CB Poole appears starved for action

DAVIE (sun-sentinel.com) - Will Poole has been the talk of the Dolphins camp, and that isn't hard to understand. He treats the football like a hungry thief treats a loaf of bread. He grabs it and runs.

"Coach [Pete] Carroll [at Southern Cal] always preached that the ball was the key to game," said the 5-foot-10, 193-pound defensive back.

"He told us that the offense needed it, and it was the defense's job to get it. He wanted us to go after it at every chance." Poole, considered a steal when he lasted until the fourth round of the draft, has caught the attention of the coaches as well as his new teammates with his instinct for turning up with the ball.

"I don't think we've had a guy who's had more big plays on a day-to-day basis," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Every day he comes up with a caused fumble or interception."

The Dolphins haven't had a cornerback make such an impression since Sam Madison in 1997 and Patrick Surtain in 1998.

Poole seems what the team hoped Jamar Fletcher would be. (Fletcher was sent to San Diego in the trade for since-sidelined receiver David Boston.)

"He is just a football player," secondary coach Mel Phillips said. "He is cool under pressure. He is quiet inside when everything around him is loud. It has been a while since we have had a player come as fast as he has."

Poole is far ahead of any other in turnovers, and the physical nature of his hitting and his ability to catch the ball has helped him. He was particularly impressive in the practices with Houston last weekend.

With Madison and Surtain missing some practices with injuries, Poole has worked with Reggie Howard as the first-team corners.

When the season starts, Poole will play in the dime package and on special teams, but the Dolphins say they wouldn't hesitate to put him at any of the corner positions.

"The first thing he does is get in position to make the play," Phillips said, "and then you know that he is going for the ball."

Teammates like running back Travis Minor have learned to look for the rookie when they have the ball.

"If you see him coming, you had better tuck the ball away," Minor said. "He has shown too many times that he is going for it if there's a chance. The only way to stop a guy like him is don't give him the chance."

Poole's ability to attack the ball is aided by his knowledge of the defense. He is still learning, as a rookie must, but he isn't thinking as much as many rookies need to.

"I have good older players like Madison and Surtain to teach me the nuances of the system," Poole said.

"I have studied hard to learn the system, and it has given me a better opportunity to play at the speed of the game. There are bigger, faster people in the NFL playing with a greater intensity."

It isn't a surprise that Poole feels slighted in being bypassed until the fourth round, but he says he is where he wants to be and proving that he belongs.

"Where I was drafted wasn't a major factor," said Poole who went to high school with NBA stars Lamar Odom and Speedy Claxton. "My dream was to play in the NFL, and as long as I got it, the draft position was important -- but not critical."

Poole's draft position was affected because some felt his speed wasn't adequate for the position, and others were aware of some off-field problems.

Poole began his college career at Boston College but was kicked off the team in 2001after stealing computer equipment from another student.

"Nobody is perfect," Poole said, "but I have tried to learn from my mistake. I'm also trying to get better every day as a player. Speed isn't always measured in someone's feet. You can make up for a lot of steps with knowing where to go."

It is also easier for coaches to focus less on a player's speed when he comes up with the football as often as Poole. He led the Trojans with seven interceptions last year and had 80 tackles with four fumbles caused and two recovered.

"For him, going after the ball is like second nature," Surtain said. "All of us are after the ball. The difference with him is he usually gets it."

By Craig Barnes
Aug 10, 2004
© Copyright 2004-2005 www.miamifootball365.com

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