Tag Archive: Kansas State


Size: Lucas has very impressive size for an offensive tackle as he is listed at 6’8”, 328 pounds. He has very long arms and certainly looks the part from a length standpoint, but he needs to gain noticeable weight in his lower half to continue to improve his anchor and give him a chance to generate better movement in the run game when blocking 1 on 1.

Athleticism: For such a huge man Lucas is a pretty impressive athlete. He rarely has issues getting to the second level, he can take away a defensive end’s speed rush off the edge, and he looks like he has the lateral agility to stick at left tackle in the NFL to me. He’s not an elite level athlete, and he probably won’t run that well in the 40 yard dash, but he looks the part of a NFL tackle to me.

Technique: This is one part of Lucas’ game that needs work in my opinion. His hand placement needs noticeable work and I think he got away with a number of pretty egregious holds in the games that I watched of him. He lets his hands get too far outside both in the run and pass game, and I think he needs to improve that before he will be a quality starter at the NFL level. There are times he bends at the waist which is concerning, but what is more concerning is how high he plays consistently. He regularly stands straight up when attempting to run block and while he is going to struggle naturally with pad level due to his height he rarely seems to bend his knees and attempt to win the leverage battle. He is also very rarely in a true 3 point stance, and I think operating out of the two point stance aids him in pass protection. When he is in the 3 point stance he tends to more or less stand straight up out of the stance whether he is run or pass blocking.

Pass Protection: This is the strongest part of Lucas’ game in my estimation. As I mentioned previously he has the athleticism, even at his mammoth size, to take away edge rushes from defensive ends. His length certainly aids him here and he does a good job getting out of his stance into his kick slide and not over-committing to stopping the speed rush very often. He struggles at times with power moves and bull rushes because of his issues with leverage and pad level though. He needs to get stronger so he can anchor and recover better, but if he doesn’t improve his pad level and work on bending his knees as he absorbs contact it won’t matter how strong he gets; he will still struggle to absorb bull rushes, anchor and recover. He showed the ability to recover when defenders got him off balance though which I was encouraged by. He’s not a quick-twitch athlete, but he showed that he could mirror defenders pretty effectively. He doesn’t show much of an initial punch to shock the defender, and I want to see him work on replacing his hands when they are slapped away by a pass rusher trying to avoid being engaged. He has plenty of upside in this phase of the game, he just needs coaching.

Run Blocking: This is the aspect of Lucas’ game that drives me up the wall. Despite his massive size and length he is extremely passive in this area of the game. He struggles with pad level and leverage in the run game much like he does in the pass game, only here it is even more pronounced. He rarely generates movement off the snap, he regularly stands straight up as he’s attempting to run block, and doesn’t play with any nastiness or tenacity in this phase of the game. He doesn’t consistently block to the whistle, he doesn’t finish blocks the way I would like him to, and he seems content with temporarily getting in the way with a wall off block, a reach block, or a combo block where he gets to the second level. He does get to the second level and engage linebackers consistently well, but he leaves a lot to be desired in his 1 on 1 run blocking against defensive ends (even those significantly lighter than he is). I don’t think he’s ever going to be a good drive blocker, and therefore he is going to be best in an offense that utilizes zone blocking concepts consistently. He has the athleticism to perform them all, he just hasn’t quite gotten the hang of the cut block yet. One of the parts of his game he really needs to improve on is short yardage. Those are the situations in which his “gentle giant” tendencies are most obvious. He doesn’t fire off the ball, he doesn’t win the leverage battle, and he doesn’t generate any push, which leads to his defender ending up in the backfield more often than not. From what I could see it looked like Kansas State rarely ran behind him when they really needed the yardage, and I don’t blame them. He has the size and length to be an effective run blocker, but he’s very far away from that at this point in his development. He needs significant coaching and technique work in this area.

Overall: Lucas is a difficult prospect for me to pinpoint exactly. He has all the size, length and athleticism you could ask for in a tackle as large as he is (and his height is almost a detriment at 6’8” or so) but he doesn’t have the strength or tenacity that I value in offensive linemen. I think he’s going to be an effective pass blocker at the next level with continued coaching, but it does concern me that he spends so much time in the 2 point stance and doesn’t seem overly comfortable coming out of a 3 point stance. That can be coached, but it’s something that gave me pause when watching him. The problem area is really his run blocking which I don’t think will ever get significantly better than it is now. He can effectively wall off and seal his man now, he can get to the second level to get a hat on a linebacker, he can double team with his guard or his tight end, and he can block down on a defensive tackle and seal him. He’s never going to be a good drive blocker who can generate push off the ball and unless his line coach can really light a fire under him I don’t think he’s going to consistently block to the whistle and make it a point to take his man out of the play each snap. He has that potential, but it has been almost completely unrealized at this point. He’s definitely a guy who needs some development, and it seems like Kansas State has found ways to gloss over some of his shortcomings (putting him in a 2 point stance and rarely asking him to drive block) but they will be on full display at the next level. He needs to start working to correct them.

Projection: 3rd-4th round. As much as I think he has significant upside as a pass protector his run blocking tanks his grade for me. There’s plenty of talent to work with here, but he needs significant coaching up. He’s worth a look on Day 2 and definitely on Day 3, but without significant improvement as a senior I don’t think he’s going to be drafted in the first two rounds.

East-West Shrine Game Recap

Quarterbacks:

1-      Nathan Stanley, Southeastern Louisiana- Stanley still has room to improve as his accuracy and timing seemed to be a bit off at times, but he has the size and arm strength that makes him an intriguing developmental Day 3 guy in my opinion. He has a ways to go from working under center and making reads, etc. However, he’s got talent worth stashing as a 3rd quarterback late in the draft in my opinion.

2-      Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech- Cameron has never been my favorite prospect, but he showed me a little more velocity than I thought he had this week and I think he has some potential to be developed into a solid back-up.

3-      Matt Scott, Arizona- Scott certainly had his struggles this week, but he spins a clean ball and has the 2nd best velocity of all the quarterbacks in St. Petersburg and has the kind of athleticism that teams will be looking into at quarterback given the emergence of the zone read in the NFL. He’s very much a developmental prospect that is better out of the shotgun than under center at this point, but I think he warrants consideration on Day 3.

4-      Alex Carder, Western Michigan- I have never been a big fan of Carder and I don’t think he’s going to be a NFL starter, but he grades out as a 7th round/UDFA quarterback from what I’ve seen of him. I don’t think he spins a very clean ball and doesn’t have much beyond average arm strength and velocity, so I don’t think he has much upside at the next level.

5-      Seth Doege, Texas Tech- Doege’s lack of arm strength was on display this week and while he has made a career out of overcoming adversity I don’t think he is going to be a NFL starter. He will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Graham Harrell and be developed as a potential back-up in the NFL.

6-      Collin Klein, Kansas State- Klein struggled with velocity and accuracy every day that he was here and I think that there were so many questioning whether he could play quarterback at the next level coming into the week that it’s even more difficult to make that argument now. I actually expected him to be bigger considering the beating he took the past two years running the ball so much but he only weighed in at 218 pounds despite being over 6’4”. He looked best to me when he was running the ball, and maybe someone will still take a flyer on him late on Day 3 to try to develop him or maybe sign him as an undrafted free agent, but it’s hard to imagine him being a NFL quarterback after watching him this week.

Running Backs:

1-      Christine Michael, Texas A&M- There’s not a strong argument to be made that Michael isn’t the running back with the highest upside here in St. Petersburg. According to @DashDiallo1 (Follow him) he is high on the reserve list for the Senior Bowl and he has had a great week. Brandon pointed out something I had not noticed before- Michael seemed to be looking at the ball as he was taking hand-offs and pitches instead of keeping his eyes up and reading his blocks. I hadn’t noticed this, but that’s definitely something that he has to work on. He has all the size and athleticism to be a quality NFL running back, and if he can clean up his eye level when taking hand-offs or tosses he will be ready to make an immediate impact. It is certainly concerning, but it should be coachable.

2-      Ray Graham, Pittsburgh- Graham should be ready to contribute right away as he has the burst and athleticism you want as well as reliable hands. He’s had a good week and was the strongest back on the East roster.

3-      Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt- There are some that are high on Stacy and some that aren’t, but I’m a fan. He’s not a flashy back, but he does a lot of things well and I think if he lands with the right team he could be a solid contributor as a rookie. He’s not as explosive as Michael or Graham but his game translates to the next level.

4-      Kerwynn Williams, Utah State- Williams looked good this week as well and despite being an undersized back he has some burst and explosiveness. I don’t think he is a sub 4.5 guy in the 40 and there were some times I saw him get strung out when he tried to get the edge this week. I’m not sure he can be a NFL starter, but I think he has the potential to be a complementary back.

5-      Zach Line, SMU- Line caught my eye last year when I was watching SMU and I think he is going to make a NFL roster as a running back/fullback hybrid. Pure full-backs aren’t very typical anymore and that makes Line’s skill set valuable. I haven’t seen him block often, but he runs the ball effectively despite a lack of great speed and he has caught the ball well when I’ve seen him this week.

6-      Montel Harris, Temple- Harris has so many red flags thanks to his injury history and off-field issues that even with a great performance this week I would have hesitated to give him a draftable grade. He’s an undrafted free agent to me not only because of those things, but because of the wear and tear he’s had as a ball carrier. If you invite him into a camp and he impresses that’s one thing, but this running back class is way too deep to pick him in my opinion.

