The UCLA Football program has been able to land a number of four and five star recruits over the past five years. But sometimes it isn’t your star rating that determines your success, but how you show up on the field.
Joining the UCLA Football program as part of the 2015 recruiting class Nate Meadors came to the Bruins as a local defensive back from San Bernardino. While he was clearly seen as a capable player for the Bruins he was overshadowed by the likes of DeChaun Holiday and Colin Samuel in terms of star power. Still, Meadors managed to turn heads with his play on the field and earned plenty of playing time during his freshman season.
The ascension came quickly due to an injury to starter Fabian Moreau but the quick rise didn’t go to his head. Instead Moreau took that season to sharpen his skills and become one of the best returning DBs in the PAC-12 for the 2018 season.
At this point he’s everything you’d draw up in a CB with NFL potential. He’s big enough (five-foot-eleven, 195 pounds) to be physical against the run without being too leggy in his backpedal. Meadors will beat up receivers at the line of scrimmage but has plenty of speed to carry his man downfield.
It isn’t just coverage where Meadors excels. He’s a fierce and secure tackler and has notched 112 total tackles in three seasons from a position where we see many players shy away from contact.
He has all that you look for in a corner except unlike many corners in the game today, Meadors doesn’t do a lot of talking. He just lines up and forces you to try and make perfect throw after perfect throw to beat him. After the play he doesn’t get in your face, doesn’t showboat, he just gets ready for the next play.
In fact, Meadors is so steady and business-like in his approach to games that you might even forget he’s out there if not for his ability to take away a team’s number one receiver. It’s that type of coverage skills that only come from someone who is confident in their athletic prowess and technique. Technique can be taught. Athleticism can be honed. The confidence in himself is the type that is instilled in young children and is frankly something you have or you don’t.
The entire package that is Meadors will have a chance to thrive in the newly rebuilt defense with Paul Rhoads as his secondary coach. Chip Kelly has a history of talented defensive backs from Cliff Harris to Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Those Oregon Ducks corners thrived in the man coverage, trail technique because it allowed them greater opportunities to make plays on underthrown balls and squeeze opponents into the boundary.
That style of play fits perfectly with what Meadors loves to do. Use the boundary as another defender and make the QB beat you with an absolutely perfect throw.
With the vocal and emotional leader of the secondary, Jaleel Wadood, looking towards the NFL, Meadors and safety Adarius Pickett become the grizzled veterans of the unit. Both will have to become leaders in the defensive backfield. Pickett will fill the role of the emotional leader. He’s fiery and physical. Meadors, well, I think it’s clear what kind of leader he will become for this UCLA Football team.