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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Michael Carter II, Defensive Back, Duke

Could Carter fit in the Colts’ defensive backfield?

Alabama v Duke Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.

The first draft prospect of the season is a good one as I sat down with Duke slot corner Michael Carter II. We had an excellent conversation about his Team Captaincy, his ability to play all over the field on defense, and how he fits on an NFL team.


Background

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 190 pounds

Class: Senior

Carter II is an impressive individual off the field. He came into Duke as a three-star safety out of South Paulding High School in Douglasville, Georgia. While most players redshirt in their first season, he was able to make an immediate impact as a Freshman as he appeared in 12 games. After that Freshman campaign, Carter II was able to go on to have a prolific college career with the Blue Devils as he appeared in 42 games in his career and totaled 135 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 23 pass deflections.

For awards and accolades, Carter II earned a degree in Public Policy and a certificate in markets and management in his four years. He was also a Team Captain in his final two years at the school. He was awarded the Willis Aldridge Award which goes to Duke’s best defensive back in each of his final three years in college. He was also an All-Academic ACC in each of his final three years in college.

ZH: I read on your school site that you have a degree in Public Policy, or at least are still completing the degree as the site isn’t up to date. What are your plans for after football with your degree?

MC: I actually did graduate, that was something I wanted to make sure I did before I left Duke. As far as plans, I don’t even know. Football is my dream and that is all I wanted to do but I definitely have thought about whether I want to go back to school for Law School or Business School but I do want to stay in some realm of sports when I am done playing.

ZH: You were a Team Captain for Duke. What did that honor mean to you personally?

MC: I was a Team Captain my Senior season and it was voted on by the players so that meant a lot. It meant that these guys look up to me and they also respect my voice. It also means they are watching my actions and that I display good character. It made me have to step a bit out of my comfort zone and be more vocal rather than just leading by example.


Kenny Moore II Praise

ZH: When I watch your film I see a little bit of Kenny Moore II personally but who do you watch in the league when studying NFL players?

MC: I like to watch versatile guys and guys who have a similar mold to me and obviously guys like Kenny Moore are like that. I watch him and see how he moves and how versatile and physical he is at his size. Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker have that dog mentality and relentlessness. I watch some Jaire Alexander on the outside. Just seeing how those guys play with their size and how they play and how they can cover the best of the best as well.

ZH: Watching Kenny Moore II do it every weekend and I love seeing smaller corners with that dog mentality you know?

MC: I found out about Kenny Moore about two years ago and I’ve just been drawn to his game ever since. I’m always tuning in when he plays and watching his highlights and things like that. He’s just one of those guys I love to learn from and try to project myself as.


Press Technique

ZH: Do you have a preferred press technique that you like to go with?

MC: You know I don’t really have a preferred technique, it all really depends on the receiver I’m going against. Since I am smaller, I like to think about the best way for me to win against this bigger guy or smaller guy. A bigger guy, I can try to be physical with him all day but obviously, he is bigger but if he wants me to be physical I’ll do that if that’s how it goes. I usually try to mirror those guys because I am quicker and work on that mirror technique and getting hands-on to run with those guys. The smaller guys are when my safety mentality comes in to be physical and use my length to jam them up at the line. So it really depends on the receiver and what I see on film going into the week.


Closing Speed

ZH: I love your closing speed on film. Is that something you have worked on with drills like on your explosion and such or is that a natural ability?

MC: I will say it’s probably something that is a bit more natural but obviously getting to college and working out more on the explosive lifts and drills we do has continued to develop me as a player to get stronger and faster on the field. The drills I would do on my own and with my teammates to take as little steps as possible to get from point A to point B and things like that have been huge. I think I’ve had it but I’ve grown from year one to year four.


Attacking Mesh from the Slot

ZH: So I’ve always wanted to ask a slot guy about attacking mesh in off coverage. I saw a few moments on film where you locked it down and that is extremely hard to do in off man. How do you personally attack mesh routes from the slot?

MC: I think that kind of plays into my strengths like having that awareness on the field. I can usually look around the field and see that if they are in 2 X 2 or something then I can see that the other safety and are at the same depth and usually in a mesh look they will condense the formation down and then on film you’ll see one person go over top almost every time. So having that awareness to know where your other guys are on the field because they are going to be crossing you. If you know your guy is going to be the underneath piece then you can anticipate that and try to get over the top. You can’t guess but with anticipation then you know what is coming and how to close that space quicker than offenses create.


Playing Alabama

ZH: You played Alabama back in 2019 when they had all that elite talent at receiver in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle. How was that experience for you?

MC: Every receiver we play is great and all those guys deserve where they are at in the ACC. That game was a real moment like these guys are for real and you can watch them on tape but that game speed is something else. It was definitely exhausting chasing those guys around but it was certainly a good eye-opening experience for everybody. We got to see first-round guys up close and that is where we want to be because when you get to the NFL, everybody is like that. It was an eye-opening experience, a fun experience, and a blessing to play against those guys and I think we played pretty well as a DB unit as a whole in that game.


NFL Projection

ZH: So to close this interview off, what is my team getting if they spend a draft pick on Michael Carter II in this class?

MC: You are going to get a leader for sure. You are going to get a guy who is versatile, able to be coached, a great teammate, and friend. A guy who is willing to push himself beyond his limits to make the team better and himself better and push others to be better as well. A guy who is not scared to tackle, can move all over, and is willing to learn and adjust on the fly. Ultimately a good teammate who is always going to look out for his teammates and brothers on and off of the field.


My Final Thoughts

I personally came away very impressed with Carter II from this interview. I have talked to a couple hundred draft prospects over the past few seasons and it is always great to meet someone as mature and well-mannered as Carter II is. Reminds me of a few other Colts guys I have talked to in Khari Willis and Nyheim Hines actually.

When it comes to the Colts taking him, I’m not super confident. Indy likes those big, long corners and the only player they made an exception for was Kenny Moore II who has freakish athleticism and long arms. However, I could see an avenue where they like Carter II if T.J. Carrie doesn’t return in free agency.

Carter II is likely a day three guy in this class due to lack of a combine and his smaller size. I do think he can churn out a productive NFL career even if it may not be with Indianapolis. Wherever he ends up, I am a big fan of him and his game.