Tag Archive: Aaron Henry


Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) continued to look like the top quarterback here as he went 10/15 for 170 yards and 1 touchdown on the night. He led two scoring drives in the first half and was the only quarterback to challenge the field beyond the 10-15 yards range for quite some time. He got lucky on one of them but thanks to a great catch and run by Chase Ford (Miami) his stat line reflected how good he looked when he had reps. He threw a couple easy passes but he threw the ball accurately and to the right shoulder on all of them. It’s great to see him put it all together like this but it’s too bad he couldn’t move the East down the field on that last series to make for a really exciting ending! BJ definitely helped himself this week and capped it off with a quality performance. He’s got promising future ahead of him and I still maintain that he has starter upside.

Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) produced a scoring drive late in the 1st half when he threw a short touchdown pass to LaRon Byrd in traffic for a score. Davis made a couple nice throws and threw the ball pretty accurately when he got time to throw. His lack of arm strength was evident on a couple of throws though and they masked that a bit when they rolled him out on a throw to the near sideline to Mayo. He looked pretty comfortable in the pocket at times though. Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) didn’t look quite as comfortable though, probably because he seemed to deal with more pressure than any of the other quarterbacks. He took a couple shots, one of them a big one from Akiem Hicks on a screen pass. Harnish was 8/14 for 52 yards and one interception. He also ran for 7 rushing yards and 1 touchdown in the 1st half but at least two of his incompletions were dropped passes by running backs on screens, both of which were set up nicely.

Tyler Hansen (Colorado) also got into the game and moved the ball a little bit as he went 12/17 for 144 yards. He didn’t impress me quite as much, but I think he has a chance to get drafted very late or get signed as an undrafted free agent. Dan Persa (Northwestern) was ineffective and got little playing time going 1/3 for only 10 yards and running twice for -2 yards. His two incompletions were significantly overthrown deep balls, and he seemed to believe that he needed to make a big play to stay in the game for more than one or two series. If that’s what he was thinking, then unfortunately he seemed to be right.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) got the running started with a nice run showing his burst and vision on his first carry but didn’t have much room to run the rest of the game and he finished the night with 5 carries for 17 yards with his first run accounting for 15 of those yards. He also added one reception for 14 yards, but dropped a pass on a screen that was sniffed out well by Ronnie Thornton. Marc Tyler (Southern Cal) was another impressive back as he showed impressive vision, a little burst and some power to run through tackles as he gained 34 yards on just 6 carries. Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic) ended up as the leading rusher for the East with 9 carries for 32 yards. He wasn’t terrific, but he did run through contact very well and a lot of his 32 rushing yards were well earned.

Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) showed some burst and vision but finished with only 6 receptions for 33 yards. He did, however, catch 4 passes for 23 yards out of the backfield. But the most impressive back on the night as far as statistics were concerned was Lennon Creer (Louisiana Tech). Creer finished with 80 rushing yards on 15 carries and his touchdown late in the 4th quarter gave the West the victory. Creer had some pretty big holes to run through in the second half so I don’t necessarily think he was the best back on the roster, but he sure did have a good game.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) had a solid game and caught every pass that I saw thrown his way. He definitely helped himself this week and continued to run good routes tonight. Jarius Wright (Arkansas) may have had the catch of the night on a deep ball from Tyler Hansen that he dove and caught for a 41 yard gain. He displayed his speed and route running all game and ran right by Josh Norman, one of the stars of this week of practice, for that big gain.

Lance Lewis (East Carolina) had a solid game catching 4 passes for 41 yards, but a couple of those receptions came on the final drive with less than a minute left. Lewis is still an underrated player but he may not have helped him as much this week as some expected him to. B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) had a couple receptions and his most impressive play was on a curl that was thrown very well by Coleman and Cunningham was able to catch it and seamlessly turn and run towards the sideline. He ran through a tackle attempt by Rodney McLeod and scored easily.

Thomas Mayo (Cal PA) had a solid game with 3 receptions for 41 yards and showed pretty good hands and caught passes in rhythm from the quarterback who delivered the ball to him. LaRon Byrd (Miami) continued to surprised by making a couple tough catches, one on a throw slightly behind him and another in significant traffic for a touchdown in the 1st half.

Tight Ends:

Surprisingly, tight ends led both teams in receiving in this game. Chase Ford (Miami) made one of the great plays of the game by catching a pass in traffic from Coleman downfield, taking a hit from Gideon as he caught the ball and somehow stayed on his feet and rumbled for significant yardage after the catch. It was his only reception, but it was a big one. George Bryan (NC State) had 3 catches for 55 yards but continued to look slow when running routes and when running after the catch.

Offensive Line:

It was hard to see all of the offensive line play from up in the press box, but when I re-watch the game I will definitely have more notes on the offensive line.

Defensive Line:

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) had a good game as he was consistently around the ball, he made a number of tackles (unfortunately I couldn’t track down a stat sheet, so at this time I don’t know how many tackles he finished with) and showed his ability to rush the passer. He’s still pretty light to try to stick at defensive end, but I think he has the potential to shift to outside linebacker at the next level. Akiem Hicks (Regina, Canada) didn’t have a lot of impact plays but he consistently showed developing hand usage and his strength to keep blockers off balance. He also had a couple hits on quarterbacks tonight, though he did play too high at times. Nick Jean-Baptiste (Baylor) isn’t fantastic at the point of attack but when you allow him to work down the line of scrimmage and use his motor he can make plays at the line of scrimmage. He had a few tackles at or near the line of scrimmage tonight. DaJohn Harris (Southern Cal) made a nice tackle for loss in this game but I didn’t see a lot of him otherwise. Tyrone Crawford (Boise State) also made a couple nice plays but I didn’t see a ton of him live either.

Linebackers:

Jerry Franklin (Arkansas), Josh Kaddu (Oregon) and Tank Carder (TCU) all made a couple plays up near the line of scrimmage today and all showed some potential in coverage as well. Shawn Loiseau (Merrimack) had an up and down night but his effort and passion should help him make a roster. I didn’t see too many other linebackers making plays, but again it was hard to keep an eye on everything live from the press box.

Defensive Backs:

I didn’t get a great look at all of these guys and because they were playing such vanilla coverages it isn’t the greatest barometer of their ability. I saw Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) get beat deep and attempt a big hit on Kevin Koger that was rendered ineffective, I saw Aaron Henry (Wisconsin) absolutely level Emil Igweganu over the middle. Other than that I don’t have an abundance of notes on the defensive backs from this game unfortunately.

Punters:

I told you guys that Bryan Anger (California) can punt didn’t I? He had some great punts tonight just like he did all week. He might honestly get drafted.

I’m sorry for the lack of notes from the game. I wish I had the stats to help with the defense and it was tough to focus in on everything during the game. It’s always easier to watch the skill position players when the ball is going to them. I’ll re-watch the game at some point and get notes up on it.

Thanks for reading all week. I’ll be covering the Senior Bowl next week as well!

–Tom

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Defense:

Defensive Line:

1. DaJohn Harris, DT, Southern Cal: DaJohn Harris was a guy that I thought was very underrated all season long and I think he opened some eyes this week. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or speed but he is well rounded and consistent. He needs to play lower at times but he can rush the passer and stop the run from the 3 tech position which is where I think he has the most NFL upside. He should be able to contribute to a rotation early in his career and could go in the 4th round range.

2. Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina Canada: Hicks may not have played like the 2nd best defensive linemen every day but I don’t think there is any question he has the upside to be one of the best players that was in St. Petersburg this week. He has all the size, power, athleticism and length that you could want in a defensive tackle and he flashed a lot of potential this week. It wasn’t always consistent, and he needs significant work on playing with leverage and he needs to develop much better technique and hand usage, but there is a lot of raw potential there. If he lands on a team with a good defensive line coach and they are patient with him he could end up being something special.

3. Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton was a late round pick before this week but I think he has piqued some interest through his play this week. He has great size and strength for the position and has flashed some burst off the line of scrimmage to penetrate into offensive backfields. He doesn’t offer a lot as a pass rusher at this point and will stand up out of his stance too often which limits his ability to move offensive linemen. He knows that he needs to work on that though and he has been improving in that aspect since the end of his senior season.

4. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: Crawford was a guy that was not very well known coming into the week but he definitely impressed me when I watched him. I questioned his ability to shed blocks coming into the week but he definitely showed the ability to do that this week and also showed up bigger and stronger than I expected. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the 4-3 defensive end position, but I think he may even be able to slide inside to the 3 tech position or continue to bulk up and play the 3-4 defensive end position. His versatility will definitely help him.

5. Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: Francis definitely looked like one of the better pass rushers at the defensive end spot this week and on top of that he had an absolute non-stop motor all week. He seemed to be the emotional leader of the West defensive line and the guys I talked to from that group mentioned him as a guy with a terrific motor. He will make hustle plays that’s for sure, I just wonder how much upside he has beyond being a rotational defensive end in the NFL.

6. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina: Robertson may not be a great pass rusher at this point but he definitely showed the ability to play strong at the point of attack and wasn’t easy to move off the ball for anyone on the East offensive line this week. He offers value as a run stopper and warrants a late round draftable grade in my opinion.

7. Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: Jean-Baptiste (or NJB as I like to all him) definitely showed his potential as a pass rusher this week as I compared him to BJ Raji after watching him in pass rush drills on Monday and Tuesday. He was dominating and he was virtually unblockable 1 on 1. The trouble came in team drills when he faced regular double teams and didn’t look great against the run (which was an issue when Baylor played Washington in the Alamo Bowl as well). He plays a little high at times despite his natural leverage because of his height, but he just isn’t as consistent of a run defender as you would like to see. He has upside and he definitely warrants a draftable grade, I’m just wondering if he will ever be more than a rotational guy.

8. Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber definitely flashed his potential as a pass rusher this week but he is too light and lean to stay at 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He will have to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in my opinion, and while he has the ability to at least be a reserve and a special teamer there I just don’t know if he has the athleticism to drop into coverage. He’s tall and pretty lanky so he isn’t exactly built for coverage, but I’ve never seen him drop into coverage before so he is a bit of an unknown in that respect. I still think he is draftable though and he showed some of his ability this week and may cause some trouble for the lackluster group of tackles on the West squad.

9. Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis looked quite good in 1 on 1 drills this week when he was rushing the passer and definitely showed throughout the week that he has a good first step, good burst off the line of scrimmage and he has a pass rush move or two that he can use off the ball to beat you right off the snap. He wasn’t as good once he was engaged though and he struggled versus the run this week. He can definitely contribute to a rotation as a pass rusher inside, but defending the run is something he will have to try to work on in the NFL. That makes me wonder if he will get drafted or just signed as an undrafted free agent to let him earn his way onto the roster or practice squad.

10. Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath is one player that I would like to rank higher but based on the week I can’t right now. He was playing out of position this week though and isn’t built for the 4-3 defensive end position in the NFL. I don’t think he’s a good fit inside at defensive tackle either thanks to his 6’7”, 282 pound frame. I think he is definitely a 3-4 defensive end and he really didn’t get to show that this week. He’s someone that I think will go in the later portion of the draft but he takes coaching so well and has a perfect frame for that position that I think he will end up contributing to a roster and potentially ending up as a solid starter in a couple years.

Linebackers:

1. Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey was playing out of position this week as a 4-3 OLB but hopefully he won’t be drafted to play in that scheme. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-4 OLB. It would have been nice if he had shown the versatility to drop into coverage as a 4-3 OLB this week, but he looked best when he was doing simple drops, particularly in the flat. He didn’t look great in deeper drops and he made his plays on the ball on his shorter drops. He has potential as a pass rusher and should be able to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB well enough to eventually be a starter.

2. Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon: Kaddu consistently impressed me with his athleticism this week and should continue to do that in today’s game. He is the best 4-3 OLB here this week and he showed that every day in practice. I never got to see him in full pads though so I am interested to see how he runs with them on and I want to see him tackle more importantly.

3. Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas: Franklin is a player that I think is a bit underrated and while he may not be a stud linebacker I definitely think he is a draftable prospect that will provide value as a special teamer and a reserve before potentially being a starter. He won’t start today’s game but he will definitely get playing time. It will be interesting to see the dichotomy between Franklin and Tank Carder at inside linebacker today for the West.

4. Shawn Loiseau, ILB, Merrimack: Loiseau isn’t a guy that makes you say “wow” with his size or athletic ability but he definitely leaves you saying that thanks to his passion for the game and his leadership capability. Whether this kid is drafted or not I would be shocked if he didn’t make a NFL roster because he is willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to and he strikes me as a potential special teams ace. I’m not sure if he has starter upside, but he will definitely be on a NFL roster one way or another.

5. Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada: Marshall is the “lesser” of the two senior Nevada linebackers but I think he might be a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate James-Michael Johnson who will play in the Senior Bowl next week. I really want to see him tackle though and I haven’t seen him in full pads all week, but he has flashed ability in the run game and in pass coverage.

6. Tank Carder, ILB, TCU: Carder made plays in pass coverage consistently this week as we all expected but I haven’t seen an ounce of physicality from him in the trenches and I don’t think he can shed blocks from offensive linemen up at the line of scrimmage. I really want to see him in full pads when he has to fill versus the run because I think that is a serious weakness in his game. I don’t think he has starter potential in the NFL and I think he will end up being a WLB in a 4-3 when all is said and done.

7. Ronnie Thornton, ILB, Southern Mississippi: Thornton isn’t the best linebacker on either Shrine Game roster but he always looked like a good tackler to me on tape and I am excited to see how he does with full pads on today. He will be a reserve and a special teamer at the next level, but I think he can make a roster doing those things.

Defensive Backs:

1. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Norman definitely had the best week of any defensive back as he regularly made plays on the ball either by intercepting them or deflecting them during all four days of practice. I like his ball skills, his size, his great closing burst and his willingness to hit people. He couldn’t lay anyone out this week, but there were two or three times that I can remember he really looked like he wanted to. I’m excited to see how he supports versus the run and how he tackles today.

2. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater didn’t have a great season this year but he had a good week of practice this week. He doesn’t have great hands but he has pretty good ball skills, fluid hips and a nice, low back-pedal. He looks like he can be a quality nickel back in the NFL and perhaps even a #2 starter at some point.

3. Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin was the second best defensive back all week for the East but he doesn’t strike me as a physical player and I really want to see how he supports the run and how he tackles. He is athletic though and showed some ball skills and closing speed this week, but I’m not sold on him having starter upside.

4. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t have a great week when he was dropping into zone coverage and he didn’t always look good in man coverage (particularly against quicker receivers) but he showed his potential as a press man corner one day this week. He looks huge for a cornerback and it’s hard to believe he is only 6’0” tall, but he warrants a draftable grade in my opinion.

5. Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: I liked Ihenacho coming into the week and I still do but he had his issues in coverage at times this week and didn’t look very fast either. He’s a good tackler though and should be comfortable supporting the run in this game. He’s definitely draftable in my opinion, but I just wonder if he has a future as a NFL starter.

6. Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Henry is someone that plenty of people like but I can’t say I’m as big of a fan. He allowed a lot of big plays this year for Wisconsin and I think that is a problem that will not be easily fixed once he gets to the NFL. He’s got the athleticism and some ball skills but I just don’t think he has starter upside at safety. I could be wrong, but I just haven’t seen it and I have watched a lot of Wisconsin football the past two years.

7. Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: Young didn’t impress me early in the week but he looked better throughout the week to me. I’m not sure where his draft stock is at this point, but I think he is draftable and warrants consideration later in the draft.

8. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy is someone I was not impressed with this week. He looks tight in the hips and is a little tall in his back-pedal, and I don’t think he has much upside outside of being a zone corner where he can close on things in front of him. He struggled in man coverage this week in my opinion and I think he’s a 4th or 5th round pick right now, maybe even a little later.

9. Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: McLeod was a bit of a pleasant surprise in my opinion because he showed fluid hips, good footwork and nice low back-pedal consistently this week. I’m not sure if that transitioned onto the field that well but it was definitely there in drills. He has spent time at safety but I think he has a chance to stick as a corner in the NFL.

10. Blake Gideon, S, Texas: Gideon had some of the same issues that Henry did this week as he let guys get behind him deep at times and he was scolded for it by his coaches when it did. He’s a solid player though and I think he warrants some late round consideration, but if he doesn’t get drafted I think he will be able to make a roster as an undrafted free agent.

Punters:

Bryan Anger, P, California: Anger looked great punting the ball all week whether it was with the wind or into it. He timed well on his hang time and the scouts I was sitting with pointed out regularly the sound that the ball makes when it comes off of his foot. He surprised me with his leg from day one at the West practices and he kept it up all week. He may even be draftable as a punter which isn’t exactly common, but he will definitely get a chance as an undrafted free agent if he doesn’t get drafted. He has a NFL leg.

Defensive MVP Prediction: Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: I like defensive linemen in these games but the interior defensive linemen on the East will have a tough challenge going up against Brandon Brooks, the talented guard on the West roster. NJB has flashed potential this week though and I think he is a bit of a sleeper for this award. He can penetrate and get upfield and he has looked good in 1 on 1 situations this week. He could end up with a tackle for loss or two and a sack today.

West Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois) is the best QB on this roster but he had a rough day as he missed high on a number of throws throughout practice. I have seen this on film before so it didn’t surprise me that it showed up during this week of practice, but it’s still a concern. His accuracy and arm strength are both above average, but they aren’t good or great. That’s why I don’t think he’s got much starter potential in the NFL, though I do think that he could develop on a depth chart for a while and emerge as a capable back-up and spot starter. Tyler Hansen (Colorado) looked solid today as he continues to have solid mechanics. He’s a fringe draftable prospect though, and despite looking good today Dan Persa (Northwestern) isn’t more than an undrafted free agent at this point. I like what Persa brings to the table though, so I think he should play in the CFL.

Running Backs:

I’m not very high on Marc Tyler (Southern Cal) and Lennon Creer (Louisiana Tech), though both flashed some potential today. Tyler is a strong guy who caught the ball better out of the backfield pretty well today, and Creer even lined up in the slot at times and looks strong up close in person. My favorite back on this roster is still Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky) though. He’s a smaller back but he’s quick and has good burst. Inexplicably the West wasn’t in full pads today so the backs didn’t show much for the second day in a row, but they will hopefully provide more value in the next two days and in the game on Saturday that I will be in the press box for.

Wide Receivers:

Jarius Wright (Arkansas) had a much better day today catching the ball and continues to run good routes as expected. He has the most upside of all the receivers at the Shrine Game and if he continues to catch the ball well this week he will move up boards. He didn’t do that well yesterday, but his speed and route running is catching scouts’ attention. Devon Wylie (Fresno State) is catching scouts’ attention as well and he continued to catch the ball well and run good routes today. He’s definitely impressed me this week and is definitely moving up many people’s WR rankings.

I’m still not high on Dale Moss (South Dakota State) though he did look better running routes today and caught the ball well. He didn’t look as slow as yesterday, but still didn’t look fast. He’s got quality size and he’s got pretty good hands, I just wonder how well he will create separation in the NFL.

Darius Hanks (Alabama) didn’t look as good as I expected him to today. He’s undersized and though he improved his hands over the course of this season I am still not 100% sold on him. He’s got potential as a slot guy and I could see him as a 5th/6th round guy right now, but I am interested to see if he brings more to the table the rest of the week.

I have continued to be impressed by Tyler Shoemaker (Boise State). As I mentioned yesterday he comes back to the ball well, I still haven’t seen him drop a pass, and is still creating separation with his route running. He seems like an underrated receiver to me and I definitely think he will get drafted and stick on a 53 man roster.

Greg Childs (Arkansas) still doesn’t look 100%, though he looked better today than he did yesterday when he was running routes. He’s got good hands, that was never in question, it’s all about that knee and how much of his previous athleticism he can get back. This week is big for him. Junior Hemingway (Michigan) seemed to have a better day today, though I still question his speed and burst a bit. We’ll see if he builds on this and improves throughout the week.

Tight Ends:

Not surprisingly, I still like what I am seeing from David Paulson (Oregon) catching the ball. I have not been impressed with George Bryan (North Carolina State) as a receiver though. I didn’t focus much on the TE’s today, but Bryan did look good as a blocker.

Offensive Line:

Tom Compton (South Dakota) intrigues me for multiple reasons. First, he has a fantastic first name. Second, he looked pretty good at left tackle for the West today. I’m not sure he can stick there in the NFL, but I think he has a chance to stick at right tackle at the next level. He showed some push in the run game and has solid length for an offensive tackle with just under 34 inch arms which helped him in pass protection. He did get blown by on a speed rush by Justin Francis on the first play of team drills, but it was a quick throw so it may have gone largely unnoticed.

I liked what I saw from a few offensive guards today. Brandon Brooks (Miami, Ohio) was definitely the stud of the bunch as he provided quality push in the run game and could not be bull rushed in 1 on 1 drills. He’s raw as a technician with his hands, but he’s got so much power and strength that he definitely has starting upside as a guard. I’ll need to watch more of him after this week. I also liked what Al Netter (Northwestern) did inside at guard today. I definitely like him more inside at guard than I do at tackle, though I think he could kick out to RT if necessary. He looked much more comfortable at guard and handled DaJohn Harris twice when he was inside. I also liked some of what I saw from Ben Heenan (Saskatchewan) at guard today. He did a good job against the bigger, stronger Dominique Hamilton in 1 on 1’s and looked good overall in the 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t look great in the team drills, but I think there is potential there. I think he’s a long term developmental guy, but he showed some toughness and nastiness despite not being in pads and I liked that.

I was not impressed at all with Ryan Miller (Colorado) or Moe Petrus (Connecticut) today though. Miller got absolutely dominated by bull rushes from DaJohn Harris and Vaughn Meatoga today and looked like he was too tall/not strong enough to anchor as a guard and didn’t look like he had the length to play outside at tackle either. Coming into the week it looked like he could have been a riser, but I have not been impressed so far. Petrus also struggled with quality defensive tackles 1 on 1 today in drills, though I think he has potential to be drafted and stashed late in the draft. However, today David Snow (Texas) looked like the better Center prospect at times.

Defensive Line:

DaJohn Harris (Southern Cal) continued to impress as expected today, though he wasn’t perfect. He ended up on the ground a couple times, once when he was matched up with Brandon Brooks, and was neutralized by Al Netter’s length when he went up against him once or twice in drills. He is disruptive in team drills though and continues to help himself. He’s been underrated all year so it’s not surprising to see him playing well.

Dominique Hamilton (Missouri) has the size and strength to be a good run stuffer in the NFL, but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher which limits his value. He also doesn’t look like a guy who can take on double teams and stuff the run in a 3-4 defense. But if he is going to play the nose tackle position in a 4-3 teams will want more from him as a pass rusher. Will be interesting to see what he shows the rest of the week.

Kentrell Lockett (Ole Miss) is an impressive athlete and showed that he has some ability today by surprising a couple of the West offensive tackles with a bull rush and some speed off the edge. He’s got long, 34 inch arms along with his 6’5” frame and surprising power given his 243 pound weigh-in.

I wasn’t that impressed with Arnaud Nadon (Laval) or Kaniela Tuipulotu (Hawaii) today, but Vaughn Meaotga (Hawaii) showed a nice bull rush on a couple instances, but has struggled to shed blocks so far this week. Justin Francis (Rutgers) has been fun to watch so far this week and seems like he is the emotional leader of the defensive line group. He seems to have a lot of energy and seems pretty excitable.

Linebackers:

I didn’t see much of the linebackers on the West today, but I did see Josh Kaddu (Oregon) running well with tight ends again, and I did see Tank Carder (TCU) dropping effectively in zone and he had good coverage on a running back out of the backfield on one play. But enough with these shells, put some pads on these guys!

Defensive Backs:

The best corner on the West roster is Shaun Prater (Iowa) and it’s not even close in my opinion. He is the only corner that has looked good in drills, 1 on 1 and in team situations this week. He doesn’t have great size but he is a pretty fluid athlete, seems to flip his hips well, turns and runs pretty well and has solid ball skills despite not having great hands for the interception. He could end up in the 4th round (which is incidentally where I projected him before the season).

I’m not high on Keith Tandy (West Virginia) after the first two days of practice. I haven’t been impressed with him in man coverage and his ball skills haven’t impressed me. I have a 6th round grade on him right now because I think he has ability in zone. One guy I had never paid any attention to before is Rodney McLeod (Virginia). He looked good in drills but struggled some in 1 on 1’s and in team. I think he has a little upside, but he struggled to locate the ball in the air today.

Aaron Henry (Wisconsin) and Blake Gideon (Texas) both looked good and fluid in their back-pedals in drills today, but I want to see them more in game situations when they are tested. They aren’t great in man coverage, so I want to see more of them back at their more natural positions. Duke Ihenacho (San Jose State) was a guy I liked coming into the week but he has struggled in coverage overall but particularly in man coverage unfortunately. He looks like a 4.6 40 yard dash guy which is where he is supposed to time.

West Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Not surprisingly Harnish was the best quarterback on the field for the West practice this afternoon. He doesn’t excel in any one phase of the game but is sound in most of them. He showed above average ball velocity today and had a couple impressive bucket throws downfield including a great one down the sideline against good coverage to Devon Wylie. Harnish is probably the 2nd best quarterback here and it showed today. He was definitely the most impressive quarterback on the West roster and I imagine it will remain that way for most of the week.

Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern: This is going to sound like an insult, but I truly believe that Dan Persa has the skill set to be a terrific CFL quarterback. I’m sure that’s not what he wants to hear (I wouldn’t want to hear it right now either) but being a quality CFL quarterback is a lot better than taking a shot at the NFL and quitting after you didn’t make it. His size hurts him as he measured in at 5’11” this morning and while he has some arm strength and solid accuracy I just don’t think he will be able to stick in the NFL. I enjoy watching him play though and that’s why I think he could be so good in the CFL.

