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Rookie Report: Rock Ya-Sin

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-OTA Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Until about a month ago, Rock Ya-Sin was not a household name.

It is now, at least in Colts territory.

The Indianapolis Colts selected the cornerback in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and many Colts fans, including myself, were wondering who this guy even is.

But let’s face it, Chris Ballard knows what he’s doing. He’s been on the hunt for multi-faceted players that will bring competitiveness and leadership to the field and the locker room.

“He was outstanding at the Senior Bowl and he was great all year,” Ballard said of Ya-Sin. “Then you stack on his character, his competitiveness, his will to win, it just fit us. I kept telling our guys, ‘Look, we move and we pass this guy that we love and we don’t get him, we are going to be regretting it.’ So, at the end of the day we end up picking a guy we loved.”

Ya-Sin attended Southwest DeKalb High School in Atlanta, Georgia and began his high school career as a wrestler, and a two-time state champion at that.

It wasn’t until his junior year that he began playing football. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ya-Sin explained how his wrestling background helped translate onto the football field.

“Just the competitive nature of going out there and going against a guy,” he said. “There are not excuses. You can’t blame it on anybody: win, lose or draw. It’s you versus another man.”

Ya-Sin played 11 games at South Carolina’s Presbyterian College as a true freshman with two starts, 15 tackles and two pass breakups. In his sophomore campaign he started 11 games for 31 tackles (two for loss) and nine pass breakups.

In 2017 he became a First-Team All Big South player with 45 tackles, five interceptions and eight pass breakups.

Next came a transfer to Temple University in 2018 where he led the team with 47 tackles, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions. He was selected to the First Team All-American Athletic conference in his senior year.

Ya-Sin’s college coach, Geoff Collins, has nothing but good things to say about his former player. “He’s tough, tenacious, competitive, relentless, every adjective you could use, is embodied in Rock Ya-Sin,” Collins said. “He’s amazing.”

Mike Derice, an area scout for the Colts, recently discussed the scouting process of Ya-Sin on Colts.com.

Derice noted that Ya-Sin’s enthusiasm, drive and diligence are among the many reasons why the Colts drafted him. When asked how tough it is to play just a year of Division I football and end up as a second round draft pick, Derice said, “That’s a testimony to his hard work. He came in there and felt like he belonged, and he planned on out-working everyone, and he’s gonna try to do the same thing when he gets here.”

Ya-Sin has spent the majority of his career playing in man-to-man coverage, but said he feels comfortable in zone as well.

He’s able to move his feet quickly, flip his hips and get downfield in a hurry. During the Senior Bowl, scouts were able to see some of the zone techniques he lacked during the 2018 season.

“I think you can see the progression of his technique as the season went on,” Derice said. “So you know that he’s feeling better about what he’s being taught and at the Senior Bowl he just put it all together, and it was good to see him learn different techniques and actually apply it.”

OTA’s allowed Ya-Sin to showcase his skill-set and coaches were clearly impressed with his toughness. Though Ballard expressed he still has some technique to work on, he’s convinced this pick will pay off in the 2019 season.

“I’ll tell you the things he is going to have to work on is his zone coverage because he hasn’t done a lot of it,” Ballard said. “But he’s physical. He’s tough. He’s got ball skills. He’s got instincts. He’s got all the traits we look for. He’s got size and he’s got good speed. So we think he’s got all the makings of being a really good corner in this scheme.”

Ya-Sin is the perfect fit with the way the Colts run their defense.

I watched a lot of film of his from Temple and one aspect that really stood out was his ability to stick to receivers. His speed benefits his capability to get downfield and find the football and his length aids in being able to get in the air and bat the ball away from receivers.

He also shows willingness to tackle in the run and sets a tone of physicality. What I like most about Ya-Sin, though, is his sheer will to win. He’s expressed that he has and will work harder than anyone else on the field, and is a great competitor.

I’m eager to see how he fares against some of the better offenses in the NFL, as he’ll most certainly be a problem for a lot of teams the Colts face this season.