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Strengths: Looks the part with good height and length for the position (32½” arms and 9¾” hands). Fluid footwork and smooth backpedal, doing a nice job quickly changing directions. Exceptional vertical leaping ability. Shows very good closing burst, taking decisive angles to the play. Heady player with good awareness and doesn’t get fooled easily. Aggressive but disciplined. Versatile experience at both cornerback and safety as a four-year starter, collecting 280 total tackles. Stand-out on special teams with a school-record 9 blocked kicks. Three career punt returns with two returned for scores.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite top-end speed and doesn’t flash a second gear to routinely recover after false steps. Opens his hips too early in his transition and will allow his pads to rise. Loses balance when he gets too upright in his stance. Unpolished instincts and needs to show better anticipation in coverage to recognize what the offense is doing. Only an average tackler because of his limited strength, more of a hugger. Needs to do a better job using his limbs to be physical at the point and consistently finish in run support. Didn’t encounter elite talent at the FCS-level and will face a learning curve dealing with the speed at the next level.
The Two-time Big South Special Teams and Defensive Player of the Week was a Buck Buchanan Award finalist and a FCS College Football Performance Award DB, National DB and National Defensive Performance Award winner. He became the all-time leader in blocked kicks this season as well as the all-time leader in career solo blocks. Bethel leads the team in tackles with 87, 3.5 of which were for a loss. He has a sack to his credit and has recorded four interceptions, one of which he ran back for a touchdown against California, where he also had a blocked punt that he ran back for a score for the team's only points of the game. Bethel was a Big South Pre-season All-Conference Selection and earned the third All-Conference nod of his career and his and PC's first Defensive Player-of-the-Year award for his performance on the field this past season. Bethel was just the second defensive back to be named Big South Defensive Player of the Year and the first since 2003. Bethel was fourth in the league in tackles, third in passes defended and second in interceptions. He recorded double-digit tackles in four games, including a career-high 15 at Furman this season. Bethel is the PC career leader in tackles, as well as interceptions.
Big South Second-Team Defensive All-Conference... Started 10 games, missing one with an injury ... Recorded a team-best 47 unassisted tackles ... Was in on 59 total stops ... 15th in the Big South in tackles per game with 5.9 ... Finished the year averaging 6.6 tackles per game in league play, which was third most ... Tallied six solo stops at Wake Forest and eight total tackles at Clemson ... Had six tackles and forced a fumble at The Citadel ... Garnered eight tackles and had a quarterback hurry against Coastal Carolina ... Posted six stops and recorded an interception, sealing the win over Gardner-Webb ... Accounted for a season-high 11 tackles against Liberty ... Blocked a kick against Stony Brook, becoming the Big South's career leader in the category ... Totaled five tackles and recovered a fumble in the win over Davidson.
Started all 11 games ... Earned second-team all-conference accolades ... Recorded a team-best 79 tackles, 55 of which were solo ... Recorded 10 stops against Elon ... Totaled four tackles including a sack at The Citadel ... Notched a season-high 13 tackles (11 solo) at Stony Brook ... Posted double figures in tackles against Liberty (11) and at Coastal Carolina (11) ... Had 4.5 tackles for loss on the year ... Forced one fumble ... Blocked three kicks, two of which came against Gardner-Webb ... Also recorded a 26-yard run on a fake punt against the Bulldogs.
Saw action in 12 games ... Totaled 54 tackles on the year, including 37 solo stops ... Had a career-high 10 total tackles at Appalachian State ... Recorded two interceptions ... Returned his first interception for 16 yards, which came against North Greenville ... Amassed four pass breakups ... Blocked two kicks, with the first coming against Western Carolina and the second at Charleston Southern.
Played for Jeremy Saitz and former PC wide receivers coach Jeff Scott at Blythewood H.S. ... Will be reunited with PC Defensive Line Coach Reuben Wright, who was the Defensive Coordinator at Blythewood during the state championship run in 2006 ... Named Blythewood's Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Defensive Player in 2007 ... All-region accolades in 2007.
Justin Andrew Bethel was born June 17, 1990 in Sumter, S.C. ... Son of Chris and Brenda Bethel ... Has three siblings ... Majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Music.
Draft Scout Player News
08/01/17 - CB Justin Bethel, who wasn't expected to return to practice until Monday, was a full participant on Tuesday and wore a brace on his hyperextended knee. "I knew he'd be back. He wanted to come back sooner," coach Bruce Arians said. "That was great to see him out there today. He was flying around, he was full speed."
01/04/17 - CB Justin Bethel was limited for most of the season because of a painful foot injury that required surgery in the offseason and never quite healed. It cost him a shot at winning a starting corner job opposite Patrick Peterson and it prevented him from earning his fourth Pro Bowl selection as a special-teamer. Bethel, though, found success during the team's final two games as a slot cornerback, a position coach Bruce Arians said could be ideal for Bethel moving forward.
"I think Justin found his spot inside," Arians said. "He played really well in the nickel and we'll have to see if we can create a nickel or dime situation. He's done it in the past when Tyrann Mathieu is the nickel and he's had tight ends or somebody else."
12/29/16 - CB Justin Bethel finally heard head coach Bruce Arians say something nice about him after being criticized most of the year for his performance in the secondary. A three-time Pro Bowl selection as a special teamer, Bethel has struggled when playing corner the past two seasons. He held his own last Saturday in Arizona's victory at Seattle, however. "Justin may have had his best game as a Cardinal, as far as a defensive back, and looked really good at nickel," said Arians, who only two weeks early referred to Bethel as "a failure in progress." Arians said, "He's a good blitzer. He's a good tackler, so it's a good spot for him. It's just that Ty (Tyrann Mathieu) and those other guys play that position most of the time."
10/04/16 - CB Justin Bethel, a three-time Pro Bowl performer on special teams, fell to the ground and was unable to make a tackle on Tavon Austin's game-breaking 47-yard punt return that helped set up the Rams' go-ahead and winning touchdown Sunday.
After watching tape, coach Bruce Arians realized what happened.
"Yeah, he got a hand through his facemask and got poked in the eye," Arians said. "It is hard not to hit the facemask when you get poked in the eye. That's usually a penalty."
09/22/16 - CB Justin Bethel (knee) was listed as limited for Thursday's practice.