I recently re-watched this game to take a look at a number of the prospects on Wisconsin and on Miami. There were so many that I have to split it up into two parts much like I did with the Virginia Tech-Tennessee write-up that I did a couple of weeks ago. Here is my write-up for all of the Wisconsin players I took notes on:
There were a lot of players for me to take notes on in this game, but none of them stuck out more than Lance Kendricks, a TE on Wisconsin. He was only a junior in this game, but he arguably the best game of his career against Miami with at least 8 catches and well over 100 yards, many of the catches came on critical first down conversions, and he did a great job of catching every pass with his hands and getting quality yards after the catch. He also did a very good job of sealing the edge on a number of good run plays, and even gave Alan Bailey, a stand-out defensive lineman on Miami, trouble in one on one blocking situations. Overall, Kendricks was the best player in this game as far as I’m concerned, and he is definitely one of my favorite TE’s in the draft next year. Heck, he might be my favorite. If he wasn’t so good already I would have him as my sleeper without a doubt. I can’t wait to see him play this season.
I also took a lot of notes on Scott Tolzien, who had a solid game against Miami. He had a good number of yards, and aside from an unlucky interception that came after one of his passes was deflected at the line and intercepted by a defensive lineman, he didn’t make many mistakes (if any) by throwing the ball into coverage. He took what the defense gave him and usually that involved a pass to Lance Kendricks or Garrett Graham. He has solid footwork, decent arm strength and decent accuracy, but he is not a stand-out in any area. He flashed some pocket poise, but other times he would get happy feet and rush a throw or get outside of the pocket unnecessarily. Not many of his throws were NFL caliber throws, meaning you have to have NFL quality arm strength and accuracy to make the throw. Usually his man was open or a few times he would throw the ball up and let his man go make a play on it. He had decent timing, but I am not sure how good he is at anticipating what will happen on any given play. He seems to do an ok job of pre-snap reads, and at times he would check out of a play, but other times Miami would be showing a blitz (often in the 2nd half they would bring a run blitz on 1st down to try to force Wisconsin into 2nd and 3rd and long situations) and he would just leave the play as is and they would get stuffed for a short gain or a loss. This is partially on Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator for getting extremely predictable and calling a run play on at least nine first downs in a row without throwing a pass, but it is also partially on Tolzien because I think he has the ability to check out of a bad play-call like that. It was hard to watch that kind of ineptitude over and over.
So my impression of Tolzien hasn’t really changed. Wisconsin lives off the run game, especially John Clay, and Tolzien just has to manage the game, not force throws into coverage, and convert some 3rd downs when he is asked to. Early in the game Wisconsin was very conservative on 3rd and long, and would almost just give up on the drive if they were in a 3rd and long. But as the game went on Tolzien got more confident and regularly found Kendricks or Graham on 3rd and long to extend the drive. So, Tolzien might not look like a quality NFL starter, but he looks like a 7th round/UDFA type player who could end up on a practice squad. I’m not sure he is #3 QB material yet, but he will have a year to prove that he can still develop and get better, so it will be interesting to see how he does in his second season as a starter this year.
Obviously you have to take note of how John Clay does when you watch Wisconsin, and he had a good game today. He played through some kind of ankle injury that he suffered during the game but he had an effective day and eclipsed the 100 yard mark yet again. He runs hard, finishes runs strong and runs through arm tackles with ease. He doesn’t have much burst, and I think he is going to be more of a one dimensional power-back in the NFL if he doesn’t show that he can block on 3rd downs in the backfield or threaten defenses as a receiver out of the backfield. He had a catch or two underneath in this game, but he needs to show more than that to make me think he is a reliable option out of the backfield. Right now I think he is more of a 3rd or 4th round prospect, but next year I would like to see him play at a lighter weight than 248 pounds, which is what he was listed at. I have a feeling he was heavier than 250 in this game, and he really seemed to have a gut when he would stand up straight or lean over before the play would start. If he could get down to under 240 I think he would be more effective, he wouldn’t wear down as easily, he would have better stamina and he might have more of a burst to hit the hole when he finds it. He is a quality power-back right now, but I don’t think he is going to be a high draft pick if he doesn’t get in better shape. Just imagine a leaner version of Clay with more strength, less fat and a little more quickness. He would be very hard to slow down. Hopefully someone is in his ear telling him this so he can terrorize the Big 10 again next year.
Nick Toon is a receiver who is really flying under the radar but I love his game. He gets good separation, has solid size and does a good job of catching passes away from his body with his hands. He has nearly made some spectacular catches along the sideline, and if Tolzien had helped him out a bit he could have come down with a big catch on a deep ball down the sideline. When I watched it live I definitely thought it was a catch, so he nearly got his feet in-bounds. I think that Toon will emerge some more this season, and I really think he is a good sleeper candidate for his class. I would be surprised if he declared after his junior year this season, but I think he could solidify his draft stock for a big push as a senior with another good year this year. I am excited to see how he builds upon his 800+ yard season as a sophomore.
