Tag Archive: Barkevious Mingo


Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

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Michael Brockers has great size but could carry even more weight on his frame. He has a lot of potential, but I'd like to see him develop more as a pass rusher.

Michael Brockers (Sophomore, LSU) is a beast of a defensive tackle. I don’t think he’s a very good pass rusher, but at 6’6”, 306 pounds he has the potential to be a great run defender and I think he could develop into a better pass rusher as he gains more experience. This season he has 14 total tackles (8 solo), 3.5 TFL, one sack and one interception in the first four games. I have been consistently impressed with his hand usage, his ability to shed blocks, and the sheer strength and size that he has in the trenches. The scary thing is his frame isn’t even filled out, and I think he could carry 315-320 pounds very easily given his great size. I think Brockers has a ton of potential, and he is still very young. I’m excited to see how he develops over the rest of this season and during his junior year after that. Keep an eye on him.

Bennie Logan (Sophomore, LSU) is a talented DT who usually starts with Brockers at the beginning of the game. He has pretty good size at about 6’3”, 287 pounds and he showed the ability to drive his man into the backfield. It’ll be interesting to see how he does the rest of the year, but he has 14 total tackles (6 solo), 3.0 TFL, one sack and one pass break-up through four games. He has some upside thanks to his size and continues to demonstrate pretty good hand usage. Like Brockers he hasn’t shown me the ability to consistently apply pressure on the passer, so I will be watching to see if that starts to come as he progresses.

Josh Downs (Junior, LSU) is the #3 or #4 DT in LSU’s rotation, but I think he has some sleeper potential even though he isn’t a starter. He doesn’t have the same raw upside and potential as Brockers and Anthony Johnson do, but at 6’1”, 287 he has proven to be very disruptive every time he is in the game. He won’t be any higher than a mid-round pick, especially since he doesn’t have ideal measurables, but he has the potential to get drafted late and make a roster as a rotational player. He is quick off the ball, has good hand usage, and has a squatty build that enables him to get under the pads of offensive linemen and drive them into the backfield. He has consistently beaten one on one blocks this year, and even though it doesn’t show on the stat sheet he has had a significant impact in each game, especially against Oregon. He was too quick and too strong even at his size for their offensive linemen, and was consistently in the backfield in this game. So even if he doesn’t show up as a guy who’s making plays on the stat sheet, just know that he has been consistently disruptive when he plays. Keep an eye on him as a sleeper for the 2013 Draft as a senior.

Anthony Johnson (Freshman, LSU) is a potential stud DT. He’s a freshman this year but he is already 6’3”, 310 pounds and he was rumored to run a 4.8 40 yard dash. That is absolutely insane if it is even relatively close to being true. He has four total tackles (2 solo), 2.5 TFL and one sack. He showed the ability to be disruptive and to penetrate, and seemed to have pretty strong hands and at least solid hand usage given his relatively limited experience. Some around the LSU program have said he could be the next Glenn Dorsey which is obviously an incredible compliment given his productivity during his time at LSU, so he is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on. All signs point to him having incredible potential, and it seems he has a relatively good chance of living up to it.

Kendrick Adams (Senior, LSU) has some upside as a defensive end, but I haven’t been very impressed with him from a pass rushing standpoint. He only has three career sacks (he has already matched his production as a junior from last season with 1.5 sacks in four games) and he has 2.5 TFL’s thus far this year. He has good size for a defensive end, listed at 6’5”, 260 pounds, but I don’t think he has very good burst off the line of scrimmage and I don’t think he has very good edge speed. He’s pretty solid against the run though, and I think he is a fundamentally sound player. It will be interesting to see if he progresses from a pass rush standpoint throughout the season, but as of right now I think he is a contributing factor to why LSU doesn’t apply a lot of pressure with their front four.

Besides having an awesome name, Mingo has tremendous upside as a pass rusher due to his athleticism, speed, motor and long arms.

Barkevious Mingo (Sophomore, LSU) is a freak athlete for a defensive end. He allegedly runs a 4.5 forty yard dash despite being listed at 6’5”, 240 pounds. He looks very skinny on film, but he’s extremely athletic. He has great burst off the line of scrimmage and has a lot of edge speed. He’s too skinny to absorb contact and continue to get the edge, but if he gets stronger and fills out his frame I think he could develop into a very dangerous pass rusher. Right now he is a one dimensional speed rusher, but he has so much athletic ability and such a good motor that I think as he continues to develop and mature as a defender that he could become something very special. I just hope he gets quality coaching to improve his hand usage and pass rush moves over the next two years.

