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March 12, 2019

Ferguson: Betts climbing draft boards after impressive pro day

Yan Doublet/Laval

Mathieu Betts is the real deal. I was in attendance last year on his home turf in Quebec City to watch two practices and the USPORTS East-West Bowl. During that week in practice Betts consistently met and exceeded expectations which leads me to believe that regardless of the heightened level of anticipation surrounding Betts’ eventual drafting he will yet again answer the bell in the next big challenge of his football life.

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Earlier this week Betts held a pro day at Laval which was attended by scouts from both sides of the border, continuing a trend blazed by names like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Antony Auclair and many earlier who made the jump from the RSEQ conference to the height of CFL and NFL Draft interest.

During that workout Betts laid down numbers that proved his worth, showing the unique explosive skill set that helped him lead the RSEQ with nine sacks in six games played last season.

Betts’ size is certainly not a concern. He measured in at the same height as Ricky Foley and the weight of Laurier grad Ese Mrabure, who now spends time bouncing around the interior defensive line of the reigning Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders.

Betts laid down the same bench as Junior Turner did when coming out of Bishop’s in 2011 before being selected ninth overall by Calgary.

The mind blowing part of Betts’ physical attributes comes when you talk quickness and speed, which is no surprise if you’ve ever seen how fast he gets off the ball or his open field closing speed on a bootlegging quarterback.

He tied the best 40-yard dash time (4.70) ever run at a CFL Combine with McMaster’s Ben D’Aguilar in 2013 and Western Mustangs’ Dylan Ainsworth in 2014.

Here’s the catch. Betts did it while 15 pounds heavier than D’Aguilar and 19 pounds heavier than Ainsworth!

He also showed above average lower body explosion while jumping 9’9” in the broad jump and 29.5” on the vert. Betts’ in-game quickness translates well to testing as expected. He laid down a slightly better shuttle time than Laurier sensation Kwaku Boateng and the fastest time ever recorded by a defensive lineman at a CFL Combine by .20 seconds over Calgary product Micheal Klassen. That’s not a small margin and comes in first amongst 250 defensive lineman with combine data available.

Testing: Check.

At the CFL National Combine presented by New Era, Betts will test through the roof again if – fingers crossed – he decides to lace them up in Toronto on CFL.ca/Live.

As for his game play, I wanted to highlight five things I love about Betts’ game, which was tough because he does a little bit of everything extremely well.

The first thing that caught my eye was his ability to read and react against cross ball motion, free releasing running backs and situations where the quarterback is reading his posture.

 

Betts has the ability to go full speed ahead, put one foot in the ground and change direction on a dime like a receiver would. Those quick reactions made him near impossible to attack in the zone read game while at Laval — an attractive feature to add to a CFL Draft resume considering how much traffic CFL defensive ends have to sift through on a play-to-play basis.

As an aside, that second clip of a team trying to read Betts on an inverted veer run play as he took away the jet sweep just enough to swallow the quarterback made me yell at my computer screen in amazement.

I also loved the variety of pass rush moves Betts has adapted to his game as he grew and developed at Laval. His ability to drop the inside shoulder, keep offensive tackles’ hands off him and cut the corner is special.

 

Just when you think you have him figured out and plan to sit a little bit further outside to stonewall that edge, Betts hits you with any variety of outside-in pass rush moves. From rips to spins and everywhere in between he is a complete pass rusher who stays surprisingly humble in the run game without sacrificing much in the way of all-out pressure every pass play possible.

 

That last play at the 2018 East-West Bowl is worth your time to pause as he sticks his right foot in the ground just to see how much torque he creates while bending back inside against elite USPORTS offensive tackle play. It has been a near unstoppable combination of power and quickness all packed into the frame of number nine in red and gold.

 

If tying the fastest 40-yard dash off any defensive lineman ever evaluated at a CFL Combine doesn’t impress you much because you believe in game speed, I’m with you – kind of.

Betts PLAYS fast, which is always the difference between a track star and a football player. His closing speed combined with quick decision making should help to quickly adapt to the faster pace of CFL play should a team be so lucky to get their hands on him.

Watch any of Mathieu Betts’ work and you quickly realize a trend. Wherever he goes, the football quickly becomes available. The man is constantly ball hunting with wild tomahawk chops from behind passers or while tracking down running backs from behind with his top end speed.

 

Betts is a GREAT player. He’s checked off all the boxes so far in evaluation and will undoubtedly continue to rise in CFL Draft rankings. With a loaded field of invitees it wouldn’t shock me to see Betts remain the star of stars from this draft in a couple years.

He’s given us no reason to doubt it, yet.