Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner: Scouting Report. Everything You Need To Know

Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner: Scouting Report. Everything You Need To Know
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BREECE HALLJAHLEEL BILLINGSLEYKENYON GREEN
GARRETT WILSON CARSON STRONG
  • Height: 6’2
  • Weight: 188 lbs
  • College: Cincinnati
  • Year: Junior
  • Position: Cornerback

BACKGROUND

If you are going to go round asking to be known by your nickname of ‘Sauce’, then you had better be able to back that up with performances on the field.

Ahmad Gardner, cornerback of the Cincinnati Bearcats, is more than capable to living up to the nickname and the interest in him approaching the 2021 season.

The nickname stuck when he was 6 years old, playing for the Eastside Bengals in Detroit: Michigan. Gardner was able to make plays on both sides of the ball in high school, spending time at both cornerback and wide receiver.

Even though he was only a 3* recruit coming out of high school in 2018, there were still several offers on the table. In the end he headed to the Cincinnati Bearcats, who had just completed a very successful season beating Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. 

Gardner wasted no time in Cincinnati, creating an immediate impact in his 2019 freshman year. It included 3 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. His production remained consistent during 2020, as Cincinnati went unbeaten.

Gardner is yet to allow a touchdown against him in his College career and has become a lockdown corner at this level. He earned recognition with his second straight first-team All-AAC honours. In what looks like a strong 2022 draft class at cornerback, Gardner is out to prove he should be one of the first names called at the position. 

Watch the video below which shows Gardner’s excellent athleticism and play recognition!


STRENGTHS

  • Athleticism 
  • Ball locator
  • Play recognition
  • Energy / confidence

Ahmad Gardner is a tall, rangy athlete with a lean frame. This gives him excellent length and reach when contesting a catch. He also possesses explosive bursts of speed which can either get him to his destination first or give him the opportunity to recover when required.

At 188lbs he does not look dominant at first glance. But, he makes up for this with a very aggressive and robust approach to his play. It will be interesting to see if he seeks to build up any further to prepare for the transition to the NFL. 

His previous experience as a wide receiver in high school aids his ability to track the ball in flight and to pre-empt the quarterback’s intentions. The natural instinct he displays to find the ball twinned with his athletic ability are a potent combination.

Gardner plays with an energy and enthusiasm and you can see he relishes the challenge of going up against top receivers. You only need to watch his game-long with Gabriel Davis in 2019 when Davis was at UCF!

He has that cornerback swagger so important at that position. NFL teams will see a confident prospect able to add quality into their secondary straight away. 

WEAKNESSES

  • Fluidity
  • Positional Play

It is hard to pick at weaknesses in a player with such a successful recent record. However, it is probably the case that his strengths mask a couple of technical areas to work on.

Gardner is an athletic cornerback as opposed to a technician cornerback. His footwork and fluidity have improved over the last 2 years and this is an area to continue to focus on. The explosive speed and length can make up for situations where he needed to be more fluid in the hips in changing direction.

Gardner is also, at times, over-reliant on his ability to recover. He can be overly aggressive using his anticipation and if he gets this wrong, he then has to rely on his athleticism to get him out of trouble.  He has been able to do this at College-level but it may be a weakness which would receive greater punishment in the NFL. 

In the last 2 years Gardner has become one of the top press-man cornerbacks in the College game. However, some refinements in technique may be required to continue his development ahead of the 2022 draft.

SUMMARY

There is no doubt that Gardner has been one of the best cornerbacks in one of the top college defenses, in the last 2 years.

The 2021 season will be interesting as his former defensive coordinator, Marcus Freeman, has now departed Cincinnati for Notre Dame. Perhaps the biggest question for Gardner is how he will adjust to the system adopted by new DC Mike Tressel. 

Gardner’s form of the last 2 years had planted him firmly in the discussion to be one of the top cornerbacks coming out in next year’s draft. If he can demonstrate his ability to adapt to a new defensive scheme in Cincinnati this season and if he continues to work on some minor technical refinements, he should be confident of being a first round prospect.

Get ready for ‘Sauce’! 

How good of a prospect is Ahmad Gardner? Let us know over on Twitter @NinetynineYards and @47Yards

Image credit: gobearcats.com

Video Credit: ESPN College Football YouTube Channel

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