Tag Archive: Virginia Tech


Top Seniors:

1-      Tajh Boyd, Clemson- Boyd really impressed me with his growth as a junior and had one of his best games in the bowl game against LSU. DeAndre Hopkins helped take over that game, but Boyd’s progression makes me think he will continue to improve as a senior. I’ve made this mistake before on Jake Locker, but I have high hopes for Boyd.

2-      David Fales, San Jose State- Thanks to Ben Allbright, Fales became a very popular name amongst NFL Draft analysts, particularly on Twitter. The hashtag #EpicFales may be one of the greatest hashtags of all time. Regardless, Fales has a NFL arm and really impressed me in the limited time I was able to watch him. He is not without flaws, but he’s definitely one of my top 5 QB’s even considering juniors.

3-      Jeff Matthews, Cornell- My good friend Emory Hunt turned me on to Matthews months ago and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw. He’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate, and he’s definitely going to become more and more popular as the process goes on. Emory pointed out that he reminds him of Matt Ryan and I definitely see the similarities.

4-      Derek Carr, Fresno State- Carr has a very talented arm, not unlike his older brother David, but he worried me with how he handled pressure and he obviously struggled a lot while Margus Hunt terrorized him in Fresno State’s bowl game. He’s got another full year to show he can improve, and his natural talent means he’s in my top 5 QB’s, but I want to see him handle pressure better.

5-      Bryn Renner, North Carolina- This might be me showing my UNC fandom, but I really think Renner is a quality quarterback prospect. He certainly isn’t perfect, and he had a great season in a wide open offense last year, but he has experience in different styles of offense, a strong arm, and I think he’s an effective leader. I think he will open some eyes as a senior.

6-      Aaron Murray, Georgia- If I expect McCarron to be the most scrutinized quarterback in this class, I think Murray is going to be a close second. He has been deemed as a player who can’t win the big game, and he’s going to have a tough time changing everyone’s minds as a senior. I’m glad he came back because I still think he has room to improve, but there’s a stigma about him that is going to be hard to shake. I do think he is a NFL caliber starter though, but he’s definitely not a franchise caliber guy in my opinion.

7-      A.J. McCarron, Alabama- I can already tell McCarron is going to be a divisive prospect. Some are going to see a “winner” that has been a key cog to Alabama’s title runs and others are going to cite his terrific supporting cast (skill position players, offensive line, and defense) and claim he is not much more than a game manager. I certainly don’t think he’s an elite prospect and his arm strength leaves something to be desired, but I don’t think he’s been coasting on the talent of Alabama’s roster either. I think he has some starter upside, but I am excited to see how his 2013 tape looks. He will certainly be one of the most highly scrutinized quarterbacks in this class.

8-      Tyler Russell, Mississippi State- I thought Russell flashed upside when he was still splitting time as a sophomore and in his last full season as a starter he flashed a lot of upside but showed that he still had a lot of room left to grow. He had a pretty horrendous bowl game and clearly needs to work on some things, but he has all the size and arm strength you could want in a quarterback. He may never live up to the expectations I have for him, but I’m willing to be patient and see if he can progress like I believe he is capable of.

9-      Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech- Thomas is another guy I really thought would progress last year but unfortunately he regressed and was essentially a massive disappointment considering some of the hype he was getting in the pre-season. He has all the size and arm strength you could ever dream of, but he was maddeningly inconsistent with his accuracy and decision making and clearly has a ton of growing left to do. I continue to hear great things about his work ethic so I believe he can still improve, I just don’t know if he will ever put it all together.

10-   Zach Mettenberger, LSU- Mettenberger was getting a lot of hype coming into the season but he was underwhelming during his first season as a starter. He’s got an intriguing combination of size and arm strength but he has to put it all together this year. He has starter upside, but he isn’t there yet.

11-   Drew Allen, Syracuse- I might be one of the few people that prefers Drew Allen to the Belldozer, but I do. I think Allen is going to win the Syracuse starting job and show that he has NFL talent at the quarterback position. This is probably higher than anyone else will have him ranked, but I am convinced Allen has starter upside at the next level.

12-   Stephen Morris, Miami- I was one of the people advocating for Morris to start over Jacory Harris during Harris’ senior year and I still think he’s the better quarterback. He’s a quality athlete with a strong arm, but his accuracy wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked to see as a junior. Miami has been through a lot the last couple of years, so I’m excited to see if Morris can end his career on a high note this season.

13-   James Franklin, Missouri- Franklin is an intriguing guy thanks to his size, arm strength and athleticism, but like many of these quarterbacks he has to put it all together and show a mastery of the position as a senior. I personally don’t foresee him being a NFL starter, but he definitely has that upside if he can show more progression as a senior.

14-   Keith Price, Washington- At this time last year Price was coming off of a masterful performance in Washington’s bowl game against Baylor’s hapless defense. This year? He is coming off of a disappointing junior year that left a lot of people underwhelmed. He doesn’t have the arm strength I thought he had, his decision making was inconsistent, and he left a lot to be desired as a junior. I’m hoping he can reverse field as a senior, but I’m not holding my breath.

15-   Corey Robinson, Troy- I don’t think Robinson is going to be in very many top 15 quarterback rankings coming into the season, but I saw a talented quarterback when I watched him as a freshman and I still believe he can play at the next level. He may be undersized, but he has a NFL arm and I am excited to see if he can prove that as a senior.

Top Juniors:

1-      Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville- Bridgewater put on a show as a sophomore last year and made a believer out of me. I think he has all the arm talent, athleticism, toughness and intangibles to be a stud quarterback in the NFL. It remains to be seen how he will do this upcoming season, but I definitely have high expectations for him.

2-      Brett Smith, Wyoming- Smith is another player Allbright pointed out to me last year. I haven’t seen as much of him as I’d like, but what I have seen was very intriguing.

3-      Blake Bortles, Central Florida- I haven’t watched much of Bortles, but what I have seen was intriguing. It was his first full season as a starter so I look forward to reviewing some of those games but also to seeing how he does as a junior and as a starter with more experience.

4-      Braxton Miller, Ohio State- I am not sold on Miller as a NFL QB yet, but he made some strides as a sophomore and he’s too intriguing of a playmaker to leave him off this list entirely. He’s got a lot of upside, it’s just a question of whether he can ever become as good of a pure passer as he is as a runner.

5-      Garrett Grayson, Colorado State- Grayson is a player I think has a lot of upside. He’s definitely flying under the radar, but I expect that he will be the starter for Colorado State and prior to his collarbone injury last year he really showed me something. He looks like he has a NFL arm, it’s just a question of whether he can keep the starting job, stay healthy, and put together some good film.

Top Sophomores:

1-      Kevin Hogan, Stanford- Hogan has future 1st round pick written all over him. He’s got the size, the arm strength (though his deep ball could use some work), athleticism and high football IQ I look for in a QB. He really impressed me when he took over for Josh Nunes, and he is embracing his role as a leader on Stanford and from what I’ve read seems to have a strong hold on Stanford’s complex offense. I think he’s going to be great this year and while he is eligible I expect him to come out after his junior season, not after his redshirt sophomore year.

