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Spagnola: Just Doing The Absolute Right Thing


FRISCO, Texas – Let's start here with Trysten Hill.

Can't say I ever knew who he was if happened to watch a Central Florida football game. Never watched any tape of the 6-3, 308-pound defensive tackle. Never met the guy.

But for a guy some have labeled as a "big talker" and in the "doghouse" with the first-year staff of coaches at Central Florida, this is the impression he made Friday night here at The Star during his conference call.

First, he began his answer to a question from a female reporter with "yes, ma'am."

He referred, while addressing questions from male reporters, to "sir."

When asked if he had that mythical national championship ring from his 2017 undefeated sophomore season at Central Florida, Hill said, "Yes, sir. I got it on right now."

And Trysten, why do you refer to your team as national champs, even though that award went to Clemson? He said, "We beat every team on the schedule, and we beat the mess out of them. We went undefeated and we did everything we were supposed to do."

You go, Trysten.

And he had better be ready to go. Obviously, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli advocated for the kid. He talked about how Rod worked him out at his Pro Day, that he spoke with Rod on the phone, that he was ready for Coach Rod to "baptize" him into the NFL.

Same with Coach Kris, that's Richard, the passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach. He, too, advocated for the guy. And you know, Kris, he's partial to defensive backs, right? Unh-un, he's partial to guys who can make life easier for his secondary dudes.

When it came right down to it, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, COO Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett were partial to helping their defensive line with the 58th pick in the draft after using their first-round pick on a wide receiver, that being Amari Cooper.

While so many bought into this perception the Cowboys absolutely needed a safety in the second round, a media creation, the Cowboys held true to a long-standing draft tenant that you go big before you go small. They never felt they just had to take a safety that high, and if those asking questions about safeties had just listened to what Stephen Jones was saying, they would have deciphered that while the Cowboys were not opposed to taking a safety – if said safety was the next Darren Woodson – they were not going to sell out their draft to take one just to take one.

"Disrupting the passer makes the safety play better," Jerry Jones reasoned.

Jones empowering his oft-mentioned do-right rule, and evidently agreeing with my long-standing opinion that helping this defensive line should be their top priority.

If everyone had been listening, Jones sang the praises of free safety Xavier Woods, meaning if there was to be an open spot, strong safety would have been it. But again, if there was not a Woodson out there, and Taylor Rapp is not Woodson, taking a strong safety with a second-round pick is a little rich for my blood. Evidently, even theirs. Had they gone safety, it would have been a Hill, uh, Juan Thornhill. Just remember, the Cowboys have won with Jeff Heath there.

But if I said it once, I'll say it again: The Cowboys did not give up 273 yards rushing in the playoff loss to the Rams because of their safety play. They needed to be better up front. That defensive tackle rotation without problem-child David Irving was sorely lacking. And here is what you should like about this guy when one draft analyst began comments on Hill's pros like this:

Explosive. Almost shocking quick off the snap for a man of his size.

And this:

Carries some dynamite in his hands.

And we know how much Marinelli loves penetration from his front four. He's forever preaching get up the field. His D-linemen will tell you that, according to Marinelli, if you ain't rushin', you're stealin'.

Man, that's what this team needed in a big way. Think about this: Now the Cowboys have Maliek Collins, Kerry Hyder and Hill to play the under-tackle. They've got Antwaun Woods and Christian Covington at the 1-technique. And then, depending what else happens in this draft, Tyrone Crawford is a wild card, able to play defensive tackle, where he started the first seven games last season, or defensive end, where he started the last nine 2018 regular-season games and both in the playoffs.

As for Hill's character, as Marinelli points out, don't judge from what some of the analysts say. He says Scott Frost's staff, the ones who brought him to Central Florida and coached him his first two years, had nary a discouraging word to say about the 21-year-old. When told Marinelli about Hill's _yes, ma'ams_ and _yes, sirs_ during his conference call, Marinelli said, "Yeah, yeah." That he told him, "Don't bring any of that sweet talk to me. Just be ready to play hard, to practice hard."

Now then, as for those thoroughly brainwashed on safeties, the Cowboys still have four picks remaining. Saturday will be about the time the Cowboys go the safety route and likely running back and possibly cornerback, too. And they might have been tempted to grab Alabama running back Damien Harris had New England not selected him two picks ahead of the Cowboys' third-rounder, which ended up being versatile offensive lineman Connor McGovern.

Just ask yourself, what gets you beat faster than anything else? Lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks (and remember, the Cowboys only recorded 39 sacks in 2018)? Or the play of a strong safety? What gets you beat faster than anything else? Lack of depth on the offensive line (and my guess is McGovern can play multiple positons on the offensive line at 6-5, 308 in a backup role for now)? Or a one-dimensional box strong safety?

Be real now. Don't let your bias override your common sense. Not having dynamic 3-tech defensive tackle play, one of the most important positions in Marinelli's scheme, probably next to weakside linebacker (see Leighton Vander Esch), will crush this defense. So that's exactly where the Cowboys spent their expensive draft capital on Friday.

Hill the right guy? We're soon to find out.
Right position?

You bet. No doubt about it.