Cotton Bowl Notes:
Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU- Jefferson had a pretty good game overall. I’m still not very impressed with him as a passer, but he had some nice throws in this game. He has good arm strength and he has good zip on his throws, but his accuracy tends to be very inconsistent. That showed at times in this game, but overall I would say he played pretty well as a passer. He still made some bad decisions throwing, but they only passed about 20 times (or called 20 pass plays, I haven’t seen the stat sheet yet) so every bad decision he makes is more significant because of the limited chances he had to make a bad throw. He did have a few nice, NFL throws though. Usually they were to Terrance Toliver, one of my favorite underrated prospects in the draft this year. Jefferson also showcased his mobility and though I knew he could pick up yards with his legs very effectively he looked really fast tonight, like in the 4.5-4.6 range. His play is usually the deciding factor in whether LSU wins or loses and his good play against Texas A&M was the main catalyst in their victory in my opinion. He did have a few bad throws though, one of which became a highlight reel interception for #5 in Texas A&M’s secondary, but there is still hope for him to develop into at least a solid passer as a senior. Will that happen? I wouldn’t bet $20 on it, but there is definitely room for progression and he looked better in this game than in the previous games I had seen of him this season.
Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU- Ridley really impressed me in this game. He looked very fast relative to his 4.55 listed 40 time, he looked explosive in and out of his cuts, he was decisive as a runner and ran hard and finished his runs which I like. He seems to have solid vision, though I don’t think he necessarily has the speed to get the edge. He looks much better running between the tackles than he does on toss plays. A couple times on stretch plays I thought he had a cut-back lane to get North and South faster for a solid gain but instead he ran patiently behind his blockers or tried to bounce it further and got tackled for no gain or a loss. If he had cut it back then I might have thought more of his vision, but he had some nice lanes to run through in this game. I’d like to see him more involved in the passing game next year, and in blitz pick-up, but those are both things that can be developed more at the next level. Especially the pass blocking aspect. I think Ridley can be a productive NFL runner, but at this point he is probably a 4th round pick or so because he doesn’t have elite speed, he isn’t very involved in their passing game as a receiver or as a blocker, and I think he only has solid vision. There are plenty of examples of rookies or young running backs getting drafted in the middle of the draft, late in the draft or not even at all coming in and having quality careers or at least a couple big seasons. I think Ridley is a guy that people could sleep on as a draft prospect but then have that kind of a season or career because he strikes me as a quality runner.
Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU- Toliver is a guy that every time I watch I just come away impressed. Every single time. He is a skinny receiver but he is tall and is a long strider so he has deceptive deep speed but he has reliable hands and catches the ball well away from his frame which makes him Jefferson’s favorite target. In this game he definitely impressed me because when I stopped watching with about 4 minutes left in the game after Texas A&M threw the game clinching interception Toliver had 5 catches for over 100 yards and three touchdowns even though LSU only threw the ball 15 or so times. And like he always seems to whenever I watch him he showed up regularly on 3rd down with those catches. I swear the majority of his catches are either touchdowns or 3rd down conversions. You can just sense they are going to throw him the ball in those situations when they really need a play and he comes through many more times than not. I think Toliver is a really underrated receiver and I’m really high on him. I’d love to see him on the Falcons, but he probably isn’t a significant upgrade over Jenkins and he isn’t a speed demon who can help stretch the field to take some pressure off of Roddy. But I hope he has a good offseason and that he doesn’t go to a Falcons division rival because I really like him as a prospect. He is going to be at the East/West Shrine game so hopefully he has a good week there. If I had to guess I would say he will.
Spencer Ware, RB, LSU- I had never seen Ware play before but he really impressed me as a runner and as a receiver. I don’t know what his measurements are yet but he ran effectively and also caught the ball pretty effectively for a running back. He has a lot of speed and even though he appears to be relatively undersized he runs really hard. On the first play that I saw him touch the ball he broke a run out, shrugged off one tackle, stiff armed another would-be tackler away from him and ran through another tackle before finally being taken down along the sideline after a huge run. I watched that play and just said “Wow…” it was that impressive of a run. He kept showing up as the game continued too, so I will definitely be doing my due diligence on him. But watch out for him because he had a really good game.