2-      Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M- I know a lot of people will be surprised that I have anyone ranked over Manziel, but as far as the NFL is concerned I think Hogan is the superior prospect at this point. There’s no denying Manziel’s uncanny feel for the game, shocking athleticism and knack for game-changing plays, but he still has a long way to go before he is a “surgeon” rather than a butcher as a quarterback as Trent Dilfer would say. The upside is there, but he’s still learning.

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.

**These are not ranked in any particular order**

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia-

Smith started the season out at an RGIII like pace, but as the season continued his play became more inconsistent and more frustrating. I still think he is the odds on favorite to be the top QB selected, but his issues staring down his primary receiver, throwing with inconsistent footwork and not stepping into all of his throws have been fairly well documented. He has good NFL size, arm strength, impressive accuracy and pocket poise, but he wasn’t as consistent as you would like over the course of the season and even as a fan of his he left something to be desired fairly regularly as the season went on. It’s hard for me to label him as a franchise QB given some of the question marks that surround him this year, but I think he has that upside. I have heard a couple different things about his intangibles so I would love to be a fly on the wall for his interviews with NFL teams. Alas, that isn’t likely to happen, so I’ll just have to keep my ear to the ground to try to get more details about his work ethic (which I have heard is very good) and his leadership capability. He’s still my #1 QB, but like every QB in this class he is not without flaws.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas-

Tyler Wilson and the entire Arkansas team had a very, very underwhelming season and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) Arkansas’ season is over. Wilson is still a first round pick if you ask me, because outside of Cobi Hamilton and Dennis Johnson he did not have much in the way of help this season. I’m sure some will argue that he was boosted by his supporting cast last season, but if his play was elevated by it last year it was dragged down by his cast this season. Outside of Cobi Hamilton no wide receiver was a consistent threat, and Knile Davis was not his regular self for almost the entire year. Dennis Johnson stepped up to fill the void when they gave him the opportunity, but even with his “emergence” (some of us already knew he could play) Wilson was under near constant pressure because of his terrible offensive line. He has a bit of a gunslinger mentality that some will like and some won’t, and he isn’t a perfect prospect by any means either. But I love his intangibles and leadership capability and I think he has more than enough arm talent to be a quality NFL starter. I think he still ends up in the top 15 after the draft process runs its course and teams get to interview him. Someone will fall in love with him (if not multiple QB needy teams) and they’ll make an effort to go get him.

Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State-

Glennon is a guy I just recently caught up on and I have to say I was impressed. We all knew he had the size and arm strength to play in the NFL, but his accuracy is better than it was last season during his first season as a starter and he throws a great deep ball. He flashes the ability to feel the pressure and step up in the pocket, though he does consistently hold onto the ball too long and doesn’t always read blitzes well pre-snap. My big problem with Glennon is that he needs functional space around him, a clean pocket, or room around him when he is throwing on the run to be good and sometimes even great. His issues become evident in muddied pockets or with pressure closing in after which his mechanics break down, he fades away from throws and his accuracy suffers as a result. He has the natural arm strength to get away with some of these throws, and consistently throws accurately on short throws even with pressure in his face (particularly on drag routes) but his drop off in accuracy and decision making is definitely concerning to me. I’ve seen him stand in and make one great throw with a defender in his face in the three 2012 games I’ve watched of him so far, but my impression is that seeing him do that is a rarity. If you draft him and you protect him I think you will be able to win games with him and go to the playoffs, but when the protection breaks down and he has to make big time throws in muddied pockets I think he will struggle. He’s only in his second season as a starter so perhaps he can continue to make strides in this area (Matt Ryan has had issues with this as well) but right now I would have reservations about taking him in the top 40 picks, though I do think he will end up in the 2nd round. I have a 3rd round grade on him at this point in the draft process after watching more of his 2012 games. Previously I had a 4th round grade on him. I look forward to seeing him in person at the Senior Bowl.

Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal-

Barkley came back for his senior season expecting to make a serious run at the National Championship, the Heisman trophy and at the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Having just finished watching his team lose to Notre Dame without him (while his understudy Max Wittek made some freshman mistakes along with some very impressive throws in his first career start) it’s safe to say Barkley isn’t anywhere close to the BCS title game, the Heisman or to going #1 overall. I personally don’t think he will be the 1st or 2nd QB selected, but he does have a good chance to be the #3 QB selected in a class that has really underwhelmed all year long. My friend and colleague Eric Stoner (@ECStoner) pointed out something that had been previously overlooked with Barkley- aside from his fantastic finish to the season last year, he was largely what he was this season his entire career. I had never thought of it that way, but that sums it up pretty perfectly- He kind of had a Mark Sanchez rise at the end of last season and he never really sustained that level of play even with the herculean effort of Marqise Lee over the course of the year. My thoughts on him haven’t changed since the beginning of the season- he seems to be elevated by the talent around him, he doesn’t have the arm strength to put appropriate NFL velocity on some intermediate throws, his deep balls hang in the air, and he threw a mind-blowing number of short/behind the line of scrimmage passes this season as a result of all of this. He might still go in the 1st round, but there will be plenty of people making arguments for him to fall out of the top 32 selections and it’s hard to make a great argument that they’re wrong at this point. I have been on the Barkley bandwagon since he was a freshman and I hate to sound like I’m throwing him under the bus since I have been advocating him to be a starter since before his freshman year and you could tell he had a NFL future early on in his career. But he doesn’t have a lot of upside left and his lack of good/great arm strength is going to hurt him at the next level. I think he will get a shot to be a NFL starter, but I’m not convinced that he will be a quality NFL starter at this point and I wouldn’t be very comfortable drafting him as my definite QB of the future as much as it hurts me to say it.

Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee-

Bray is pretty much the polar opposite of Barkley in my opinion. He is 6’5”, skinny with lots of room to grow, has Jay Cutler-esque arm talent and unfortunately Jay Cutler-esque mechanics/decision making. He is a very talented kid with the ability to make any NFL throw even off of his back foot and that talent allows him to get away with poor footwork and weight transfer very frequently which is really too bad. He needs to be drafted by a team with a QB or QB coach that will mentor him and push him to improve his mechanics because they are a huge part of what is holding him back from reaching his immense potential. He is a frustrating kid to evaluate for this reason, and without being able to talk to his coaches, teammates and Bray himself it’s hard to evaluate how hard he is willing to work to improve his deficiencies, and I haven’t heard great things about his work ethic or intangibles thus far. NFL teams won’t like that, but there is going to be some NFL team that falls in love with his God-given talent that drafts him in the 2nd round if not higher. I liked Bray a lot coming into the season, but he didn’t progress like I hoped he might and his shortcomings were pretty obvious when you paid attention to him. I’m not sure if he will declare or not, it depends quite a bit on who Tennessee hires to replace Dooley if you ask me, but I think he is more likely to leave than he is to stay. He’s not ready to walk in and be a NFL starter in my opinion, but his raw upside gives him a chance at sneaking into the 1st round. Personally I would not want to tie my franchise to him right now, and I think the ideal situation for him would be to go to a team with an established veteran QB that can show him the ropes for a couple years, not unlike Ryan Mallett with the Patriots. I don’t know if Bray will be as lucky as Mallett was though.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma-

