Matt Barkley, QB, USC:
Barkley did not have a pretty stat line from this game (he finished 10/20 for 167 yards and 1 TD, 1 INT) and he started out strong but faded in the 2nd half. His INT was a bad one where he got fooled by the coverage Washington showed pre-snap and he made his throw based off of his pre-snap read. However, by the time he was releasing the ball the Washington safety had baited Barkley into making the throw and he closed on it for an easy interception. Barkley responded well to that mistake though with a drive with 2 or 3 legit NFL throws with velocity and accuracy. They were all over the middle and weren’t throws that required a howitzer of an arm to make, but they were decisive, accurate passes. Barkley still isn’t a franchise QB in my mind though, and would probably be a late 1st round pick on my draft board right now.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC:
In case you don’t follow me on Twitter, I have been fairly outspoken about not believing that Khaled Holmes is the top center in the country and that he is a 3rd or 4th round draft pick. I’ll give him credit where credit is due, he looked solid in pass protection which isn’t surprising given his reputation for being a coach up front, making all the line calls and having a high football IQ. However, his push in the run game leaves a lot to be desired. I think he would be a better fit in a zone blocking scheme, but in a man blocking scheme he simply isn’t up to par in my opinion. He leans into his blocks too much, plays with poor balance and frequently struggles to sustain blocks as a result of this. This view hasn’t been popular with his family members, most notably his father and brother (who have both called me out for them, one on my blog and one on Twitter) but if anyone in the Holmes camp feels I am wrong about my assessment I’m happy to discuss it further. I am not trying to slander your son or brother, I am just writing what I see. If you want to pop in the USC coaches tape and show me what I’m missing that makes him the best draft eligible center in the nation feel free to contact me on my blog or on Twitter.
Marquise Gray, QB, Minnesota:
He’s not a quarterback plain and simple. I think he is a 7th round/UDFA as a QB and probably a 4th/5th rounder as developmental WR. He caught a pass and did a solid job of running with the ball in his hands in this game, plus he is shifty, but he has very inconsistent mechanics and unreliable accuracy. He would be a tremendous project, but I just don’t see the upside in him at QB. If there is any it’s probably 4-5 years down the road. I think he has more upside that will be realized quicker as a wide receiver, and I think that’s the position he should pursue in the NFL.
Donnell Kirkwood, RB, Minnesota:
Kirkwood really impressed me in this game. He runs so hard with good pad level, he finishes run strong, he was attacking defenders with his pads and running with impressive leg drive. He showed some burst to hit the hole and at least average vision when I watched him, and he has really helped invigorate the Gophers running game this season. I expected his teammate James Gillum to be the main back in the offense, but he only has 23 carries for 60 yards and 1 touchdown thus far while Kirkwood has 111 carries for 467 yards and 3 TD’s. He has room to improve and he did have a drop in this game, but from a running perspective I liked what I saw from him.
Kain Colter, QB/WR, Northwestern:
First off, Kain is such a versatile player. He’s not a NFL QB obviously, but he effortlessly moves from passing, to running zone read/option, to running routes and makes plays in all three facets. He’s the heart of Northwestern’s offense, and I would definitely want him on my team in the NFL. I look forward to seeing him at the East-West Shrine Game when he graduates.
Venric Marc, RB/KR, Northwestern:
Marc is a smaller back at 5’8”, 175 pounds but boy can he run. He already has 792 yards and 8 touchdowns this season, and had 182 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 20 carries against Minnesota. He’s very fast, explosive and dynamic whenever he has the ball in his hands, and I’m surprised he didn’t rip off a big kickoff return at Minnesota’s expense in this game. He’s only a junior, but he’s a very intriguing 3rd down/return man prospect in my opinion.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin:
Plenty of people hopped off the Ball bandwagon after he had a slow start to the season (493 yards, 6 touchdowns and just 3.97 yards per carry in his first 5 games) but I continuously said that the Wisconsin offensive line was a big part of the problem. I don’t know if Bielema firing the offensive line coach was the right move, but so far it appears to be working. Whether that is because the former coach wasn’t getting the job done or because the offensive line just needed 4-5 games to gel is something I can’t say for sure, but despite the fact that the last two opponents were Illinois and Purdue, two teams that may not go to bowl games this year, the Wisconsin offensive line appeared to be in much better shape and it resulted in Ball rushing for 363 yards, 5 touchdowns and a 7.56 yards per carry average in the past two games. He had an underwhelming game against Nebraska with just 93 yards on 31 carries but had 3 touchdowns before getting back on track the last two weeks. He plays Minnesota next week who doesn’t have a very good run defense (they struggled plenty with the zone read against Northwestern at least) and then will have a big test against Michigan State who should be a good litmus test for whether or not the past two weeks have been a fluke or whether the Wisconsin offensive line is really back on track. I think they will be better than they were to start the season, and I feel the same way about Ball. He may not be a Heisman contender this year, but he’s still a complete back that is ready to walk into a NFL locker room and contribute as a runner, receiver and pass blocker. He may not be a 1st round pick, but I’d draft him early in round 3 without a single hesitation, possibly in round 2 depending on the overall class and what team I was drafting for. Oh, and if you hopped off the bandwagon when Ball was trying to run with no passing game to keep defenses from putting 8 or 9 men in the box and with a surprisingly average Wisconsin offensive line to start the season, please don’t hop back on if he has a good game against Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State (or hopefully, all three). Thanks, and enjoy watching Montee continue to have success in the second half of the season.