Wide Receivers:

1-      Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech- Coming into this week I thought Fuller was a sleeper and while he may not have had a perfect week I think he showed that he is a smooth runner with room to grow as a route runner, impressive straight line speed and reliable hands. There were plenty of people looking forward to seeing what Marcus Davis could do, but more and more I think evaluators are realizing that Fuller was the more talented Virginia Tech receiver on this roster. This was his break-out campaign and he has plenty to work on, but he is a great day three sleeper at receiver that has a lot of upside.

2-      Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State- Bumphis isn’t going to burn you vertically and I think he’s probably in the 4.5-4.54 range in the 40 yard dash, but what he can do is out-quick you. He is so good in and out of his breaks, he showed that he can run good routes, and he generated separation when he was allowed to work in the slot. He’s not going to run by a lot of players vertically, but he can make plays in the slot and gain yardage after the catch.

3-      Erik Highsmith, North Carolina- The only disappointing thing about Highsmith’s week was the weigh in, where he apparently measured at 6004 (6’.5”) instead of his listed height of 6’3”. He also measured in at 190 pounds with 8 inch hands, the smallest on the entire East roster. However, while he may not be a blazing fast kid he runs solid routes, knows how to use his hands to keep defenders off of him and he has good hands. In a very deep class at receiver Highsmith is going to be overlooked by a lot more flashy receivers, but even if it’s in the 6th-7th range or as an undrafted free agent I would be surprised if he doesn’t make a roster.

4-      Keenan Davis, Iowa- Davis had a good week this week and while I don’t think he’s a great threat on the outside I like him as a slot receiver threat. He measured in at a legit 6’2”, 216 pounds with huge 10 3/8” hands and while he doesn’t exactly eat up cushion he showed reliable hands all week. I liked what I saw from him this week and in the game.

5-      Emory Blake, Auburn- Blake didn’t stick out to me too much in a positive or negative way this week, but when I saw him I didn’t see drops and he may not be a guy with blazing speed but he can stretch the field vertically and track the ball in the air. He’s going to be a day three guy as well thanks to this very deep class, but he has a NFL skill set.

6-      Anthony Amos, Middle Tennessee State- Amos isn’t going to blow the doors off the combine by any means (4.5-4.54 guy in my opinion) but he has some quickness to him, he can create a little separation when he’s running routes (though he can improve here) and he showed impressive hands to snag passes outside of his frame. He’s another late round kid, but he can be a reliable possession guy for you at the next level, particularly in the slot.

Tight Ends:

1-      DC Jefferson, Rutgers- Jefferson had an impressive week and it was really evident that he was not properly utilized at Rutgers in part because of poor quarterback play. He’s got all the size and athleticism you could want at tight end and he showed the ability to high point throws and make catches with his hands outside of his frame. He’s got a lot of untapped upside and could be a nice value in the 3-4 round range given his talent level.

2-      Joseph Fauria, UCLA- Fauria was a player I was looking forward to evaluating this week, especially as a blocker, but he got injured early in the week and wasn’t able to come back in time for the game. He’s got plenty of upside thanks to his size and athleticism so it was a shame we didn’t get to see him compete all week.

3-      Lucas Reed, New Mexico- Reed was a player I was not familiar with at all but despite lacking blazing speed he has reliable hands along with a NFL body that should make him a relatively appealing day 3 target in a deep tight end class.

4-      Chris Pantale, Boston College- Pantale isn’t a flashy prospect but I thought he had a solid week. I don’t think he’s going to be a top 100 prospect by any means, but he should get a look later on day three.

Offensive Line:

1-      Terron Armstead, OT/OG, Arkansas-Pine Bluff- I don’t think anyone had a better week than Armstead did. He wasn’t perfect, but he showed that he can play offensive tackle from an athletic standpoint. He showed better technique than I anticipated as well and even though he opened up his hips early at times and got beat inside he was too much for any defensive end to handle in the game. The only defensive ends I saw beat him rushing the passer this week were David Bass and Devin Taylor, and we saw what happened to Tanner Hawkinson when he was tasked with blocking Taylor in the game.

2-      Mark Jackson, OT/OG, Glenville State- Jackson has the size and length you look for in an offensive lineman at over 6’5” with 33.5” arms. He didn’t look great outside at tackle because I don’t think he has the foot quickness for it, but if he loses a little weight (he weighed in at 341 pounds, I think he would be better off in the 325-330 range, so that’s something to monitor at the combine or his pro-day) I think he would be fine at guard. He is strong and while he doesn’t look like a natural puller he can generate push off the ball and he’s hard to shed after he engages you. He’s a quality day 3 option at guard.

3-      Manase Foketi, OT/OG, West Texas A&M- Foketi was a huge let down this week since we never even got to see him practice. I saw him standing watching drills on Monday and wondered if he was going to get in on practice the next day but he didn’t practice on Tuesday either and by the end of the week he wasn’t even in St. Petersburg anymore. I haven’t found out why he never competed but I am interested to hear what the reason was.

4-      T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina- Johnson got some time at center and at guard this week and while he isn’t a great athlete he has all the size and length you could want at center as he measured in at over 6’4”, 323 pounds with 33 inch arms. He has shown that he can anchor against strong defensive tackles 1 on 1 and he looked good snapping the ball this week. He was the best center in St. Petersburg all week and he definitely warrants a pick on Day 3.

5-      Earl Watford, OG, James Madison- Watford didn’t play in the game unfortunately (I heard it was something with his knee) but he showed that he is athletic enough to play guard at the next level even if he still needs to get stronger and continue to improve on his technique. If he can add some lower body strength to help him anchor and drive he should stick on a roster.

6-      Jeff Baca, OG, UCLA- Baca is a late round guy but I think he has solid anchor and did a pretty good job in pass protection this week. He doesn’t have a lot of starter upside at the next level, but he did enough this week to earn a late round draftable grade from me.

Defensive Line:

1-      David Bass, DE, Missouri Western State- Bass was extremely impressive to me this week. I came in with high hopes for him and he certainly lived up to them. He has NFL size, athleticism and he did a good job versus the run and the pass all week. I have to go back and watch more of him, but I think he has helped elevate himself into potential top 100 consideration.

2-      Mike Catapano, DE, Princeton- Catapano isn’t an elite athlete but he has a great motor, he’s strong, has active hands and is hard to push off the ball. He is the kind of kid who is going to get the most out of all his ability and his 6’3”, 270 pound frame with just under 34 inch arms. He’s an impressive kid and he’s going to be a contributor to a defensive line rotation as a rookie.

3-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina- Taylor is a guy who has as much upside as anyone in St. Petersburg but when I’ve watched him he just hasn’t lived up to his immense upside given his athleticism and his 6’7”, 275 pound frame. He had an up and down week in my opinion, but he had a great game going up against Tanner Hawkinson all night. Hawkinson doesn’t have good enough feet to stick at tackle and he doesn’t have the strength to play guard so Taylor beat him using his speed and his strength consistently all night. Taylor won’t have it so easy with NFL caliber tackles at the next level though, and despite his intriguing upside I still am not sold on him being an impact pass rusher at the next level.

4-      William Campbell, DT, Michigan- Campbell had a good week going against a poor cast of interior offensive linemen on the West roster but he has NFL size and athleticism. He never lived up to my expectations at Michigan but while he is still raw he certainly has upside. I think he’s a day 3 caliber draft pick with some upside as a nose tackle in a 4-3.

5-      Scott Vallone, DT/DE, Rutgers- Vallone didn’t have an amazing week but he has shown the ability to be disruptive and make plays versus the run. He’s never been much of a pass rusher, but I think he has some value as an undersized defensive tackle.

6-      Will Pericak, DT, Colorado- Pericak isn’t a flashy player but I think he has a place on a NFL roster. He’s got the size, length and strength to stick in a defensive line rotation. His motor and effort level impressed me this week.

Linebackers:

1-      Keith Pough, Howard- Pough had a fantastic week of practice. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the vocal leadership he was able to show and he was one of the only players that was able to energize the West practices at all. I definitely need to watch more of him but he really stuck out to me this week.

2-      DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina- I didn’t see as much of Holloman as I wanted to this week but he showed me enough to make me want to go back and watch more South Carolina to see him in action. He is likely a day 3 pick, but I think he has NFL talent.

3-      Sio Moore, Connecticut- Moore doesn’t strike me as a great fit in a 4-3 as an outside linebacker but I haven’t seen him in coverage a lot. Still, I think he is at his best when he is rushing the passer and when he was given the opportunity to that (even with his hand down) he was effective. I don’t think he fits the mold as a 3-4 OLB either though, so he might be a two down linebacker in a 4-3 who can put his hand down and rush the passer on obvious 3rd downs. He has upside, but he’s not a fit for every team in my opinion.

4-      Gerald Hodges, Penn State- Hodges packs some punch as a hitter but he didn’t stick out to me frequently this week when I was watching practice. When I did see him he seemed to flow to the ball well but I didn’t see him shed blocks effectively at the point of attack. That’s something I’ll certainly have to investigate more when I watch Penn State.

5-      A.J. Klein, Iowa State- Klein is a tackling machine that impressed me when I watched Iowa State, but he didn’t stick out to me much this week. He’s not a great athlete so he is going to have to compensate for that with good or great instincts, but I didn’t get a good enough look at him to evaluate that this week.

6-      Steve Greer, Virginia- Like a couple other linebackers in St. Petersburg he isn’t a great athlete but he showed a nose for the ball when I saw him this week and I already knew he was a good tackler. He’s going to have to play special teams to ensure a roster spot but I think he’s got value as a back-up linebacker.