Tyler Hansen, QB, Colorado: Hansen played better today than I expected him to but that isn’t saying a whole lot. He regularly just stared down one side of the field and threw to his primary read which got monotonous after a while, but he showed the ability to throw the ball on the move and has solid arm strength and accuracy. He’s a fringe draftable prospect at this point and I don’t think he has a future in the NFL outside of a career back-up but he wasn’t bad today.

Running Backs:

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky: As I mentioned in the East roster post, today was not the day to take a lot of notes on running backs. It was a shells practice and you couldn’t tackle, so there wasn’t a lot to glean from the running backs. Rainey looked the best of anyone though as he showed good burst and quickness as well as soft hands as he caught passes in the flat (unlike Marc Tyler who dropped a pass or two and lacked burst). I am definitely going to keep an eye on him the rest of the week, he caught my eye today.

Wide Receivers:

Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: I went out on a limb and said that Jarius Wright was the best prospect at this game and while I still think he has that potential he definitely had his highs and his lows today. He demonstrated his fantastic athleticism as he burned a number of defensive backs today, created consistent separation and ran crisp routes. He caught the ball well with his hands early on in practice and flashed the ability to come down with a pass in traffic as he made a nice catch on a deep ball for one of the only touchdowns I saw the whole day. However, his hands were also an issue today as he let a number of passes bounce off his hands and hit the turf. I’m not sure if it’s a concentration issue, a hands issue or both, but it was frustrating to watch as the practice wore on. I’m still high on Jarius and I am going to try to track him down for an interview but I hope he catches the ball better the rest of the week than he did today.

Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas: Childs is supposed to be healthy, but he didn’t quite look like his old self today. He didn’t have much burst in and out of his breaks and looked relatively slow when he was running his routes. He displayed good hands as expected and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass today, but considering his skinny frame and his somewhat unimpressive route running this afternoon I am a little worried about his stock. I’m not sure if the knee injury is still bothering him or not, but I talked to him after practice and will have an interview with him later this week.

Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State: Wylie was probably the best player on the entire West roster today. He displayed good hands, good route running, impressive burst and quickness and was just fun to watch at receiver today. He adjusted to the ball well deep and tracked the ball well into his hands and helped make one of the best plays of the day on a deep ball from Chandler Harnish against good coverage. I was waiting for him after the practice to try to talk to him but scout after scout was talking to him, and it looked like a Ravens scout even had him filling out a survey of some kind as someone was announcing that the player bus was leaving soon. I took that as a sign to try to talk to him later, but he definitely helped himself a lot today and I, as well as many other people, was very impressed by his play today.

Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State: I mistakenly tweeted that Moss “truck-sticked” a player at the East practice earlier today, but obviously that was a mix-up on my part. I have to say that I was not very impressed by Moss today. He measured in well at 6’3”, 220 pounds with 10 1/8 inch hands and a 79 ¼ inch wingspan, but he looked slow the entire practice and didn’t impress me as a route runner. The sad thing is that he still created separation despite route running without much suddenness or burst which really says a lot about some of the players in the West secondary. I’m not high on Moss right now, but we will see what he shows the rest of the week.

Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan: Hemingway was not very impressive today either. He also looked slow and didn’t create a lot of separation due to his route running. His hands were also inconsistent and that really hurts him. He’s not a burner and I didn’t think he was going to be able to threaten defenses vertically in the NFL like he did in college and that seemed to hold true today as he just couldn’t catch up to a couple pretty well thrown deep balls this afternoon.

Tyler Shoemaker, WR, Boise State: Shoemaker may have been the second best receiver on the field today behind Wylie. I noted multiple times that Shoemaker seemed to be the only receiver who continued to come back to the ball after making his breaks on curls, etc. That’s good coaching in my opinion and a couple of times it enabled him to catch a pass relatively easily when it could have been a tough catch in traffic had he completed his break and stood there while the corner closed. I don’t think I saw him drop a single pass today so his hands definitely impressed me and he seems to be pretty athletic. I liked what I saw from him today and I definitely think he has draftable talent.

Tight Ends:

David Paulson, TE, Oregon: I have been signing Paulson’s praises for a long time and while he wasn’t a stud today he did make a few nice catches on high throws and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass today. He’s underrated and while he doesn’t project well as an in-line TE he can definitely contribute to a NFL passing game at TE or H-Back. He’s consistent and catches the ball when it comes his way, that’s all you can ask.

George Bryan, TE, North Carolina State: This kid is big but my god is he slow. I see why people were mentioning moving him to offensive tackle, though I have seen plenty of offensive tackles move better than he did as a route runner at times today. Not only that, but a couple times he let passes bounce right off his hands when he wasn’t 5 yards downfield. His hands are definitely inconsistent and his speed and lack of quickness will really make it hard for teams to draft him early. He’s a late round pick at this point in my opinion, but the move to offensive tackle may not be a realistic one at this point considering his 33 ¼ inch arm measurement. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either.

Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan: Koger didn’t flash much today. He showed pretty solid hands but didn’t look fluid in his routes and seemed to lake suddenness and burst in and out of his breaks. I’m not sure he’s going to do very well as an in-line tight end this week but we will see how he does in the run game. I think Koger is an underrated pass catcher but he has more to prove to me this week.

Offensive Line:

I didn’t see much of the offensive line at practice today since I had a much better look at the 1 on 1’s for the receivers and defensive backs, but I will definitely keep an eye on them throughout the week.

Defensive Line:

Again, I didn’t see a lot of the defensive line today either but when I did watch I was impressed by DaJohn Harris and Dominique Hamilton. Harris was consistently in the backfield when I saw him today which doesn’t surprise me one bit because I think he is one of the most underrated players here. Hamilton is a big, big guy and looked pretty strong at the POA when I saw him, but I have to see a lot more of both of them.

Linebackers:

I didn’t see a lot of the linebackers today, but predictably Tank Carder looked good in coverage. I’m very interested to see how he does in the box against the run the rest of the week. We all knew he could drop into coverage, now we need to see how he does filling versus the run in the middle of the defense. Jerry Franklin also flashed some ability in coverage which was good to see, but I definitely didn’t see him enough to make many conclusions about him. Josh Kaddu was a player I had never really watched before and he flashed potential to me today. He is an athletic kid and he demonstrated that when dropping into coverage today. I don’t know much about him, but I’m looking forward to learning more about him as the week goes on.

Cornerbacks:

Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater was the best of this lackluster group in my opinion. He closes on passes well and drove on the ball well in practice today for the most part. He should have had at least one interception when he made a nice break on the ball but it went right off his chest. He doesn’t have very good hands but he does have pretty good ball skills. He looks like the cream of his unimpressive crop early in the week.

Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy did not impress me at all today. He was playing pretty soft coverage and gave up slants pretty freely today. His backpedal looked high and I didn’t think he turned and ran well with receivers downfield. He has a lot of work to do to help his stock this week because he definitely didn’t do so today in my opinion.

Brandon Hardin, CB, Oregon State: Hardin may have been the worst of this batch of defensive backs and that is absolutely not a good thing. He inexplicably gave up slants over and over again and never showed any burst to close. It was baffling really, but slow receivers were creating 3 yards of separation against him on simple slant routes. He seemed to be reacting in slow motion and just looked awful today.

Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: I didn’t see much of McLeod, but I also didn’t see him getting beaten that much either. That puts him in the top half of this crop of defensive backs unfortunately. He is only 5’9.5”, 195 pounds which hurts him, but he may be a sleeper in this group of corners. I’ll keep a closer eye on him the rest of the week.

Safeties:

None of the safeties were particularly impressive in my opinion. Duke Ihenacho and Blake Gideon didn’t look very good in man coverage though I didn’t really expect Ihenacho to be good there. He did look slow in man coverage though which was concerning. I’m not as high on Aaron Henry as others are because I think he gives up too many big plays but that wasn’t as much of an issue on day one of practice. We will see how he does the rest of the week.

Punters:

Brian Anger, P, California: I almost forgot to include him in this, but he needs to be mentioned. I was watching him punt early on in practice and in comparison with Matt Prewitt from Kentucky Christian he looked fantastic. You can really tell when a punter or a kicker has a strong leg because the ball will sound like a gun-shot (or something similar) when it comes off of his foot. That was the case for Anger today and he was getting fantastic hang time (though I didn’t have a stop watch handy). He was beating the pigskin off the ball today and while he may not end up getting drafted if he keeps punting like this all week he will make a NFL roster.

Defensive Ends:

-Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: 6’2”, 275 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Francis isn’t a freak athlete but he did demonstrate production at Rutgers, especially this season, when he produced 64 total tackles (33 solo), 13.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 5 pass break-ups, 1 interception and 3 blocked kicks. That was a stark increase from his production as a junior and while he isn’t necessarily projected to be drafted right now this week is important for him. It gives him a chance to demonstrate his potential as a 4-3 defensive end (likely at LE if you ask me) and gives him a chance to improve his stock to a draftable level or he can help make himself get signed as a priority free agent.

-Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: 6’4”, 273 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
-Crawford was overshadowed at Boise State but was a significant contributor to what was a very talented and experience defensive line. This is his chance to shine now that he isn’t surrounded by the talent of his former defensive line. He’s a mid-to-late round pick right now but in a defensive end class desperate for pass rushing talent he could improve his stock considerably if he can demonstrate those skills this week.

Defensive Tackles:

-Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: 6’5”, 305 pounds, 5.24 40 yard dash
-Hamilton could be a big riser this week in my opinion. He’s not very well known and while I personally haven’t seen him much he has demonstrated the ability to stuff the run inside at defensive tackle. Hamilton was a critical part of Missouri’s defense that bottled up a very talented running back in Giovanni Bernard in their bowl game against UNC. I really like the West’s talent along the defensive line and on the defensive side of the ball in general, but defensive tackle seems to be a strength of the roster. Hamilton may end up being one of the highest rated of the group, so keep an eye on him. He’s not a big-time pass rushing threat, but I am very interested to see how he holds up against double teams in the run game.

-Vaughn Meatoga, DT, Hawaii: 6’1”, 295 pounds, 5.02 40 yard dash
-Meatoga is another big, strong defensive tackle that I am anxious to see in the trenches. I haven’t seen much tape of him, but he’s definitely a player to keep an eye on. He’s a guy who could definitely help his stock this week if he holds up well at the point of attack and demonstrates the ability to clog running lanes up the middle. Like Hamilton I’m not expecting a lot from him from a pass rushing standpoint but his strength should be in the run game.

-DaJohn Harris, DT Southern California: 6’4”, 310 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Harris is a very underrated guy that I have been high on all season. He hasn’t gotten much love and he may not have eye-popping stats but every time I watched USC this year he was effective. I rarely (if ever) saw him get pushed off the ball, he made plays at or behind the line of scrimmage and he consistently did his job for USC’s defense. I really expect him to rise this week because he’s got NFL defensive tackle size, he’s athletic and looked pretty fundamentally sound when I watched him. Like Hamilton and Meatoga I think he will make his money stopping the run, but I think he has more pass rush potential than both of those guys. Keep an eye on him, I guarantee Harris will be making plays this week.

Linebackers:

-Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas: 6’1”, 245 pounds, 4.60 40 yard dash
-Franklin doesn’t get a lot of love because Arkansas’ defense has not traditionally been a powerhouse SEC defense. That overshadows him a bit, but I like him at linebacker. He’s not the biggest or the strongest but he has showed ability defending the run, seems to be a reliable tackler, and has flashed upside in pass coverage. I will be very interested to see where the coaches line him up on defense but I am also curious to see how he does at stacking and shedding near the point of attack. I don’t think he does that very well and if he can be reached by an offensive lineman he can be taken out of the play. But because he has never gotten a lot of attention I think he has chance to boost his stock this week.

-Tank Carder, LB, Texas Christian: 6’2”, 237 pounds, 4.67 40 yard dash
-Carder is a well-known prospect thanks to TCU’s win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last year. He’s not a very big linebacker and many are projecting him outside in the NFL, but regardless of where he plays I have concerns about his ability to shed blocks and to hold up at the point of attack. He’s demonstrated his value in coverage but this week is going to be about his run defense. If he can defend the run well and tackle well (he has a reputation as a good tackler but I question his tackling a bit) then he should solidify himself as a 4th/5th round linebacker that warrants drafting. I have a feeling Carder is a guy who is going to let people down though because he has a reputation as a stud linebacker of sorts and I think some of his shortcomings will be exposed this week.

-Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada: 6’1”, 245 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Marshall is another overshadowed linebacker that will be at the Shrine Game. He was overshadowed by James-Michael Johnson’s ability at Nevada but he may be the more fundamentally sound and reliable linebacker at the end of the day. I think he is a guy who will definitely help himself this week and show people that Nevada had more than one talented player at linebacker this past season.

-Ronnie Thomton, LB, University of Southern Mississippi: 6’2”, 240 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
-Thornton is a guy that I like. He’s not a stud linebacker prospect but I think he has draftable talent. He impressed me when I watched Southern Mississippi ruin Case Keenum’s day in the Conference USA Championship Game as well as in their bowl game. He looked like a very reliable tackler but I didn’t get to see him much in coverage. I will be watching him in that aspect this week without a doubt, but I think he can be a quality special teamer and reserve linebacker in the NFL if nothing more.

Cornerbacks:

-Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: 5’10”, 185 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Prater is a quality cover corner that can play man and zone coverage. His size hurts him a bit in man coverage and he doesn’t have great ball skills, but he is still relatively effective. He will peek into the backfield at times which helps him in zone, but hurts him in man coverage at times. He has pretty good recovery speed though, which helps him in both man and zone coverage. He’s not a great tackler but he gives pretty good effort in run support. Overall he’s a solid corner, so it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with a pretty talented group of receivers all week.

Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: 5’10”, 199 pounds, 4.54 40 yard dash
-Tandy isn’t an ideal man coverage corner as he doesn’t have great size or recovery speed to react when beaten. He does have speed so there’s a possibility he could develop in man coverage, but his value is as a zone corner. He doesn’t have great hands but he does have good ball skills and he has good instincts in coverage. He’s also a pretty good tackler and definitely has draftable talent. It will be interesting to see how he does this week. If he excels in man coverage and takes well to coaching this week he could definitely improve his stock.

Safeties:

-Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.52 40 yard dash
-Henry is likely one of the best safeties in this game and is pretty well known. He was one of Wisconsin’s captains this season and has plenty of starting experience in their secondary. Despite that I have never been overly impressed with Henry. I think he leaves something to be desired in pass coverage and Wisconsin had serious issues defending the pass this year and some of that had to do with their struggles to keep things in front of them on the back end. Some of that has to be on Henry, and it makes me wonder how good he is in coverage. I’ll absolutely be watching that this week, because if he has struggles in coverage then his stock is going to take a serious hit. His tackling worried me at one point but while he isn’t a great tackler I think he is solid in this aspect. So overall he’s a solid safety prospect, but I have my concerns about him. I’ll definitely be watching him closely this week and hopefully I will be able to land an interview with him.

-Blake Gideon, S, Texas: 6’0”, 205 pounds, 4.64 40 yard dash
-Gideon is a unheralded safety from Texas and considering Texas’ proficiency when it comes to churning out talented defensive backs he is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Gideon isn’t a flashy player but he strikes me as a reliable, fundamentally sound player. I’m not sure how much potential he has to be a starter in the NFL, but he strikes me as one of those guys it would be unwise to bet against. I am looking forward to evaluating him this week to see if I think he has starter upside, but even if I don’t think he does I would be surprised if he didn’t end up on a NFL roster.

-Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: 6’0”, 205 pounds, 4.60 40 yard dash
-Ihenacho is my favorite safety at this game and I can’t wait to see him in person. He looked very impressive to me when I watched coaches tape of San Jose State this summer and I can’t wait for him to ball out this week. He’s definitely going to be a riser and I think everyone who hasn’t seen him play will be very impressed with what he brings to the table. I think he could end up going in the 3rd or 4th round because this strong safety class doesn’t have a lot of high-end talent or depth to it. Keep an eye on Ihenacho, I’ll be trying to track him down for an interview without a doubt.

Apologies for getting this up so late everyone. I didn’t have internet access all day today and just got my internet working a bit earlier. I will be covering all the Shrine Game practices this week so check in every day for your updates on the action. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Wisconsin-UNLV Breakdown

Wisconsin-UNLV Breakdown:

Obviously Wisconsin was in control of this game from start to finish, as they scored within the first three minutes of the game with a powerful running game and a dangerous play action fake. The thing that stuck out to me more than anything else was Montee Ball’s overall speed/quickness. He looked much more explosive, much quicker and displayed significantly more burst than he ever did last season. That was fantastic to see from a scouting perspective. The announcers drove the point home that he lost about 28 pounds this offseason, so obviously he is in pretty incredible shape and is moving much better as he is carrying less weight. That means Wisconsin’s backfield is going to be terrifying because James White continued to look excellent as expected (he still reminds me a lot of Warrick Dunn) and Melvin Gordon looked effective as a possible #3 back.

Obviously Russell Wilson was a player you have to key on because of his ability to sling the football all over the field as well as his athleticism, and he definitely didn’t disappoint. He was 10/13 for 255 yards (19.6 yard average), 2 TD’s plus 2 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown on a 46 yard scramble just before the end of the second half. He was awfully impressive, though two of his incompletions were passes that I would expect him to make most of the time. But his arm strength, accuracy, intelligence, athleticism and poise were on full display tonight even if the opponent wasn’t much of a challenge. He had great pass protection the whole night, and when the pocket did eventually break down a couple of times he gashed UNLV’s defense with improvised plays. He was extremely effective for having been on campus for only two months. It speaks volumes about him that he was able to adjust and adapt that quickly, not to mention that he played great and was voted as a captain by his teammates.