Randy Edsall- I gotta say, I expected Maryland to be one of the two worst teams in the ACC and 6 games into the season they are 4-2, 2-0 in the ACC, and poised for a bowl game in Edsall’s second year. I really thought Edsall was going to turn out to be overrated after how he handled Danny O’Brien and how his team struggled last year, but O’Brien got benched by Wisconsin (which I was totally wrong about) and now Edsall has his team competing. I always say I’ll admit when I’m wrong, and barring a catastrophic collapse Edsall and Maryland will finish with a well above average season and a bowl game this year.
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF:
Storm had another strong game this week rushing 18 times for 94 yards and 1 touchdown. He only added one reception for 3 yards in the pass game, and I’d like to see UCF involve him more out of the backfield on screens and passes in the flat. Getting a kid with his speed in the open field where he has to make one guy miss should be a focus of the offense in my opinion, but it’s clear Storm is settling in nicely. Look for him to have another “break-out” game of sorts against Memphis, a team that doesn’t have the athletes necessary to keep Storm bottled up. Keep up the good work Storm!
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech:
Logan got plenty of criticism to start the season as he was getting compared to Cam Newton and being postured as the potential #1 overall draft pick. I will not deny that I thought he had a shot at it if he continued to progress the way I expected him to, but it’s clear that he needs another year of development to me and should probably stay in school even with a strong finish to the season. We’ll see what he decides, but I was encouraged to see him and Virginia Tech claw out of a 20-0 deficit against a much better Duke team than I think people realize. Are they elite? No. Are they great? No. But their reputation is a bottom feeder that never wins conference games, and that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Thomas and Virginia Tech could have easily folded and gotten blown out in this game, especially given some of the struggles they have had this season, but they fought back and scored 41 unanswered points for a decisive victory. Not many people will be patting VT on the back for this since “they are supposed to beat Duke” and perhaps they are, but this is a better Duke team than the past few years, and perhaps that surprised the Hokies in the 1st half. Either way, they showed some character and resolve by fighting back and taking control, and I think that is worth noting.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU:
I think it’s safe to say that Mettenberger has been a let-down thus far. He has the size, but his velocity hasn’t been what I expected it to be and he struggles when he’s moved off of his spot. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of pocket poise, and he’s obviously pretty immobile. Thus far he hasn’t impressed me and all the hype leading up to the season (which I’ll admit I certainly contributed to, I expected a much better passing attack at LSU) has been just that- hype, not substance.
Spencer Ware, RB, LSU:
Ware is only a junior but he looks like a NFL Draft pick depending on when he comes out. He is a powerful runner even if he doesn’t look like an every down back in the NFL. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and he has proven that he can wear down defenses thanks to his impressive leg drive and running style, but his lack of gamebreaking speed will limit his upside and I don’t think he has a ton of burst even given his size at 225 pounds. He’s a mid-late round back in my opinion, but he can contribute to a team without a doubt.
Tharold Simon, CB, LSU:
Simon has all the tools that Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t have: size, length, and the ability to play effective man coverage on the outside as a result of that size and length. He’s a long strider and he’s very hard to run by on the outside on vertical routes. He doesn’t look like he has very fluid hips to me though, and isn’t a “quick-twitch” athlete at corner which concerns me a bit. He can be victimized by smaller, quicker receivers, especially since despite playing up near the LOS at times he rarely jams. He usually just turns and runs with the receiver, particularly on vertical routes. He seems to be at his best when he forces an outside release, particularly on vertical routes. He locates and plays the ball just about as well as anyone on vertical routes, and regularly deflects passes when he is attacked on deep passes. He can take away half the field when you are challenging him deep, but the problem I have with Simon’s game is underneath routes and run support. He has the ABILITY to tackle, he shows it from time to time, but he consistently attempts arm tackles and usually uses poor technique which results in missed tackles. This concerns me in pass coverage as it can allow yardage after the catch, but it also concerns me in run defense. Despite his size, he is not nearly as physical as Mathieu and doesn’t seem to like contact very much, and it shows when he’s supporting the run. He flashes, and I have to emphasize flash, the ability to support the run and wrap up, but it’s not there consistently. I haven’t studied him much in 2012, but these are things that worry me about him. Because he doesn’t have the quickest reactions when he allows an inside release on a slant he doesn’t react that quickly, but when he has time on vertical routes he very consistently makes plays. If he can tighten up his technique (he seems “leggy” in his backpedal and I think his footwork needs considerable work, at least based on what I saw last year) it should help this, particularly if he is allowed to jam at the line of scrimmage. Using his length to alter routes would really help him, especially since he doesn’t have great change of direction burst. He closes well on plays in front of him in zone, and he is great on vertical/downfield routes, but the underneath stuff and run support is what worries me as an evaluator.