Lavar Edwards (Junior, LSU) is a defensive end that usually plays opposite Kendrick Adams. He has solid edge speed and plays the run pretty effectively as well, but also has a quality motor. He pursues very well from the backside and never seems to give up on a play. He also appears to be a good tackler and a solid run defender. I’m not sure how much upside he has, but his motor and hustle stuck out to me.

Ryan Baker (Senior, LSU) is an undersized linebacker prospect that warrants late round consideration in my opinion. He’s a reliable tackler when he can play downhill, and has solid instincts, but I was very unimpressed with his motor and that really bothered me when I noticed that. As a linebacker his job is to read, react and if the play is away from him he has to pursue and clean up the play from the backside should it be necessary. But far too often he would just stop running and stand there, not even jog in the direction of the play, and wait for his teammates to clean up the mess. On a defense as talented and fast as LSU’s it’s not very obvious, but I’ve seen it multiple times including in this Oregon game. He has some upside because he’s a good tackler, but he’s not a well-rounded linebacker in my opinion and his lack of size and hustle concern me.

Morris Claiborne (Junior, LSU) has been incredibly impressive this year. He is the #1 corner on what may be the best secondary in the entire country, and he played very well against Oregon as well as the other games I saw him in. He is a better tackler than I expected him to be, but he also looked very comfortable in man and zone coverage. He showed very fluid hips, the ability to turn and run effectively, good closing speed, and impressive ball skills. He supports the run better than I expected him to, and while I have seen him miss a few tackles I still think he is an above-average/solid tackler, which is more than you can say for a lot of corners. Add in his size at 6’0”, 185 pounds, his speed and burst as well as his versatility to return kick-offs and interceptions effectively and with good vision and you’ve got a heck of a NFL Draft prospect. He’s not under the radar anymore, but keep an eye on him anyway.

Tyrann Mathieu is my favorite player in college football because he is the definition of a playmaker and he goes all-out on every play. He truly plays football the way it is meant to be played, and it is truly a treat to watch him play every time I watch LSU.

Tyrann Mathieu (Sophomore, LSU) is without a doubt my favorite player in the entirety of college football. When you see him walk onto the field as a nickel corner (when they play Simon on the outside to let Mathieu’s versatility shine) you don’t expect him to be the best player on the field, but so many times he is. In all my years of watching football I have rarely seen anyone with the kind of ball-hawking ability that Mathieu has. He is always around the ball, he has fantastic instincts, he’s extremely fast with a great burst, he is fearless, he’s a great tackler, he is very effective in run support, he’s a great blitzer off the edge, he packs a pop as a hitter and simply has an unexplainable knack for forcing turnovers, whether they be fumbles (like when he tackled Kenjon Barner on a punt return, forced a fumble, recovered it and scored a touchdown after a short return) or interceptions. He has fantastic ball skills and he reads the eyes of quarterbacks very effectively. I think he has top ten talent and the only knock you can possibly have on him is his lack of size. He’s listed at 5’9”, 175 pounds which means he may be about 5’8”, but if he was two or three inches taller playing the way he was he would be getting mentioned as a possible top five pick much like his mentor Patrick Peterson was (and I think Mathieu is a better playmaker). Mathieu also returns punts and while he will try to do too much at times, he’s also very elusive and makes a lot of guys miss when he has a chance to get into space. I will have a scouting report up on Mathieu soon, but as one of the people who has been driving the Mathieu bandwagon since last season when he was only a freshman I would like to encourage everyone to hop on board, because this kid is the definition of special.

Tharold Simon (Sophomore, LSU) is a very intriguing corner because he just has so much length. He is listed at 6’3”, 187 pounds but doesn’t seem to have stiff hips nor does he seem to have much trouble turning and running with receivers. On top of that, he has very long arms which he uses effectively in pass coverage (4 pass break-ups in his first four games as well as an interception and 24 tackles, 20 of which are solo). He also packs a pop as a hitter and seems to be an effective tackler. When he did get beat in the Oregon game he laid a great hit on the receiver as he attempted to bring the ball in and separated the ball from the receiver. His size may make people consider transitioning him to safety at some point, but if he has the footwork, the hips and the fluidity in his transitions to stick at corner it would be advisable to leave him there. His height, length and athleticism will make him an absolute pain in the ass to throw against as he develops, especially if you match him up with a big possession receiver.