I have been underwhelmed by Jones for quite some time and despite a couple late wins this season that has not changed. I don’t think he’s a NFL starter and that stems from his lack of poise under pressure, less than ideal velocity on his passes, and the fact that I think he is elevated by the talent around him versus making everyone around him better. Because draftniks and likely scouts have been down on him so long I think it’s possible that some will start to proclaim he is underrated but I don’t buy that logic. He looked like a fourth round pick and a NFL back-up last year and his play this season hasn’t changed my mind about that. I haven’t studied him specifically this year, but nothing I’ve seen of him live has made me say “wow, I was wrong about him!” If anything it has reaffirmed that he’s good enough to get drafted, but that he is not a franchise QB or even a future quality NFL starter in my estimation.

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech-

Thomas may have underwhelmed more than any other draft-eligible 2013 NFL Draft this year and I say that as someone who was very intrigued by his first season as a starter last year. He’s got all the size, arm strength and athleticism you could want in a quarterback, but his accuracy was erratic at best this year and his decision making regressed along with his mechanics over the course of the season. He came into the season being hyped up by some as a potential top 5 pick if he continued to progress and I can’t deny that I was one of the people who thought he had a chance to do that. However, it became clear early on that he was not ready to declare and not even ready to lead Virginia Tech to an above .500 record (the Hokies finished 6-6 this year). He has a LONG way to go before he will be a quality NFL starting QB, but there are split opinions on whether or not he should stay or declare. I think he should absolutely stay, but some think that he should go to the next level and begin getting NFL level coaching. Personally, I think he needs to work hard this offseason to improve his mechanics, gain chemistry with his returning receivers and come back and prove that he can be a leader and a catalyst on a team that competes for the ACC title. I thought he had a chance to do that this year, but the lack of a consistent running game and Thomas’ own issues compounded the problems that the Hokies had from top to bottom. I’m not going to buy him as a leader and as a player with quality intangibles until his decision making improves and until he shows he can command a game pre-snap. He has a lot of room to improve, and if his accuracy never improves he will remain a developmental project that may or may never live up to his immense raw potential. I like him, and I still think he can make strides this offseason and next year in his third season as a starter, but he has plenty of work to do.

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

James Gayle is one of the best defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker prospects in the country, but somehow he seems to be flying under the radar. That won’t last long, as he is primed and ready for a double digit sack season as a junior.

Tom: First of all James, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.

Tom: What was your favorite thing about playing for Virginia Tech last season?

James: Probably the fans, just the Virginia Tech atmosphere and playing at Lane Stadium. I’d rather play in our stadium than anywhere else in the country.

Tom: You’ve been productive both seasons you’ve been at Virginia Tech even though last year was your first full season as a starter, do you expect an even more significant break-out year this season?

James: Definitely. I think the thing that hurt me last year was my injury, I missed 3 games and I still led the team in sacks. I’m healthy now though.

Tom: What is your accurate height, weight, and 40 yard dash time?

James: 6’4”, right now I weigh about 266 or 267 and the last time I ran I ran a 4.45 40 yard dash time, but I think I only weighed 257 or 258 at that point.

Tom: You “only” weighed 257 or 258 pounds and you ran in the 4.4’s, Josh Gordon just ran a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash at his pro-day and got drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and he weighs 40 pounds less than you!

James: Well I’ve always been fast though, even when I was in high school I was running in the 4.4’s but I guess I never got slower since all I’ve gained since coming to Virginia Tech is muscle.

Tom: Do you have any statistical goals for yourself or the team?

James: For the team I just want to be the #1 defense in the nation, or at least top 5. For myself I just want to have a better season than I did last year and continue to improve. I think if I stay healthy I’ll be better than I was last year and put myself in a good position.

Tom: What was it like watching Logan Thomas progress and grow as the season went on last year?

James: It was great. It was great watching him get acclimated to defenses but I think it was the Miami game where he really showed everyone what he could do.

Tom: Did he look even better in the spring?

James: You can tell he’s more comfortable and I think he’s getting better every day.

Tom: Everyone just kind of assumed he was going to play tight end when he was coming out of high school and now he’s one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, it’s crazy.

James: I knew he was going to play quarterback because I played in an all-star game with him in high school, haha.

Tom: Well then you knew something I didn’t! Now did your defensive coaches mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

James: Yeah they said I’m starting to get the little things down like my technique and my angles. I feel like I did an overall better job of that in the spring than I did in the past.

Tom: What kind of technique stuff did they specifically say you were improving on?

James: Just when I’m pass rushing taking the right angles. I usually just get by with my speed but that’s not going to work with every tackle so I’m just trying to get better with my hands and trying to take better angles to get to the quarterback.

Tom: That’s great to hear, that’s what you need to be a complete defensive end. You’re going to be scary when you get that technique down James.

James: Haha, well I’ve been working on it all summer.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a football player? Maybe your speed?

James: Yeah my speed, I’m just a natural pass rusher.

Tom: What about some of the things you think you need to work on? Obviously you’ve already mentioned technique.

James: Yeah, I mean I really haven’t been playing football that long to be honest my first season was my junior year in high school so basically I didn’t really have anybody to actually coach me up or teach me the position. Then I redshirted when I got to Virginia Tech and they don’t really teach you anything when you redshirt so I was just learning how to play the position my redshirt freshman year.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the defensive end position? People you’ve patterned your game after?

James: Oh yeah definitely. Coach [Charley] Wiles the defensive line coach, Cornell Brown has been really instrumental and then I watch a lot of film of Bruce Smith since he played here.

Tom: What is one thing that every defensive end has to have in order to be successful?

James: I think he has to be aggressive. That’s something you can’t really teach a guy to be honest. There are a bunch of guys that have ability but they’re not aggressive, but then there are guys that have less ability but are more aggressive and I think that’s important. I feel like that’s something you can’t teach, but I think that also goes for every position.

Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?

James: Antone Exum. I think he’s going to be one of the best corners in the nation this year, him and Kyle Fuller. Antone runs a 4.3 and he’s like 225 pounds. He’s a good corner. Kyle is really good too he plays a lot bigger than he is. I’ve seen him lay some guys out that he was much smaller than.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

James: The running backs J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, then Logan Thomas. The receivers too, I know Marcus Davis is going to have a big year. For the most part our offense is going to do pretty well.

Tom: I’m sure Hokie fans will be encouraged to hear that the running backs look good since you just lost David Wilson and Josh Oglesby.

