Tag Archive: Bobby Petrino


It seems like ages ago that I and many other Falcons fans were beginning to have that sickening feeling deep down inside: Will Mike Vick be able to lead the Falcons to a Super Bowl? For so many years I had debated and rationalized why Vick could and would be the quarterback to get the Falcons to their first Super Bowl since 1998, but with every year that passed with little to no progression from Vick and the same disappointing losses in the playoffs after the magical win over Brett Favre and the Packers at Lambeau Field I began to wonder if Vick had what it took to win a Super Bowl. It sounds like revisionist history now, but the year before Bobby Petrino was hired I had given up almost all hope. I wasn’t convinced that Vick was going to put the time in to improve and without that I was convinced the Falcons would keep losing in the playoffs to teams with the athleticism to keep Vick in the pocket and force him to make accurate, on time throws (like the Eagles, for example). Petrino was hired and I was very, very skeptical. He had just signed a 10 year, $25.6 million extension with the Cardinals that suggested he was getting significant interest from other schools and Louisville wanted to make an obvious commitment to him to fend them off. He signed  that contract on July 13th, 2006. On January 7th, 2007, not even a full 6 months after he signed a 10 year extension, he became the new Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons. I thought he was a snake, but he had an impressive track record on the offensive side of the ball and Vick’s strong arm would seemingly be a great fit in his system. Then the entire team came crashing down after Vick was indicted on dog fighting charges and suddenly every Falcon fan was longing for the better days when Vick would drop his eyes before going through his progressions, scramble and somehow avoid a sack to extend a drive. As bad as that season was, I honestly thought it was a necessary cleanse. The Falcons never would have cut Vick with that contract unless something like that happened, and I was more than convinced the Falcons weren’t going to win a Super Bowl with Vick at the helm. If we wanted to win a Super Bowl, as hard as it was, we needed to get a new quarterback. I never really anticipated seeing Vick go that abruptly, but it opened the door to a bevy of possibilities. As we all know, Petrino confirmed my suspicions and ditched the Falcons and all of his players before the season was over (again, less than a year after he became the head coach) to accept the same position at Arkansas.

You might all be wondering what this has to do with this season’s Falcons. Vick hasn’t been on the roster for years, and most Falcon fans are glad they got rid of Petrino (myself included). But after so many years of wondering if we had a quarterback and a roster that could make a run at a Super Bowl, this year I truly believe that we can. The reason I’m writing this article, however, is because I believe that if we don’t win one this year we might not have another good chance for a few years.

Now you are probably really confused. “This team is 13-2 and they’re in the playoffs year in and year out with Mike Smith at the helm and Matt Ryan at quarterback. Who is this guy?” The answer to that question is I am a guy who has been advocating for the Falcons to draft a dynamic tight end to learn from Tony Gonzalez for three years to no avail. The answer to that question is I am a guy who has been begging the Falcons to draft a pass rusher who has the potential to replace John Abraham once he inevitably starts to slow down and become less effective. The answer to that question is I am a guy who has taken a look at the upcoming free agents the Falcons will have to try and re-sign this offseason, and it’s a significant list.

The Falcons team this year is a team that feels like a team that can win a Super Bowl to me though. They have gotten breaks when they’ve needed them, they have won close games without playing their best, and they have beaten teams that have given them issues in the past (most notably the New York Giants, but also the New Orleans Saints). Not only that, but they have evolved from a team that protects Matt Ryan with the running game to a team that throws the ball to compensate for Turner’s ineffectiveness that I hope will lead to his release this offseason. They have also evolved from a team that could barely stop anyone on defense to a team who forces a lot of turnovers and can win games with their defense. That is the biggest difference this year, and that is one reason why I think this is the year they need to win.

If the Falcons don’t win this year they are going to have some pieces to replace, some depth to replenish, and probably some front office personnel and coaches to replace. Mike Nolan has transformed this defense from a middle of the road defense into an aggressive, turnover forcing machine. I personally believe he has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL this year, if not the best. But now that he has done such a great job with the Falcons defense there are going to be teams that will consider giving him another shot at being a Head Coach, and he deserves those opportunities. But if the Falcons lose him their defense will not be the same. Their front office has done a great job drafting as of late as well, and that has led to David Caldwell reportedly garnering interest from teams that will need a new General Manager. Losing him would certainly be a significant blow to the Falcons front office.