Cornerbacks:

1-      Brandon McGee, Miami- McGee had an up and down season when I saw him play this year but he had a very good week. He showed fluid hips, good feet and impressive ball skills this week and he is going to run a very impressive 40 yard dash time at the combine. He’s got a lot of upside so keep an eye on him.

2-      Nigel Malone, Kansas State- Malone has been a guy I’ve liked all season since I previewed Kansas State before the season and he continues to live up to my expectations. He’s not the biggest or the fastest, but especially in a zone scheme he could be a very reliable corner. He’s got smooth hips, good feet and impressive ball skills. He evidenced those in the game as he got a pick 6 (even though it was thrown right to him). He might not end up in the top 100, but I’ll take him any time on Day 3.

3-      Terry Hawthorne, Illinois- Hawthorne has plenty of upside but he didn’t seem to close on passes in front of him very well this week, didn’t show me very smooth transitions and while he has good ball skills I wonder how good of a starting corner he can be. He had a nice interception when he was dropped into zone in this game (looked like Cover-3 but it was hard to see from the press box which was on the opposite side of the field from his interception) and he has talent, I just don’t know if I’d pick him day 2.

4-      Branden Smith, Georgia- Smith is an undersized corner who isn’t a great tackler but he is a good athlete with quality ball skills. He did badly misplay a pass thrown by Matt Scott to Chad Bumphis in the game that led to a long touchdown reception for Bumphis, but he usually plays the ball well. He doesn’t have the size or length to be an impact player and he weighed in at under 170 pounds but he has enough talent to warrant consideration on day 3.

5-      Sheldon Price, UCLA- Price had a solid season this year at UCLA and while I still have some questions about his game he definitely has the speed to play corner and he looked pretty good when flipping his hips in coverage this week. He has sub 4.5 speed which allows him to recover when beaten initially as well which helped him in 1 on 1’s this week.

6-      Josh Johnson, Purdue- Johnson has shown the versatility to contribute as a return man on special teams and to be a solid corner. He’s undersized but he showed me some ball skills this week and I think he warrants mid-late consideration on day 3.

Safeties:

1-      Cooper Taylor, Richmond- Taylor was a player I hadn’t seen at all coming in and I was anticipating him being a stiff, oversized safety that wasn’t good in coverage. I am happy to admit I was completely wrong and that Taylor showed good hips, impressive range and a good feel for the safety position. He’s got a great combination of size and athleticism and I think he warrants top 100 consideration based on what I saw from him this week.

2-      Duke Williams, Nevada- I’ve had my eye on Duke for a couple years now since he was a junior. He can really hit and while I have some questions about him in coverage I think he is a quality option at safety on Day 3.

3-      Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse- Thomas has good range and while he is undersized he seems to support the run pretty well despite the occasional missed tackle. At times he bites too hard on the run though and as the last line of defense that is a problem. He will get knocked for his lack of size, but if he can work on being less aggressive I think he could have a future as a starter.

4-      Earl Wolfe, NC State- Wolfe was a player I had a high opinion of coming into the week but he showed some ability in coverage as well as some ball skills. He’s a little undersized at 5’11”, 206 pounds but I think he will get drafted on day 3.

5-      Zeke Motta, Notre Dame- Motta carried a late day 3/undrafted free agent grade for me coming into the week but he showed more range and fluidity in coverage than I expected. I’m still not sold on him beyond a day 3 prospect, but he’s got more upside than I originally thought.

6-      Rashard Hall, Clemson- Hall didn’t impress me a lot when I watched tape of him but he has some ball skills and despite some missed tackles he looked solid against the run. He’s not my favorite safety prospect, but I think he has draftable talent.

Conference Predictions:

SEC:

West:

1-      LSU

2-      Alabama

3-      Arkansas

4-      Mississippi State

5-      Auburn

6-      Texas A&M

7-      Ole Miss

East:

1-      South Carolina

2-      Georgia

3-      Tennessee

4-      Florida

5-      Vanderbilt

6-      Missouri

7-      Kentucky

SEC Title Game: LSU and South Carolina: LSU is SEC Champion

Analysis: The SEC is loaded as usual, particularly the West. LSU loses Tyrann Mathieu which is unfortunate for every college football fan, but if Zach Mettenberger can establish a consistent passing game then the LSU offense is going to absolutely take off. Alabama is extremely talented as usual, but they are replacing so much on defense and at their skill positions on offense that there’s no way that they replicate their 2011 season. They are my early 2013 favorites however. Arkansas lost Bobby Petrino and their top three receivers, but unless their defense improves they won’t bump LSU or Alabama out of the top of the West. I went back and forth on South Carolina and Georgia a lot because both teams don’t have a great track record of delivering when the pressure is on. South Carolina’s defense could end up better than Georgia’s though, and even though I like Aaron Murray I have some questions about Georgia’s offense. Tennesse has talent and should be solid, but Florida’s ridiculous handling of their quarterback competition means I can’t project them any higher than 4th in the East. Vanderbilt is a bit of a dark horse with a strong core on offense and a bright coach in James Franklin, but just getting to a bowl game would be a successful season for them.

Big 10:

Legends:

1-      Michigan

2-      Michigan State

3-      Nebraska

4-      Iowa

5-      Northwestern

6-      Minnesota

Leaders:

1-      Wisconsin

2-      Ohio State

3-      Illinois

4-      Purdue

5-      Penn State

6-      Indiana

Big-10 Title Game: Wisconsin and Michigan: Wisconsin is Big-10 Champion

Analysis: If Wisconsin doesn’t come out of the Leaders division to compete for the Big-10 title again this year then Bret Bielema should just quit, because outside of Illinois there is no eligible team that has a slightly realistic chance of keeping them out of the title game. Michigan and Michigan State will be a terrific battle down to the end of the season in my opinion, and ultimately it will come down to how well Denard Robinson can deliver the ball and avoid turnovers in big games in my opinion. If he carries the Wolverine offense on his back he could be a finalist for the Heisman as well. Nebraska has some talent, but they will never be a legitimate Big-10 title contender until they get a real quarterback to replace Taylor Martinez, who is one of the worst passing quarterbacks of all the teams that don’t run an option offense.

ACC:

Atlantic:

1-      Florida State

2-      Clemson

3-      NC State

4-      Wake Forest

5-      Boston College

6-      Maryland

Coastal:

1-      Virginia Tech

2-      Georgia Tech

3-      North Carolina

4-      Miami

5-      Virginia

6-      Duke

ACC Title Game: Virginia Tech and Florida State: Virginia Tech is ACC Champion.

Analysis: Florida State is incredibly loaded, particularly on defense. Their defensive line is the best in football in my opinion, even better than LSU’s, and they return enough talent on offense to be a dark horse contender for the National Championship game. I don’t think they’ll make it because I’m not a big believer in EJ Manuel, but if he can improve enough to put up points this team could end up in the top 5 by season’s end. And yet, I have a gut feeling that this is Virginia Tech’s year and I think they will go toe to toe with Florida State in the ACC Championship game and win. I trust Logan Thomas more than Manuel in critical situations even if he is younger with less experience, and Virginia Tech returns plenty of talent on defense as well. Clemson will be nipping at Florida State’s heels as well but I don’t think Clemson’s offensive line has enough talent and experience to keep Florida State’s relentlessly deep and talented front four from terrorizing Boyd when he drops back to pass.

Big 12:

1-      West Virginia

2-      Kansas State

3-      Oklahoma

4-      Texas

5-      TCU

6-      Oklahoma State

7-      Texas Tech

8-      Baylor

9-      Kansas

10-   Iowa State

West Virginia is Big-12 Champion.

Analysis: I’m sure plenty of people will be surprised that I have West Virginia and Kansas State ranked ahead of Oklahoma and Texas, but I have plenty of faith in West Virginia’s offense to pass their way to the top of the Big-12 and if their defense improves at all they could very well win this conference. Kansas State shocked everyone last year by not only being good but by being good enough to get to the Cotton Bowl. And yet, everyone is writing them off again this year even though they return plenty of talent across their roster, and even their losses on defense aren’t irreplaceable. Collin Klein is the Tim Tebow of the Big-12 and he will keep Kansas State competitive even if it isn’t always pretty, and those writing KSU off will look foolish again this year. Oklahoma continues to be ranked in the top 5 year after year regardless of how many times they fail to live up to their talent level. Landry Jones plays a big role in that, and there aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t want leading my team more than Jones. He’s not reliable under pressure, he panics in big time situations and collapsed when his best receiver Ryan Broyles went down last season. Oklahoma has plenty of talent on defense, but that has never stopped them from failing to live up to expectations, and even though Mike Stoops is back in the fold I don’t think it will be enough to win the Big-12 or a National Championship. Texas seemed to be on the right track naming a starting quarterback, but now the competition is back on and when you have two quarterbacks you really have none. So as good as that defense is it won’t matter if they don’t have any continuity at quarterback.

Pac-12:

North:

1-      Oregon

2-      Washington

3-      Stanford

4-      California

5-      Oregon State

6-      Washington State

South:

1-      Southern Cal

2-      Utah

3-      UCLA

4-      Arizona State

5-      Arizona

6-      Colorado

Pac-12 Title Game: USC and Oregon: USC is Pac-12 Champion.

Analysis: The Pac-12 is honestly one of the worst conferences top to bottom in the country, I was shocked by how little overall depth both divisions had. The North has three, maybe four bowl game caliber teams and the South has TWO. Look at that 3-6 list, only UCLA has an chance at a bowl game out of those four teams, and ASU, Arizona and Colorado should be awful this season. Oregon and USC both have a pretty easy road to the Pac-12 title game if you ask me, though Washington and Stanford won’t be pushovers even in spite of all the talent they lost.