I have become quite fond of scouting offensive linemen, and Wisconsin is usually a good unit to scout for that, especially if you like good run blockers. Wisconsin has three pretty good upper classmen this year: Gabe Carimi, their LT, Josh Oglesby, their RT (who is a junior), and John Moffit, who plays C and OG. Carimi and Moffitt are both seniors. I took some notes on them, but this wasn’t exactly a banner day for any of them.
Carimi may be best prospect out of the three, so I will start with him. My general impression of him is that he will have to slide over to RT in the NFL. He is a pretty good run blocker, but he isn’t the drive blocker I thought he might be when I started watching this game initially. He can get some push off the line, but he doesn’t dominate his man in the running game like Jake Long did at Michigan. However, he doesn’t look especially fluid as a pass blocker, nor does he seem mirror speed rushers particularly well. Miami has a couple of good speed rushers, and he didn’t really get beat in this game, but I personally think his ceiling is higher at RT. Naturally I will need to watch more of him, especially from a pass blocking standpoint, because if I had taken notes on him, Oglesby and Moffitt on every snap this would have taken hours longer for me to scout. However, my impression remains unchanged that he has a higher ceiling at RT than at LT in the NFL, though potentially he could start at RT and be a back-up at LT that could play there in a pinch. He didn’t really look like a 1st rounder in this game to me, but he is still a quality OT prospect despite that.
Next I will break down Moffitt a bit for you. I actually anticipated him playing at OG in this game, so I was a little surprised to see him inside at center. He looked good on every snap though, I don’t believe I recorded a bad snap from him when Tolzien was under center or when he was in shotgun, which is pretty impressive for a guy who spent a lot of last year playing offensive guard. If center is his true NFL position then he could be a pretty rare prospect because of his ability to block effectively in the run game. He’s a pretty big guy, and he has the ability to block a defensive tackle one on one, which is extremely rare for a center. However, I think he may slide outside to guard in the NFL, even though I think he projects just fine to the pivot spot. He should be a solid guard, a pretty good run blocker and a pretty good pass protector, but I wouldn’t grade him any higher than a 3rd rounder or maybe a 4th rounder right now. Obviously I will have to see how he does as a senior, but he looks like a solid OG prospect and a potentially good center prospect to me right now.
Oglesby is a bit different from Carimi and Moffitt. Those two guys are pretty fundamentally sound, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they are two of the leaders on that offensive line. Oh, and Carimi came back from a knee injury in this game when he got rolled up on from behind. He just walked it off and came back in, that was impressive. But Oglesby is a huge RT with long arms, but he isn’t as fundamentally sound. He is an effective run blocker more-so because of his size than his technique, and he leans a lot into his blocks and ends up on the ground his fair share. He is usually just bigger than the guy he is blocking, so his fundamentals don’t need to be very well developed in order for him to move him off the line or to get him to the ground. But when he has to pass protect his size isn’t a significant advantage like it is versus the run, and he doesn’t look like he has good footwork or lateral agility. That becomes an issue when he is asked to neutralize speed rushers. When he can get his hands on the defender he can usually neutralize him with relative effectiveness, but if he has to mirror a speed rush he can have some issues. He needs to do what he can to improve his lateral agility and really work hard to improve his footwork or he is going to have serious issues trying to play RT in the NFL. He has great size and strength, but he needs to polish his fundamentals a lot.
JJ Watt is an intriguing defensive end with good size and athletic ability. I didn’t watch him on every play, but he seems to have a pretty good motor, and he does a good job of getting upfield and penetrating into the backfield. There were a few plays he disrupted for a loss in this game, and he looked like he was too quick for Orlando Franklin versus the run. He also does a good job of getting his hands up in passing lanes to knock down passes or alter throws, as he had one or two pass deflections against Miami. There were a couple plays that he misread or did not keep contain on, and on both plays it allowed the Miami ball-carrier to bounce outside and to gain some yardage. He needs to work on keeping contain, not overreacting to the run, and I’m not sure how good his hand usage is. I need to watch him on a snap to snap basis to evaluate his burst off the snap, how much speed he has to get the edge, and what kind of pass rush moves he has. From what I saw in this game he doesn’t seem to have much to offer as a pass rusher, but that can change between his junior and senior seasons, and I didn’t get a lot of good looks at him. But versus the run he sure does have an impact. He will get a lot more attention this year since O’Brien Schofield has graduated and moved on to the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how effective he is this year.
That about does it for Wisconsin and Miami. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and liked what I had to say. Feel free to leave comments! I can’t wait for the football season to get here.