Pierre played cornerback his entire career before converting to safety as a freshman for FAU. The knowledge he gained from playing deep, along with his length, turned him into one of FAU’s most unique defensive playmakers.
“I know what the safety is going to do and what choices he is going to make.” Pierre said. “At safety you are like the quarterback of the defense you know, so when I got to corner I had to know what to do, execute.”
Pierre played in all 14 games last season as a true freshman, recording 21 tackles while learning a new position on the fly.
Playing safety taught Pierre the inner workings of the secondary as a whole; a big shift from his mindset as a corner where he only focused on the receiver opposite him. That knowledge went on display with a goal-line stop at the Hadley Park scrimmage in Miami on Saturday.
Quarterback Chris Robison play faked right, rolled out to his left and was brought down immediately by Pierre who recognized the boot and darted into the backfield unblocked.
“I [saw] the tight end block down, he blocked down I had to elevate out and I saw Robison come around and I had to go get him.” Pierre said.
Since Pierre knew he had safety help over top, he was able to attack the line of scrimmage without hesitation and make that touchdown-saving tackle.
Pierre’s understanding of the safeties’ responsibilities pays dividends in pass defense as well. When he has support deep Pierre can play aggressively and jump the passing lanes, but when he is alone in man coverage he knows not to gamble as frequently.
At 6-foot-2 Pierre is the tallest corner on the team. He uses his length as an advantage. Pierre can bother smaller receivers who struggle to break free from his grip in press coverage, and his long legs give him the closing speed to make up ground and get his hands on passes even after it appears he is beat.
During a team period this spring, quarterback De’Andre Johnson saw an opening down the left sideline and lofted a deep pass in that direction; Pierre then showcased his outstanding closing speed by quickly catching up to the receiver who had a step on him, leaping in the air, and extending his outstretched arms to make a diving interception.
Coach Lane Kiffin acknowledged Pierre has the prototypical size for an NFL cornerback and believes his combination of length, speed, ball skills, and football IQ will soon draw the excitement of professional scouts.
“If he keeps his head on straight he will probably make a lot of money at the next level.” Kiffin said.
FAU has two solid boundary cornerbacks in senior Shelton Lewis and junior Chris Tooley but with both under 6-foot-1, Pierre is trusted with the role of guarding taller receivers.
Pierre is preparing for the task this spring by frequently matching-up with FAU’s bigger bodied receivers – 6-foot-4, 210-pound John Mitchell and 6-foot-1, 215-pound DeAndre McNeal.
“Coach tells us ‘who wants to be that guy?’” Pierre said. “I am trying to prove myself. I want to be that guy to match up with the bigger receivers.”
With his strong performance this spring Pierre is proving to be an impactful match-up weapon on the FAU defense, but he believes he can be more than a part-time player.
“I can do a lot, I just got to prove myself and my coaches have to trust me.” Pierre said. “I am never satisfied.”