With their final pick in the 2008 NFL Draft (214th overall) the 49ers select Larry Grant outside linebacker out of Ohio State.
Grant hopes his football national tour will lead to employment in the National Football League. With his ability to play all three linebacker positions, in addition to his superb skills as a kick blocker, teams have been doing their homework on this underrated talent. Grant also could shift to the secondary, as he has the pass coverage skills and some experience from his junior college days playing that position.
Grant has become something of a good luck charm wherever he has played. The 2005 National Junior College Athletics Association National Defensive Player of the Year played in the junior college championship game during his first two seasons. During both of his years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes also played in the national title game.
Still, Grant experienced a whirlwind travel adventure during his football career, which began during his freshman year at Foothill (Cal.) High School, where he lettered as a running back and safety. He moved to Georgia, attending Meadow Creek (Gwinett County, Ga.) High as a sophomore and junior. The football program was lacking and Grant moved with his brother, going on to play at Norcross (Ga.) High as a senior. He lettered as a tailback, gaining 450 yards with six touchdowns on only 35 carries (12.9 avg) during his senior campaign. He then left Norcross High in the winter, moving back to California, where he re-enrolled and graduated from Foothill High.
Grant enrolled at Murray State in 2003, but failed to qualify academically. He spent the year out of school, working as a youth football coach during the fall in the Sacramento area. He then enrolled at the City College of San Francisco in 2004. He shifted to middle linebacker, earning All-Region I, All-California and All-NorCal Football Conference honors. He posted 90 tackles (63 solos) with six sacks, as he caused four fumbles, recovered two others and led the nation with six blocked punts, scoring on a 65-yard runback.
As a sophomore, Grant earned NJCAA All-American and National Defensive Player of the Year honors. The All-NorCal Football Conference Defensive MVP delivered 85 tackles (56 solos) with four sacks and nine stops for losses from his weak-side outside linebacker position. He intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown and again ended up blocking six punts.
Grant was scheduled to enroll at the University of Florida, but was a math class short of academic requirements. He decided to enroll at Ohio State in 2006, where he was the first junior college transfer signed by head coach Jim Tressel. He backed up all three starting linebackers (mostly played in the middle), earning his only start in 12 games vs. Bowling Green at strong-side linebacker. He collected 18 tackles (8 solos), as he assisted on a sack, caused a fumble, picked off a pass and deflected two others. He also blocked a punt that he recovered for a 9-yard return.
Grant took over strong-side outside linebacker duties as a senior. He ranked fifth on the team with 51 tackles (35 solos), as he tied for second on the squad with five sacks and finished third with 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He broke up a pass, picked off another and blocked two kicks, returning one 8 yards.
In 25 games at Ohio State, Grant started 14 contests. He recorded 69 tackles (43 solos) with 5.5 sacks for minus-34 yards and 10 stops for losses of 45 yards. He caused a fumble, deflected three passes and intercepted two others for 68 yards in returns. He also blocked three kicks, returning two errant punts for a total of 17 yards.
In 24 games at the City College of San Francisco, Grant recorded 175 tackles (119 solos) with 10 sacks and 20.5 stops for losses, as he caused seven fumbles, recovered three others and deflected six passes. He also gained 63 yards with a touchdown on six interceptions and set both California junior college and NJCAA career records with 12 blocked kicks, scoring on a 65-yard punt runback…For his entire collegiate career, Grant started 38 of 49 games he played in, registering 244 tackles (162 solos) with 15.5 sacks and 30.5 stops for losses. He caused eight fumbles, recovered three others and had nine pass break-ups. He gained 131 yards on eight interception returns and blocked 15 kicks, returning three blocked punts for a total of 84 yards and a touchdown.
Was a two-time All-Region I, All-COA, All-California and All-NorCal Football Conference selection, adding NJCAA National Defensive Player of the Year, California Junior College Player of the Year and NJCAA first-team All-American honors as a senior while playing at City College of San Francisco (2004-05)…Played all three linebacker positions and also saw playing time at strong safety…Set a junior college career-record by blocking twelve kicks…2005 Season…Recorded 85 tackles (56 solos) with four sacks and nine stops for losses…Caused three fumbles, recovered another and broke up four passes…Gained 63 yards with a touchdown on six interception returns…Also blocked six punts…2004 Season…Posted a career-high 90 tackles (63 solos) with six sacks and 11.5 stops for losses, as he also broke up two passes and blocked six punts, returning one 65 yards for a score…Recovered two fumbles and caused four others.
