The Baylor Bears’ defense was one of the most imposing units in college football this past season. On the field, the leader of the Bears’ defense was Baylor LB and NFL Draft prospect Terrel Bernard — whose scouting report could have him pressing for a top 100 pick. Let’s take a closer look at Bernard and what he has to offer.
Terrel Bernard NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Baylor
- Current Year: Redshirt senior
- Height: 6’0 1/2″
- Weight: 220 pounds
- Wingspan: 74″
- Length: 30 5/8″
- Hand: 9 1/8″
Terrel Bernard Scouting Report
Baylor’s defense is fun to watch for a lot of reasons. The simplest one has to be the sheer amount of talent on Dave Aranda’s squad. The Bears have standouts at every level of the field, and seemingly every player goes fast and to the whistle. It’s no doubt a well-coached unit, but there’s legitimate NFL talent present as well.
The most impactful players pop off the tape. Jalen Pitre is a homing missile in the box. Siaki Ika is a hyper-powerful nose tackle with bull-dozing potential in both phases. JT Woods is a rangy playmaker at safety. But the man who ties it all together is Bernard. He’s the captain of the Baylor defense, with a scouting report worth remembering.
Terrel Bernard’s athletic profile
Standing around 6’1″, 220 pounds, Bernard is a bit underweight for the modern NFL linebacker. But Bernard brings solid athleticism to help account for that. The Baylor LB is a fairly explosive athlete. He has a quick first step toward his target, and he’s spry out of his stance. Bernard also has the short-area twitch and agility to stick to receivers and minimize cushion, and he hits an excellent second gear when closing on opponents.
Bernard’s closing burst is strong, but other athletic departments also provide promise. He has the lateral athleticism to surge in front of gaps and take away running lanes. With this lateral agility, he swims through congestion and finds his way to the football. Moreover, Bernard has light feet and fluid hips in space. He changes directions well and can quickly surge out of his stance and flip his hips downfield.
Bernard is an energetic, urgent mover who sinks his base easily on transitions, and he maximizes his movement ability with efficient footwork. Although his top-end speed isn’t elite, Bernard can turn his hips to the sideline and close off outside runs with his range. This burst and hip fluidity also enable him to match tight ends in man coverage. Furthermore, he has the athleticism and coverage ability to line up in the slot as an overhang defender.
Bernard isn’t a liability from a play strength standpoint. He’s shown he can rip down TE anchors and generate power against RBs on the blitz.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Bernard is a smart player and an effective communicator pre-snap. He can change alignments and get others in position. Bernard also recognizes misdirections off of motions and keys in on actual intent. He effectively communicates to teammates directions of runs and counters and processes quickly as plays develop.
More often than not, Bernard’s eyes follow the ball. He knows how to maintain his angle, then trigger and engage. The Baylor LB actively seeks to maintain gap discipline in run defense. With this discipline, he can take up space and get runners to freeze as they approach holes. He also knows how to use micro-movements in the trenches to keep himself clean and open up a path to the RB. He’s a patient player but also decisive.
Bernard’s ability to manage spacing also shows up in pass defense. The Baylor LB follows the quarterback’s eyes and drapes tight ends across the middle of the field. He can also meet RBs seeping out of the backfield and blanket them. He has smooth movement ability and solid feel in coverage. That allows him to keep good positioning in space.
Among other things, Bernard identifies running backs sneaking out to the flat and closes in quickly. He’s also more than willing to dish out physicality when engaging blocks. Bernard’s shown he can play larger than his frame at times. He’s versatile and has experience at all three linebacker spots, even rotating out to the slot.
Areas for improvement
Most notably, Bernard is a bit undersized. Even with his moderately physical style, it impacts his play at times. He can struggle to get off blocks at the second level, and he’s not adept at breaking anchors or filling gaps consistently. With his lighter frame, he can be easily delayed in his pursuit of runners. Moreover, the Baylor LB can be easily sealed off when he bites on misdirection.
Bernard can overset on play-action at times, leaving space behind him, and he doesn’t always get proper depth. He doesn’t have great length, and this can limit his disruption radius as a playmaker in coverage. Like most linebackers, Bernard falls for eye candy at times. In recovery, he can be late to turn his hips, and his top-end speed, while solid, isn’t elite sideline to sideline.
Going further, Bernard can be a more anticipatory player in space. His pursuit angles are too tight sometimes, and he isn’t always able to pinch runners against the sideline. Moreover, the Baylor LB can get flat-footed on transitions and lose his balance on occasion. It doesn’t help that he can be outmuscled at the stem by tight ends. He’s not weak, but his play strength can limit him in certain matchups.
Closing out, Bernard’s light frame doesn’t always carry optimal force and mass into contact. Furthermore, the Baylor LB can be more consistent using pass-rush moves on the blitz. He has the capacity to use quick swims but can better apply targeted physicality. Particularly late in 2021, Bernard showed flashes here.