Ace Sanders, WR/KR, South Carolina:
I love Ace Sanders. He’s a smaller guy, but boy is he dynamic. He’s proven this year that he’s more than just a return man and is making himself a lot of money as a potential slot receiver this season. He actually wasn’t very productive as a punt returner last year, but in just 19 punt returns this year he has gained double the yardage he had last year with 43 returns (19 for 313, 1 TD this year, 43 for 149 1 TD last year). He also has 17 receptions, 159 yards and 4 TD’s, his four touchdowns matching his career total from his first two seasons in South Carolina. He’s shown me that he can catch the ball, make plays in space on offense and special teams, and has generally impressed me. I really like this kid.
Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State:
Tyler Russell is a guy I was really excited to see this season because I thought he flashed plenty of upside in his limited snaps last season and now he would be the full time starter as a junior. Thus far he has not only lived up to my expectations, he has exceeded them. He has thrown 12 touchdowns thus far this season as opposed to only one interception which has helped give the Bulldogs their best passing attack in recent memory. He’s going to be very popular in NFL Draft circles soon because he has the size, arm strength and upside that everyone looks for in a quarterback. Keep an eye on Russell, he’s a good one.
Chad Bumphis, WR, Mississippi State:
I don’t think anyone has benefited more from the improved QB play at Mississippi State than Bumphis. He caught my eye two years ago as a sophomore when he produced 44 receptions, 634 yards and 5 touchdowns as well as 131 yards rushing on just 19 attempts. He also offers some value as a return man, though he hasn’t gotten many attempts to do so thus far this year. He’s fast and he can play, but he didn’t do much last season largely due to issues at QB. This year Tyler Russell has been much more efficient, and Bumphis’ numbers are back up. He already has more receptions (28), yards (468) and touchdowns (6) than he had all last season (25, 339, 3). He couldn’t have timed it any better since this is his senior year, and he has helped surprise a lot of people with the Bulldogs 6-0 start. He’s a talented kid, and is a top 100 prospect in my opinion. He reminds me of Percy Harvin, and if he keeps playing well he could end up going way higher than that, so keep an eye on him.
Chris Smith, WR, Mississippi State:
Smith has had a slower start to the season and has never been the explosive player on Mississippi State, but I still think he can play. He’s got the size and the hands, I am just hoping he can get more involved in the passing game. Right now he just doesn’t have the film/production to warrant a draft pick, but I truly am convinced that he can play at the next level. He has 19 receptions for 227 yards and 0 touchdowns so far this season, and continuing at that pace (with a few more touchdowns sprinkled in, hopefully) he would have a career year statistically (his best being last year with 35 receptions, 330 yards and 3 TDs). I still like him, so hopefully he can get more targets as a complement to Bumphis soon.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State:
Everyone is figuring out that Banks can play. I don’t really have much to add, I figured that out 2 years ago. He’s a talented kid and in my opinion the best senior cornerback in the country, and one of the top three draft eligible corners for the 2013 NFL Draft. If you haven’t watched him, you need to.
Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech:
Joe Davis, ESPN Announcer:
I went to college with Joe and not only is he a great guy, he’s a great announcer. Not only does he do a great job managing the broadcast, but he subtly interjects his knowledge of the game of football that a surprising number of play by play guys, even the best in the game, can’t do. Joe is going to be on ESPN College Football broadcasts for a long time, so if you love football (and baseball, he does a great job with that as well) give his games a watch on ESPNU this year and follow him on Twitter @JoeDavisESPN .
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M:
“Johnny Football” sure did put on a show against Louisiana Tech, he broke his own record (which he took from one Timothy Tebow) for yardage in a game in SEC history. He’s only a redshirt freshman so he isn’t a NFL prospect yet, but in the two games I’ve gotten to see of him he really seems to have that “it” characteristic that makes good players great and good quarterbacks special. I thought Texas A&M was going to have a very difficult start to their season in the SEC, but Manziel’s emergence has been one of the main factors in me being completely wrong so far. They have another huge test coming up against LSU this week, and I honestly think that Manziel and the Aggies have a shot to win. In fact, I am picking them to upset the Tigers this Saturday. If Manziel can find a way to exploit that talented defense the Aggies will have a good shot to do just that.
Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech:
Patton is an impressive kid. I got to watch him a little bit before the season and I saw a guy with solid size (about 6’2”, 215 pounds) and good hands. He’s not going to run a 4.4 flat, and the combine will probably hurt his stock a little more than it will help it, but he’s going to be a productive NFL receiver in my opinion. He’s going to be a good #2 in the NFL, and he had an AMAZING game against Texas A&M catching 21 passes for 223 yards and 4 touchdowns. I’m a Patton fan, and not only is he a good football player, he’s a good kid. I remember hearing that Patton and his teammate had given something to a kid they met through the Make A Wish foundation during bowl week and I was just so impressed. When do you hear about anyone, much less a college athlete, giving away their gifts they get for going to the bowl game? In a society that is so obsessed with material possessions and in a society that sees so many football players taking money from agents, runners and boosters while they are in college seeing Patton give one of those kids a gift really impressed me. I’ll take him on my team ANY DAY.
Keenan Allen, WR, California:
Allen isn’t perfect, but I think he is a top 15 NFL Draft pick if he comes out and I think he is a #1 WR in the NFL. He’s certainly the go-to guy at Cal, and is one of the only reasons this offense isn’t dreadful. He makes Zach Maynard look like a starting caliber quarterback sometimes, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment worth noting. He had 11 receptions, 166 yards and 1 TD against Washington State, but he will need to have a huge game against Stanford for Cal to even have a remote chance at winning.
Zach Maynard, QB, California:
Just to be thorough, Zach Maynard is not a NFL quarterback. At all.
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford:
If you like Montee Ball you will like Taylor. I like Ball quite a bit, and not surprisingly I am a big fan of Taylor as well. He is compact, strong, runs with good pad level, good leg drive and gets tough yards. He can catch out of the backfield and from what I have seen from him he can pass protect. That means he’s ready to walk onto a NFL team and get carries once he understands the playbook. I like those kinds of players, and I think Taylor would be an ideal replacement for a guy like Michael Turner in Atlanta. He runs hard and fits a man-blocking scheme well, and should be a top 100 pick in the NFL Draft.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford:
I wish I could link to the scouting report @MatthewMochal wrote on Ertz earlier this season, but he is having a good season and is arguably Stanford’s top receiving target (he does have 25 receptions which leads the team and 2 TD’s which is tied for the team lead). He’s a NFL prospect in his own right.
Levine Toiliolo, TE, Stanford:
Toiliolo is a legit prospect as well, and one with a ton of upside thanks to his combination of size (6’8”, 265 pounds) and athleticism. He is a mega-tight end and the NFL will be salivating at the match-up problems that he can create because of his size as a receiver. I still have questions about his hands, or perhaps his concentration, as I’ve seen him drop too many passes. But even with some untimely drops he can be a very productive tight end in the NFL, Jimmy Graham comes to mind.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame:
Eifert is the best tight end in the country, no doubt. He’s a top 20 pick in my book, he has fantastic hands, and is going to be a top 10 TE within his first three seasons in the NFL.
Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame:
Te’o is one of the best middle linebackers in the country and I think he is a perfect 3-4 MLB prospect. I am not sure I’m totally sold on him in coverage enough to be a 3 down middle linebacker prospect in a 4-3 defense, but he definitely looks like a top 20 pick this year. Now that the Ravens may need to finally replace Ray Lewis I can’t think of a better potential replacement than Te’o, so much so that I think that Baltimore should consider trading up if they aren’t picking high enough to select him in the first place.
West Virginia-Texas Tech:
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia:
I don’t think a lot of people are hopping off the Geno bandwagon, both for Heisman and as a top NFL Draft pick, but he did have an off game against Texas Tech. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch it, but I am very interested to watch the game and see what Texas Tech was able to do against Smith and West Virginia’s weapons to render him less effective. But I still maintain that he has all the tools (arm strength, accuracy, size, athleticism), poise in the pocket and football IQ to be a franchise QB in the NFL.
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech:
Some will probably be drooling at Doege’s performance in this game- 32/42, 499 yards, 6 TD’s and 1 interception as well as 5 carries for 28 yards. But the defense he played against in this game was absolutely awful, and that led to a lot of his gaudy stats. We’ll see how many NFL reads and throws he made when I watch the game later, but he’s still a late round/UDFA guy despite this big performance in my opinion.