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Bears could select safety with 14th overall pick

Updated: February 24, 2014 10:07PM

INDIANAPOLIS — Calvin Pryor’s inside track to play for the Bears comes from the team’s latest and most surprising coaching hire.

Clint Hurtt was the lead recruiter as a member of the Louisville staff that coached the safety.

Despite the Bears’ claim they were done hiring, Hurtt was named the team’s assistant defensive line coach last month after an impressive interview for the lead job that went to Paul Pasqualoni.

Pryor, perhaps the hardest-hitting defender in this year’s draft, has kept in touch with his old coach.

And while picks aren’t made because of collegiate connections, it, pardon the pun, couldn’t hurt.

“He keeps feeding me [info] and giving me updates how everything’s going,” Pryor said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday.

If the Bears decide to use their No. 14 overall pick on a safety — and heaven knows they need help — they could choose between Pryor and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Both would likely play free safety, the position currently occupied by Chris Conte.

General manager Phil Emery said this week he will welcome back the beleaguered Conte, but he would have competition.

Strong safety Major Wright is a free agent and might not return.

Pryor and Clinton-Dix, who both left school after their junior years, occupy the elite-prospect tier at free safety. Pryor is known for his thunderous hits and Clinton-Dix is considered more well-rounded, if not as explosive.

“He plays fast, he’s always around the ball, he can hit,” Clinton-Dix said of Pryor. “He’s a physical person. If I compare myself, I’ll say I’m very quick … I can’t say I can hit like him — because he’s a big hitter.”

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said the 6-1, 210- pound Pryor could be a bigger, stronger version of former Colts star Bob Sanders. Pryor said he can play both free and strong spots.

Mayock said that the 6-0, 210-pound Clinton-Dix has better range and is “more of a deep-third, deep-half guy” as a free safety.

Both could go in the top half of the first round.

“I think you need more versatile safeties in this league now,” said Clinton-Dix, whose nickname, given by his grandmother as a toddler, is a shortening of his first name, Ha’Sean, “I play fast. I’m very physical, I’m not afraid to line up against the slot. I can do it all.”

In the wake of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas’ star turn with the Seahawks, it’s a good time to be a physical safety.

“It’s a great need for the NFL,” Pryor said. “And with the NFL being a passing league now, you need more DBs out there that can make plays on the ball.”

Just ask the Bears.


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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