Brandon Taylor (Senior, LSU) has some potential as a safety, but I have noticed that he’s been having some problems tackling that I have noticed. He doesn’t break down effectively, and he often gets “juked” by running backs and receivers. He’s not an awful tackler, but I definitely noticed a number of instances where he blew tackles. I haven’t been able to grade him much in coverage because of ESPN’s camera angles, so that will have to wait.

Brad Wing (Freshman, LSU) is a punter, and I know it’s weird to feature a punter in a NFL Draft post, but I think this kid is going to be a very good one. I thought this after the Oregon game as well, but against West Virginia he had an unreal game pinning the Mountaineers back inside the five yard line three times and inside the 10 yard line four times that I can remember off of the top of my head. Obviously that was a great game for him, but I think he has a bright future as a punter and is definitely a guy to keep an eye on when it comes to Ray Guy candidates in the future (the Ray Guy award is given to the top punter in the country).

Michael Clay (Junior) is an undersized linebacker on Oregon. He’s listed at 5’11”, 225 pounds but I thought he looked like he was 235 or 240 on film. Maybe that’s just me, but he looks big for his size. He seems to be an effective tackler, but the play that stuck out the most to me was when he absolutely lit up #80, a receiver on LSU, on a drag route on 3rd down. He hit him so hard he completely dislodged the football as it got there, forcing an incompletion. He’s one to watch because he seemed to be a quality run defender and he obviously can lay the boom in pass coverage, so it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop.

Anthony Gildon is not a well-known corner (Cliff Harris gets much more attention), but he impressed me a few times against LSU and I think he is a sleeper that warrants mentioning.

Anthony Gildon (Senior) is a cornerback on Oregon that impressed me quite a bit in this game. I had never seen him play before, but he was effective in coverage against LSU’s big, fast receivers. He has never gotten an abundance of playing time from what I can tell, but he has good size for a corner at 6’1”, 185 pounds and looked like he had fluid hips, good footwork and he seemed to run well with receivers downfield. He located the ball in the air pretty consistently, and had two big pass break-ups on deep balls when LSU was clearly targeting him as they expected him to be the weak-link of the secondary. There was one more play where he was credited with making a play on the ball but in reality he didn’t turn his head around and could have been called for a penalty in my opinion. I think he has upside though, so I’m going to keep tabs on him. I could see him getting invited to the East-West Shrine Game and becoming a mid-late round pick at this point. We’ll see what happens, but my initial impression of him was definitely positive.

Hopefully you enjoyed my notes on some of the defensive prospects that participated in the LSU-Oregon game. Obviously I don’t have any notes on Cliff Harris because he was suspended for this game, but I’m sure I will be able to give my thoughts on him later this year. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

– LSU-Mississippi State:

Breakdown:

This game will be a game pitting strength versus strength, as Mississippi State’s run game will be facing a very tough LSU run defense. They are fast enough to take away a speed rushing attack like Oregon, but they are big enough and strong enough to match-up relatively effectively with a more powerful attack like Mississippi State’s. This match-up will be important, but because LSU will be so worried about stopping the run it may be just as critical for Chris Relf to demonstrate the ability to threaten the defense with the pass, especially downfield in the 10-15+ yard range. If they can’t do that, I think that Mississippi State will struggle to run the ball consistently throughout the game.

On the offensive side of the ball for LSU, running the ball will be key as well, but the deciding factor of the game may reside on Jarrett Lee’s ability to stretch the field, move the ball through the air, and keep running lanes open for Spencer Ware and the rest of LSU’s rushing attack. If they can run the ball effectively play action will be a key weapon for Lee and the rest of the offense, but if the burden falls on Lee to loosen up running lanes with downfield passing then LSU could struggle. Lee is an accurate passer but doesn’t have a rocket arm and I would compare him to Matt Flynn, a very successful former LSU Tiger quarterback. If Lee steps up and can carry the offense (this would be significantly easier if his receivers caught passes once they hit them in the hands) then LSU should be fine either way, but if Lee isn’t up to the challenge then LSU could be in trouble in their conference opener.

Key Players- LSU:

Jarrett Lee will be making his third start of the season and he has looked solid thus far, though his statistics have been hurt by some dropped passes in their opening games. This will be my second opportunity to watch him, the first being in the opening week against Oregon. I will be interested to see how he plays and how he has progressed since the opening weekend of the season. I think he has potential, and while he won’t be a first round pick by any means, I do think he warrants mid-late round consideration. He would fit into a West Coast offense very nicely, perhaps similar to Colt McCoy in Cleveland.

