While Ben Roethlisberger remains their most high-profile product, the Miami RedHawks have sent a steady trickle of prospects to the pros over the last 20 years. In safety Sterling Weatherford, they’ve produced another smaller-school player who should attract significant interest in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He’s a statistical standout as the Miami-OH safety, but Weatherford’s scouting report reveals a player with a sterling outlook at the next level.
Sterling Weatherford NFL Draft Profile
Current Year: Redshirt Senior
Weight: 215 pounds
Sterling Weatherford Scouting Report
Box score statistics do not make an evaluation. However, some numbers stand out more than others and have a genuine bearing on a scouting report. Those numbers are in feet, inches, and pounds, and they’re critical to understanding the first part of Weatherford’s scouting report.
The Miami safety has a unique build for the position. The established rule of thumb is that safeties are around 6’0″ and 200 pounds. There are of course anomalies, and even in this class, Kyle Hamilton is a perfect example. Weatherford joins the Notre Dame safety in this regard at 6’4″ and 215 pounds.
In addition to pure size, Weatherford is blessed with length, which helps the coverage element of his scouting report. The Miami safety is adept at getting his long arms to the ball to make a play and can get his arms through to disrupt the ball when trailing behind an intended target. From an overall coverage perspective, Weatherford’s size and athletic ability ensure that he can effectively cover tight ends and bigger slot receivers.
An efficient, impactful, run defender with exceptional versatility
While he is impactful in coverage, Weatherford does his best work against the run. He’s a physical presence working downhill, covering ground quickly to shut off running lanes. The Miami safety takes a remarkably measured approach, sizing up his opponent’s movements rather than lunging in and being made to look foolish grasping thin air. He is adept at disengaging from blockers. This allows him to move on the ball carrier more quickly than others at his position.
As I repeatedly refer to in these scouting reports, versatility is next to ability. Weatherford has been used in multiple alignments for the RedHawks. He’s seen reps at single-high and split-field safety and covering in the slot. However, he’s best utilized as an overhang defender. His size, usage, and athletic profile could mean switching from safety to linebacker in the NFL.
Areas for improvement
Although Weatherford flashes some straight-line speed coming downhill, there are some athletic limitations to his scouting report. The Miami safety doesn’t appear to possess the requisite fluidity to make him an elite coverage player in the NFL. While he displays a decent backpedal, he doesn’t transition well while covering the final third of the field.
Furthermore, he doesn’t appear to possess enough quickness to get to the sideline when patrolling the deep third as a single-high safety.
While Weatherford has demonstrated physicality and form as a tackler, there are some examples where he needs to ensure he is consistently taking correct angles and wrapping up.
Sterling Weatherford Player Profile
While he’s now receiving national attention as an NFL Draft prospect, it hasn’t always been that way for Weatherford. Coming out of Hamilton Heights High School in Indiana, he was a two-star prospect and the 31st-ranked player in the state.
That’s not to say that the young safety couldn’t play football. Weatherford was an All-State honoree following both his junior and senior seasons. The versatile playmaker lined up as both a tight end and safety, proving disruptive on both sides of the ball. Additionally, his influence on and off the field was recognized with the honor of being named team captain.
There was also no doubting Weatherford’s overall athletic ability. An impressive basketball player and footballer, he set a blistering 4.5-second 40-yard dash during his time at Hamilton Heights. Earning the dreaded “athlete” moniker, he earned interest from Minnesota, but his only FBS offers came from Ball State and Miami-OH.
Weatherford’s career at Miami-OH
Having committed before his senior season, Weatherford arrived in Miami for the 2017 college football season. As expected by RedHawks beat writers due to his rawness in coverage, the freshman safety redshirted his first season. While typically it’s a physical transformation that requires a season on the sideline, Weatherford himself admits that wasn’t the reason.
“Physically, I was ready. But mentally, I had a lot of room to grow.”
Although he never saw the field in 2017, the Miami safety used the opportunity to grow. Weatherford was named Defensive Scout Player of the Year for his role during practice and was ready to hit the field for real in 2018.
That growth continued through his redshirt-freshman season. Weatherford saw action in 12 games while making his first start. He flashed the disruptive playmaking ability that would become his calling card, tallying 27 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. Furthermore, he snagged his first career interception against Kent State.
It was just a brief snapshot of what would come in his third year with the program. Making 14 starts, Weatherford earned a reputation as a playmaker against the run at the line of scrimmage. With career-high tackle days against Iowa and Akron, he finished second on the team with 98 tackles while adding 2 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles.
Emerging as a playmaker in the biggest games
Additionally, he flashed coverage ability with an interception and 10 pass breakups. An important player for the RedHawks in the biggest games, he had 3 pass breakups as Miami beat Central Michigan to win the MAC Championship for the first time in program history.
The disruption of the 2020 college football season restricted Weatherford’s opportunity to enhance his profile to just three games. Although he received recognition as a prospect in the last draft cycle, he opted to return to Miami for his redshirt-senior season to elevate his stock further.
In a brutal opening schedule for the RedHawks, Weatherford flashed his NFL Draft credentials against Cincinnati and Minnesota. The Miami safety picked off Desmond Ridder — a top quarterback prospect — against the Bearcats while registering 6 tackles and 2 pass breakups against Minnesota.
Performing against a CFB Playoff contender and Group of Five opposition will only help his reputation in this class. While emulating Roethlisberger or even Quinten Rollins’ second-round selection isn’t realistic, there’s every chance that Weatherford hears his name called early on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.