Big East:

1-      Cincinnati

2-      Louisville

3-      South Florida

4-      Pittsburgh

5-      Rutgers

6-      Syracuse

7-      Connecticut

8-      Temple

Cincinnati is Big East Champion.

Analysis: The Big East is probably the worst big time conference in college football and they are clinging on for dear life and relevance right now. Cincinnati is the best by default this year now that West Virginia bolted for the Big-12, and after Louisville there isn’t a lot to write home about in the Big East. There’s the potential for some bowl eligible teams, but there isn’t a legit title contender in this whole conference and whoever the winner is will likely play a better conference champion in a BCS bowl game and get the tar beat out of them like Connecticut did two years ago at the hands of Oklahoma.

 

Thanks for reading, and happy college football season to each and every one of you!

–Tom

Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

1- Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal: Grade: Top 5
2- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: Grade: Top 10
3- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Grade: Top 15
4- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd round
5- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd round
6- Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi: Grade: 2nd round
7- Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State: Grade: 2nd round
8- Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State: Grade: 2nd/3rd round
9- Brandon Mosley, OT, Auburn: Grade: 3rd round
10- Matt McCants, OT, UAB: Grade: 3rd round
11- Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California: Grade: 4th round
12- Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa: Grade: 4th round
13- Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois: Grade: 4th round
14- Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska: 5th round
15- James Carmon, OT, Mississippi State: Grade: 5th round
16- Jeff Adams, OT, Columbia: Grade: 5th round
17- James Brown, OT, Troy: Grade: 5th/6th round
18- Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota: Grade: 6th round
19- Donald Stephenson, OT, Oklahoma: Grade: 6th round
20- Landon Walker, OT, Clemson: Grade: 6th round
21- Don Barclay, OT, West Virginia: Grade: 6th round
22- Mike Ryan, OT, Connecticut: Grade: 6th round
23- Bradley Sowell, OT, Mississippi: Grade: 6th/7th round
24- Alex Hoffman, OT, Cincinnati: Grade: 6th/7th round
25- Al Netter, OT, Northwestern: Grade: 7th round
26- Bryce Harris, OT, Fresno State: Grade: 7th round
27- Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech: Grade: 7th round
28- Jarvis Jones, OT, Oklahoma: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
29- J.B. Shugarts, OT, Ohio State: Grade: UDFA
30- Grant Freeman, OT, Arkansas: Grade: UDFA

Robert Griffin has great tools and fantastic upside. It's easy to see why talent evaluators are gushing about his potential.

**UPDATE** After Griffin’s recent performances against Kansas and most notably Oklahoma I have changed some of my thoughts on Griffin. Because this report is not 100% reflective of these opinions, I wanted to note that Griffin’s performance on Baylor’s last drive against Oklahoma was very impressive and displayed ability to make critical plays and decisions for his team late in close, important games. He played terrific against Oklahoma, and I will eventually have a further updated Robert Griffin post now that I believe he has taken a significant step forward in his development into a potential future NFL starting quarterback. Enjoy the rest of my report!

Size: Solid size for a NFL QB, listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds but looks very skinny on film and could stand to add 10-15 more pounds in my opinion. He regularly takes hits and stays down for a long time but then pops right back up after a while. Seems to be a little dramatic in that instance.

Arm Strength: Griffin has quality arm strength, can make all the NFL throws. He has solid zip on intermediate throws and knows when to take a little off of his throws. Sometimes his zip is lacking on intermediate throws, but he throws a very good deep ball. However, they often have a lot of air under them and at times will be underthrown because he doesn’t have elite arm strength.

Accuracy: Griffin’s accuracy has definitely improved each season and this year is no exception but he still has room to improve. His ball placement overall is definitely better, he throws a very accurate deep ball to the correct shoulder and he has good touch as a passer. However, he has a tendency to miss high when he does miss which is an issue, especially when you attempt throws over the middle in the NFL. His accuracy under pressure is significantly impaired, and I think this has to do with some throws coming off of his back foot. He also has solid accuracy on the move.

Mechanics: Griffin’s mechanics have definitely improved, but they still need work. He has a clean throwing motion and a quick release, but he will hold the ball near his hip when scrambling. This has led to fumbles in college at times and it will lead to more in the NFL. He has to hold the ball high and tight which will help speed up his release even more. His footwork is improving, but he will still throw off of his back foot at times especially in the face of pressure. He also doesn’t keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage when he is scrambling to his left, doesn’t reset his feet well when outside of the pocket, throws off balance, and will throw across his body. Because he spends so much time in the shotgun he will have to transition from a purely shotgun and pistol offense to an offense that relies more on three, five and seven step drops. This is a significant change, but if he works hard at it he will be able to improve his comfort level with those drops fairly quickly.

Mobility: This is obviously one of Griffin’s greatest strengths. He’s a fantastic athlete with a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.52. He is a very elusive runner, can extend plays very easily and can gain substantial yardage with his legs. He probably has the speed to attempt a transition to WR, but he has progressed so much as a QB at Baylor that I would be very surprised if that happened. He’s going to get a shot at QB.

Griffin has improved each season he has been at Baylor, but he still has plenty to work on.

Pre/Post-Snap Reads: Griffin has flashed the ability to do this but it isn’t consistent in my opinion. Occasionally he will find his hot receiver versus a blitz and get the ball out fast, but he has progress to make with his pre-snap reads, especially once he is taking more snaps from under center at the next level. He makes solid post-snap reads and seems to be patient, but sometimes it is tough to tell if he is being patient or if he just isn’t processing everything he is seeing. I don’t see many anticipation throws at all and rarely throws his receivers open. The offense he’s in allows him to wait until his receivers are open, but I want to see anticipation throws from him because they have been few and far between. He also doesn’t seem to trust his eyes, will hesitate to throw and start his motion but then pull back and often scramble afterwards. This indicates potential issues processing information and making NFL reads at this time. I think he struggles to make reads on routes over the middle, and this leads to a lot of sideline throws in the games I have seen. He throws over the middle, but they aren’t anticipation throws and often the throw comes after his receiver has ran himself open. At times it seems like he waits for guys to get open, and will force throws into coverage when he is pressured. He doesn’t always make very good decisions, especially when he is pressured. Additionally, he makes lots of one read throws and doesn’t make a lot of progressions, but he does make them at times. I am told he is very smart and has a great work ethic, so he can continue to improve in this area. I underestimated Cam Newton’s ability to do this last year but he has gotten much better at this, so there is no reason Griffin can’t continue to improve either. It also bothers me that he seems unwilling to throw the ball away. When he is flushed from the pocket and has the option he frequently just runs out of bounds and loses his team yardage. Part of that is maturity and coaching and he can easily learn and develop that tendency, but it is something that he doesn’t do at this juncture.

Intangibles: From what I have heard about him, Griffin has great intangibles and a fantastic work ethic. He’s smart, disciplined and has a lot of upside because of the combination of his athleticism, arm talent and the intangibles and work ethic that he brings to the equation. He has improved significantly each year and I think that speaks to his work ethic and determination to get better. However, I am not sold on him as a leader or as a field general so to speak. It is tough to evaluate, but after poor plays he shows frustration and sometimes needs to be calmed down a bit. He doesn’t always stay poised and composed, and I’m not sure he is the guy I want at QB with two minutes left down four points with one time out left in college or in the NFL. He doesn’t seem to have a great sense of urgency that great leaders have, and is almost non-chalant at times on critical downs late in games. He has lost all three games against legitimate Big-12 teams (Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas A&M) but did beat TCU week one. However, in those three losses against those teams he has thrown all four of his interceptions on the season and didn’t necessarily play his best games against the best teams on his schedule, which is something I take into consideration. He has shown he can put up video game numbers against bad defenses (and to his credit, he had a great statistical game against Kansas State with 23/31 passing (74.2% completion), 346 yards, 5 passing touchdowns and only one interception) but hasn’t been as reliable against better teams. I don’t want to take anything away from how good he has been this year, but he got a lot of hype after playing TCU, Stephen F. Austin and Rice in his first three games. I just don’t think I have seen him make clutch throws late in games and I personally wouldn’t trust him to do so at this point in his career. So overall, I believe he has quality intangibles and work ethic, but I am not sold on him being a quality leader.

I am not convinced that Griffin is a good leader and that he is a winner. He wouldn't be my choice at QB for a critical drive late in the fourth quarter.

Character: Griffin has a lot of character from what I know of him. Very disciplined, responsible and smart from what I have been told. He’s a hard worker, a film junkie and has shown improvement from year to year his entire career at Baylor. That speaks to his determination to get better.

Overall: Griffin has top 10 potential and may ultimately end up there should he declare because of his great set of tools. He has a nice combination of size, arm talent, great athleticism and quality intangibles, football IQ and work ethic. There aren’t a lot of mobile quarterbacks who have the same tools that he has which makes Griffin incredibly rare as a prospect. That makes him a very desirable commodity since he has so much potential and upside. He has plenty to work on, but he has the work ethic that should allow him to continue to improve especially with quality coaching. But will he ever be a franchise quarterback? At this point, I don’t think he will be. He’s obviously subject to improvement and I think he can be a good/very good starter if he keeps improving, but I don’t think he’s got the leadership capability that other great QB’s do. I don’t think he makes everyone around him better, and I don’t think he comes up huge late in games when his team needs it most. I don’t know if he will ever win a Super Bowl, but if he is developed correctly I think he can be a productive QB. I just don’t necessarily think he is a “winner.” Some guys have that aura about them, and I don’t think Griffin is one of those players. I personally don’t think he will be ready to start week one as a rookie, but I tend to be more conservative when it comes to QB development. Therefore it is entirely possible that he could study hard, pick up the playbook and force the team that draft him to start him week one much like Cam Newton did with the Panthers.

