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Steelers select Sean Spence in third round

Posted Apr 28, 2012

2012 NFL DRAFT - Steelers Third Round Selection

SEAN SPENCE
Outside/Middle Linebacker
University of Miami Hurricanes
5:11.3-231
Miami, Florida
Northwestern High School
3rd Round – 86th Overall

CAREER NOTES
Spence started 40-of-47 games at Miami - 39 at weak-side outside linebacker and the 2011 Georgia Tech contest at middle linebacker…Ranks 11th in school history with 318 tackles (170 solos) that included 10.5 sacks for minus 87 yards and 47.0 stops for losses totaling 164 yards…Caused four fumbles, recovered another, deflected nine passes and had a 7-yard interception return for a touchdown…Spence is the first Hurricane to record 100 tackles in consecutive seasons (111 in 2010 and 106 in 2011) since 2003 (Jonathan Vilma made 133 stops in 2002 and 127 in 2003)…Is just one of six Hurricanes to ever record 100 tackles at least twice in a career.

2011 SEASON
Spence earned All-American fourth-team honors from Phil Steele, as the Butkus Award semifinalist was the recipient of the team’s Captain’s Award and Jack Hardin Most Outstanding Player Award…Earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association…Started the team’s final 11 games, including ten at weakside outside linebacker and at middle linebacker vs. Georgia Tech… Led the team with 106 tackles (54 solos), three sacks for minus 23 yards and a team-high 14 stops for losses of 39 yards, as that total ranked second in the league and tied for 30th in the nation…Finished fourth in the ACC with an average of 9.64 tackles per game…Also caused a fumble and deflected one pass…Registered at least ten tackles in six games.

2010 SEASON
The team’s Most Valuable Player earned second-team All-ACC honors from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association…One of seven Hurricanes to start all 13 games, the junior weak-side linebacker finished second on the team and fifth in the conference with a career-high 111 tackles 959 solos) that included 2.5 sacks for minus 21 yards…Paced the Hurricanes and ranked fourth in the league with a career-high 17.0 stops for losses of 61 yards for a team that ranked 22nd in the nation in total defense (323.31 ypg)…Caused two fumbles, recovered another and deflected six passes…The junior was all over the field and posted 11 hits with a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage vs. Ohio State, adding nine tackles as he registered 2.5 tackles for losses, including 1.5 sacks. vs. Pittsburgh…The junior posted 11 tackles with three stops for minus 12 yards vs. Georgia Tech, had ten hits that included a 3-yard sack and 2.5 stops for loss before ending the year with a ten-tackle performance vs. Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl.

2009 SEASON
The sophomore started seven of the ten games he appeared in, as he finished with 36 tackles (19 solos)…Credited with three sacks for minus 28 yards, 6.5 stops for losses of 33 yards and a quarterback pressure.

2008 SEASON
The Freshman All-American selection by The Sporting News and College Football News, Spence was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year after he received 39 votes of 67 ballots cast by members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association…The weak-side linebacker started the last nine games, finishing third on the team with 65 tackles (38 solos) that included two sacks and a team-high 9.5 stops for losses of 31 yards…Also caused a fumble and deflected a pass, scoring on a seven-yard interception return during his first career start, vs. Florida State, adding ten tackles vs. the Seminoles…Caused a fumble in the final moments of regulation vs. Virginia.

HIGH SCHOOL
Spence attended Miami Florida powerhouse Northwestern High School, playing football for head coach Billy Rolle…Was a four-star prospect, rated 13th among the nation’s outside linebackers by Rivals.com, as that recruiting service placed him on their Florida Top 24 squad…Scout.com also regarded the 194-pound prep senior as a four-star recruit and rated him the fifth-best weak-side linebacker in the country…Moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, picking off a pair of passes while recording 96 tackles…During his junior campaign, the team compiled a 15-0 record, with the linebacker leading the state with 197 tackles that included ten stops behind the line of scrimmage while picking off two more passes…In 2007, the team’s national championship campaign, Spence delivered 123 tackles with two interceptions and three sacks…Rated the second-best outside linebacker in the country by ESPN and earned All-American honors from Prep State…Added All-State accolades from the Florida Sportswriters Association and ranked sixth on the Miami Herald South Florida Top 25. Selected to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100 team, he competed in the inaugural Under-Armour All-Star game.

PERSONAL
General Studies major…Born 06/07/1990 in Miami, Florida.


* AUDIO: Sean Spence Conference Call
Sean Spence Conference Call Transcript

SEAN SPENCE
Linebacker
3rd Round – 86th Overall

Re: Coming to a team with a pretty good tradition at linebacker:
It’s great to come to an organization that always competes for a championship. Having a chance to play here is just a tremendous feeling.

You were a team captain; do you consider yourself a leader?
I do. I am a guy that is going to work hard, come in and get my one-eleven and give it all for my team. I am a team player. I am going to try to contribute any way I can.

Re: Only doing 12 reps at the combine:
I had a banged up shoulder, coming from the Senior Bowl. I had a deep bruise. I wanted to compete and show scouts I wasn’t scared. Unfortunately, I only pushed out 12 but I can do more.

Does being a lighter inside linebacker hurt your perception around the league?
I am not sure. My perception doesn’t matter around the league. I am just happy to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. I am glad they saw something in me to pick me.

How many tackles did you make at Miami, about 500?
[Laughs] I think I had 300 or up around that area. I had 41 tackles for loss, if I am not mistaken.

