CHICAGO -- The Brock Vereen college highlight reel isn't exactly of the viral variety. There are no leaping, one-handed interceptions and few crushing, open-field hits.
The rookie safety, now a Bear after last weekend's NFL draft, has never been the prototypical wow player, a back-end dynamo in the mold of Troy Polamalu or Earl Thomas. But watch enough footage from Vereen's career at Minnesota and he'll surface, more often than not, exactly where he's supposed to be.
Disciplined with assignments, fundamentally strong in his technique, Vereen is reliable in coverage and a sure tackler.
Over the last three seasons, Golden Gophers defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel came to appreciate Vereen's subtle brilliance.
"Brock isn't dynamic, but he's consistent," Sawvel said. "Pretty much every game, you're going to get the same thing from Brock Vereen as what you got the week before. And there's a lot to be said in the NFL, and at any level of football, for a guy who's that consistent."
What the Bears have, Sawvel said, is a player with "an all-around solidness," an eager learner with obvious football intelligence.
Then there's his unselfishness. Because the Gophers had injuries and poor play at cornerback last fall, Vereen accepted a position change in the middle of his senior year. No gripes included.
So it's easier to understand why Bears general manager Phil Emery ordered a trade early on the draft's final day to move up and nab Vereen in Round 4.
Emery noted Vereen's starting experience at corner and safety and his ability to match up with different kinds of athletes. He also mentioned Vereen's "reactive anticipation" in coverage.
"Kind of like a center fielder in terms of breaking on the crack of the bat," Emery said. "He's good in coverage in terms of anticipating cuts and mirroring receivers, staying with receivers through their cuts. (He's) good in terms of his angles and his fits against the run."
Vereen's quest to climb the depth chart began Friday, when a three-day rookie camp gets underway. His rungs up the ladder, Emery believes, will include his toughness and instincts.
That's not to say Vereen's game is without holes. And the Bears' recent track record in drafting long-term answers at safety has been spotty. Brandon Hardin, Al Afalava, Kevin Payne, Chris Conte and Major Wright all hit significant bumps in the road.
So to earn the trust of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, Vereen will have to improve his ball skills while showing he can compete with bigger, more athletic receivers despite his ordinary size (6 feet, 199 pounds) and modest length (30-inch arms).
"Timing is everything," Vereen said. "With some of those bigger guys, the more film study you can do on them to get any advantage to use as far as their timing and how they like to use their body, then you can play big with them."
Vereen's contact with the Bears during the pre-draft process was far from extensive. Not long before the draft, defensive assistant Chris Harris visited Vereen's high school in California. The two watched film and discussed defensive concepts on the white board.
"It was a very positive meeting," Vereen said. "I guess he felt the same way."
With the Bears low on proven commodities in a safety group that includes Conte, Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Craig Steltz, there's certainly an opening for Vereen to emerge.
Sawvel believes the Bears will quickly value their new safety's dependability.
"If he gets beat on a play, he's going to be there; you're just going to have to beat him on that play," Sawvel said. "That was a very big relief as a coach. I'd go to bed every Friday night and could put my head on the pillow knowing what we were getting from Brock Vereen the next day."
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