James: Yeah it’s pretty different because when I came here I played against three All-American running backs. I played against Darren Evans first, then Ryan [Williams] and then David [Wilson]. So I’m pretty sure one of those guys is ready to step up next.

Tom: You’re getting some hype coming into the season, do you feel any added pressure because of some loftier expectations?

James: No not at all. I feel like I’m just going to play my game. I feel like the expectations that people have for me coming into the season aren’t any higher than the expectations I already have for myself, so it’s not any different. I feel like I should be one of the best defensive ends in the country and I feel like I should be an All-American.

Tom: I know you saw me mention that you and J.R. Collins are one of the best defensive end tandems in college football, what do you think makes him so dangerous?

James: J.R. Collins is relentless. I totally agree that we’re a great tandem too because I think that J.R. Collins’ name should be up there with any of the best defensive ends in the ACC this year. He’s relentless, he’s hard-nosed and if I could pick anybody to play on the opposite side of me it would be him.

Tom: That’s a glowing recommendation. And I was just looking at your defensive line depth chart last night and it occurred to me that you guys could have one of the best defensive lines in the country as well. Do you think that’s possible?

James: I definitely think it’s possible. I feel like if it weren’t for my injury last year we would have been one of the best in the country from a pass rush standpoint.

Tom: And then you have the Hopkins brothers. You guys have a lot of returning experience on that defensive line.

James: Yeah the Hopkins brothers! I feel like our defensive line is going to be one of the best of the country. Both of them are really good players, and then we’ve got Luther Maddy who started last year as a true freshman at defensive tackle, so we essentially have a couple starters at second string.

Tom: Ok, who are the rotational guys behind you and J.R.?

James: Tyrel Wilson is the guy behind me, he did well last year. And behind J.R. is Zack McCray, plus we have another defensive end named Dadi Nicholas who redshirted last year.

Tom: Did you say his first name is Dadi? That’s AWESOME!

James: Yeah his first name is Dadi, haha.

Tom: What is it like playing for Bud Foster in his aggressive defense? I imagine it’s pretty fun.

James: Oh definitely, because I feel like I’m a pretty aggressive player so coming to school with an aggressive defensive coordinator it just matches. So I really enjoy playing for him.

Tom: Are you comfortable buzzing into coverage? Foster likes to bring zone blitzes so I know he asks you to drop sometimes.

James: Yeah definitely I feel really comfortable dropping into coverage. At first when you don’t do it for a while it’s weird but I’ve been doing it all summer since I’ve been working out with the DB’s so I’m comfortable doing it.

Tom: Uh-oh… I hope they don’t move you to safety James. You’ve got the speed for it after all.

James: Hahaha. I don’t think I’m ready for some of these little receivers though!

Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to? Maybe Clemson?

James: Oh yeah definitely Clemson. They had our number last year but this year they gotta be ready to go to war.

Tom: You and Tajh [Boyd] go back to high school I’m sure you want to get a W against him.

James: Oh Tajh? Yeah definitely. I’ve been playing him since high school but I’ve never been able to beat him.

Tom: I think this year might be the year then James.

James: Yeah, hopefully.

Tom: You’ve got a pretty good football pedigree with your dad Jimmy playing running back at Ohio State from 1979-82 and your Uncle Shaun playing DB for the Buckeyes and in the NFL from 1984-95 as well. Do you think that has helped you pick up the game so quickly?

James: Absolutely. I feel like I have strong football bloodlines since both my father and uncle played at Ohio State. I think my dad was an All-Big Ten running back so that might be where I get my speed from. Actually in high school my father was one of the fastest backs in the nation. I think that’s where the speed came from.

Tom: I definitely think that could be where you got your speed from.

James: Yeah I’d say that’s it, haha.

Tom: I read in an article that before you started playing football you were “more of a video game guy” and that after you got done with video games you said “I think I’ll just play football.” How did that come about?

James: I really wasn’t that interested in playing football when school first started so I just played video games. Then I got tired of that and just decided to play football, but I had never lifted weights or anything so I was like 160 pounds at the end of my 10th grade year. So I just started lifting weights and eating right and by the beginning of my senior year I was like 210. Now that I’m over 260 I’ve put on over 100 pounds of muscle since high school.

Tom: And you haven’t lost any speed, that’s the scary thing. Now, do you still play video games? If so, what’s your favorite game to play?

James: Nah, I guess I kinda played myself out of that. I guess I play some NCAA. They’ve got me rated as one of the best defensive ends on the game so that’s good.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

James: Man, that’s tough. I guess that I can actually run a 4.4 because every time I get on the internet I see people saying I run a 4.7 or something like that. I want people to know that I have that kind of speed because that’s what I take pride in.

Tom: I had definitely read that you had 4.4 speed, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to believe that a 260 pound defensive end had 4.4 speed, that shit scares me.

James: Well I’ve seen guys at 270 be timed in the 4.5’s! It’s possible, there are guys that can do it. I guess we’ll see if I get my shot at the combine.

Tom: Well I predict that you will, that’s my prediction. It’s not bold, but it’s a prediction.

James: Haha, we’ll see.

Tom: I just want you to realize how unfair it is that you can run a 4.4 at that size, even a 4.5 would be just disgusting.

James: Well I’m very confident I can run a 4.5. I’ve never ran a laser 40 time, but I know I can do it.

Tom: Well that’s about all I have, do you have any questions for me?

James: No I don’t think so.

Tom: Well thank you for your time James, I appreciate the chance to talk with you a little more in depth. When does camp start up for you?

James: August 7th, I’m getting ready.

Only a couple weeks away! I’m ready for some football. Well good luck with the rest of your training and good luck this season!

James: Thanks! It was great talking to you.

Tom: You’re welcome, it was great talking with you as well. Take care.

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

Quarterbacks:

-BJ Coleman, QB, Tennessee – Chattanooga. 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.93 40 yard dash
-I really like B.J. Coleman. He missed some time due to injury this year which I thought might hurt him, but I was very happy to see him get an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. His game reminds me a bit of Nathan Enderle from last year, and there are some parallels between them that are pretty interesting (both started Senior season vs Nebraska, strong armed QB’s without much talent around them, both invited to East-West Shrine Game. I could go on, but I won’t.) Regardless, Coleman is a quality prospect in his own right and I think he has a chance to go in the first four rounds. This week will be big for him but if he is healthy he should have impressive ball velocity, good accuracy and pretty good pocket presence. I look forward to taking notes on him all week.