Projection: Top 15: If Griffin comes out he will blow people away with his athleticism in post-season workouts and in interviews and one or more teams will fall in love with his potential. Like I said, I don’t think he’s a franchise guy, but he’s got a ton of upside that will have NFL teams salivating.

Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to what everyone thinks of this. Obviously I’m not as high on Griffin as others are, but I think that I’ve identified some things he needs to work on here. Hopefully you enjoyed my report even if you disagreed with me.

–Tom

Oh how the tables have turned. Just a few short years ago Stanford was the underdog and USC was the powerful program. Now? Stanford is the undefeated team with the inside track to the Rose Bowl.

This was the crown jewel of all the games on the day in my opinion as Stanford won 58-48 in triple overtime to stay undefeated on a day when two top ten teams lost (#5 ranked Clemson and #8 ranked Kansas State), four teams in the top 15 lost (#11 Michigan State and #15 Wisconsin), and six teams in the top 25 overall lost (#16 Texas A&M and #20 Texas Tech). And while that might not seem that significant, consider that seven of the games involving top 25 teams were decided by one score or less. There were a lot of close games, but Stanford managed to hang on for the win. This game was chalk full of NFL Draft prospects and talent, so let’s get to it!

This was a special game because it was a rare opportunity to watch a 7-0 team play a 6-1 squad, but also because of the two quarterbacks that were starting in this game. Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are my top two QB’s in my current quarterback rankings and I haven’t seen nearly enough from the other quarterbacks to make me consider changing the order at the top. Luck was fantastic in this game and even though he made a poor throw that resulted in a pick six (and seemingly gave USC all of the momentum) it is extremely important to note how he responded to that. He completed four of his six passes on the drive for 32 yards and scrambled for an additional 16 on one run. Then Stepfan Taylor punched it in to even the score with 38 seconds left. A lot of quarterbacks would have fallen apart in that situation, but Luck put the interception out of his mind and led Stanford right down the field for the game-tying score.

Fair or not, Matt Barkley will forever be compared with Andrew Luck if he comes out this year as the consensus #2 draft eligible quarterback.

It is also worthwhile to point out how well Barkley played. His numbers were impressive and I thought overall he placed the ball well in this game, but if Robert Woods had helped him out even a little bit this would have been an entirely different game. Now, I’m very high on Woods and a lot of people will read this and be very surprised since I’ve been talking about how good he is since early in his freshman season. However, he dropped a sure completion that would have had the Trojans inside the ten yard line if he didn’t make it into the end zone in the 1st quarter, and he arguably dropped another touchdown on a 50/50 ball on a fade that he couldn’t come down with (to be fair, he was clearly interfered with and it wasn’t called, but if he wants to be the best then he has to make that catch). Those are two game-changing plays, and I believe he had at least one or two other drops besides those. But that first potential touchdown drop eventually led that drive to stall when it could have tied the game early at 7 all. And before that Barkley was throwing strikes, but after it he seemed to have a little less confidence in his receivers and wasn’t as accurate the rest of the drive. He rebounded, but it’s clear that Woods’ is his favorite target and it definitely threw Barkley off a bit not being able to rely on him like usual. I was personally shocked to see Woods drop multiple passes like that because his hands are usually as reliable as they come. But as the game progressed he was body catching and didn’t seem to have the confidence in his hands that he usually does. It was one of the more surprising things about this game in my opinion.

Barkley was still effective even despite that completing 28 of his 45 passes for 284 yards, a completion percentage of 62.2 and three touchdowns with only one interception. Had Woods not dropped a couple of those passes it is fair to assume he would have had a completion percentage of 66, 300+ yards and at least four touchdowns. That’s a pretty significant impact.

Curtis McNeal has all of Trojan Nation jumping for joy now that he has helped establish a consistent running game for USC's offense.

And even though I have spoken highly of him before on my Twitter I don’t think I have ever formally thrown my support behind USC running back Curtis McNeal on this blog. I have been very impressed with him every time USC gives him carries, and he seems to have some potential as a receiver out of the backfield. In the first four games of the season he had a combined 17 carries for 129 yards (good for a 7.59 ypc average) and no TD’s. 79 of those yards came against Syracuse, but still he didn’t get consistent touches the next week. However, in the last four games when he has been getting some consistent touches he has 68 carries, 424 yards (6.24 ypc average), and 4 touchdowns. That’s quite the bump in production isn’t it? He had the best game of his entire career against Stanford, but unfortunately it will likely be overshadowed by his fumble in the third overtime that Stanford recovered to seal the victory. He had 146 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries in this game, a great game for any running back, and yet one unfortunate play will likely define it for him.

Regardless of how that game ended for McNeal, it’s clear he is very talented. If I’m not mistaken he was a five star recruit coming out of high school and due to USC’s insanely talented backfield this is the first time he’s gotten significant playing time. He isn’t a very big guy at only 5’7″, 180 pounds but he is fast, has great burst and has made the most of the opportunities he has been given so far this season as he has amassed 552 rushing yards and 4 TD’s so far despite only carrying the ball 17 times in the first four games. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on, and if I was USC I would start him the rest of the season and move on from Marc Tyler. McNeal clearly has much more upside.

Marqise Lee may not be quite as good as Robert Woods, but he is a very impressive freshman receiver in his own right. It's no coincidence that the Trojan offense has started to take off as he has emerged as a legitimate threat opposite Woods.

Another player on USC’s offense that I have become quite taken with is Marqise Lee. He’s only a freshman but he has really stepped up opposite Robert Woods and has made opposing defenses pay for leaving him one on one with a corner while doubling Robert Woods. Lee has had a very impressive start to his USC career with 34 catches, 534 yards and 5 TD’s so far this season. He isn’t as tall as he looks on TV as he stands at 6’0″ and only weighs 190 pounds, but he has the frame to get over 200 pounds easily once he becomes acclimated to USC’s vaunted workout program. But what Lee does have is vertical speed, impressive burst, very reliable hands and plenty of upside. Woods is one of the best receivers in the country right now, but Lee is quietly having a very impressive freshman season of his own.

An underrated performer who I think has a lot of potential for USC is their freshman TE Randall Telfer. He had five catches last night (the most of his career thus far) and on the season has 15 receptions, 172 yards and 3 TD’s. He has great size for such a young TE at 6’4″, 230 pounds and has plenty of room on his frame to add additional weight over the rest of his career as a Trojan. Additionally, he has already become something of a red-zone target due to his size, and he showed reliable hands last night in a huge game against Stanford. He may not be the starter and his stat sheet isn’t glowing, but Telfer has plenty of upside and I’m excited to watch him develop.

Matt Kalil is arguably the best draft eligible tackle prospect in the country, and figures to be a top five selection in the NFL Draft should he declare after his junior season.

As is to be expected, USC has plenty of talent along their offensive and defensive lines too. The two players that everyone was watching yesterday were Matt Kalil and Nick Perry. Kalil is the consensus #1 draft-eligible offensive tackle in the country right now, and while plenty of fans want their bottom dwelling team to “Suck for Luck” I think there are a number of teams that could really stand to “Kneel for Kalil.” The Vikings definitely come to mind when thinking about teams that have awful records but won’t necessarily be looking for a quarterback early in the draft. I don’t think the Vikings will end up with the #1 overall pick, so Luck is likely out of the question (especially if Ponder finds a way to win a couple of games as a starter). I don’t see Barkley as a huge upgrade over Ponder, so while he might make sense I think the Vikings would be wise to surround Ponder with some talent. Left tackle is a serious issue for them, and Kalil is the best one available. Seems like a match made in heaven to me. Kalil isn’t a perfect tackle, but he is about as polished as any offensive tackle prospect I have seen in recent years and has tons of starting experience. Keep in mind it was Kalil’s ability as a left tackle that kept Tyron Smith, an absolute freakish athlete for an offensive lineman, at right tackle while he was at USC. He later went #9 overall to the Dallas Cowboys and seems to be their future at left tackle.

Nick Perry has an intriguing combination of size and athletic ability, but he doesn't strike me as a quick-twitch athlete and I think he needs to significantly improve his hand usage before he will be effective in the NFL.

Nick Perry, on the other hand, isn’t impressing me nearly as much as Kalil. Perry is very athletic and has plenty of upside due to his size (6’3″, 250 pounds) but he just hasn’t put it all together yet. He can speed rush and bull rush, but he has struggled to disengage once he is blocked as a pass rusher and doesn’t seem to have very good hand usage or pass rush moves. This limits him significantly as a pass rusher as he either has to beat his man around the edge or he likely isn’t getting to the QB unless he is left unblocked. He can get off blocks, but usually it is more because of effort than actual technique. This means he is getting to the quarterback later than he could be, and means he is applying less pressure than he is potentially capable of. I think he has upside if he is drafted to a team that has a quality defensive line coach, but USC produces plenty of talented defensive linemen than use their hands better than Perry does, so it makes me wonder exactly why he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. I thought he was ready to break out this year, and to a certain extent he has. He has 39 total tackles (21 solo), 6.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass deflections. However, he hasn’t been anything close to dominant and if he came out this season I would project him in the 3rd round as a player with plenty of upside but limited production. He’s worth the risk in that area of the draft, but he just hasn’t shown me enough to consider him as early as the 2nd round, much less the 1st round.

DaJohn Harris' statline may not wow potential talent evaluators, but he has been consistently disruptive at defensive tackle for USC this season.

