culture and a presence guy.
Look, the stats are he missed three games, he has the 14 tackles for loss, he has the seven sacks and things like that. They would have been a bit better had he been able to finish the season and play in those final three games against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Ole Miss in the bowl game. You ask people around here, yeah, we're going to miss the production, but we're going to miss his presence, you know? And I think that that's an intangible that I don't think a lot of people think about but I think he certainly brings that in a locker room and on the practice field and things like that, which is probably why Coach (DeMeco) Ryans, being a defensive guy, may say this is the kind of guy I would like to have on my football team.
Sidhu: Wilson fractured his foot last season and wasn't able to perform at the NFL Combine or at Tech's Pro Day. Also had a bit of injury history while at A&M. How much of a concern should injury history be for teams evaluating Tyree Wilson?
Level: Very fair. And I think the foot injury that he suffered against Kansas this year in the backfield is the same exact injury on the other foot that he had at Texas A&M. Obviously, showed that he can recover from it and has turned himself into a draft prospect after coming back from that first foot injury. But any time that you're dealing with an injury history, I think it's very fair to kind of wonder because, look, when you're talking about guys at the top ten of the draft, I think they're really trying to find everything that they can that's wrong with the guy. They know everything that's right about them. They're trying to find out, okay give me a reason why I shouldn't pick this guy. But other than that, it was just a freak deal. You know, it was a foot injury that was a fracture and that was the only time we ever saw any kind of injury issue at all throughout his career here but played in a bunch of football games.
When he first got here, it was very late in the summer, July or August, before he started his career at Tech and he kind of just had to work his way in and get into shape and all those things because he hadn't gone through any offseason or any spring football or anything like that at Texas Tech. But it just got better and better and better. He put himself on the map in the bowl game vs. Mississippi State and I think he just took the baton and ran with it all last year. NFL folks came through here because you're talking about a guy who can run somebody down 20 yards downfield on a screenplay or he can get around the edge and get after the quarterback in a hurry or affect a play. NFL folks love guys that cause disruption in the backfield and that's what Tyree does.
Sidhu: What is his personality like off the field? How might he fit into an NFL locker room?
Level: Smiles all the time, kind of country. This is a guy that likes to ride horses and and a four-wheeler and get out. He's from East Texas and he just a country guy and he's country strong and all the things that come with that. But great personality, very easygoing, big-time family guy. He's not going to be somebody that's loud and boisterous at all. That's not who he is. He just takes care of his business but when he speaks, I think it goes a long way.
He led by example more often than not here. I think when he does speak, he kind of controls and polices the locker room. I think is pretty fascinating to watch. Because there's some young guys that he would hold guys accountable and if a guy maybe wouldn't practice, he'd take the nameplate off their locker. And some young guy would go, okay, I've crossed Tyree. This is not good for me. This is the kind of thing that he would do. He wasn't try to be mean or a jerk or try to haze anybody. It's holding guys accountable.