-Johnny Brantley, QB, Florida: 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.89 40 yard dash
-I left his name as “Johnny” since that was how it was listed on the official roster and it cracked me up. Brantley is a guy that is starting to get some buzz as a sleeper and I understand why. He’s got experience playing in the SEC and he’s got a very strong arm. He did not have much success in his last two seasons as a starter in Florida but playing for two entirely different coaching staffs with very different offensive philosophies certainly didn’t help. I’m sure he appreciated not being taken out on 1st and 2nd down and thrust into a 3rd and long this year like he was in Urban Meyer’s last season at Florida (his first as a starter). He still didn’t do much passing this year in his first and only year under Charlie Weiss (who is now the head man at Kansas) but he did throw for 2,044 yards while completing 60% of his passes for an 8.5 yard average per attempt. He only threw 11 touchdowns as compared to 7 interceptions, but that was an improvement over his very unimpressive 9 touchdown, 10 interception stat line as a junior. Plenty of people have soured on him and don’t give him much of a chance at the NFL, but guys with his size and arm strength are always in demand. He’s been through a lot at Florida, but if he can have a solid week at the Shrine Game it could ensure him a chance as a late round draft pick or as an undrafted free agent come April.

-Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: 6’1”, 221 pounds, 4.78 40 yard dash
-Davis is the quarterback with the least upside of the quarterbacks on the East Roster. His size and arm strength are both average for the NFL and if there are any windy days down in St. Petersburg I think that will become very apparent. He’s the most athletic of the three quarterbacks and he does have an abundance of starting experience but I don’t think he has enough upside to warrant much consideration before the 7th round or as a priority free agent in April. He’s solid in a number of areas but spectacular in none, though he is supposed to have pretty good intangibles and football IQ. I don’t expect to see anything different than what I did at Southern Mississippi, but he might have the biggest adjustment to taking snaps from under center since Brantley had a chance to do that a bit with Weiss at Florida this year and Coleman ran an offense with pro-style looks in it. He’s definitely #3 on the depth chart for me, but it will be interesting to see him up close.

Running Backs:

- Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: 5’10”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-Poole isn’t a freak athlete and he isn’t a burner, but he is a compact, well built running back. I like running backs that have compact, well filled out frames and Poole fits that bill. He runs hard, he’s strong, he has a good natural pad level because of his size, and he has shown the ability to run through arm tackles and gain yardage after contact. He’s my #1 RB at the East-West Shrine Game and I’m excited to see him in person. He’s an underrated guy that may not go very high on draft day but will be ready to contribute immediately and surprise people in training camp.

-Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: 5’8”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big fan of Meggett. He’s never really been the feature back until this season and his lack of production gives me pause when trying to evaluate him. He’s got the compact frame that I like in a running back, but he doesn’t break as many tackles and gain as many yards after contact as you would think given his size and strength. He’s supposed to be a big weight room guy who works very hard and was a team captain, but weight room strength doesn’t always translate to the football field and I’m worried that it doesn’t in his case. I question his balance a bit and that concerns me since I’m not sold on his vision and he doesn’t have the burst and speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. He’s a complete back though because he can run the ball, catch it out of the backfield and offer effort as a pass blocker. He needs work in all areas in my opinion, but there is ability to mold in all facets. He’s got some upside because he’s never really gotten a chance to be a feature back, but I wonder if he will ever reach it.

Wide Receivers:

-T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: 5’11”, 180 pounds, 4.36 40 yard dash
-Graham definitely doesn’t look like he weighs 180 pounds to me so I will be very interested to see what he weighs in at. My estimation would be he’s actually about 5’10”, 170 pounds but that is just my opinion. Regardless of his official measurements there is no denying his speed and explosiveness. He put all of his ability on display in NC State’s bowl game against Louisville as he put on a show with 7 receptions for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game. He finished the season with 46 receptions, 757 yards and 7 TD’s receiving this year which nearly exceeded all of his production as a receiver from his previous three seasons on the Wolfpack. In his first three years he totaled 52 career receptions, 673 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He was only 6 receptions short of doubling his career receptions, yards and touchdowns total as a receiver as a senior. On top of that, Graham also has 630 career punt return yards with one touchdown and 3,157 career kick return yards and two more touchdowns. He had well over 5,000 total yards as a member of the Wolfpack and I think that his value as a receiver and a kick returner will be on full display during the East-West Shrine Game. I definitely think Graham will be a riser during the week and I really like his NFL upside. He’s my #1 WR on the East going into the week, so it will be very fun to see him play in person.

-B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: 6’2”, 216 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big Cunningham fan personally but there’s no denying the production he has amassed while at Michigan State. He has never had a season with under 500 receiving yards in his four years as a Spartan and in the past two years he has totaled 129 receptions, 1,917 yards and 21 touchdowns receiving. The list of more impressive stat lines over the last two seasons is pretty short and it’s headlined by a potential top five pick in Justin Blackmon. As a senior Cunningham had by far his best season with 79 receptions, 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a junior he was pretty inconsistent and dropped too many passes for my liking, but he seemed to improve that a bit as a senior. His hands are still a concern for me and I will be paying close attention to both how well he catches the ball this week and HOW he catches the ball. Namely, is he snagging passes outside of his frame, therefore displaying quality range, or is he body catching and letting passes outside of his frame bounce off his hands.

-Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech: 6’0”, 200 pounds, 4.43 40 yard dash
-Coale is a guy I have been paying attention to for the last two years because I’ve watched a significant amount of Virginia Tech over that time and while he may not be the #1 receiver on their depth chart there isn’t a lot of doubt in my mind that he had the best hands on the team. I was and still am high on Jarrett Boykin, a fellow senior who will be vying to be drafted, but Coale is a quality player in his own right. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him drop a routine pass and he adjusts very well to the ball when it’s in the air and has much better timed speed than I expected him to have. He’s got serious sleeper potential and I think he could be a guy that catches a lot of people’s eyes during the week of practices at the Shrine Game because he will almost certainly make a great catch that sticks in people’s minds. He is all effort all the time and while he probably won’t go very high in the draft I would be shocked if he didn’t end up making a NFL roster and working his way into a contributing role.

-Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: 6’1”, 209 pounds, 4.50 40 yard dash
-Lewis is a solidly built WR that has more speed than I expected him to have. I haven’t seen him enough to quantify exactly how good his hands are, but he strikes me as a mid-late round prospect that should be able to stick on a NFL roster. He missed three or four games this season which hurt his statistics as he totaled 60 receptions, 600 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year. That’s a solid total, but it pales in comparison to his junior season (his first with East Carolina) when he burst onto the scene with 89 receptions, 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns. I haven’t done enough tape study to figure out if the drop-off is due only to his missed playing time or if he was not the same player he was last year when he had Dwayne Harris playing with him. Hopefully he is 100% ready to go and he can impress in this game because I think he has enough value to get drafted in the 5th or 6th round range.

-Thomas Mayo, WR, California-Pennsylvania: 6’2”, 200 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-Pennsylvania: Mayo is a guy who is getting some love as a small-school sleeper. I haven’t seen any game tape of him yet, but I have heard good things. I’m very excited to see him in person and I think he has a chance to make himself some money if he plays well. I have a feeling a lot of people know of him, but don’t have a great feel for his game yet.

-LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: 6’4”, 220 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-I’m not sure why Byrd is on this roster to be honest. I thought he had some upside a couple of years ago, but he has continually disappointed me and anyone else who expected him to be productive. He was effectively buried on Miami’s depth chart and Jacory Harris’ ineptitude at quarterback didn’t help things, but I am pretty skeptical of Byrd’s talents at this point. He had more touchdowns as a freshman (4) than he had the next three years of his career (3, one each season). On top of that, he capped off his career as a Hurricane with a monster season totaling 11 receptions, 125 yards and 1 touchdown. Obviously I was being sarcastic saying he had a monster season since there are players playing in this game that have almost as many touchdown receptions this year as he had overall receptions. Byrd has the size and athleticism combination you would like to have in a receiver, but I’m not sold on his hands and his lack of almost any progression over his entire career at Miami makes me question whether he will ever reach the potential he seemed to flash as a freshman three years ago.

Tight Ends:

-Chase Ford, TE, Miami: 6’5”, 245 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Ford’s 9 receptions, 88 yards and 1 touchdown may not seem that impressive, but he nearly matched LaRon Byrd’s production, so he must be good! I personally don’t think Ford was the best tight end on Miami’s roster, I think Blake Ayles (a USC transfer) was. Unfortunately, Ayles went down with an injury at the beginning of the season and didn’t accrue any stats this year. Hopefully he will be healthy soon, but in the mean-time I can’t say I think Ford has much of a chance of being drafted. Ayles would have been the starter had it not been for his injury, so I don’t have very high expectations for Ford this week. Frankly, I think there are other more deserving tight ends that could have been in this game. Ladarius Green, Nick Provo, Aron White and James Hanna are all guys I like at this position that won’t be at this game.

Offensive Guards:

-Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: 6’3”, 328 pounds, 5.45 40 yard dash
-I wanted to give you guys a synopsis of what I expect from the offensive tackles for this roster but I haven’t seen any of them enough to give you what I consider a quality breakdown of their abilities. I’ve always enjoyed watching offensive line play though, so rest assured I will keep a close eye on them throughout the week. Dennis, however, I have seen. I’ll admit before the first time I saw him I glanced at his 40 yard dash time and wondered how athletic he could be, but that’s just another reason not to put stock in the 40 yard dash times of offensive linemen. Dennis moves much better than his 40 yard dash time would seem to indicate, especially for such a large man. I think Dennis could be a real riser this week, especially if his line coach can coach him up a bit and help him with his technique. Dennis has some tools you look for in an offensive lineman and while I don’t think he will go before round 4 or 5 I do think he has starter potential in the future. He’s going to take a year or two of coaching up and developing, but if he takes coaching well and has a good work ethic I think you could see him starting in a few years.

Centers:

-Quentin Saulsberry, OC, Mississippi State: 6’2”, 300 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Saulsberry is kind of under the radar right now since there are some talented interior offensive linemen in this class. The center class is headlined by a first round center in Peter Konz, but it has some draftable talent and Saulsberry is in that group. I don’t have a great feel for his game yet, but he is being mentioned as a sleeper and I am excited to see how he looks this next week. He’s an under the radar guy, but he might be a riser this week.

Defensive Ends:

-Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: 6’7”, 280 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Conrath has played DE at Virginia for a long time but a few people have started to project him inside. I disagree with that because I think he has a pretty ideal frame to bulk up and play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He might not be big enough yet, but at 6’7” he has the frame you love to see in 3-4 defensive ends. It will be interesting to see where he plays this week since I don’t think he is a great fit as a left end in a 4-3 defensive scheme but I don’t think he fits well as a defensive tackle in that scheme either. As a result he might be a little out of position this week depending on where he lines up, but as a mid-late round guy I like him.

-Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: 6’3”, 268 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Miller is a solid but not spectacular defensive end for West Virginia. Playing opposite Bruce Irvin meant he didn’t attract a lot of attention and that helped him rack up 57 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass break-ups this season. I don’t think he has a lot of edge speed and I don’t think he’s fantastic against the run either, so I question how much upside he has at defensive end. I think his best case scenario is being a rotational defensive end in the NFL, but I am looking forward to seeing how he looks in person getting off the ball, how much bend he has and how well he uses his hands among other things.

-Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: 6’4”, 240 pounds, 4.70 40 yard dash
-Wilber is a guy that I was high on coming into the season but he didn’t have the break-out season that I expected him to have. Many people think he will have to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL and I tend to agree. He has a pretty skinny frame despite his 6’4” height so I don’t know how much weight he will be able to pack on. He’s listed at 240 pounds and I think he could get up to 250 or 255 pounds on a quality weight training program but even at that weight he is likely too light to be able to play at right end in the NFL. This week will be important for him because he may get a chance to drop into coverage at some point. I haven’t seen him do that much at Wake Forest but I haven’t completed my film study on him yet. Regardless, he’s an athletic guy with upside in my opinion. This year he had 69 total tackles (47 solo), 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass deflection and he also blocked a kick. In the past two years he has 25 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 pass break-ups and 2 blocked kicks. The production and athletic ability is there, so I’m hoping he can have a big week and help demonstrate the ability that led me to put him on my list of potential break-out players at the beginning of the season.

Defensive Tackles:

-Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: 6’2”, 335 pounds, 5.06 40 yard dash
-Jean-Baptiste definitely catches your eye when he’s on the field because of his sheer size. The weigh-in will be important for him because if he comes in looking flabby and out of shape it will raise some concern from talent evaluators. However, his combination of size and athleticism is pretty impressive. I just don’t think he is as good as he could be yet given his natural size and athleticism. He was a complete non-factor in the Anti-Defense Bowl between Baylor and Washington a couple weeks ago and that’s concerning to me. I am interested to see how he plays this week but it seems that defensive tackles, perhaps more than any other position (at least, off the top of my head) really know how to turn it on when they are playing for a pay-check. Albert Haynesworth is the best example I can think of to support this claim, and if Jean-Baptiste plays great this week in stark contrast to his performance against Washington it will help his stock but make teams wonder where this effort level and ability was when everyone watching that game was begging for a quality defensive performance.

-Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: 6’2”, 305 pounds, 5.20 40 yard dash
-Regis was definitely overshadowed at Miami because that defensive line was bursting with talent. They didn’t live up to it this year unfortunately, but a defensive line with Olivier Vernon, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo had a lot of potential. That left Regis in a reserve role before Forston’s injury, and even though he has had playing time throughout his career at Miami he has never had more than 8.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks, which he posted as a junior last year. I’m not sure he has much upside beyond a defensive tackle that can contribute to a 4-3 rotation, but it will be interesting to see how he looks this week.

Linebackers:

-Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: 6’2”, 250 pounds, 4.68 40 yard dash
-Lindsey flashed onto the scene as a junior when he posted an impressive 18.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks and 3 fumbles forced after Greg Romeus went down with another injury. This year he was without Romeus and Jabaal Sheard but he still posted 55 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass deflection. Lindsey doesn’t project to a defensive end position very well but I think he will be able to transition effectively to the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense. He’s an athletic guy and has shown that he’s capable of producing at Pittsburgh even though he may not have been used properly.