I know it may seem like I am obsessed with USC, but everyone knows they are always loaded with talent so it takes a while to get through their roster when I break their games down in this format. Three players that I really like on USC’s defense are DaJohn Harris, Dion Bailey and Nickell Robey. Harris is a 6’4″, 310 pound senior defensive tackle who has consistently impressed me when I have watched him. As will often happen with interior defensive linemen, their true impact can’t be gleaned from a stat sheet. Harris only has 17 total tackles (9 solo), 6.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks and an impressive 5 pass break-ups on the season, but he has consistently penetrated into the backfield (as evidenced by his 6 tackles for loss) and helped free up his linebackers to make plays. He absolutely has NFL size and ability, and he has definitely been helping his stock this season. I am very much looking forward to seeing him at a post-season all-star game this year, my guess would be the Senior Bowl.

Now, Dion Bailey may only be a freshman but he is a very impressive player. He was initially a safety, but USC moved him into the box as a linebacker and he has taken off ever since. He has been incredibly productive for a freshman still adjusting to a new position as he has 67 total tackles (39 solo), 2.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble. That would be a fantastic stat line for any freshman linebacker after an entire season, but that is what Bailey has managed in only 8 games! He may not be a huge player at only 6’0″, 200 pounds, but he has room to add weight to his frame and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him playing at around 220 pounds at the start of his sophomore season next year. Bailey has incredible potential because of his combination of reliable tackling, his pop as a hitter, his instincts and ability in coverage as well as his ball skills because of his experience as a safety. He’s an exciting player, and I can’t wait to see him develop into the top talent I expect him to be.

Nickell Robey has been displaying his impressive ball skills since he got to USC last year, and in this game he not only forced a rare Andrew Luck interception, but he returned it for a USC touchdown.

And finally, we have Nickell Robey. Most of you will recognize him as the corner who drove on the throw by Andrew Luck, picked it off and returned it for a touchdown last night. And even though I have never talked about him on my blog, he has been making plays all season long. Robey is only a 5’8, 165 pound sophomore but he has plenty of ability as evidenced not only by his pick-six on Andrew Luck, but by his stat line. He has produced 41 total tackles (23 solo), 0.5 TFL, 2 INT’s (including 1 TD) as well as a very impressive 6 pass break-ups. He may only be a sophomore and he doesn’t have impressive size by any means, but he has plenty of speed, burst and ball skills to be an impact corner for USC. Their defense is slowly becoming more and more talented, and Robey may be one of their key players next year as they look to take the next step as a defense.

Now, while I have talked about plenty of USC players already I feel it is necessary to discuss T.J. McDonald briefly. McDonald has tons of upside due to his fantastic combination of size and athletic ability and he has been productive this season. At 6’3″, 205 pounds  he has produced 41 total tackles (24 solo), 1.5 TFL, 2 INT’s and one pass break-up. McDonald is solid in coverage, but he also loves to deliver the big hit. Unfortunately, even though he is a good tackler and has plenty of pop as a hitter, he has a tendency to draw personal foul penalties for his bone-crushing hits. They aren’t always good calls (such as the terrible personal foul call he drew for lighting up Chris Owusu of Stanford last night) but referees are looking for hits anywhere near the head and they are practically willing to call a wideout with the ball in his hands a defenseless receiver these days. He has to know that and make sure he doesn’t give the refs any reason to call a penalty on him, but game after game he draws these flags. He has plenty of upside, but his inconsistency is an issue for me. I’m not sold on his instincts and his ability in coverage either. So while he might look like a first round pick lining up for USC, I am not so sure.

Coby Fleener is a very well rounded tight end and he figures to be a first or second day draft pick after he graduates at the end of this season.

Finally, I’m done with USC! Now on to Stanford, a very talented team in their own right. I think the most notable part of Stanford outside of their fantastic quarterback is their absurd amount of talent at tight end. I believe they have at least three NFL caliber tight ends on their rosters (all draft eligible actually, though I wouldn’t expect all three to leave) and I think they are hiding one or two more listing them as fullbacks! The best of the bunch is arguably Coby Fleener, a 6’6″, 244 pound TE who has great hands and is a very willing blocker. You practically have to be to get playing time in Stanford’s physical pro-style offense, and while I haven’t scouted Fleener specifically I have been impressed with him when I have seen him play. Their second TE is Zach Ertz, who actually has five more receptions than Fleener does on the season (though Fleener has 7 TD’s to Ertz’s 3). Ertz, a junior, stands at 6’6″, 249 pounds and gives Stanford almost an additional two offensive linemen when he and Fleener line up on the field at the same time. Their third TE is Levine Toilolo who is an absolutely massive 6’8″, 263 pound junior. Even as the #3 TE option he has 12 receptions, 210 yards and 4 TD’s on the year. When he was split out against a defensive back I just knew Andrew Luck was going to throw a fade to him and lo-and-behold that was the play-call, and Toilolo didn’t disappoint even though the ball was thrown slightly behind him and didn’t allow him to go up and high point it in the air. One of the guys Stanford is hiding as a fullback is a guy I think will stick at TE in the NFL. Ryan Hewitt, a 6’4″, 238 pound “fullback” is a quality pass catcher who has 19 receptions, 171 yards and 4 TD’s on the season. I see him as more of an H-Back in the NFL, though he does have 7 carries for 21 yards on the year. He would be awfully tall for a fullback, but I definitely think he has a future in the NFl as well.

Needless to say, Stanford is absolutely stacked at the TE position and I can’t wait to scout all of them in the future. They all have bright futures in the NFL in my opinion.

Jonathan Martin has helped make life easy for Andrew Luck by protecting his blind side in college, but I am not 100% sold on him being a quality blind side protector at the next level.

Before continuing on to other Stanford prospects, Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro need to be discussed. Martin is one of the top OT’s available in the 2012 NFL Draft and DeCastro may be the top offensive guard in the country right now. I am not 100% sold on Martin being a NFL left tackle, but he has the potential to stick at that position and if he doesn’t I would be surprised if he didn’t end up being a starter at right tackle in the NFL. He struggled at times with Nick Perry’s athleticism and speed rush, but overall I thought he had a good game before his injury. I haven’t scouted Martin or DeCastro specifically, but they are without a doubt the anchors of that offensive line and the big guys up front set the tone for this entire Stanford team with their physicality and their willingness to do the dirty work so Luck and the other position players get all the glory. Keep an eye on these two offensive linemen, they are both very good.

It’s hard to argue that anyone has benefited more from Andrew Luck’s presence than Stepfan Taylor, Stanford’s starting running back. Playing in such a physical offense, it’s only natural that you would want to stack the box against Stanford’s rushing attack. However, with Luck at QB it is nearly impossible to take away their running game because if you don’t respect Luck as a passer he will absolutely shred you (and sometimes he does this even when you are trying to take him away as a passer). This has helped the 5’11″, 208 pound junior tailback produce 796 yards on only 134 carries (a 5.94 ypc average) as well as 8 touchdowns. He has also shown soft hands out of the backfield, catching 16 passes for 106 yards and another score. It is unclear whether or not Taylor plans to come back for his senior season or not, but after Luck leaves he won’t have much to prove after potentially having consecutive 1,000+ yard rushing seasons as well as 10+ touchdowns (he had 1,137 yards and 15 TD’s as a sophomore). Plus, teams will be much more willing to stack the box, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Taylor left. I haven’t scouted him as much as I might like, but while he doesn’t have burning speed he does have the potential to be a feature back. I was always impressed with him when he relieved Gerhart as a freshman, and that hasn’t changed.

If Taylor does leave, that would likely leave the workload to current junior running back Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney has impressed me when giving Taylor a breather, but that’s not hard to do with such a great offensive line as well as so many tight ends that block effectively. Gaffney will be a senior next year and I’m sure he is hoping Taylor leaves so that he can get a shot at being the workhorse. Gaffney is bigger than Taylor is, standing at 6’1″, 216 pounds. This year he has 41 carries for 288 yards (a 6.86 ypc average) as well as 5 TD’s. His yardage and touchdown totals have already exceeded his numbers from his sophomore year (255 yards and 4 TD’s in 10 games) and he has done it in only 8 games with 19 fewer carries! Gaffney may not be the workhorse yet, but I hope he gets his chance to be as a senior next year.

Chase Thomas has had an extremely productive career at linebacker for Stanford, and as a result he is starting to get serious NFL looks.

And before I wrap this post up, it would be impossible not to talk about Stanford without talking about Chase Thomas, their all-everything outside linebacker. Thomas has quality linebacker size at 6’4″, 239 pounds and has had a fantastic career at Stanford. Since he got significant playing time as a sophomore he has been terrific. His sophomore year he had 36 total tackles (20 solo), 7.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and one blocked kick. Then as a junior he produced 69 total tackles (49 solo), 11.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and three pass break-ups. He has been even more spectacular this year, notching 34 total tackles (22 solo), 11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in Stanford’s first 8 games. He has a great chance at notching 60 total tackles (with 40 solos), 15+ TFL, 7.5+ sacks and four or more forced fumbles on the season. That would be an incredible stat line. He didn’t have a sack against Matt Kalil, but he did manage 1.5 TFL’s on the day against USC. I haven’t scouted him specifically yet, so I don’t know exactly what he is capable of, but having seen him play multiple times I do know that he is a very talented player with a great history of production.

So, at long last, I have completed my thoughts on the Stanford-USC game. It was more of a prospect round-up than actual thoughts on the game, but it was such a good game with so much talent that I just had to break down some of the prospects that you all need to keep an eye on. Hopefully you enjoyed it, and I apologize for the length of the post. It took about three hours of constant writing and research to look up stats for this article to complete it, so thanks for reading!