On the field the Falcons have a lot of potential issues to manage as well. Brent Grimes is coming off of a serious Achilles injury that plenty of great athletes haven’t come all the way back from, and he is a free agent after the Falcons were unable to reach a long-term agreement with him on an extension that led to them using the franchise tag on him (and ultimately losing Curtis Lofton in free agency to the Saints). The Falcons likely won’t feel comfortable giving him a huge long term deal, and Grimes will want more than a one or two year trial contract. If they weren’t able to come to an agreement last year before his injury I don’t see any reason they will all of a sudden see eye to eye on his value this year. If you follow me on Twitter you are well aware that I am not a fan of Dunta Robinson and I would much rather have Grimes than Robinson, but Robinson already got a big contract and according to www.spotrac.com (@spotrac) he is due $8 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014 and $11.5 million in 2015. I would be very surprised if they paid him the final $21.5 million they owe him on that contract, but regardless of that they already have a lot of money tied up in him and probably aren’t ready to sign Grimes to a big contract after his injury even if he deserves to get paid much more than Robinson does.

Not only is Grimes a free agent, but Tony Gonzalez is a free agent and he is very likely going to retire. The Falcons are lucky to have had him for this long, and for some reason they wouldn’t draft a quality tight end prospect (I was pounding the table for Aaron Hernandez since I had a 1st round grade on him) to be his heir apparent. Well now they are faced with Gonzalez’ retirement and his back-up tight end is Michael Palmer. Palmer is not the long-term answer, and he’s certainly not going to replace Gonzalez’ impact on the passing game that Matt Ryan has gotten used to the last three years. On top of that, Sam Baker is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), his back-up Will Svitek is a UFA, old man river Todd McClure is a UFA, and William Moore is a UFA. Key reserves like Chris Hope and Mike Peterson are UFA’s as well. The Falcons don’t have a replacement on the roster for Grimes (though I have been very happy with how Robert McClain has played this year), Gonzalez, or William Moore, and McClure’s heir apparent Peter Konz has spent the majority of the year getting beat at right guard, including an embarrassing showing against Ndamukong Suh on Saturday night against the Lions.

There’s certainly nothing stopping the Falcons from retaining Baker, Svitek, Grimes, Moore, McClure, Hope and Peterson, but McClure and Peterson are getting very long in the tooth, Baker has been an average starter his entire career, Svitek isn’t the answer at left tackle, and I’ve already detailed some of the potential issues with locking Grimes up. These aren’t cornerstone players, but losing Grimes and Moore would be devastating long term for this secondary, and the Falcons’ offensive line isn’t good enough to deal with losing one or more starters without a significant upgrade. Not only that, but even though John Abraham is under contract through 2014 with a modest salary of $3.25 million for both 2013 and 2014 he is unlikely to continue to play at this high level for much longer and the Falcons have not secured a suitable replacement for him either. Lawrence Sidbury was drafted to hopefully develop into a quality pass rusher but he has been an absolute non-factor his entire career in Atlanta, and even though Jonathan Massaquoi has some upside he fell to the 6th round because his production dropped off considerably the year before he declared for the draft. Hopefully slimming back down to his sophomore weight will help him develop into a quality option, but I’m also not holding my breath for him to become the caliber of player that Abraham has been for the Falcons all these years. That means the Falcons will be facing some tough decisions this offseason, but luckily for them this draft class figures to have some high end tight end talent and has a bevy of pass rushing depth. The Falcons would be very wise to look at TE and DE in the first two rounds this year in my opinion.

I don’t mean to write a doom and gloom article, because it’s very conceivable that the Falcons retain the key free agents they need to sign and I would assume they will retain restricted free agents like Robert McClain, Vance Walker and Michael Palmer. But it’s also entirely possible that they balk at Grimes’ contract demands, lose Tony Gonzalez to retirement, and lose one or more of their quality free agents this upcoming offseason. The impact Gonzalez has can’t be understated, and if Abraham’s play starts to drop off the Falcons’ pass rush will be a serious problem that will only be rectified by daring blitz packages that will risk exposing the secondary in coverage.

So, long story short, the stars have aligned for the Falcons this year. The bounces are going their way, they have home field in the playoffs, Matt Ryan has plenty of weapons to throw to and the defense is the best it has been in years. Here’s hoping the Falcons go all the way this year, but if they don’t it could be a little while before they have a shot to go back.

Hamilton has plenty of ability, but I don’t think he projects as a #1 WR at the next level in part because of how raw his route running is.

Size: Hamilton is listed at 6’3, 209 pounds and he certainly looks like a big receiver on film. His size makes him an attractive red zone target and he has the leaping ability to give him a large catch radius.