-Max Gruder, MLB, Pittsburgh: 6’1”, 230 pounds, 4.71 40 yard dash
-Gruder isn’t a freak athlete by any means and he probably doesn’t project to be a NFL starter now or in the future, but I think he’s going to be a great special teams player and a quality reserve in the NFL. He’s a reliable tackler and the Pittsburgh coaching staff admitted that they continued to try to take him out of the lineup but he was so fundamentally sound that he always found his way back onto the field. It will be interesting to see how he looks this week, but I wouldn’t expect him to be dominant in any one phase of the game. He seems like a guy who is solid in all facets but spectacular in none, and while that may help get him drafted I don’t think it gives him a great shot to start in the NFL.

Cornerbacks:

-Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: 5’9”, 204 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Brown is another undersized cornerback from North Carolina that I think is primarily a zone corner personally. I always thought that his former teammate Kendric Burney was the better player and Burney went undrafted. That’s not to say that Brown will also go undrafted, but it speaks to where his draft stock is likely to end up barring a spectacular performance this week. I don’t think Brown has the size and speed to stick with receivers in man coverage very effectively, but North Carolina likes to run zone coverage and Brown should offer value in that phase of the game. I am interested to see him try to press corners during the week and I want to see how he does in man to man, though I anticipate him having some issues especially against taller, more physical receivers.

Safeties:

-Matt Daniels, S, Duke: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-Daniels is a quality sleeper prospect at the safety position. He isn’t a freak athlete but based on what I have read he has great intangibles, a high football IQ and an impressive work ethic. Those kinds of players are the ones you like to bet on when it comes to the NFL because they’ll get the most out of their ability even if they don’t project to be perennial pro-bowl players. Daniels has always impressed me as a tackler when I’ve watched him play over the last two years but I have never seen him much in coverage. This year he produced 126 tackles (65 solo), 4.0 TFL, 14 pass deflections, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. I am interested to see how he looks in coverage this week but I expect him to be one of the more reliable tacklers at the East practices all week.

Kickers:

-Blair Walsh, K, Georgia:
-Walsh is a confusing player to me, but then again kickers in general are pretty confusing to me. During his sophomore and junior seasons he missed a combined five field goals, a terrific stat line for any kicker. In his first three years he missed 13 field goals, eight of which occurred when he was kicking as a freshman. Then this season he inexplicably missed 14 field goals, more than he had missed his entire career up until this point! I haven’t done my film study of Georgia yet but I definitely will and I am very interested to see what situations he missed kicks in. I’m not sure what to expect from him this week, but hopefully he gets his mojo back and starts making kicks more consistently because he’s got a helluva leg. He had 19 touchbacks this year and that was kicking from the 30. In the NFL he will be able to kick the ball into the end zone very consistently and provide a lot of touchbacks for his special teams unit. That gives him value, but it won’t mean much if he can’t make field goals when asked to.

This is obviously just a fraction of the talent at the East-West Shrine Game, but these are the players I am more familiar with. I’ll have notes on most every player by the end of the week and they will be posted here every day after practice, so check in every day for your East-West Shrine Game fix!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I obviously don’t have a vote for the Heisman trophy, but if I did this is how my ballot would look. I will start with honorable mentions but explain why they were ultimately not one of my three finalists:

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson:
Analysis: While Watkins was one of the most electrifying players in the country I think that Clemson’s late season struggles that are almost expected at this point hurt his potential candidacy. It’s hard enough for any player that doesn’t play running back or quarterback to garner significant attention for the Heisman, but being a freshman on a team that struggled just as the Heisman race started to heat up. That doesn’t mean Watkins didn’t have a fantastic season though. He totaled 78 receptions, 1,159 yards (14.86 ypc), 11 touchdowns, 31 rushing attempts, 229 yards, 0 touchdowns and 683 more yards on kick returns with a 26.27 yard average per return plus another touchdown. He had 2,083 total yards on only 137 touches and he was only a freshman (he also had 2 punt returns for 12 yards). So while I would be very surprised to see him involved in significant Heisman considerations this year I think he will get more and more as a sophomore and junior barring unforeseen circumstances.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State:
Analysis: Some people were giving Brandon Weeden a lot of love for the Heisman earlier this year but I think Justin Blackmon is the top Heisman candidate on that team. However, they have plenty of talent on that offense with Weeden and Joseph Randle helping to make that Oklahoma State offense the juggernaut it has become which hurts his Heisman considerations. However he still had an incredible season with 113 receptions, 1,336 yards (11.82 ypc) and 15 touchdowns. He would have been hard pressed to match his massively impressive 1,782 yard 20 touchdown season from a year ago, but 100+ receptions, 1,300+ yards and 15 touchdowns is more than a lot of players produce in their career and he has put up two consecutive seasons with those same numbers. Unfortunately I don’t think it will be nearly enough for him to be a Heisman finalist.

David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech:
Analysis: David Wilson has been flying under the radar quite a bit this year which is baffling because he was leading the country in rushing for a significant portion of the season and even now he is only 132 yards behind the leader Montee Ball. He was the engine that made Virginia Tech’s offense go and really helped Logan Thomas develop this year in his first as a starting quarterback. He had 1,627 yards (6.12 ypc), 9 touchdowns and 21 receptions, 126 yards and 1 TD. He had a great season, and while I personally expect him to declare for the draft, he definitely warrants a little more Heisman consideration that he has been getting. Virginia Tech’s collapse against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game certainly doesn’t help, but I think he warrants honorable mention.

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State:
Analysis: I have been a pretty outspoken critic of Boise State and TCU for the past couple of years. I felt they were overrated and wouldn’t have been in BCS Bowl consideration had they played in tougher conferences. To their credit they have proven me wrong by consistently winning when they do get to BCS Bowls, but to my credit Boise State in particular has struggled to finish their regular season undefeated the past two years despite unimpressive competition outside of a tough out of conference game to start the season. That brings me to Kellen Moore’s potential Heisman contention. Moore has had an incredible career and had another spectacular season this year despite losing his top two playmakers at wide receiver. He threw for 3,507 yards, completed 74.1% of his passes, and totaled 41 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Unfortunately for him for the second year in a row his kicker couldn’t finish a game late despite the opportunity to do so and Boise State lost a game they probably should have won. That definitely hurt his Heisman consideration, and while I don’t think he should be a finalist this year I do think it’s worth considering that he’s put Boise State in the position to go undefeated for last two years but his kicker let him down. And that hurt his chances for Heisman, fairly or unfairly.

Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal:
Analysis: Barkley would have been my 6th finalist if I could have listed 6, but he sits just outside my top five for a few reasons. First, to me the Heisman has clearly become an award that goes to the player who does the most with the least and makes his team a contender or a top team despite it. That is why Cam Newton won last year, and that is why Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck are front-runners this year. This hurts Barkley because USC has an abundance of talent on offense, specifically at wide receiver with stand-outs in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Fair or unfair, that hurts his candidacy just like other circumstances that are fair or unfair hurt the other candidates I mentioned. However, for all the Southern Cal fans that are angry about this they should consider this. Would being a Heisman finalist and potentially winning the Heisman make Barkley more or less likely to come back for his senior season? The obvious answer is that it would make him more likely to leave early, so while this probably feels like yet another slight consider the silver lining that it could help lead Barkley back to USC for his fourth season as a starter.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama:
Analysis: Trent Richardson had a great season this year, but I don’t think he is the Heisman winner. He did have a great season with 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns plus 27 receptions, 327 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving. He was definitely the engine that made Alabama’s offense go, but the unit that made Alabama’s team go was without a doubt their defense. Richardson supported them with plenty of scoring as evidenced by his touchdown production, but Alabama would not be in the National Championship game without their defense. And the fact that Richardson is a Heisman finalist proves that Alabama has recruited some very talented running backs, but Richardson’s performance could have been replicated by other players in the country in my opinion. Not by many, but I think his production could have been mimicked by other players. That hurts his Heisman candidacy ultimately in my mind.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin:
Analysis: I have had the opportunity to see Montee Ball play live in Camp Randall twice this season against Nebraska and Penn State and it has always been a pleasure. He is deserving of Heisman candidacy but I don’t think he deserves to win over the other players I have listed as my top three finalists. That isn’t to say Ball hasn’t had a fantastic season because he has. Contrary to literally every report I have seen Montee actually has 39 touchdowns, not 38. He led the country with 1,759 yards (6.4 ypc) and 32 rushing scores, plus 20 receptions, 255 yards and 6 touchdowns. Now, that totals 38 which is what everyone has been reporting from ESPN to my friends that are Badger fans. What they are all forgetting is that Montee Ball has thrown for one touchdown this year. He is 2/2 on the season for 57 yards and 1 touchdown to Russell Wilson. Why isn’t this being mentioned? He has 39 TOTAL touchdowns, not 38. This season is worth serious Heisman consideration, but the help he has had with a NFL offensive line, a great quarterback in Russell Wilson and help at receiver with Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis. He is a great player, but with all the help he has had around him I don’t think he will end up winning it. Is that fair? I don’t know, but that is how I perceive the Heisman being voted and that is why I don’t think Montee will win it.

And now the finalists…

3. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU:
Analysis: It hurts me to list Mathieu as my #1 finalist, but I don’t think he will end up winning the Heisman no matter how much I like him as a player. He is my favorite player in the entire country and I have not been shy about saying this. He’s a fantastic player, and if anyone makes the argument that Trent Richardson had the greatest impact on a top team in the country I would immediately disagree. Tyrann Mathieu has had the biggest impact of anyone on LSU’s undefeated season out of any of the players on that team. Time and time again whenever LSU’s offense struggled to score points he would force turnovers or return punts and either set them up with great field position or just take the ball into the end zone himself. There is no question in my mind that Mathieu warrants a ton of Heisman consideration, but ultimately I think his suspension and the talent around him on defense will keep him from winning it.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford:
Analysis: When you think about the “what player has done the most with the least” rule that I think is a significant factor in Heisman voting Andrew Luck has to be one of the first people that pops into your head. Yes, he has a pretty good team around him. He has a pretty good defense, a strong offensive line and running game, and three tight ends that have legitimate NFL futures. However, he only has one wide receiver that can stretch the field vertically in Chris Owusu and he missed two games with injuries and struggled to stay healthy all year. He also only had 35 receptions for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns which is hardly the definition of stretching the field. Luck and Stanford struggled to make big plays down the field simply because Luck didn’t have any legitimate downfield targets to throw to, and defenses took advantage of that which helped prevent Stanford from going undefeated. However, despite his lack of playmakers at receiver Luck still had a terrific season throwing for 3,170 yards, completing 70% of his passes, throwing for 35 touchdowns, only 9 interceptions, and adding 153 yards and 2 more touchdowns on the ground. That’s a terrific season, and I think he warrants a ton of consideration for the Heisman… but I don’t think he will be the winner.

And the winner is…

1. Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor:
Analysis: Robert Griffin has had an amazing season in every sense of the word. He has taken a Baylor team that has been a perennial doormat in the Big 12 and led them to a top 15 finish in the BCS Standings with one more game to play against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. He has been terrific this season and has really opened my eyes to just how far he has come as a NFL prospect. But that’s not all he has done this year. He has passed for 3,998 yards, completed 72.4% of his passes, 36 touchdowns, only 6 interceptions, and has also rushed for 644 yards and 9 more touchdowns. He totaled 4,642 yards passing and rushing as well as 45 total touchdowns with one game still left to play. This is all in spite of his defense struggling to keep the opposing offense from putting a lot of points on the board and not having a ton of talent on offense outside of standout receiver Kendall Wright. He has receivers who can threaten teams deep, but there have been plenty of drops from guys like Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson all year. Griffin took an average team and made them significantly better with key plays, drives and a fantastic stat line. He figures to be the Heisman winner, and I think that makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed my thoughts. I’d love to hear reactions to this because I’m sure my thoughts aren’t the same as everyone else so please leave comments!

–Tom

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

1- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Grade: Top 10
2- Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina: Grade: 1st Round
3- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Grade: 1st round
4- Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd
5- Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd
6- Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: Grade: Early/Mid 2nd
7- Rueben Randle, WR, LSU: Grade: Early/Mid 2nd
8- Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin: Grade: 2nd/3rd
9- Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: Grade: 2nd/3rd
10- Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa: Grade: Grade: 3rd
11- A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Grade: 3rd
12- Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State: Grade: 3rd
13- T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International: Grade: 3rd/4th
14- Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: Grade: 4th
15- Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma: Grade: 4th
16- Marquis Maze, WR, Alabama: Grade: 4th
17- Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas: Grade: 4th/5th
18- Jarrett Boykin, WR, Virginia Tech: Grade: 4th/5th
19- DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State: Grade: 5th
20- Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M: Grade: 5th
21- Juron Criner, WR, Arizona: Grade: 5th
22- Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada: Grade: 5th
23- Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Grade: 5th/6th
24- B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Grade: 5th/6th
25- Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State: Grade: 5th/6th
26- Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Grade: 6th
27- Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan: Grade: 6th
28- Marvin Jones, WR, California: Grade: 6th
29- Chris Owusu, WR, Stanford: Grade: 6th
30- Derek Moye, WR, Penn State: Grade: 6th
31- Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami: Grade: 6th/7th
32- Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State: Grade: 7th
33- T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: Grade: 7th
34- Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State: Grade: 7th
35- Mike Willie, WR, Arizona State: Grade: 7th
36- Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan: Grade: 7th/UDFA
37- James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State: Grade: 7th/UDFA
38- Da’Jon McKnight, WR, Minnesota: Grade: 7th/UDFA
39- Thomas Mayo, WR, California (PA): Grade: 7th/UDFA
40- Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State: Grade: 7th/UDFA

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