–Tom

NCAA Week 5 Top 25 Picks

South Florida over Pittsburgh

BJ Daniels should have a good game and Pittsburgh struggles with close games. The trouble is, this one might not end up being that close.

South Florida by 13

Texas A&M over Arkansas

Ryan Tannehill had a pretty good game last week in a loss to Oklahoma State, and the Aggies will be looking to rebound against Arkansas just a week after they were thoroughly dominated by Alabama. Both teams really need a win here, but I think Arkansas’ defense will prove problematic against the Aggies.

Texas A&M by 6

Michigan over Minnesota (Potential blow-out)

Denard Robinson should have a big game running and possibly a big game passing against the Gophers who are trying to turn the program around under Jerry Kill. The trouble is the head coach has had trouble with seizures, and there is no way it hasn’t had an impact on his players. Minnesota is simply overmatched in this game, and I see Michigan blowing them out.

Michigan by 24

Illinois over Northwestern

Illinois is a solid team but so is Northwestern. I expect Illinois to win, but don’t sleep on Northwestern. They are well coached and have some talent, plus they never go away. If the Illini let them hang around they could make a late push.

Illinois by 7

LSU over Kentucky (Potential blow-out)

LSU is hitting on all cylinders right now and Kentucky is going to be borderline powerless to stop them. Their defense is the best in the country and their running attack is extremely tough to slow down, much less stop. I see LSU winning in blow-out.

LSU by 24

Boise State over Nevada

Boise State lost this game to Nevada last year in dramatic fashion, but I don’t see Nevada pulling off two in a row. They should be overmatched, and Kellen Moore and company won’t be merciful after what Nevada did to their title hopes last season.

Boise State by 21

Georgia Tech over NC State

Georgia Tech’s running game is absolutely gashing anyone who gets in their way, even my beloved Tar Heels last week, and NC State’s defense isn’t on the same level as North Carolina’s. I expect them to run the ball early and often and control the clock in this game, and I think Georgia Tech should win pretty comfortably.

Georgia Tech by 17

West Virginia over Bowling Green

West Virginia is coming off of a rough loss against LSU, but Geno Smith looked poised and impressive staring into the teeth of the best defense in the nation and actually carved them up to an extent by throwing for 463 yards on 38 of 65 passing (58.5% completion) and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Was it a great game? No, but it was quite good for a developing quarterback against a fantastic defense. WVU should rebound easily against Bowling Green now that they know what their offense is truly capable of.

West Virginia by 28

Baylor over Kansas State

Robert Griffin III has been absolutely amazing this year. Through three games he has completed 70 of 82 pass attempts while throwing for 962 yards (11.73 yards per attempt, an insane number), 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Last season he threw 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 13 games, an impressive statistical season. He is on pace to throw for well over 40 touchdowns at this current pace. It’s hard to imagine him continuing to play this way especially since he is averaging only four incompletions per GAME, but if he keeps playing comparably well to how he has started the season the Baylor Bears will be tough for anyone to beat. I don’t anticipate Kansas State being the team to cool Griffin off, so the Bears should win easily.

Baylor by 21

Auburn over South Carolina (upset)

I think South Carolina is pretty overrated and I think Auburn has a chance to pull off the upset here. Gene Chizik and his Auburn Tigers have a flair for the dramatic and they are tough to beat when you let them hang around. They always seem to make the big play late in the game to keep themselves alive, and they are well coached when it comes to playing from behind late in the game. I love Marcus Lattimore, but I don’t think Steve Spurrier has much faith in Stephen Garcia and I’m not sold on South Carolina’s defense. The game is in South Carolina, but I think Auburn has a great chance to pull off this upset. It will be interesting to see if they manage to do so.

Auburn by 3

TCU over SMU

I think SMU has a small chance of pulling off an upset here, but TCU is the better team overall. It will be interesting to see which way this game goes, but if SMU gets their offense going they could be tough to keep up with. Their running back Zach Line has 463 yards and 11 touchdowns in only four games, and their top receiver Darius Johnson has 27 catches, 398 yards and two scores already. I think TCU will win, but I don’t think it will be as easy as some people might think.

TCU by 7

Clemson over Virginia Tech

This was a really tough game for me to pick. I picked Clemson to upset Florida State last week, but Virginia Tech is extremely tough at home and the Tigers have to cool off EVENTUALLY right? Perhaps, but I don’t think it will be this week. I am high on Virginia Tech’s defense though and I think they have a chance to slow down Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the rest of Clemson’s high flying offense in this game. However, what might define the game is how well Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech’s offense is able to play. Thomas has been solid thus far with 761 yards on 60 of 105 passing (57.1% completion) but he has thrown as many touchdowns (4) as interceptions. Clemson is on fire right now, so it will be interesting to see how this game plays out.

Clemson by 7

Texas over Iowa State

The Longhorns lost this game last year and I think they will make sure they show up to this one. Iowa State isn’t a push-over this year, but I think the Longhorns will be too much for them.

Texas by 14

Oklahoma over Ball State

Oklahoma still has a legitimate argument to be the #1 team in the country, so I don’t think they will have too much trouble with Ball State.

Oklahoma by 28

Alabama over Florida

This is going to be a fantastic game. I think Alabama and Florida have the 2nd and 3rd best defenses in the country only to LSU, so this is going to be a defensive slug fest if I had to guess. I picked Alabama because I trust their offense more thanks to Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy on the ground. This should be a great, close game though.

Alabama by 10

Wisconsin over Nebraska

This game is going to be fantastic. I have been waiting for this game ever since I heard that Russell Wilson might sign with the Badgers. Wisconsin’s run defense might be problematic against Nebraska, but I think Wisconsin’s offense is more than potent enough to put up points on the Cornhuskers. It should be a great game that is close right until the end, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I do expect Russell Wilson to give the Badgers the push they need to win this game. A year ago I couldn’t have picked Wisconsin, but with Wilson at the helm I expect them to win.

Wisconsin by 7

Stanford over UCLA

Stanford is just too talented and well coached to be slowed down by UCLA.

Stanford by 21

Arizona State over Oregon State

Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is a player that I am really warming up to, and I expect that he and the Sun Devils won’t have a lot of trouble with the win-less Oregon State Beavers.

Arizona State by 17

I was 16-3 last week, so let’s see how I do this week! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the games!

–Tom

Scouting Report:

Thomas is a finesse back trapped in a power back's body and that makes me very skeptical of him as a NFL prospect.

Positives: Has impressive size and strength for a running back. Has surprising speed for a man his size and shows solid burst to hit the hole. Shows some shiftiness and can be tough to get down in the open field at times. Runs patiently and will find cut-back lanes if you over-pursue against him. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and is so big that he matches up well in pass protection against just about anyone. Flashes a stiff arm at times.

Negatives: Thomas runs with poor pad level which is a problem for someone as tall as him. Despite his great size and strength he is very much a finesse runner, not a power runner. He doesn’t do well with contact, he doesn’t get a lot of yardage after contact, he doesn’t break tackles well and he doesn’t finish runs well.

Overall: Thomas is kind of a strange back because he has pretty good speed for his size but that is negated by the fact that he is a finesse runner and not a power back. His pad level and running style really concerns me because I don’t think he projects well to the NFL because he won’t be fast enough to outrun people and he’s not strong enough and tough enough to run people over, plus that just isn’t his running style. He might stick on a team and carve out a role for himself but I don’t think he will ever be an effective starter in the NFL.

Projection: 5th/6th round. He has limited upside and I don’t think he is going to get picked very high despite his impressive college production.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Speed: 3.0
Power: 2.0
Agility: 3.5
Vision: 3.0
Hands: 3.5
Blocking: 3.0

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here are some notes I have on players I watched in recent bowl games:

-Justin Burke, QB, Louisville- He showed solid ability in the bowl game against Southern Mississippi. He has solid size, arm strength and accuracy. Plus he has some mobility to extend plays and occasionally pick up yards with his legs.  He started a little slow but he seemed to improve as the game went on, especially with his ball placement. He won’t be drafted early, but as a late round pick he warrants consideration because he could make a team as a developmental #3.

-Byron Stingily, OT, Louisville- Stingily is a guy that I had not heard of all season long but he was pointed out to me by a friend of mine. (check out his site: http://www.falcfans.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=3 ) He is a senior who looked good to me in this game. He has good size and athleticism for an offensive tackle, and he mirrored pass rushers well in this game which was good to see. He seems to have at least adequate lateral agility to play LT in the NFL, but I am not sure how well he sustains blocks and I think he needs to be coached up from a technique standpoint. But he could end up being a mid-round pick because if you have the athletic ability to play LT in the NFL teams will draft you and attempt to develop your technique until you are ready to be a starter. I think Stingily has that potential, so he could go much earlier than many people could imagine this year.

-Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville- Patrick had a good game against Southern Miss. He had pretty good coverage in man and in zone plus he forced a fumble. He looks like he will be able to be a mid-round selection at corner but I am not completely sold on him as a man-coverage corner, though I think he could be a pretty good zone coverage corner right now.

-Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville- Powell is an impressive power back. He has good size, he runs hard and has pretty good burst for a guy his size. He also seems to run with good pad level. He is probably a 3rd or 4th round pick right now, but if he’s drafted into the right system he can be a contributor as a rookie. Especially in short yardage situations. He could eventually develop into a quality starter.

-Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse- Carter had a huge game against Kansas State thanks to two long touchdown runs, but even aside from those he was effective. He is a smaller back at only 5’9″ or so but he is well built and has great leg drive which helps him run through arm tackles and gain yards after contact. He also showed what will likely turn out to be low 4.4 speed when he ripped off those huge touchdown runs which was great to see. He has had some academic issues in the past as well as a minor off-field incident that (I believe) was a one punch fight. However, he will be at the East-West Shrine Game showcasing his talents so he has the potential to get drafted as high as the 4th round in my opinion. If he interviews well his game should speak for itself, even though I don’t think his hands are very good and I don’t think he has much experience as a pass protector because he usually isn’t on the field for 3rd downs. Oh, and I don’t think he fumbled at all this season despite over 200+ rushing attempts. That is impressive ball security.

-Marcus Sales, WR, Syracuse- It was hard not to notice him since he had three touchdowns against Kansas State. He had 5 catches, 172 yards and three scores in the bowl game, but he is only a junior and he should be back for his senior season since coming into the game he only had 21 catches, 242 yards and 1 touchdown in 11 games this year (he didn’t play in the first two games of the season, I don’t know whether it was for injury, a miscellaneous reason or if he wasn’t high enough on the depth chart). He ended on a very, very high note though and he showed some deep speed, though I’m not sure how much faster than a 4.5 he would run. He is listed at 6’0″, 177 pounds but he looked bigger than 177 to me on TV. He didn’t look like he was running very crisp routes, but the field was terrible so you could tell he was not exploding in and out of his breaks because he and the rest of the players on the field could barely stand up some places on the field. Regardless, when a guy breaks out like this you have to keep an eye on him, so I will monitor how he does next year to see how he looks and if he has NFL talent.

-Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State- I have never been a huge fan of Thomas and he didn’t look extremely good in this game. He broke a 51 yard run that I did not see, but after that he only managed 39 more yards on 21 carries, which isn’t even a two yard average. That isn’t his fault though because Syracuse was playing very downhill and they were determined to not let Thomas beat them even though he finished with 90 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 carries. In my opinion he can be a quality power back in the NFL, but I haven’t watched him enough to see how often he runs with good pad level. However I think he has good vision, he does a good job of getting North/South and not dancing around in the backfield (something he struggled to do against Syracuse because of penetration into the backfield), he has surprising agility for a guy his size to make guys miss in the open field as well. At 6’2″, 228 pounds he is a load to bring down, but I don’t think he will run any faster than a 4.5 or a 4.55 at the combine. That doesn’t mean he can’t be productive though. I just need to see more of him to evaluate his pad level and his leg drive and ability to generate yards after contact. Usually when I have seen him he has been bottled up (against Syracuse) or he has been running through gaping holes (against Iowa State and UCLA) so I haven’t been able to judge his leg drive appropriately yet. He has ability though. I just don’t know if he will end up in the 2nd round as some believe. I think he will end up in the 3rd round after all is said and done. He also seems to have solid hands, but I haven’t evaluated him as a receiver or as a pass blocker yet.

-Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina- I love Burney. I’m a UNC fan and I have had the privilege of watching Burney for the last few years and I have always been a fan. He is definitely a smaller corner as he is only listed at 5’9″, 190 pounds but I think he is probably 5’8″, 180 or 185 in reality. I think he will run under a 4.5 also, which should help his cause. However if you can look past his small size and appreciate his game you will be impressed. I think he could be an ideal zone coverage corner because of his great ball skills, his experience in zone coverage and his great burst to close which is critical for cornerbacks in general, but especially for corners in zone coverage. He was one of the players suspended for part of the season (I believe it was six or seven games, I think seven) but he gave us a boost as soon as we got him back. I really hope he gets an invite to the East-West Shrine Game so he can show scouts what he can do. I really think he could be a great zone coverage corner. I think going in the 4th round is entirely realistic for him despite his size. In the right scheme though… he could definitely be a quality starter. I am not sure how he would do in a man coverage scheme though because he would be consistently mismatched with taller receivers and I don’t think it would play to his strengths like a zone system would.

-T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina- I am not a big Yates fan but he certainly did have a good senior season and I appreciate him helping send this senior class out with a win in the bowl game, even if it was controversial. I have been critical of Yates in the past because he is almost afraid to challenge downfield at times. I don’t mean over the top of the coverage, I mean the intermediate portion of the field. He is especially bad at throwing to the first down markers on 3rd down (not that there isn’t anything wrong with checking down, but he goes to his check down too quickly too often in my opinion) and in many games in his first three seasons he was borderline worthless late in the half or late in the 4th quarter. He would get the ball back with enough time to move the ball and just take underneath completions in the middle of the field that would waste clock and gain little yardage which is the exact opposite of what you want with little time left to operate. It looked like that would happen again before the end of the first half but then he scrambled outside of the pocket and found Erik Highsmith deep for a touchdown down the sideline on what was probably a busted play. Regardless, I didn’t think he had it in him, so I was impressed. Yates didn’t impress me much in this game, but he definitely has the arm, intelligence and experience in a pro-style offense to warrant a late round selection to be a #3 on some team. I don’t think he will ever be a starter, but he should have a long career as a back-up because, for better or worse, he just won’t challenge downfield and make mistakes. His arm is solid, his accuracy is solid, his decision making has improved, he has 46 career starts, he has some mobility and he seems to be a pretty smart guy. I think he will stick with someone as a late round pick.

-Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee- Bray is seemingly the anti-Yates in that he will take risks and sling it even if it might not be the best decision. That probably has more to do with him being a freshman that was only starting his 5th game of the season, but it was something I noticed. He threw a few interceptions in this game but regularly he came through with a clutch throw when Tennessee needed it. He definitely has a good arm and a lot of ability, so I came away impressed. Hell, coming in as a freshman with no starting experience and leading a 2-6 team to a 4-0 finish to get into a bowl game is impressive enough, and he almost had a fifth consecutive win before the controversy ensued in this game. In the first OT he showed his true potential throwing a strike to Luke Stocker who made a terrific catch on a ball thrown just within his reach in the end zone to tie the game and send the game into double OT. Then in the second overtime he threw a bad interception to Quan Sturdivant which led to North Carolina kicking the game winning field goal. Bray has a bright future ahead of him though, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how he progresses next year.

-Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee- Another freshman here but this kid is going to be a good one you can just tell. He is listed at 6’4″, 183 pounds and he looks extremely skinny so he definitely has weight to add to his frame, but this kid can jump out of the gym. There was a pass in this game that I thought was overthrown downfield along the sideline and I thought it would sail over his head. He gathered and jumped and snagged the ball out of the air with a defender right behind him and his foot came down out of bounds, otherwise it would have been an incredible catch. But he demonstrated great ability to catch the ball away from his body, high point the ball in the air and obviously he showed that he can jump. Being 6’4″ and being able to jump is an asset in itself, but he has very long arms too which is going to make him a match-up nightmare as he develops, especially in the red zone. In fact, he already might be a match-up nightmare. He had only 16 catches this season but he had 415 yards and an unbelievable seven, yes, seven touchdowns as a true freshman. He caught five of his seven touchdowns after Bray took over as well, so look for him to step up big to fill the shoes of the departing senior starters at wide receiver in Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore. I’m telling you guys, this kid could be really, really good. Especially if he has a quality QB in Bray throwing to him. Watch out for him next year, he put up two 100 yard games as a freshman. Expect more of that next year.

-Janzen Jackson, FS, Tennessee- Jackson is going to be an insane safety prospect next year. The INT he made on a deep ball to the end zone (to Erik Highsmith) was a fantastic play on the ball. He has terrific ball skills. He isn’t very big but he’s fast, has great range, locates the ball really well in the air and he is just a playmaker. I really like him as a FS prospect. Between Berry and Jackson Tennessee has had a ton of talent at safety recently. He did have some off-field issues as a freshman though so that will have to be looked into. He isn’t afraid to make a big hit either, even though he did have a helmet to helmet hit that helped set up North Carolina’s controversial field goal attempt to force overtime. But his combination of speed, range, ball skills and willingness to hit make him a very intriguing safety prospect even in spite of his potential off-field concerns.

-Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee- I haven’t scouted Stocker yet but I got a chance to watch him some in this game and I have to say I came away impressed. I had heard that he doesn’t have very good hands but that was not the impression I got. He had five catches, 58 yards and a touchdown. Did I mention that his touchdown occurred in overtime on a throw that was admittedly high from Bray, but Stocker jumped and extended fully in the air and made a terrific catch away from his body and came down in-bounds for the tying touchdown to force double overtime. It was a terrific catch, and though I haven’t had enough time to evaluate his hands on routine catches I don’t think I saw him drop a pass in this game and he seemed fine catching the other four balls he caught in the game. He also has a reputation as a good blocker but I have yet to evaluate him on that part of his game, though he didn’t do anything to make me doubt his ability as a blocker when I saw him against North Carolina. I definitely think Stocker has potential, and since my Falcons may be in the market for a TE this year Stocker is definitely on my radar.

I think that is enough for this round of player notes. What better way to ring in the new year than going over your notes from watching live bowl games to get a feel for current and future NFL Draft prospects? I can’t think of one. Happy New Year everyone and thank you for visiting my blog today and any other times you have checked in. I really do appreciate it. This blog officially had 5,243 views in December which just blows my mind. Before the beginning of the month I had about 7,400 views and now I am almost at 13,000 (currently 12,739). Thank you for all the support because if you all weren’t reading this I wouldn’t be as motivated to post this stuff. I would definitely still be taking notes and scouting, but it feels good to be appreciated. So thank you again! Let’s hope 2011 picks up where 2010 left off.

–Tom

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