Speed: Hamilton is a track athlete so he has speed, but I believe he has build-up speed rather than explosive/burner speed. On the field he looks like a 4.48-4.5 40 yard dash guy which is definitely impressive for his size, but it’s not elite. He is a long strider so when he runs vertical routes he can cover some ground and has deceptive deep speed, but he’s not going to be the next Randy Moss by any means.

Quickness: This is one thing I wonder about with Hamilton, his quickness is inconsistent. This is evident in his route running and also when he’s changing direction. I don’t think he has a lot of burst which makes him a less explosive athlete than you might expect. He flashes this coming off the line of scrimmage or after he makes a reception, but it is very inconsistent.

Release: This is one of Hamilton’s inconsistencies. He looks like he is moving at one speed at all times and isn’t a sudden athlete that will accelerate quickly and blow by you. He FLASHES (can’t emphasize that word enough) the ability to get off the line of scrimmage with some explosiveness and that can get him a step on the corner when he is running a vertical route, but he doesn’t have an abundance of acceleration to go from 0-60 as quick as true burners. He hasn’t dealt with an abundance of jams at the line of scrimmage, but he is big and strong enough to fight them off and work either an inside or outside release. He could certainly improve in all aspects of his release though, because he flashes some burst off the ball but it is not often there, and most college receivers need work beating jams at the LOS.

Route Running: This is one of the more frustrating aspects of Hamilton’s game. His route tree is very underdeveloped at this point, and the majority of his routes are vertical or “9” routes which don’t demand anything beyond running in a straight line and looking for the ball. The other routes they will have him run are crossing routes or drags and curl routes. Teams respect his ability to threaten them deep, so at times they will give him significant cushion and that enables him to create separation when he runs a curl route, but it isn’t necessarily because he runs good routes. He rarely, if ever, sinks his hips when he is running routes and rounds off his breaks when he is running a deep in or a post. It was almost sad watching him try to separate from Alabama’s corners because without crisp route running and burst in and out of your breaks you aren’t going to get them out of position. They were always in his hip pocket and if not for a fantastic touchdown reception he made over Dre Kirkpatrick on a 50/50 ball he would have been held without a reception for the entire game. That is a credit to Alabama’s defense but also to Hamilton’s struggles with creating separation with his route running. Arkansas’ offense under Bobby Petrino used a lot of crossing routes, 4 and 5 wide receiver sets and other route designs to help his receivers get open. I’m afraid Hamilton hasn’t had to improve his route running for this reason, and that means he will likely be one of those receivers who doesn’t break out until his 3rd season once he has worked on his route running.

Hands: Hamilton has good hands, it is rare to see a ball hit him in the hands and fall to the ground. Only on the toughest possible catches did I ever see the ball hit him in the hands and not come down with it for a reception. Hamilton is going to need to be a Larry Fitzgerald type in the NFL, running great routes to create separation and being able to win jump balls and make difficult catches in traffic. I tend to call difficult 50/50 ball receptions “Fitzgerald catches” because they are plays that Fitzgerald would make, and Hamilton flashed the leaping ability to high point jump balls and come down with them. He isn’t on Fitzgerald’s level, but he has the ability to make those catches, just not as consistently as you would expect from a true #1 like Fitzgerald. That is why I believe Hamilton will be a reliable #2 in the NFL once he can improve his route running. But Hamilton shows the ability to make the catch, secure it and then run with the ball, and I haven’t seen him have any “concentration drops” which is very encouraging. He has also shown that he can make catches that are behind him and does a good job catching the ball with his hands away from his body. That really improves his catch radius.

Body Control: Hamilton’s body control is difficult to describe. He has the ability to go up, high point a pass and come down with his feet in bounds, but there are times where he just allows his momentum to take him out of bounds. He doesn’t sink his hips when he runs routes either, though I think that his route running can be improved if he wants to improve it. He can be a little shifty and make guys miss at times, but overall his body control is difficult to describe. I would give him an above average grade for this, but Hamilton has proven to be a bit of a tricky player to evaluate.

In Traffic: As I mentioned previously, I like that Hamilton has shown the ability to make “Fitzgerald catches” but he certainly doesn’t come down with every difficult 50/50 ball. He has shown the ability to make a catch, secure it and sustain a hit immediately and not drop the ball. That’s good to see, however I think he could stand to improve his ball security because he doesn’t cover the ball up once contact is initiated and this led to a strip from behind against Texas A&M when a defender punched the ball out from behind.

