Ask Corey Chavous to name impact players in Friday’s NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, and he’s off.
“I like Cedric Wilcots II, the defensive end,” at New Mexico State, he says. “He’s got the size. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s going to get better. He’s a player that has enough power to influence this game.”
Chavous goes on. Utah State guard Rob Castanetta “is nasty. I like how nasty he is.” USU’s center and right tackle can play, and so can a few of the team’s receivers. Quarterback Jordan Love gives Utah State “more down-the-field passing capability,” he says, though it helps that he has receivers Gerold Bright and Savon Scarver.
Chavous then starts listing backups who might help — and that’s before mentioning New Mexco State’s offense or Utah State’s defense.
“I don’t play around,” he said. “I know every player and their background.”
Nobody may know more about the Arizona Bowl — and its participating teams, New Mexico State and Utah State — than Chavous, a 10-year NFL player now working as a CBS Sports Network college football analyst. The former Arizona Cardinals safety has spent weeks studying both rosters, watching film and breaking down both coaching staffs’ tendencies.
The homework, he said, it part of job. Make that jobs, plural — Chavous is the founder of DraftNasty.com, a website that covers sports with an emphasis on scouting and the draft.
The Star talked to Chavous, 41, about calling the Arizona Bowl, his time with the Cardinals and which team is motivated to win:
You’re back in Arizona, where you played for the Cardinals for a few years (1998-2001). What do you remember about your time there?
A: “I liked my time with the Cardinals. I wish I could’ve stayed longer. They weren’t real interested in keeping me. In terms of what I liked about it, I liked everything; teammates, living there, playing there, the fans.”
Have you been to Tucson before?
A: “Actually, I’ve practiced on their field. We had (Cardinals) minicamp there back in the day. When I think about Tucson, I think about (late ASU and Cardinals star) Pat Tillman. We had a good time in Tucson, a really good time. That was back in 2000. You see how old I am now. …”
When did you first think, ‘Hey, I could be good on TV?’
A: “I didn’t really think that, and I (still) don’t. You learn over the years what you need to improve on. I’ve been doing television since I came into the NFL. I was doing television back in ’98. Even then, I was covering the draft for ESPN for six years, I hosted my first draft on NFL Network, and I’ve been a lead analyst on draft coverage two or three times. Back then, I thought I was further along — being a broadcast journalism major — than I am. It’s what I did in college (at Vanderbilt). I’m probably better behind the scenes, in show production and producing stuff.”
You’re a former player, and you could easily get really into the weeds with Xs and Os when you’re on the air. How do you balance that while keeping it understandable for viewers?
A: “People want to learn. They want you to take them inside the game. Most people know what an out route is, a slant is. Most people know what a curl is and most people know what a sack is. You need to look at it in terms of, ‘What does someone understand?’ You’re not going say, ‘We’re going from Linda Mabel 3’ (formation) to something else.’ I don’t think people understand that. You have to learn to use common sense (as a broadcaster). You can draw and use the Telestrator to show that. That’s one of the things I like to do the most.’”
How long does it take to develop a relationship with your broadcast partner?
A: “Dave Ryan and I have been working together five, six years. One year, back in 2012, I worked with 15 different broadcast partners for two different stations, ESPN and CBS. Developing that rapport? Me and Dave have done a good job. We’re really good friends, which makes it easier.”
How do you prepare to call a game?
A: “I have notes on every team in college football, and I watch them (on film) during the summer. Most of those are junior and senior, (draft) eligible guys for my publication.”
That’s a ton of work …
A: “I just love it anyway. It’s what I do year-round. When you get to a game, though, you dig deep, because most of (a broadcast) is about schemes. What do they like to do on third-and-three-or-six, or third-and-seven-plus? Who are the fumblers? What about ball security? When do they pull their guards? You start looking at the game differently.”
What’s an Arizona Bowl matchup to watch?
A: “(NMSU quarterback Tyler) Rogers and (running back) Larry Rose III get a ton of props, but the but the guy I really want to see is (wide receiver) Jaleel Scott. It’ll be exciting to watch the matchup between him and the Utah State secondary. Do you sacrifice putting your All-American player on him in (cornerback) Jalen Davis? That, to me, is the real chess match in this game. Where do they line Davis up? Are you going to use Davis the way you always use him?”
What’s at stake here?
A: “I think both teams will be excited. It’s a game on the West Coast, it’s somewhere different, and you have a chance to have a winning season and not a losing season. You’ve got two 6-6 teams; one is going to go home 6-7. That’s a big deal. Did you have a successful season if you end up with a losing record? There’s a lot of motivation with that part of the game alone. … The thing I like about both teams is that when you watch them play, they play very hard. That’s the thing I look at when I watch tape. How hard do they play? Both teams play hard.”