Nick Toon was only targeted a couple times tonight but he made two tough catches in traffic which was good to see. He and Jared Abbrederis have the most to gain from Wilson’s presence this year because they will see a lot more targets and downfield passes because of his ability to buy time in and out of the pocket and because of his significant arm strength. Jacob Pedersen was also targeted a couple times and I really think that he is going to surprise a lot of people. He’s got a ton of athleticism and upside.

The offensive line looked great to me. Obviously Oglesby isn’t the strongest part of that offensive line, but I am extremely high on Ricky Wagner (LT) and Peter Konz (OC). I also like Travis Frederick and Kevin Zeitler, though this was the first I’d seen of Frederick since he was redshirted last year. Oglesby has his moments in the run game and looked alright in pass protection, but I am going to wait to pass judgement until he deals with players with more edge speed and quickness which he really tends to struggle with when pass blocking. His feet are slow and he doesn’t seem to have much ability to recover quickly and re-establish fundamentally sound mechanics. I love Wagner and Konz though, and both looked great tonight when I paid attention to them even if it was against less than comparable competition.

Louis Nzegwu flashed some potential at DE for Wisconsin as did David Gilbert, though I think Nzegwu is the better player I think Gilbert has more upside because of his size, speed and strength combination. He flashed some serious speed off the edge last year and showed that again in this game, but he just needs to improve his hand usage if he is going to provide anywhere close to the pass rush that J.J. Watt did from that same position last year. Defensive tackle was a concern of mine for the Badgers coming in and that held to form as they got gashed versus the run, whether it was inside or outside in this game. That speaks to the linebackers as well, but they looked pretty weak up the middle to me and Gilbert did not impress me much versus the run, though I would need to re-watch the game to get a more accurate feel for that. I think the Badgers are really going to struggle to stop teams like Nebraska and Michigan State on the ground if they gave up 146 rushing yards to UNLV.

Antonio Fenelus impressed me in the secondary for Wisconsin. He was called for pass interference on a play when he had perfectly fine coverage, located the ball and was making a play for the ball in the air. I thought it was a bad call, there was contact, but it shouldn’t have been a penalty. I think he has some significant upside, and I’m excited to watch him this year. Devin Smith, their new starter at corner, didn’t fare as well. I don’t think he has much upside in the NFL, and at this point he’s probably a late round/free agent guy based on what I’ve seen of him, though he is fundamentally sound for the most part. He just doesn’t have what it takes in coverage in my opinion. I’m also not that impressed with Aaron Henry. I didn’t pay attention to him at all (he might not have even played for all I know) but he strikes me as an average FS in the NFL. Not very fundamentally sound and doesn’t seem to have very good instincts in my opinion.

For UNLV I wasn’t very impressed with their QB Caleb Herring. He looks very skinny and he has a bit of a goofy throwing motion, and isn’t overly accurate. However, he did throw a couple nice balls and I liked some of what I saw from Phillip Payne. He dropped a pass or maybe two, but he made a couple nice catches in traffic and had one of UNLV’s two touchdowns on the night. It’ll be interesting to see how he does this year.

So overall I was impressed with Wisconsin, but their run defense and their kicking game is going to hurt their chances at winning the Big 10 with Nebraska and Michigan State both posing legitimate threats with very potent ground games. They have a good chance with Russell Wilson, but their run defense was a weak spot that needs to be improved upon to hold up week 5 against Nebraska, and if they are in close games and they are relying on a kicker who can’t make all of his extra points they could be in for a couple tough losses.

Thanks for reading!!

–Tom

Here’s a quick breakdown of a view games that I think will be interesting over the next few days. Part two will be coming soon, but I didn’t want it to be too long of a post considering they are just previews for the games. This covers Thursday, Friday and some of Saturday. Saturday through Monday will be covered in Part Two. Obviously there aren’t a lot of competitive match-ups in week one of the season since most teams are essentially buying wins to start off the season instead of scheduling potentially challening out of conference opponents, but that’s out of my control. So enjoy some of the match-ups that might just end up being interesting!

Thursday:

-Wisconsin-UNLV:

There are plenty of prospects to look at in this game. Russell Wilson (QB), Montee Ball and James White (RB), Nick Toon (WR), Ricky Wagner (LT), Kevin Zeitler (OG), Peter Konz (OC), Louis Nzegwu (DE), Antonio Fenelus (CB), Aaron Henry (FS) and their former nickel corner Devin Smith. On the UNLV side they have a young QB in Caleb Herring who will be trying to improve on an average season as a freshman where he saw action in 8 games but didn’t do anything spectacular. He has an ok running game and a solid receiver in Phillip Payne who has 127 career receptions coming into his senior year as well as 1,786 total receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He should be the main target for Herring in this game, and I imagine Fenelus will be up to the challenge of defending him. That could be the most intriguing match-up in the game outside of Wilson playing his first game on the Badgers, which certainly will get lots of media attention throughout the season as he becomes acclimated to the team, the coaching staff and obviously his teammates on offense. I’m excited to see how they all do in this game, but Ricky Wagner is the best prospect in this game in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how he holds up as a starter at Left Tackle. I have high expectations for him.

Friday:

-TCU-Baylor:

This is an intriguing matchup at the QB position with Casey Pachall replacing Andy Dalton at QB and with Robert Griffin III returning as the starter for Baylor. TCU is overrated as the #14 overall team in my opinion, but they are returning a strong defense led by Tank Carder who terrorized Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. I also think Stansly Maponga has some upside as a defensive end for TCU. Griffin is very athletically talented, but needs significant improvement with his mechanics and accuracy to be a serious or even dominant threat at QB. It will be interesting to see what Pachall has to offer, but Ed Wesley and a strong stable of RB’s are returning to help support him while he adjusts to the starting role. Kendall Wright is going to get a lot of looks from Griffin especially because of the loss of Josh Gordon, a receiver who had legitimate 1st round ability. TCU is obviously the favorite in this one, but Baylor has enough firepower to potentially hang around with them.

Saturday:

-Northwestern-Boston College:

This game could go either way, and has a couple intriguing prospects at QB. The superior prospect is obviously Dan Persa, the QB for Northwestern. He should give the Wildcats a serious boost on offense, and they’ve got a lot of talent on that offense for him to utilize. Boston College has a younger QB in Chase Rettig who should be a sophomore this year. He showed some ability as a freshman last year, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with the Northwestern defense. Montel Harris should help keep some pressure off of him even if he is an average NFL prospect. I think Northwestern is the favorite, but Boston College has a legitimate shot in this one.

-Notre Dame-South Florida:

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite in this game but I don’t buy the hype of them being a potential top 15 team. South Florida doesn’t have a great shot at winning this game but they have a QB in B.J. Daniels who can be very streaky, and can be dangerous when he’s hot thanks to his strong arm and legitimate athleticism so he can threaten with his legs as well as his arm. I’m not sold on Notre Dame’s defense at this point, but their offense shouldn’t have much trouble scoring on South Florida’s defense. Dayne Crist will be starting a game for the first time in a very long time so expect some significant rust, but they’ll make it easy for him to get into a rhythm, especially with Michael Floyd still intact.

-BYU-Ole Miss:

I actually think this could be an interesting game. I know nothing about either QB that Ole Miss was considering starting (except that the original starter Randall Mackey was arrested for disorderly conduct after a fight at a bar) so now Barry Brunetti is starting. I know a significant bit more about Jake Heaps, BYU’s QB, and I am excited to see how he progresses. He was incredibly impressive for a true freshman QB last year, and was quite impressive in their bowl win to cap off their season last year. This will be a huge test for him going against a SEC caliber defense, but I think he might be up to it. Ole Miss will rely a lot on Brandon Bolden, their quality RB, who put up 976 rushing yards (14 TD’s and 6.0 ypc) plus 344 receiving yards and 3 more TD’s on 32 receptions. It’ll be interesting to see how well they move the ball because I have no expectations for their QB. They have some talent on defense, but it will be interesting to see how they match up with BYU. Cody Hoffman, BYU’s very large WR, might create some match-up problems because of his size.

It’ll be interesting to see how these match-ups play out, but regardless I am excited to see some college football finally. Enjoy it, I know I will!

–Tom

E.J. Manuel's performance this year will either be the reason Florida State climbs back to the top of the ACC or the reason they have a mediocre season. If he plays well, the old FSU could be back. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

6. Florida State- Florida State lost quarterback Christian Ponder but outside of that they return a LOT of starters, key starters too. Jermaine Thomas at RB will be huge for them, they have talent at receiver, and they return a quality offensive line (especially their tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders). They also have one of the best pass rushers in the country in Brandon Jenkins, who should draw considerable attention this year as he attempts to mimic his incredible success from last year. Florida State’s saving grace will be E.J. Manuel’s considerable playing experience considering he was the back-up to Ponder all this time, but because of Ponder’s injuries he not only has regular season experience but bowl game experience. While he wasn’t dominant or spectacular in all of his playing time, he definitely showcased ability and should play well enough to give Florida State a good shot at an ACC title. If he plays really well then they may have a shot at a great bowl game or even a chance to win the National Championship.