YAC: Hamilton is sneakily good at creating yards after the catch. I can hardly believe how often he picks up additional yardage given how I have described how his route running leaves plenty to be desired and that he is not an overly explosive athlete. However, particularly on curl routes, he does a very good job of catching the ball with his hands, securing it and turning upfield to the opposite shoulder that the defender is attacking. Then, thanks to his size and strength, the out of position tackler will slide off of him and he will pick up additional yardage. He has a good feel for running with the ball and uses his blockers well when he’s in the open field and like I said earlier he has a bit of shiftiness to him to help get defenders out of position to make a tackle. And when he catches the ball on a crossing route and he’s already picked up some speed he can outrun some defenders that might not take good angles and pick up more yardage. He’s not an elite after catch player, but he is definitely better at generating yards after the catch than I expected him to be.

Blocking: It’s been difficult to evaluate Hamilton’s blocking both because of camera angles and also because of the depth Arkansas had at receiver last year. Hamilton certainly wasn’t on the field every snap on offense, and thus it made it more difficult to evaluate his blocking. I wouldn’t give him much more than an average grade in this area right now, but he will engage the defender and wall them off for a couple seconds. He’s willing to block downfield as well, but isn’t a dominant blocker by any means.

Overall: Hamilton was a fairly confusing player to evaluate for me. He has NFL size, NFL speed, NFL hands and a surprisingly good ability to generate yards after the catch, but his route running, quickness and release left plenty to be desired. He needs to work on his route running first and foremost if he wants to take the next step as a receiver, because right now he is essentially just getting open thanks to Arkansas’ offensive concepts, not because he is running crisp routes. He’s got NFL hands and they are one of his strengths, but I want to see him attack the ball every time he has the opportunity to. He did this at times, but other times he would wait for the ball to come down to him allowing a defender to make a play on it. That may just be a mentality that some receivers have and others don’t, but Hamilton has shown that he will do it so I’d like to see him do it even more. Hamilton looks like a reliable #2 in the NFL to me. He’s not strictly a possession guy because he has deceptive deep speed thanks to his long strides, but he also doesn’t run good enough routes to be the go-to guy on 3rd down when you need a conversion. However, his ability to stretch defenses vertically, his reliable hands and good feel for getting yards after the reception make him an appealing complementary target. I don’t think he will ever be a go-to guy, but his combination of size, hands and speed will make him an attractive #2 in the NFL.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round: Hamilton isn’t a 1st round receiver right now, but I think he has the potential to go in the top 75. 6’3” receivers with impressive hands and the ability to stretch defenses vertically don’t exactly grow on trees, but Hamilton has technique work to do particularly as a route runner. I don’t think Hamilton is going to be as NFL ready as some recent receiver prospects have been, and may need a year or two of NFL coaching before he is truly ready to be a starter. Keep in mind he has been buried on a talent-laden Arkansas’ depth chart his entire career there up to this point, and we really don’t have a good feel for how he will do as one of the go-to guys on a game to game basis. He’s got a great opportunity to improve his statistics and also his NFL prospects now that he should be Arkansas’ #1 receiver, but I’ll need to see improved route running and explosiveness to change my mind about him being a #2 receiver in the NFL, not a true #1.

Oklahoma finally managed to win a big game, even though it was against a significantly less talented UCONN team. Will they be able to win a National Title?

1. Oklahoma- It’s hard to put anyone but Oklahoma at the top. Obviously the quarterback position is integral in college football, and while they lost talent at running back in Demarco Murray they are returning Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and 15 other starters. The way Jones and Broyles were playing last year, you have to think they are going to be pretty lethal again this year. Jones has tons of starting experience and while his decision making is questionable at times, he knows how to win and should give Oklahoma a good shot to get to the National Championship in what may be his final college season.

2. LSU- I really like LSU’s chances this year. They might not be returning a ton of talent (I think a lot of people underrate Terrance Tolliver, plus they lost star corner/return man Patrick Peterson) but Jordan Jefferson may be ready to take the next step in his progression, and their defense should be fierce as usual. If Jefferson can improve as a passer he has already proven he can win without consistently passing accurately, which could make LSU very dangerous. He has a lot of starting experience too, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for. I also have to give both LSU and Oregon a ton of credit for opening the season playing each other, even though a loss will dash the respective teams’ hopes at a National Title (most likely). A lot of teams will be playing schools like Apple Valley State Technical College of the Arts and other pathetic teams for a free win and tune-up, so it is absolutely imperative that we give LSU and Oregon the credit they deserve for “manning up” so to speak and playing a legitimate out of conference opponent, especially one ranked so high.