Tyrann Mathieu, FS, LSU- Mathieu was absolutely everywhere in this game. I could not believe my eyes and ears when I heard he was a TRUE freshman and saw the graphic pop up listing that he was a true freshman who was listed at only 5’9”. It blew my mind. First of all, he does look small but he runs really well and clearly has a lot of speed, both in long and short distances. He has great burst and acceleration and he looked like a seasoned veteran out there at times. He made some truly incredible plays. My two favorites occurred in each half. The one in the first half involved him blitzing off the edge against the RT. He shot off the line and the RT was in position to slow him down a bit even though he obviously had enough speed to get the edge, but Mathieu dipped his shoulder and got the edge like he was a seasoned defensive end executing a speed rush. That shoulder dip in addition to his size led him to fly right around/under the tackle’s shoulder after which he absolutely lit up Tannehill for a sack and a forced fumble. It was an absolutely terrific play. He showed up a number of other times with tackles, etc. but he saved his best play for last when he was in coverage and Texas A&M was attempting a late comeback down two touchdowns. Tannehill dropped back to pass and threw to his receiver underneath but Mathieu saw it coming. He closed on it, dove and fully extended to make a fantastic catch with his hands right in front of the intended receiver for the game clinching interception. I could barely believe my eyes, it was one of the best interceptions I have seen all year without a doubt. All I have to say is if you don’t know who this kid is you will soon. He may not be big, but he plays big and makes huge plays and he’s only a TRUE freshman. I can’t wait to see how he develops over the next two years. Watch out for him, he’s going to be a really good one.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU- I was not particularly impressed with Peterson in this game. I didn’t see him a lot, but when I did it was because Jeff Fuller was catching a pass against him on a curl route on the sideline. Again, I didn’t pay specific attention to him in this game but almost every time I saw him Fuller was catching a pass in front of him, a number of them for first downs. So as a result I did not get a very good impression of him in this game.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M- I have to start this paragraph off by saying that I like Tannehill infinitely more as a prospect than I liked Jerrod Johnson. Did he have his struggles in this game? Sure. But you have to remember that this is his 6th game as a starter. Johnson was making dumber decisions than he was and he was a senior with much more starting experience, hence the change. It speaks volumes about Tannehill that he was able to take over and finish the season with five wins and only one loss in his six games as a starter, including victories against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. I may have to watch those games just to see him play after seeing this. Texas A&M does run a pro style offense though so that will help him as a prospect and he throws a nice ball. He has good zip on his throws and I think he has a NFL arm from that aspect. He had pretty good ball placement overall, but this is just based off of watching him live so obviously I will have to go back over the game and check that out. He also has vastly better footwork on his drops and when he passes the ball than Johnson which was as refreshing as anything to see. He looked like a pro-style QB when he dropped back, it was great to see. He had some bad decisions in this game but both of his interceptions were pretty rare plays. The first one occurred on a pretty big miscommunication with #7 who ran a curl when Tannehill threw a fade or something and the corner just kept running and got a free interception. The second interception came when Texas A&M had become completely one dimensional and Tannehill threw the ball a bit behind his receiver and Mathieu capitalized on it by making a fantastic interception. As far as two interception games go those are pretty good ways to end up with turnovers from a decision making aspect. Overall I was impressed with Tannehill though. He still has developing to do and I really look forward to watching him play next year, but he has solid size, good arm strength, pretty good accuracy based off of what I saw in this game, good footwork, pretty impressive mobility and a little pocket poise. I couldn’t believe that a guy who hadn’t started all season or ever at Texas A&M could step in and lead that five game winning streak to finish the season the way they did, but I do now. He has NFL talent in my opinion, and clearly he has some pretty impressive intangibles if he was able to step in and immediately make his team better like he did. Clearly I liked what I saw, even though he may have struggled a bit statistically and his team lost, but I am very much looking forward to seeing him play and develop as a QB next year. Keep an eye on him obviously.
Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M- I thought he looked good against a very good LSU defense. I am not very familiar with him or his offensive line, but he had a 100 yard rushing game even though they trailed for most of the game after the 1st quarter. He looked pretty quick, like he had solid size and pretty good leg drive as well. I didn’t pay close attention to him because I was trying to learn everything I could about Tannehill since I had never seen him play before, but overall Gray impressed me. I look forward to watching him play with Tannehill again next year, and with Fuller leaving he should be one of the key cogs in their offense.
Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M- Fuller had a pretty good game, though it wasn’t one of his best. I didn’t see how well he blocked in the running game which is something I will have to evaluate, but he caught a number of passes against Patrick Peterson which kind of surprised me. I think Peterson might have been saying he was pushing off a bit, which also wouldn’t surprise me, but I was definitely taken aback by the amount of separation Fuller was creating against someone so athletically gifted as Peterson. He had a solid game though and caught a number of first downs on curls, etc. I didn’t pay too close attention to see how well he caught the ball with his hands though, so that will be something I look into more closely when I re-watch this game and others that he played in. He has good size, probably slower than 4.5 speed if I had to estimate, and I’m not sure how much quickness/burst he has to get in and out of his breaks as a route runner, but he had a very productive year and is really effective in the red zone.
Uzoma Nwachukwu, WR, Texas A&M- Nwachukwu has an awesome name and he had a pretty solid game too. He caught a touchdown on a half-back pass and had a few other nice catches. Again, I don’t recall how well he caught the ball with his hands or whether he let it get into his pads, which is one of the easiest way to guarantee dropping passes in the NFL. He looked like he had 4.48-4.5 speed though and since he is only a junior I imagine he will be back next year looking to replace Fuller as the go-to guy on offense. I look forward to seeing how well he adjusts to that role because he had a pretty good year as the complementary guy. It is a whole different mindset being the #1 target though, so it will be interesting to see how he handles that. Tannehill should make it easier on him than Johnson did on Fuller at times.
Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- Von Miller is a polarizing guy in my opinion. Some people love him because of his speed and quickness off the edge and because of his great production as a pass rusher. Others can’t stand him as a prospect because they think he is too small to hold up against the run, among other things. I haven’t watched enough of him to come to a conclusion on him yet but my initial impression is that I like him as a prospect. I don’t think he will be a 10-15 sack guy like he has been in college, but I think he has the potential to be a quality pass rusher in the NFL. He has impressive speed off the edge and a couple times he showed really nice quickness and burst to beat his man inside when he opened his hips too early. That was something I had never seen him do before, but that may just have been because I haven’t seen him play very much. I think he will end up going in the first round, but I thought he had a solid game based off of how much I saw him.
Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M- I didn’t see him much in this game, but he warrants mention for his sick one handed interception that he made in the first half off of Jordan Jefferson. It will be on Sportscenter, it was a great catch. Other than that I didn’t see much of him.
Sorry about the lateness of this post. I thought they might be worth looking through, especially since Ridley has decided to leave early for the draft. He could be a steal for someone in the mid-rounds…
Thanks for reading!