Terrel Bernard’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Bernard’s projection to the NFL is an interesting topic. Many of his skills translate well, but his size may be slightly limiting. At 220 pounds, Bernard’s at least 10 pounds lighter than your average starter at his height. In spite of that number, he’s proven he can be physical. But against stronger NFL players, it could demand an adjustment.
Nevertheless, as a pure player, there’s a lot to like with Bernard. Though not quite an elite athlete, he surpasses the starter threshold with the requisite explosiveness, twitch, and fluidity to work in space. In man coverage, he uses his fluidity to blanket players up the middle. In zone, he has the spatial awareness, processing ability, and short-range burst to frustrate quarterbacks.
Bernard’s play strength and size may impact his run defense transition at the next level. But even there, his spatial management skills translate in the box, and he’s shown he can use targeted physicality to dismantle blocks, as well as make tackles with strong form. If he can get up to 230 pounds without losing athleticism, he’ll be in good shape.
Bernard is a solid coverage LB with starting potential as a 4-3 WILL/MIKE or an ILB in 3-4 alignments. He can also shade out to overhang slot against move tight ends and some receivers. He’ll need to build on his frame, but if he can do that, Bernard has the athleticism, quick processing, and positional prowess to be a steady second-level defender with some disruptive ability and versatility in both phases.
Bernard’s Player Profile
It’s been a long journey for Bernard. Not merely by the time it took but also by the hardships experienced along the way. But Bernard has emerged on the other side as one of the most productive Baylor defenders in the school’s new era. It’s a resolution that wasn’t doubted by anyone who knew Bernard heading in.
Bernard’s journey didn’t begin with nearly as much fanfare. The Baylor LB was only a three-star recruit in the 2017 class. Coming out of LaPorte High School, with a 4.85 40-yard dash and a near-35-inch vertical, Bernard had offers from a few Power Five schools — namely Texas Tech, Northwestern, and Washington.
Bernard ended up staying in-state. Yet, rather than going to Lubbock or Dallas, he took the three-hour drive up Highway 6 North, from the Gulf of Mexico to inland city Waco. There, he kicked off his career as a Baylor Bear.
Bernard’s career at Baylor
It wasn’t long before Bernard was tested on his new path. The Baylor LB earned early playing time on Matt Rhule’s defense but suffered a season-ending foot injury just two weeks into the season. It would’ve been easy for Bernard to become disheartened so early in his career. Instead, he used the time off to reflect and grow as a player. And when he came back in 2018, the results started to speak for themselves.
Coming back from injury, Bernard played in 11 of 13 games, logging 47 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and an interception. From there, the opportunities just kept coming. In 2019, Bernard amassed 112 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, an interception, 2 pass deflections, and 3 forced fumbles.
Bernard’s strong play earned him early favor in the eyes of new coach Dave Aranda — when Aranda officially joined Baylor in 2020. Another injury forced Bernard off the field after a productive start in 2020, but the Baylor LB had been through this drill before. He rehabbed, reflected, and came back with his best in 2021.
In 2021, Bernard developed into a star. He played in 13 games, accumulating 103 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, and 4 pass deflections. Even more impressive than his raw production was his consistency from week to week. Bernard consistently produced, and he left with arguably his best career game in the Sugar Bowl — earning 17 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and a deflection.
Bernard not only earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final year, but he also received first-team Academic All-Big 12 honors multiple times in his career, graduating with three undergraduate degrees, as well as a master’s in Sports Management.
Bernard’s NFL Draft ascension
Bernard has done just about everything he could have done at the collegiate level. Now, it’s time to take his talents to the NFL. Bernard has already accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he’ll be able to showcase his talents in front of scouts. He’s also sure to get an NFL Combine invite, where he’ll have the opportunity to boost his stock with testing.
Those two events, as they often are with other prospects, will be big for Bernard. If the Baylor LB shows out, he has a legitimate chance to be a mid-to-late Day 2 pick. His weight may be a sticking point for some teams. But if he tests faster than expected — and if his veteran savvy shines in Mobile — he could earn confidence as a potential NFL starter.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Terrel Bernard
Positives: Athletic three-down linebacker who is effective in pursuit and making plays in space. Remains disciplined with assignments and flows well to the action. Goes sideline to sideline and covers a terrific amount of area. Fast moving in any direction, displays a burst of closing speed, and breaks down well.
Fluid flipping his hips in coverage, gets depth on pass drops, and can burst to the ball out of his plant. Stays with assignments, easily changes direction, and gets into space to make plays. Takes proper angles to the action, stays on his feet, and wraps up tackling. Runs down opponents in the open field.
Negatives: Easily disrupted from the action by a single block. Gets caught up in the trash. Has size limitations.
Analysis: Bernard is an athletic linebacker who can be used on the inside of a 3-4 defense or as a traditional weakside linebacker in a 4-3. He must get stronger and improve his technique shedding blocks. But Bernard is a sleeper at the linebacker position and could quickly produce as a rookie in the NFL.
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