Darron Thomas led Oregon to the National Championship last year, but it will be harder to get out of the Pac-12 with Stanford and USC both returning a lot of talent.

3. Oregon- Oregon gets props for scheduling LSU as well, though it is funny that both Oregon and LSU are being investigated by the NCAA currently. Regardless, Oregon is returning a lot of talent including Quarterback Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and a talented secondary (especially if Cliff Harris stays out of any more trouble) and should make a run at a Pac-12 title. Their main opposition, Stanford, will be right on their heels however.

4. Stanford- Stanford fans everywhere were finally able to exhale when Andrew Luck announced he would return for his redshirt junior season at Stanford and if they are REALLY lucky he may even stay for his senior year, but that is obviously getting ahead of ourselves. After his fantastic season last year when he helped resurrect Stanford from a downtrodden program to a Pac-10 title contender the expectations will be high for him individually and for the team. I expect him to meet expectations with another very impressive season, but it won’t be as easy with the bulls-eye on their back this time around.

5. Arkansas- I am very high on Arkansas and I think they are going to be a dynamic team this year, especially on offense. Tyler Wilson showed flashes of greatness leading a comeback against the future National Champion Auburn Tigers, and will have a bevy of talent to work with as a first year starter. Knile Davis, one of the best running backs in the country, should continue to be very effective, and the Razorbacks return their four best wide receivers from last season (Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton is the youngest and he is a junior this year) who should form a very dynamic passing game. Arkansas can usually sling the ball around the field, but what made their offense truly dominant last season was their ability to run the ball effectively to set up play-action, and that was largely thanks to Knile Davis. With him back, and Wilson ready to step in and sling the ball around like he did against Auburn after Mallett left the game, Arkansas’ offense shouldn’t miss a beat. They also have some talent on defense, especially at defensive end. They should have a pretty good pass rush, but it remains to be seen how good their secondary will be. It could very well be a weakness for their team, but their offense will be loaded enough to win them games even if they get in the occasional shootout.

Thanks for reading the last of my preseason ranking installments! Hopefully you enjoyed them. In the coming days I will be getting back to scouting and writing up preseason scouting reports, etc. So look out for those!

–Tom

Bowl Predictions:

New Mexico Bowl- Brigham Young (6-6) vs UTEP (6-6)

Predicted winner: BYU

Why: BYU is surging into the bowl season after a slow start to the season while UTEP started strong and backed into the bowl season by finishing with just one victory in their last six games.

Key to the game: UTEP’s senior QB Trevor Vittatoe is the key to UTEP’s potential victory. In the last six games, of which they lost five, Vittatoe threw eight interceptions and only five touchdowns. Three of those five touchdowns came in their only victory against SMU. If Vittatoe can have an efficient game against BYU then UTEP could be poised for an “upset” of sorts.

Score: BYU: 24 – UTEP: 13

Humanitarian Bowl- Northern Illinois (10-3) vs Fresno State (8-4)

Predicted winner: NIU

Why: Despite losing their coach NIU is one of the best running teams in the country, and that running game should help their QB Chandler Harnish find passing lanes, especially with play action.

Key to the game: NIU’s QB Chandler Harnish. I was tempted to name their RB Chad Spann the key player in this game, but Harnish’s ability to throw efficiently (2,230 yards, 64.7% comp and 20 TD’s to only 5 INT’s this season) along with his ability to gain yards with his legs (764 yards and 5 TD’s) he needs to perform well and threaten Fresno State with his arm and his legs for them to win this game. If he plays efficiently they have a great chance to win.

Score: NIU: 31 – FSU: 21

New Orleans Bowl- Ohio (8-4) vs Troy (7-5)

Predicted winner: Troy

Why: Troy’s QB Corey Robinson may turn the ball over a fair amount, but he was productive with 3,300+ yards, 24 TD’s and 15 INT’s. Ohio’s QB Boo Jackson managed only 15 TD’s and 16 INT’s comparatively. Troy is a little more one dimensional with the pass, whereas Ohio’s offense is more balanced but not as explosive. This could be a bit of a sloppy game because both QB’s are relatively prone to turnovers.

Key to the game: Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy. Jernigan has had three consecutive seasons with 70+ receptions for Troy and has again been a favorite target of freshman QB Corey Robinson. He is an explosive receiver, and if he can get behind Ohio’s secondary he could have a big game. If they keep him relatively contained he could still have an impact because of his reliable hands.