Began during his freshman year at Foothill (Cal.) High School, where he lettered as a running back and safety…Moved to Georgia, attending Meadow Creek (Gwinett County, Ga.) High as a sophomore and junior…The football program was lacking and Grant moved with his brother, going on to play at Norcross (Ga.) High as a senior, where he played for former Ohio State assistant coach Dick Walker, as he lettered as a tailback, gaining 450 yards with six touchdowns on only 35 carries (12.9 avg) during his senior campaign…He then left Norcross High in the winter, moving back to California, where he re-enrolled and graduated from Foothill High.
Positives: Lacks ideal height and bulk to play on the strong side, but while he has a slender frame, there is room to bulk up to 240 pounds without the additional weight impacting his speed…Has good upper body muscle definition with good trapezoids, tight waist, adequate bubble and tapered thighs and calves…Has good straight-line speed to close on plays in front of him and shows the functional strength at the point of attack, taking on the lineman or fullback with aggression, using his hands well to shed…Smart athlete who does best stunting on the field, as he will usually line up at different parts of the field every play (usually over the guard on inside run plays, standing up on the edge when blitzing or dropping back in the strong-side alignment)…Shows good urgency chasing down the plays, but is best when attacking plays in front of him, as he has some hip stiffness which is evident in his pass drops…Stays on his feet and knows how to avoid blocks while maintaining balance on the move…Sees counter plays quickly and even though he lacks loose hips, he can drop into zone coverage with his head on a swivel and has the acceleration to get to the receivers in the short zone…Needs to wrap up better, but has enough strength to drag down the ballcarriers…Also shows good awareness in man coverage, mirroring the receiver in the short area before switching off on his assignment… Comes off the edge with decent explosion as a pass rusher, but is more effective slipping blocks and shooting the inside gaps, as he can blast his way up the middle to track down the ball…Can play any linebacker position, but his hand usage, run pursuit and zone drops are better suited for the weak side…Allows little cushion on running backs coming out of the backfield in passing situations…Despite his size issues, he can plant himself firmly at the point of attack and shows good aggression taking on bigger blockers…Has shown better concept for taking angles as a senior and has made good strides for a player with just 38 starting assignments as a linebacker during his entire football career (at all levels)…Has the strong hand jolt and placement to disrupt the tight end and reroute his man on short area pass assignments…Has excellent leaping ability and timing as a kick blocker (blocked 15 kicks during his career).
Negatives: While quick to play the middle, he lacks the lower body strength to split double teams and will get engulfed by the bigger blockers…Uses his hands well to shed, but must do a better job of extending his arms to defeat the cut blocks…Needs to finish better as a tackler, as he is more of a drag-down type than a wrap-up hitter (when he grabs an opponent, this allows ballcarriers to slip off his initial hit, at times)…Needs to step up and plug the holes at the line of scrimmage , as he seems a little slow to scrape downhill (better when playing on the weak side than in the middle or on the strong side)…Little undersized for the next level and might be a better suited for a Cover-2 defensive system that will allow him to cover up, read and move, rather than one that relies upon him to step up and plug holes at the line…Showed better read-and-react ability as a senior, but this is still a work in progress (was a running back with no experience at linebacker until 2004)…Must not freeze eyeballing the backfield, as it leads to him biting on misdirection and pump fakes…When he fails to use his hands to defeat blocks in tight areas, he gets stood up by the blocker and lacks counter moves to escape…Needs to remain consistent with keeping his pad level down, as he gets bounced at the point of attack when he gets too erect and tall in his stance attacking at the line…Has a decent stride in his backpedal, but it would be more effective if he opens his hips quicker.
Compares To: CALEB MILLER-Cincinnati…Grant might be better served as a rotational-type of linebacker, filling in wherever he is needed. He has experience at all three linebacker positions, so shifting from position to position won’t affect his learning curve. He has excellent timing as a kick blocker and shows good downhill range. He will probably still be around late in the draft, but with his kick blocking skills alone he is well worth a look in camp. Because of his pass drop skills and ability playing in the zone, he could drop a few pounds and shift to safety at the next level.