7. South Carolina- South Carolina is returning a lot of talent and has a great recruiting class coming in. They have a number of players ready to emerge, and if Stephen Garcia can finally get his act together (and keep it together, which is usually the tricky part) South Carolina should have a great season. Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey will make the offense viable provided the offensive line helps them out, and South Carolina should have a fierce pass rush if Devin Taylor emerges like I expect him to. South Carolina definitely has a lot of talent, and this may be the ole ball coach’s best chance to win a SEC title in a long time, with Alabama, Auburn and Florida all in a significant transition stage.

Trent Richardson has incredible upside and should help carry the Crimson Tide offense while A.J. McCarron adjusts to his new role as the starter. (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)

8. Alabama- It’s tough to ever count Alabama out of the top 5 or 10, but if there was a year to do it this would probably be the year. They lost a quarterback who is apparently allergic to losing in Greg McElroy, a Heisman winner and future NFL stud in Mark Ingram, a dynamic wide receiver in Julio Jones, multiple offensive linemen (most notably James Carpenter, who I might have had an interview with had I not projected him to go in the 3rd round) and Marcell Dareus, just to name a few. Losing four first round draft picks plus a quarterback who lost less times in his college career than I do when I play a full NCAA Football on Xbox is about as bad as it gets for a college program, but Alabama is an elite program now and like USC used to do they aren’t going to rebuild, they are going to reload. The problem with that is, while they can reload at most positions and they return a LOT of talent on defense, QB is going to be a question mark. A.J. McCarron is expected to be the starter, but he has little playing experience and will only be a redshirt sophomore. The QB position is incredibly important, especially for a possible national title run, and while I expect ‘Bama to be formidable because of their defense and a very dynamic running back in Trent Richardson and a receiver I am high on in Marquis Maze, if McCarron doesn’t step up in a big way they will lose at least a couple games even with a favorable schedule for a SEC school.

9. Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State had a fantastic season last year and they return some key starters this year, specifically Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, two of the key cogs in what may have been the most explosive offense in the country last year. They lost Kendall Hunter though, a very effective RB who really was the final piece to their explosive offense puzzle, so replacing him with another effective player will be critical if they want to have similar success on offense again this year. On defense they have some talent, but it will be a question mark until they step up in my opinion. They haven’t had much on that side of the ball in a while but it has been overshadowed by their high octane offenses. If their defense can step up then Oklahoma State has a chance to give Oklahoma a run for their money.

Russell Wilson may not have played for Wisconsin last year, but this year he could be the key to unlocking the potential of multiple players on offense, most notably wide receiver Nick Toon.

10. Wisconsin- Wisconsin is returning a lot of quality players, such as Montee Ball, James White, Nick Toon, Ricky Wagner, Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, Louis Nzegwu, Chris Borland (coming back from injury), Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith and Aaron Henry, to name a few. They will still have a very good offensive line as they return three good starters and already have a replacement for Carimi in place at LT in Wagner. RT will be an area of concern, as well as the DE spot opposite Nzegwu, previously occupied by the #11 overall draft pick J.J. Watt. They do have a significant upgrade on the way at QB though, and Russell Wilson’s transfer to Wisconsin makes them a favorite to win the Big-10 this year. Their pass defense is concerning to me though, because they lost two established starters in J.J. Watt and Niles Brinkley and while they might have solid replacements for them Wisconsin’s pass defense was an issue before they even lost them (see Rose Bowl game against TCU). If they can generate a quality pass rush and play better pass defense then Wisconsin could go a long way, but that back end is concerning to me.

Thanks for reading my most recent installment of my Preseason Top 25 Rankings! The top five teams will be unveiled tomorrow!

–Tom

I like Nzegwu's upside as a 3-4 OLB, I just hope he isn't pidgeon-holed into a 4-3 DE role because it doesn't maximize his skill set.

Louis Nzegwu, DE, Wisconsin: Nzegwu is very athletic and I think he has all the makings of a quality OLB in a 3-4 defense. He is much more effective in every facet of the game when standing up versus playing with his hand in the dirt like a 4-3 DE. He gets off the ball faster, makes more plays versus the run and applies more pressure to the QB standing up. I hope he gets drafted to play 3-4 OLB, because so many players get drafted to play a position they aren’t a good fit for (like Justin Houston or Jason Babin being drafted to play LB when they are clearly 4-3 DE’s) and they end up being unsuccessful until the scheme changes or until they go to a team that employs them correctly. Anyways, Nzegwu has upside because he has good size, long arms, impressive change of direction speed, good agility and pretty good edge speed to rush the passer. He shows a good swim move to keep blockers from engaging him along with a very impressive shoulder dip to get the edge as a pass rusher. He has impressive hip flexibility and also has a very good motor, as he regularly chases plays down from the backside and gives consistent pursuit from the backside. He is a very reliable tackler and may be one of the best returning tacklers that Wisconsin has on the roster. However, he needs to get stronger at the POA because at times he can be washed out of plays, and needs to get up to 255 or 260 to hold up at the linebacker position he projects to in the NFL. He has the frame for it, but he looks pretty skinny at only about 240 or so right now. He also needs to improve his hand usage so he can shed blocks more effectively, because while he flashes a swim move to keep blockers off of him, he doesn’t do a good job of violently using his hands to disengage once blocked, though to his credit he fights off the block eventually because of his motor. He has upside, and his work ethic and motor make me think he will be a quality player in the NFL, but he has things to work on. I am excited to see how he does without Watt, but with more experience. I like him as a prospect.

 

Fenelus has upside and is one of the best senior cornerbacks in the country. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Antonio Fenelus, CB, Wisconsin: Fenelus has definite upside, that is for sure. He doesn’t have ideal size or speed, but he has solid height and pretty good speed. I am very impressed with his footwork, which seemed to improve as the season progressed. He never wastes steps in transitions even when he gets turned around, and he recovers very quickly when he guesses wrong on a route or isn’t expecting the receiver to break. He did not look like he even knew what a click and close was at the beginning of the year, instead he seemed to try to stop in one step and then lunge back towards the receiver who caught a pass in front of him, but he seemed to be much better about clicking and closing later in the year. I will obviously evaluate this further during his senior year. He also has very fluid hips, a huge plus for a corner. This helps him turn and run with receivers effortlessly, which helps him in both man and zone coverage. He is good in both man and zone coverage, and seems to have good ball skills as he quickly locates the ball in the air and makes a play on it when he can. I don’t think he’s an elite athlete when it comes to straight line speed (probably a 4.5 guy) or leaping ability, but he is a good, fundamentally sound corner who is also a very good tackler for a cornerback. However, I think he might be a bit of a guesser at corner, which is something I’m not wild about. He seems to learn from his mistakes (ie getting burned when he bites on the hitch part of a hitch and go) but he doesn’t seem to be reading and reacting well at times. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something seems a bit off in that part of his game. Overall I am high on Fenelus as a cornerback prospect, and I’d project him in the 2nd or 3rd round of the Draft today. I am excited to see how he progresses as a senior because he seemed to improve significantly over the course of the year as a junior, which is something NFL Draft talent evaluators love to see.

Aaron Henry, FS, Wisconsin: I think Henry is a pretty good free safety, but I am not convinced he is anything special. He has solid height, pretty good speed, solid burst, pretty good ball skills, he is a solid tackler (inconsistent, but solid overall I would say) and he takes alright angles. He just isn’t special in any one way in my opinion. He doesn’t have elite speed or burst to close, and that limits his potential as a center fielder, and he is just as likely to whiff on a tackle in the open field as he is to wrap them up or lay a nice hit it seems. It’s confusing, and it’s hard to pinpoint just how good (or bad) of a tackler he is. He seems comfortable in zone coverage, but he doesn’t have the speed or quickness to be effective in man coverage in my opinion (at least, not very effective). So he has upside, but unless I see more athleticism and better tackling out of him as a senior I’m not sure he will be anything more than a mid-round pick next year.

 

Smith will be moving into the starting role this year, and while he has playing experience as a nickel back his play as a starter could determine whether Wisconsin's secondary is a relative strength or weakness.