I’m a big fan of Tyrann Mathieu, and watching him play is always a treat. I think he has first round potential and I’ve thought that since he was playing at an All-American level early on in his freshman year last year. He is very good in coverage, he blitzes extremely well, he’s a great tackler, and he has a great knack for forcing fumbles and just being around the ball. He is the definition of a ball-hawk. I would be surprised if he didn’t force a turnover in this game.

Spencer Ware will be an important component of this game. He has had a relatively slow start to the season relative to his great cap to his freshman year with a 10 carry, 102 yard performance against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but I think he will get stronger as the season goes on. He’s definitely a power back as he is relatively compact at 5’11”, 225 pounds and he shows it. I like his running style and I think he will be a key cog in LSU’s offense because if the run game is slowed or ineffective Jarrett Lee won’t be able to utilize play action effectively and the offense may become one dimensional. Considering Lee’s relatively limited amount of starting experience I don’t think that is a path LSU should go down in their conference opener, especially on a national stage. But I think a lot of people underestimate what Lee brings to the table, and I think he is ready to step up should the running game not pace the offense in this game.

Deangelo Peterson, the tight end on LSU, is another key guy to watch. His stat line may not blow you away (5 receptions, 71 yards and 1 TD in 2 games so far) but he has great size at 6’4″, 235 pounds and he is very athletic. I imagine as Lee becomes more comfortable in the starting role that Peterson will become one of his frequent targets, and I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for them to split him out in the slot. He is a very dangerous red zone threat, and because of his size he is an easy target for Lee to throw to. I predict that he will have a touchdown in this game, and I hope that his skills will be on full display tonight.

Morris Claiborne is going to be an interesting guy to watch in this game because if Mississippi State has any success throwing the ball it will probably be going after someone other than him. He is replacing Patrick Peterson as “the” corner on LSU’s defense, and he’s got the size and athletic ability to do it. He had 6 pass break-ups and 5 INT’s last year when defenses targeted him instead of throwing at Peterson consistently, but now this year teams will certainly be avoiding him if they can help it. I don’t know if they will match him up against Mississippi State’s perceived best receiver (I’m a fan of Chris Smith), or if they will just let him attempt to shut down one side of the field, but if Relf decides to test him he had better make sure it’s a good ball because if he makes a mistake Claiborne knows how to make him pay.

Sleeper: Barkevious Mingo, on top of having an absolutely fantastic name, has a boatload of potential as a defensive end. He’s only a sophomore and he is about 6’5”, 240 pounds, but as a freshman last year he had 35 total tackles (18 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 6 pass break-ups, which is pretty great for a freshman at a position that generally has a long development period. He is very athletic and has chased down some pretty athletic running backs in his day, and seems to have a very good motor as evidenced by his backside pursuit. I’m excited to see how he will do against a Mississippi State offensive line that likes to run the ball, but is missing their best pass protector from a year ago in Derek Sherrod. Mingo could have a big game, though he is pretty raw, but I am excited about his potential so I want to see how he does.

Key Players- Mississippi State:

Chris Relf is a guy who is better known for his running than his passing, but his size definitely helps him in both aspects. He stands at 6’4”, 245 pounds and could probably convert to RB or FB at the next level, but I haven’t watched him enough to specifically project him to any one position yet. I don’t think he will be a QB at the next level, but he has shown some signs of improvement since last season. He threw for 1,776 yards in 13 games (an average of only 136.6 yards per game), completing 59% of his passes (128/217, a low number of passes attempted) for 12 TD’s and 6 INT’s. He was an efficient QB, but he wasn’t throwing the ball very much. This year it seems to be a bit different having already attempted 54 passes in just two games (33/55 for a 61.1% completion) for 397 yards, 3 touchdowns and only one interception. LSU will be a big test for him one week after he had a solid but relatively unspectacular game with 195 yards (60.6% completion with a 5.9 YPA, well below his average from last season) and 1 touchdown and interception against Auburn. LSU has a very tough defense that frequently creates turnovers, so ball security and making smart decisions will be critical for him in this game. I have to say that if Relf ends up throwing 25+ or even 30+ times in this game I think Mississippi State will lose. That will mean their running game is being slowed by LSU’s tough front seven, and the onus will be placed on Relf to move the ball through the air to open up running lanes. Against Memphis (obviously a totally different class of opponent) he threw 21 times, was very efficient and they won easily. Against Auburn in a close game (final score of 41-34) he threw 33 times, was less efficient with one interception and only a 5.9 YPA (which is in stark contrast to his 2010 season average of 8.2 and his 9.6 YPA against Memphis). To drill this point home a bit, when Relf threw 25 times or more last year Mississippi lost both games which accounted for two of their four losses on the season. The other losses were against LSU when he threw the ball only 8 times for 35 yards and 2 interceptions and against Alabama when he threw the ball 16 times for 70 yards and an interception. In the two other losses he threw the ball 25 times or more and lost in a close game (17-14 to Auburn and 38-31 to Arkansas, though he had a good game against them). So that is a trend of three losses in a row when Relf throws the ball 25 times or more, and it will be interesting to see if he is forced to surpass that number of attempts against LSU’s defense.

