6’1”, 243lbs with good, balanced build and huge hands. A former top-50 recruit from Mississippi. After a massive Sophomore year (48 stops 5.5 for loss, 5 sacks, 2 INT’s in 13 games with just 6 starts) Gay saw his playing time dwindle due to his lengthy off-the-field issues.
Lit up his position at the Combine. Ran and tested very well and demonstrated his very good athleticism. Demonstrates a good skillset at a variety of Linebacker positions, and possesses a good ability to mentally process at each position, play-to-play. Plays with good aggression at each LB position and speed to get home. Possesses good play recognition, with a good, natural feel in coverage when asked to cover more athletic Tight Ends and backs out of the backfield. Good COD too; isn’t just a straight-line speed guy but demonstrates the ability to easily change direction and accelerate towards opponent in both pass coverage and against the run. Good play strength to stalemate OL and neutralize the LOS, and to set the EDGE when lined up in the OLB position.
Can be tentative going through the LOS to meet the ball carrier; when he gets a free shot through the gap and has done everything else correctly, his hesitance takes away his good pursuit angle and loses forward momentum vs bigger, more aggressive backs. Needs to play more loosely with more consistency. At times, and maybe it’s due to self-preservation and trying to not get hurt, the tentativeness going through the LOS shows up when trying to shed blocks from OL getting to the 2nd level. When he plays loose and free, he’s a completely different player in terms of aggression. Lacks true pass rush nuance coming off the EDGE; doesn’t have a real pass rush plan and just doesn’t have a plan to beat the block regardless if it’s from an OL or RB. Often times he over-runs the blocker, takes himself out of the play and gives the QB room to step up, roll out or take off running to a voided spot on the field. Needs to play with better and more consistent Pad Level; especially in his pass rush, he needs to use more leverage and work his good play strength to his advantage.
Gay certainly possesses skills that translate to the NFL game. I believe, with the right coaching, in the right situation (along with 99% of other prospects) he can be a weekly starter. He may not be an every-down LB or play all of his snaps at the ILB position; he’s too versatile for that. At 243lbs, running a 4.46 40 and vertical just under 40”, Gay has the size, athleticism, explosiveness and raw talent that needs to be polished by a good system at the next level. Unfortunately, teams will have a tougher time getting a feel for his character; as I’ve mentioned before, his list of off-the-field issues is lengthy and will definitely cause him to slip. The only reason why he saw a drop in playing time is directly due to those issues, and he never seemed to do anything to help himself but put out good tape. Willie Gay can play at the next level; he’s got the tools you want, with the perfect late-round value teams love, especially the way the league has de-valued the ILB position. The things he lacks are teachable, and if the right situation presents itself, those weaknesses can easily be fixed.