Devin Smith, CB, Wisconsin: Smith has good size and speed, nothing elite but it’s good. He seems to have solid footwork though he didn’t get a ton of playing time in the games that I saw, so it was a bit hard to evaluate. He played a lot of nickel last year, so I would imagine he will step up into the starting role opposite Antonio Fenelus now that Niles Brinkley has graduated. That should offer a lot more looks at him over the course of the year. Right now I would project him as a late round pick because I don’t think he has great hips or footwork, but he does have pretty good ball skills and he is a good tackler, and willingly supports the run. I’m not sure how much upside he has yet, but he is worth watching next year to see how he adjusts to a significant increase in playing time.

David Gilbert, DE, Wisconsin: Gilbert has upside because of his combination of size and speed, but right now that is all he is: potential. He is strong for his size (about 6’3”, 240 pounds) and has good edge speed, but he doesn’t get off the snap consistently well (I wonder if he might be like Fenelus and get a better jump on the snap when he is standing up, though there isn’t a lot of film of him to study that, but it may well be the case) with his hand in the dirt and that limits his potential as an edge rusher obviously. He doesn’t shed blocks well and despite his relative strength for his size he doesn’t get off blocks well and is not a good run defender as he struggles to hold the POS and he doesn’t compensate for it with quickness to avoid blocks like Nzegwu does. Obviously Gilbert is only a junior this year, and he should get a lot of playing time opposite Nzegwu if he locks down the starting job, so it will be interesting to see how much PT he gets and what he manages to do with it. For his sake I hope he has gotten stronger and improved his hand usage, because the DE spot opposite Nzegwu could make or break Wisconsin’s pass rush this year.

Patrick Butrym, DT, Wisconsin: Butrym didn’t really stick out to me in a positive way. He didn’t look great versus the run, but didn’t get pushed off the ball, he was often in a stalemate which speaks to his strength and leverage. However, he rarely gets off the blocks (whether one on one or if he is doubled) to make a play on the ball carrier versus the run. He applied a bit of pressure in the games I saw, but the pressure he applied was a result of effort, not of quality technique and hand usage in my opinion. And when he got to the QB he tried to arm tackle instead of wrapping him up (he couldn’t get close enough to him to wrap up) and three times he let a QB he had his hands on get away, which is not any stat a defensive lineman wants to accumulate. As of right now I think he is a 6th or 7th rounder if not a UDFA, but he still has another year to prove his worth. It will be interesting to see how he does with another year of experience under his belt, but I’m not expecting him to be anything special.

Hopefully you enjoyed the read on all of these Wisconsin prospects! I’m still working my way through film, so keep checking in for team reports or individual pre-season scouting reports until football gets here! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

1- Janzen Jackson, FS, Tennessee
Analysis:
Jackson played one season with Eric Berry and I think that Berry passed the torch as the best safety in the country to Jackson, however there is a lot of uncertainty of whether or not he will actually be on the field this year. He left the program in February according to what I have read to deal with personal reasons, and Tennessee’s Head Coach Derek Dooley has repeatedly said he left on his own accord to deal with personal issues and that he was not suspended or kicked off the team. Hopefully Jackson will be able to get his head right and his life in order in time for him to come back to play this season because he really is an incredible talent. So even though there is no guarantee that he will be back I am obligated to rank him as my top safety because if he comes back that is exactly what he will be: the best safety in the country.
2- Robert Lester, FS, Alabama
Analysis: I watched Lester play quite a bit last year when I was scouting Alabama and I have to say I was pretty impressed. He is a ball-hawk in the secondary and definitely has a lot of potential as such, but he is not a very good tackler at all if I remember. He has his upside but also has things he needs to work on. But he is definitely one of the best safeties in the country. Last season he produced 52 tackles (29 solo), 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 8 INT’s (102 return yards), 1 FR and 4 pass deflections. I am looking forward to see him play in one of the best secondaries in the country next year as I believe Alabama returns all four of their starting DB’s.
3- T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal
Analysis: McDonald won’t be playing in a bowl game this year and while I wish they would have taken the bowl ban off of USC’s program there is little to do about it now. However, McDonald should emerge as a very good player this year and I think he will live up to my #3 safety in the country ranking. He has good size at 6’2″, 205 pounds and has a listed 40 time of 4.54, plus last year he produced 89 total tackles (54 solo), 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 INT’s, 4 pass break-ups and 1 kick/punt block. He was productive last year but I am anxious to see him in coverage this season as I didn’t get to see him a  lot in that capacity last year. I have heard one of his weaknesses may be long speed but if he has a good burst to close as well as quality ball skills and hopefully good tackling fundamentals that won’t be much of an issue, at least not in my opinion.
4- Markelle Martin, SS, Oklahoma State
Analysis: Martin is a quality safety on Oklahoma State, a team and program I am liking more and more every year. I actually just visited their stadium when I was in Oklahoma for the weekend and my Facebook profile picture is me striking a pose in their end zone. They have a great stadium and I really like their team, so I am glad I have an excuse to watch their defense so I can see Martin play this year. He has pretty solid size for a safety at 6’1, 195 pounds and he has a 4.47 40 yard dash time. Last year he had 55 total tackles and a remarkable 49 solo tackles, I’ve never seen a tackle total quite like that. He also had 2.0 TFL, 3 INT’s (1 TD), and 10 pass break-ups. He was very productive last year but I want to see how he plays in coverage and I’d like to see if he is as good of a tackler as his stat sheet would seem to indicate. I can’t wait to watch him and Go Cowboys!
5- Trenton Robinson, FS, Michigan State
Analysis: Robinson is going to be the anchor of Michigan State’s secondary and even though he is the size of a corner he is quite the effective safety. He stands at 5’10”, 195 pounds and has a 4.46 40 yard dash time, but he played safety and recorded 76 total tackles (35 solo), 4 INT’s, and 8 pass break-ups last season. I am looking forward to evaluating him because I have not seen him play much and I didn’t pay much attention to him when I watched Michigan State this past season. Between Jerell Worthy and Robinson the Spartans definitely have some talent on defense.
6- George Iloka, FS, Boise State
Analysis: Iloka is big for a safety as he stands at 6’3″, 215 pounds and has a listed 4.50 40 yard dash time. He was productive last year for Boise State as a junior when he totaled 63 total tackles (49 solo), 3.0 TFL, 2 INT’s, 5 pass break-ups and 1 FF. I have no idea as far as what his tendencies are and I haven’t seen him play much, so I will definitely be looking into Boise State this year so I can evaluate him.
7- Aaron Henry, FS, Wisconsin
Analysis: Henry is easily the best player in Wisconsin’s secondary and is probably one of the best players on Wisconsin’s defense now that Watt has left for the NFL. He has solid size at 6’0″, 210 pounds and has a listed 4.52 40 yard dash time. Last season he produced 57 total tackles (46 solo), 0.5 TFL, 2 INT’s (2 TD’s), 7 pass break-ups, 2 FR’s (1 TD). It will be interesting to see how he does this year since I am not sure how good Wisconsin’s pass rush is going to be, and their pass defense wasn’t exactly elite last year even with J.J. Watt living in the backfield.
8- Tony Dye, SS, UCLA
Analysis: Dye has solid safety size at 5’11”, 206 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.52. He played opposite Rahim Moore last year and it will be interesting to see how he does this season without Moore ballhawking in the backfield. Last year he produced 96 total tackles (59 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, and 9 pass deflections. This year he will be the man in the secondary as a Senior and he will have to step up in pass coverage. It will be interesting to see how he does.
9- Antonio Allen, SS, South Carolina
Analysis: Allen is part of a pretty talented secondary for South Carolina. They have a few potential starting safeties but I think Allen might be the best of the bunch. He is 6’1″, 208 pounds and has a listed 4.57 40 yard dash time. Last year he produced 69 total tackles (38 solo), 10.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT (1 TD), 4 pass break-ups, and 2 FF. I can’t believe he had 10.5 tackles for loss as a safety, but he seems to be a quality tackler. I can’t wait to evaluate him and the other talented players on South Carolina’s defense next year. They could have quite a defense in 2011.
10- Rashard Hall, FS, Clemson
Analysis: Hall has an intriguing combination of size and speed for the safety position. He is 6’2″, 200 pounds and has a listed 4.52 40 yard dash time. He totaled 62 total tackles (35 solo), 1.0 TFL, 2 INT’s (1 TD), and 2 pass deflections last season. He will be playing safety without DeAndre McDaniel this year so it will be interesting to see how he does. He seems like a pretty cerebral player contrary to a lot of Clemson players I have scouted in years past, so it will be interesting to see if that proves to be true and if he can step up to lead Clemson’s secondary this season.

And that concludes my safety rankings but also all of my pre-season rankings for this season. It feels good to be done, and hopefully you all enjoyed reading them. I’ll update them throughout the year, but for now I need a break from them to be honest. They can be a grind. I am going to start watching film now and get to work on putting up some early pre-season scouting reports based off of the film I watch. Ryan Lindley will be the first one I post as I have already watched all the film I have on him, so expect that either later today or tonight. Thanks for reading!

–Tom