Score: Troy: 34 – Ohio: 31

St. Petersburg Bowl- Southern Miss (8-4) vs Louisville (6-6)

Predicted winner: Louisville

Why: Louisville has a balanced offensive attack that has enabled them to go from QB to QB depending on injuries and still have relative success. Their defense is much stronger overall than it was when Petrino was there, so if they can muster a balanced attack against Southern Miss they should have a good chance to win. It will be interesting to see how their defense holds up against Southern Miss.

Key to the game: Bilal Powel, RB, Louisville. Powel is the heart of their offense and he is the feature back of their offense. When Powel has 90+ yards and one or more touchdowns Louisville has won or been in very close games in every week, so if he plays well Louisville tends to be in a position win.

Score: Louisville: 24 – Southern Miss: 20

Las Vegas Bowl- Utah (10-2) vs Boise State (11-1)

Predicted winner: Boise State

Why: I personally think Utah is very overrated, but besides that Boise State is a very balanced team. They have a great passing attack led by Kellen Moore, one of the most efficient and accurate passers in the country, as well as an underrated running game led by Doug Martin. Their defense is as good as it has ever been, and between that and their juggernaut offense I think Utah will be over-matched.

Key to the game: Utah’s running game. If Utah can run the ball and sustain drives it will keep Boise State’s high-powered offense on the sideline. If they try to get into a shootout with the Broncos they will lose, so they have to try to slow the pace of the game down in my opinion.

Score: Boise State: 45 – Utah: 24

Poinsettia Bowl- Navy (9-3) vs San Diego State (8-4)

Predicted winner: San Diego State

Why: San Diego State is a more balanced attack than Navy. They have two talented WR’s in Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, a quality passing QB in Ryan Lindley and a quality running back to rely on in the running game. Navy’s offense revolves around their QB Ricky Dobbs. He is their best passer as well as their leading rusher for Navy, but San Diego’s run defense may be capable of slowing him down. If they do, and if they get ahead of Navy, they may not have the offensive firepower to play from behind.

Key to the game: Ricky Dobbs. If he plays well, helps control the clock and keeps San Diego State’s offense off the field then Navy can win. But if San Diego State slows him and Navy’s offense down then San Diego State will have an easier time winning this game.

Score: San Diego State: 31 – Navy: 17

Hawai’i Bowl- Hawai’i (10-3) vs Tulsa (9-3)

Predicted Winner: Hawai’i

Why: The Golden Warriors have an extremely potent passing offense like they always seem to have, but this time around they have a quality running game to attempt to balance out their high-powered offensive attack. Tulsa has a potent offense as well, but I don’t think they can win in a shootout with Hawai’i, hence why I give them the advantage.

Key to the game: Defense. It might sound simple, but whichever defense plays better overall will give that team a substantial advantage. Both have pretty good defensive backfields, so if one of them steps up and potentially creates some turnovers that team would gain an advantage.

Score: Hawai’i: 45 – Tulsa: 31

Little Caesars Bowl- FIU (6-6) vs Toledo (8-4)

Predicted winner: Toledo

Why: Toledo’s QB’s are much more efficient than FIU’s, even their redshirt freshman Terrance Owens who stepped in after their original starter, Austin Dantin, went down to injury. Toledo also played better competition and I think they are more prepared for this bowl game than FIU.

Key to the game: Terrance Owens, QB, Toledo- If Owens continues to play efficiently like he has since stepping into the spotlight then Toledo stands a great chance to win. But if he plays like an inexperienced freshman then Toledo will be in trouble.

Score: Toledo: 31 – FIU: 20

Independence Bowl- Air Force (8-4) vs Georgia Tech (6-6)

Predicted winner: Georgia Tech

Why: Georgia Tech’s defense is fast enough to slow down Air Force’s ground attack, and I think they are disciplined enough to do so also. But I am not sure Air Force is up to stopping Georgia Tech’s offense. Both teams are great at running the football, but ironically it might come down to whoever hits on a deep ball or two who comes away with a victory. I think that Georgia Tech has that potential with Stephen Hill.

Key to the game: Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt is an interesting key to the game because he may or may not play as a result of his injury suffered in early November. He has not yet been cleared by doctors, but if he is healthy enough to go I would be shocked if he doesn’t play. He is the heart of Georgia Tech’s rushing attack and without him they just aren’t as effective. If he plays Air Force will have a lot to stop.