Vick Ballard is the other key cog to Mississippi State’s offense that focuses intently on the running game. Ballard had a fantastic season last year rushing 187 times for 981 yards (a 5.25 ypc average) and 20 touchdowns. This year, as a senior, he already has 301 yards rushing on just 31 attempts (an astounding 9.71 ypc) and 4 touchdowns. His success tonight against LSU’s tough run defense will set the tone for the game, and if he can find running room and grind out tough yards and first downs then it will make life significantly easier for Relf and the rest of Mississippi State’s passing attack. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with a game with about 20 attempts, 75-80 yards and maybe a score though, because yards are hard to come by against LSU’s defense.

Chris Smith is a receiver on Mississippi State that I came away impressed with after watching him against Michigan last year. He had a relatively mediocre statistical year last year with only 24 receptions, 264 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore, but I like his size and his hands impressed me last year as well as his route running. Keep in mind, his 24 receptions were about 11.1% of Relf’s total completions last year, so even though it is a low total and not overly impressive, he still accounted for 11% of Relf’s total completions and almost 15% (14.86%) of Relf’s total passing yards. So while it might not be obvious, he was a target for Mississippi State last year in the passing game. He only has two catches for 11 yards so far this year, so I am really hoping he finds a way to step up and make some plays in this game. I love players that find a way to make plays in critical games like this, especially on big stages, and I am hoping that Smith will find a way to do that tonight even against a talented LSU secondary.

Jonathan Banks is a cornerback that I came away very impressed with last year when I was actually watching the Bulldogs to get a look at Derek Sherrod. He has been very reliable and consistent for the Bulldogs ever since his freshman year. Now a junior, Banks already has an interception and two pass break-ups this year, bringing his career total to 8 interceptions (7 in his previous two seasons) and 12 pass break-ups. He is a very tall, skinny corner as he stands at a listed height and weight of 6’2”, 185 pounds. I mentioned him in a previous post listing potential break-out players for this 2011 season, and mentioned that I am going to be watching him to evaluate his hips, namely his ability to flip his hips in coverage, his ability to click and close on passes in front of him, and his ability to recover if and when he makes a mistake. He has already demonstrated his ability to use his size to his advantage, and he has shown the ability to turn and run with receivers downfield. I just want to see how well he transitions, because it’s pretty obvious when you watch him play that he can locate the ball in the air and make a play on it. He has impressive ball skills, and his size really helps him defend 50/50 balls even against very tall wide receivers. LSU has some big guys like they always do, so look for Banks to mirror them and take away some of Lee’s bigger, more physical targets.

Nickoe Whitley is a safety that I noticed around the same time I noticed Banks last year. He demonstrated impressive ball skills when I watched him last year and seemed to be a pretty good tackler which is evidenced by his 34 solo tackles (52 total). He also had 1.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 3 INT’s and 1 forced fumble last year. He already has an INT this year as well as one pass break up (plus a pretty impressive 6 solo tackles out of 7 total). It will be interesting to see if he is tested deep much as Jarrett Lee doesn’t have a very strong arm. I could see him playing up in the box more, so it will be interesting to see if he lets anyone get behind him in this game.

Sleeper: My sleeper for the Bulldogs is Jameon Lewis, a freshman receiver. He already has 5 receptions, 116 yards and 1 TD as well as 2 rushes for 29 yards and 1 TD. In addition, he returns kicks and punts as well though his success has been limited in that aspect so far. He is a smaller guy listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds, though packing 185 pounds onto that small of a frame is actually pretty impressive (has a similar build to Jerrel Jernigan, the WR from Troy who actually was very well built for a small receiver). The Bulldogs have shown that they like to get the ball in his hands any way they can, whether it is throwing it to him, handing it off or letting him return kicks and punts, so look for at least one big play from him in this game.

I apologize for the length of this post. It started out shorter but I got really in depth. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and it got you excited for this SEC matchup tonight. Enjoy!

–Tom