Clemson's Bashaud Breeland battling to join elite group of NFL cornerback prospects

  • Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 4:43 p.m., Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 12:19 p.m.
Karl B DeBlaker/AP Clemson's Bashaud Breeland (17) breaks up a pass intended for North Carolina State's Marquez Valdes-Scantling during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. Clemson won, 26-14.

Bashaud Breeland turned 22 years old on Jan. 30. That makes him two months younger than Darius Robinson, Breeland's bookend cornerback for Clemson whose eligibility expired in 2013, and 16 months older than Sammy Watkins.

That's how Breeland views the situation. Yeah, he could have stuck around Clemson one more year, maybe enhanced his draft stock some. But he was ready for the next chapter of his life.

"To tell you the truth," Breeland said, "the way I was looking at it ... I'm already a redshirt junior, I just felt like I belonged in this senior class."

Breeland won the Tigers' scout team defensive award in 2010, preparing him to play all 14 games his freshman year. He made 53 tackles the year Clemson won the ACC title, but injuries limited him to just 32 tackles in 2012.

Then Breeland bounced back and illustrated his durability his junior year, leading the cornerbacks in snaps with 701. His 74 tackles ranked fifth on the Tigers, his four interceptions tied with Jayron Kearse for the team lead, and he was content to forgo his senior year after picking up second-team All-ACC honors.

"Even though I redshirted, I felt like I could play with these seniors, even if the world thinks I can't because of an age group or ending up in a year in school," Breeland said. "I feel as though I should be coming out because this is supposed to be my (senior year.)"

So that's why Breeland is now a professional, training alongside former teammates Tajh Boyd and Martavis Bryant in south Florida.

"Real, real smooth. Positional drills, he's probably one of the best we have here as far as our DBs," XPE Sports trainer Tony Villani said. "He's in a great group of DBs. If he can stand out in positional drills with those guys, he'll be doing something."

Breeland has an 8-month-old daughter, which meant like Bryant, taking care of his family took precedence to sticking around for his senior year. Breeland said he plans to return to Clemson at some point to finish his degree in sports management.

"I was going pro. I was very sold about my decision. I was strong when I made it, and it's been the same," Breeland said. "There's not one day that I regret."

He earned an invite to this week's NFL Scouting Combine, where all defensive backs will be the final position group to perform on-field drills Tuesday.

"The Breeland kid I'm a little intrigued by, because he's long, he can run," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think he probably could have benefited from staying in school a little bit longer, but I think he'll probably go in the third or fourth round."

Breeland has been floated as a second-round prospect or a late-round possibility.

"Any team that's willing to give me a chance, I'm willing to take it," Breeland said. "Whether it's high or low, it really doesn't matter as long as I get a shot."

It also doesn't matter to Breeland where he's perceived in the pecking order of cornerbacks, though he knows who he is up against. Other training partners include Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins from Florida and Calvin Pryor from Louisville.

"My focus is on me. I really want to show what I can do (at the combine)," Breeland said. "And if that puts me up in the draft, great. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I just want to get the best (pick) I can get."

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