Score: Georgia Tech: 27 – Air Force: 21

Champs Sports Bowl- West Virginia (9-3) vs NC State (8-4)

Predicted Winner: West Virginia

Why: West Virginia’s offense is potent and it is led by sophomore Geno Smith who has had an extremely efficient season. Their offense is explosive and can score quickly or piece together a methodical drive with a dose of Noel Devine and Ryan Clark running the ball. NC State has a quality QB and a couple of nice receivers to throw to, but West Virginia’s defense is great at rushing the passer and I think they will force Russell Wilson into a couple potential mistakes.

Key to the game: West Virginia’s pass rush. If West Virginia can rattle Russell Wilson, force him into mistakes but also keep him inside the pocket so he can’t extend plays by scrambling or finding receivers on a broken play then they should have a pretty easy time beating the Wolfpack.

Score: West Virginia: 24 – NC State: 13

Insight Bowl- Missouri (10-2) vs Iowa (7-5)

Predicted Winner: Missouri

Why: Iowa won’t have Adam Robinson or Darrel Johnson-Koulianos against Missouri as a result of suspensions which will hurt their offense. I think Ricky Stanzi might have it in him to still pull off a win if he plays like he did late in games all last season, but I don’t know if he can do that this year. Not only that, but Iowa’s defense will be challenged by a potent Missouri defense and a quality QB of their own. Blaine Gabbert isn’t a great QB but he is a good one, and I don’t know if Iowa has the secondary to stop Missouri’s passing game. I also think that Missouri’s offensive line has a solid chance of slowing down Iowa’s very talented defensive line, which could make it a long day for Iowa’s defensive backs.

Key to the game: Iowa’s pass rush. If they get after Gabbert and can force him into mistakes then I think Iowa will in the game. But if Missouri slows down Iowa’s pass rush and gives Gabbert time to throw I think Missouri will ultimately win the game.

Score: Missouri: 24 – Iowa: 20

Let’s hope these predictions go alright! I for one am ready for one last round of college football! Enjoy! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here is my scouting report on Ryan Mallett. I still have one game left to watch of him plus the bowl game against Ohio State, but I have seen more than enough of him to get a feel for what he is capable of and what he needs to work on. Enjoy my scouting report!

Scouting Report:

Mallett has great size and arm strength, but those traits overshadow other flaws in his game.

Positives: He has a truly amazing combination of size and arm strength, he can make any throw he wants to with his rocket arm. He has the ability to put the ball where-ever he wants, and when he has time to throw he can really carve up a defense. He flashes the ability to go through progressions and seems comfortable checking down if he doesn’t see much developing downfield. He can also be patient when he has time in the pocket to wait for crossers and longer developing routes. He also flashes some nice anticipation on certain throws (almost always his first read though).

Negatives: Mallett more than anything is inconsistent in my opinion. He flashes elite ability but it comes and goes. He will make some fantastic throws and place the ball exactly where he needs to and then later he will throw a fastball two or three feet over his receivers’ head, throw to the wrong shoulder or throw off of his back foot and throw an inaccurate pass. He isn’t very mobile and he struggles to scramble to extend plays. He struggles with footwork a lot, and doesn’t look very comfortable doing three, five and seven step drops. He loves throwing off balance without setting his feet, and does not do a very good job of moving in the pocket and re-setting his feet to deliver an accurate throw. He also makes a lot more bad decisions than one might think considering his interception total. He could have easily had four interceptions against LSU (he had two), two against Georgia (he had none) and four against Alabama (he had three). He made a number of bad decisions in each of those games, a number of bad, off-balance throws and forced throws into coverage. He makes those poor decisions far too often, and he doesn’t make enough NFL progressions and throws in each game to make me comfortable with the risks he takes. The majority of his throws are easy throws underneath, screens or check-downs. There is also a serious concern that he could be a system QB, after all Brian Brohm was when he carved defenses up at Louisville when Petrino coached there. The best evidence for that idea is that Mallett’s back-up, Tyler Wilson, stepped in against Auburn this year when Mallett went down and threw for 332 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and completed 73.5% of his passes. That makes my “system QB” alarm go off.

Overall: Mallett has a boatload of potential. If he can clean up his footwork, improve his decision making, eliminate some of his erratic accuracy (which starts with footwork more than anything) and adjust to a pro-style offense then he could be a quality NFL QB. However, that is a laundry list of pretty difficult things for a QB prospect to do. I worry that he is a system QB, I don’t like his questionable decision making, his inconsistent accuracy and ball placement, and I don’t like how many easy throws he is asked to make all game versus NFL throws that require timing, zip and accuracy. I personally think Mallett is overrated as a NFL prospect.