Re: Playing on special teams your first season:
There’s no doubt I will. When I met with Coach Butler at the combine, he told me that no rookie linebacker came in and started. They had to work their way in on special teams. I am all for it. Anything I can do for the team, I am willing to help, whether that’s coming in and contributing on special teams, I am all for it.

Players from Miami normally go in the first round, right?
We do. They do. But it’s a draft. You never know how it will go. I know guys that are just happy to be drafted so they can reach their dreams.

Re: The Steelers’ linebackers:
It’s going to be great getting to train alongside those guys. I’ve watched them for so many years. I’ve watched Lawrence Timmons play. Just having a chance to be in the same room with those guys and practice with them, and read their mind is going to be great.



Linebackers Coach Keith Butler on Sean Spence

Is Sean Spence and inside or outside linebacker?
He is going to be inside. They (Miami) have played in a 4-3 front, but it’s a different front than ours. We see him as an inside linebacker.

Are the days of Levon Kirkland playing the buck long gone?  He seems pretty small?
I wouldn’t say that. This guy is smaller than Levon Kirkland. Sean is a very instinctive, fast, quick kid that is very smart. He is probably best served if we can cover him up. What I mean by that is; if you look at James Farrior, he played the last four or five years at 230 pounds and when you get older like that, it’s best to be playing at 230 pounds as opposed to 235 pounds because he knows the game well enough that he is going to act fast enough and he can use the techniques and knowledge of the game, he doesn’t have to be as heavy. It’s better for him so he can keep his mobility, because that’s more important than anything else. This guy has that mobility.

Is this guy a buck?
I wouldn’t call him a buck, no. The buck linebacker has to be a little bit bigger and take on the guards more.  We cover our linebackers up pretty good.  What I mean by that is, we let them scrape and run to football a little bit more instead of coming downhill and taking on isos. The day of the iso with the middle linebacker is almost gone. Everybody is using tight ends as fullbacks and sometimes they use them when trying to lead and sometimes they don’t.  A lot of stuff today is mis-direction and trying to fool you or out-number you one way and then give you a different look coming back the other way. A lot of that requires the ability to read from the linebackers now-a-days, not so much to get down and stuff a hole. Sometimes you have to do it on the goal line when you have to take on a big running back, but we’re taking on Ray Rice, we’re not taking on Jerome Bettis anymore.

Are you happy with what you have at inside linebacker right now?
Yes. I think we can always get better. You lose a guy like James Farrior, which you’re never going to replace because of all the intangibles he brings to the table, that’s just impossible to replace all of that. We feel good about who we have inside right now and we’ll have to grow and learn as we go.

Where is he in terms of being NFL-ready?
He’s going to help us on special teams. He’s not going to start at “mack” linebacker over Lawrence Timmons. That isn’t going to happen.

James Farrior used to talk about how complex the “buck” linebacker position is.  Who do you have in the pipeline there?
The pipeline is going to be Sly (Sylvester Stevenson). Larry Foote is going to be the starter.  Larry Foote knows this defense in and out. He’s been in this defense for 10 years. If anybody knows this defense it’s Larry Foote  The guy behind him is Sylvester Stevenson.  Sylvester has been with us a couple of years. He’s a very sharp young man, and he’ll be even better. Last year I required him to know a bunch of different positions, and he knew them well enough to put him in there when we needed him. We had some injuries more than once last year, and he was able to play different positions. That will be required of him again this year. For him and all the other linebackers, they have to move around. Lawrence Timmons moved around.  He’s played inside and outside. I would prefer to leave Lawrence inside and give him a chance to get some of the recognition. I feel like he’ll play well enough to get the recognition that he deserves, because I feel he’s one of the better linebackers in the league. I feel if we can keep him at one position, inside, then he has a chance to be one of the better linebackers in the league. 

Larry Foote is a very capable starter for us, and there won’t be much dropoff by having him in there. Our two outside guys are good players, as you know. Jason Worilds really came on and played well last year for us. The more he played, the better he got. What probably hurt our young guys last year, (Stevenson and Worilds) those two guys didn’t have OTAs.  Most of the time young linebackers get better their second year because of the OTAs. The first year, they come in and they go through a complex system. They’re having to think out there, and as a consequence they don’t move very fast. They’re thinking.  The next year they come in and it’s night and day for them because of repetition. They go, “Oh, that’s what we did.  That makes sense now.” They move much faster. Well, these guys didn’t have the benefit of those OTAs, and we had to get them in training camp and they were like rookies. Instead of having the OTAs and the minicamp again and then the training camp, they just had training camp. We took out two-thirds of that process for them to learn by having the lockout. That hurt them quite a bit in my opinion, and Jason Worilds really came on for us at the end of the year. I’m sure that Sly will do the same thing this year.

Does Sylvester have long-term starting potential?
I need to see more from him. He might think he does, but he has to convince me first. 

Do you see Worilds at inside or outside linebacker?
Worilds played outside for us last year and did a great job. Can he play inside? Maybe he can.  We’ll see. We might give him a look at that. Right now we need him at outside. Chris Carter has a lot to learn. He was one of those rookies last year that gets the benefit of that second year this year. I have my work cut out for me as a coach.

Did they ask if you wanted Hightower and did you say, ‘No, we’re good’?
No, I didn’t say that. (Laughter) I didn’t say that and whoever said I said that wasn’t exactly telling the truth. I didn’t say that. They didn’t ask me. I was kind of standing on the table a little bit, but they didn’t ask me.

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