N.C. State cornerback David Amerson entered the 2012 season ranked among the top draft-eligible cornerback prospects in the nation. Coming off a season in which he picked off 13 passes—the most in the NCAA since 1968—expectations were understandably high. But through the first half of the season, Amerson has struggled and his status as a future first-round pick is in jeopardy.
What makes Amerson's performance so concerning is the fact that his struggles don't appear to be the type of basic growing pains you can expect from any young athlete. Even Amerson's own coach, Tom O'Brien, has said that Amerson is missing basic assignments and appears unprepared on the field.
According to the News & Observer, O'Brien recently stated: “He’s trying to make every play instead of doing his job...I think he’s gotten away from fundamentals. He’s been stressed the last couple of weeks, but if it doesn’t hit home after [N.C. State's loss to Miami], it ain’t gonna hit home.”
Those comments from O'Brien came on the heels of a game in which Amerson allowed four touchdown receptions.
On film, one of the most noticeable issues with Amerson's 2012 performance has been his tendency to allow receivers to get behind him without much effort. This was most apparent in the season opener against Tennessee. On multiple occasions Amerson remained in his backpedal until Justin Hunter was even with him—usually an inexcusable technical error for a cornerback at any level.
At best, Amerson could be using this bold coverage technique to bait the quarterback into throwing in his direction. Unfortunately, it has become clear that he lacks the recovery speed for this to be a viable game plan.
It's also possible that Amerson is trying to pass off his assignments to the safety over the top, a theory thrown out by Joe Giglio of the News & Observer.
Either way, Amerson's technique is not working and if it doesn't change quickly he will continue to fall down draft boards.
One other issue that must be addressed is Amerson's connection to a N.C. State booster. According to multiple reports, Amerson has been in contact with Eric Leak, a former N.C. State player, who has been working to put Amerson in contact with agents.
Typically these types of allegations would require nothing more than an honest answer in an interview in order for NFL teams to forget about them all together. But this may be a special case. Tom O'Brien believes that Amerson has been distracted by the off-field issues and his play has suffered as a result.
If a prospect lacks the ability to put his off-field issues aside and still show up on game day, NFL teams will factor that into their evaluation. As a result, Amerson's draft stock could already be irreparably damaged.
So how can Amerson repair his reputation over the final two months of the season?
The answer is fairly simple: he just needs to produce. Many of Amerson's mistakes this season have been a result of poor technique and execution and these types of mistakes are always fixable.
Some scouts will have concerns about his speed and athleticism but if he's lacking in this area it clearly didn't hinder his ability to produce in 2011. He simply needs to regain his old form and worry about any physical or off-field concerns that scouts may have once the draft process begins in January.