Projection: I would be surprised if Mallett didn’t go in the first round because of his immense potential, but I don’t think he will ever live up to it. I think he is a top 20 pick and while he may seem like a top 10 lock right now he may slide as teams start to dissect his tape more intently. I personally wouldn’t draft him in round one, but I don’t think he is anything close to a franchise QB either.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

ARM STRENGTH: 5.0
ACCURACY: 3.0
MOBILITY: 1.5
DECISION MAKING: 2.5
MECHANICS: 3.0
POCKET AWARENESS: 3.5
INTANGIBLES: 3.0

Hopefully you enjoyed the scouting report, I took copious amounts of notes on Mallett when I was scouting him. I’ll havemore reports coming up soon!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Davis has 1st round pick potential in my opinion, but you never hear anyone talk about him!

Do you know who Knile Davis is? If not, you are missing out. He is the starting running back on Arkansas’ offense and after watching a number of Arkansas games this season I am totally convinced that he is the best NFL prospect on that offense and potentially on that team. The funny thing is not many people know who he is, and he isn’t even eligible for the draft yet! He is a true sophomore and is young having just turned 18 this year, but he does not run like a normal 18 year old running back. He has impressive size at 6’0″, 220 pounds and he has a listed 4.49 time. He has been incredibly productive since getting the starting nod after their original starter, Dennis Johnson, was injured in their second game of the season. He got the starting nod after week four and has absolutely taken off since then. He hasn’t had a game with less than 82 yards, he has five 100+ yard games since he has taken over including four 150+ yard performances. He has a total of 1,183 yards, 13 touchdowns and a 6.6 ypc average. He also has 16 receptions, 128 yards and a touchdown. In his last six games he has 12 touchdowns… that is absolutely insane production, and it has made life a lot easier for Mallett off of play action.

Now, some of you are probably pretty skeptical about Knile Davis, a guy who hasn’t even completed his first season as a starter (with only nine games under his belt after the bowl game), being a better NFL prospect than Ryan Mallett or anyone else on Arkansas. But I am convinced that he is. I think Mallett is overrated as a NFL prospect and even though he will probably get drafted in the 1st round when it is all said and done I think that his accuracy is too spotty, his footwork is too inconsistent, he makes too many bad decisions and forces too many throws into coverage to ever transition appropriately to the NFL. That, and Bobby Petrino’s offense doesn’t exactly prepare a QB for the NFL (see Brian Brohm).

Now that I have explained why I am not a fan of Mallett I should explain why I am a fan of Knile Davis. As I mentioned earlier, he has good size for a RB, quality speed and he has been really productive. The question is why he has been productive. I noticed in all three games that I watched that more than anything he runs hard and drives his legs after contact is made. He is definitely not afraid to lower his shoulder and hit someone if it means gaining more yards, and he runs through arm tackles with ease. You can’t arm tackle this guy, you need to form tackle him or gang tackle him. Not only that, he seems to have good vision and does a good job finding cutback lanes and seams that his offensive line create for him. In addition, he has shown me an impressive burst to hit the hole or bounce a run outside and he has good enough acceleration and speed to get the edge. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to prove himself as a receiver, but he has looked like a pretty solid pass catcher in the limited number of chances he has had. I don’t think he has a lot of experience pass blocking either, but that will come with time and can easily be coached up at the next level.

So, let’s recap: Size? Check. Speed? Check. Burst? Check. Vision? Check in my opinion. Power? Check! Production? CHECK! Potential? Definitely a check.

That’s not an overly in-depth scouting report, but then again he is only a sophomore and he has a lot of time to improve and show everyone his ability. But in my opinion he has 1st round draft pick written all over him. Maybe not a top 15 pick, but definitely a 1st round pick. I am excited to watch him in the bowl game and even more excited to see him take over as the feature back next year with a new QB in place to see how he does as the main focus of the defense. I think that with all of the returning talent that Tyler Wilson has he should have an easy enough time passing if the defense tries to take away Davis in the running game. For those of you who don’t know, Wilson is Mallett’s back-up who actually completed 73.5% of his passes agaianst Auburn after Mallett got hurt while throwing for 332 yards, 4 touchdowns and two interceptions. That really says a lot about the system that Arkansas has in place for QB’s to be successful in, but I will leave those thoughts for my Ryan Mallett scouting report.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Knile Davis’ performance in the bowl game against Ohio State!

–Tom