Tag Archive: Bryn Renner


Top Seniors:

1-      Tajh Boyd, Clemson- Boyd really impressed me with his growth as a junior and had one of his best games in the bowl game against LSU. DeAndre Hopkins helped take over that game, but Boyd’s progression makes me think he will continue to improve as a senior. I’ve made this mistake before on Jake Locker, but I have high hopes for Boyd.

2-      David Fales, San Jose State- Thanks to Ben Allbright, Fales became a very popular name amongst NFL Draft analysts, particularly on Twitter. The hashtag #EpicFales may be one of the greatest hashtags of all time. Regardless, Fales has a NFL arm and really impressed me in the limited time I was able to watch him. He is not without flaws, but he’s definitely one of my top 5 QB’s even considering juniors.

3-      Jeff Matthews, Cornell- My good friend Emory Hunt turned me on to Matthews months ago and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw. He’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate, and he’s definitely going to become more and more popular as the process goes on. Emory pointed out that he reminds him of Matt Ryan and I definitely see the similarities.

4-      Derek Carr, Fresno State- Carr has a very talented arm, not unlike his older brother David, but he worried me with how he handled pressure and he obviously struggled a lot while Margus Hunt terrorized him in Fresno State’s bowl game. He’s got another full year to show he can improve, and his natural talent means he’s in my top 5 QB’s, but I want to see him handle pressure better.

5-      Bryn Renner, North Carolina- This might be me showing my UNC fandom, but I really think Renner is a quality quarterback prospect. He certainly isn’t perfect, and he had a great season in a wide open offense last year, but he has experience in different styles of offense, a strong arm, and I think he’s an effective leader. I think he will open some eyes as a senior.

6-      Aaron Murray, Georgia- If I expect McCarron to be the most scrutinized quarterback in this class, I think Murray is going to be a close second. He has been deemed as a player who can’t win the big game, and he’s going to have a tough time changing everyone’s minds as a senior. I’m glad he came back because I still think he has room to improve, but there’s a stigma about him that is going to be hard to shake. I do think he is a NFL caliber starter though, but he’s definitely not a franchise caliber guy in my opinion.

7-      A.J. McCarron, Alabama- I can already tell McCarron is going to be a divisive prospect. Some are going to see a “winner” that has been a key cog to Alabama’s title runs and others are going to cite his terrific supporting cast (skill position players, offensive line, and defense) and claim he is not much more than a game manager. I certainly don’t think he’s an elite prospect and his arm strength leaves something to be desired, but I don’t think he’s been coasting on the talent of Alabama’s roster either. I think he has some starter upside, but I am excited to see how his 2013 tape looks. He will certainly be one of the most highly scrutinized quarterbacks in this class.

8-      Tyler Russell, Mississippi State- I thought Russell flashed upside when he was still splitting time as a sophomore and in his last full season as a starter he flashed a lot of upside but showed that he still had a lot of room left to grow. He had a pretty horrendous bowl game and clearly needs to work on some things, but he has all the size and arm strength you could want in a quarterback. He may never live up to the expectations I have for him, but I’m willing to be patient and see if he can progress like I believe he is capable of.

9-      Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech- Thomas is another guy I really thought would progress last year but unfortunately he regressed and was essentially a massive disappointment considering some of the hype he was getting in the pre-season. He has all the size and arm strength you could ever dream of, but he was maddeningly inconsistent with his accuracy and decision making and clearly has a ton of growing left to do. I continue to hear great things about his work ethic so I believe he can still improve, I just don’t know if he will ever put it all together.

10-   Zach Mettenberger, LSU- Mettenberger was getting a lot of hype coming into the season but he was underwhelming during his first season as a starter. He’s got an intriguing combination of size and arm strength but he has to put it all together this year. He has starter upside, but he isn’t there yet.

11-   Drew Allen, Syracuse- I might be one of the few people that prefers Drew Allen to the Belldozer, but I do. I think Allen is going to win the Syracuse starting job and show that he has NFL talent at the quarterback position. This is probably higher than anyone else will have him ranked, but I am convinced Allen has starter upside at the next level.

12-   Stephen Morris, Miami- I was one of the people advocating for Morris to start over Jacory Harris during Harris’ senior year and I still think he’s the better quarterback. He’s a quality athlete with a strong arm, but his accuracy wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked to see as a junior. Miami has been through a lot the last couple of years, so I’m excited to see if Morris can end his career on a high note this season.

13-   James Franklin, Missouri- Franklin is an intriguing guy thanks to his size, arm strength and athleticism, but like many of these quarterbacks he has to put it all together and show a mastery of the position as a senior. I personally don’t foresee him being a NFL starter, but he definitely has that upside if he can show more progression as a senior.

14-   Keith Price, Washington- At this time last year Price was coming off of a masterful performance in Washington’s bowl game against Baylor’s hapless defense. This year? He is coming off of a disappointing junior year that left a lot of people underwhelmed. He doesn’t have the arm strength I thought he had, his decision making was inconsistent, and he left a lot to be desired as a junior. I’m hoping he can reverse field as a senior, but I’m not holding my breath.

15-   Corey Robinson, Troy- I don’t think Robinson is going to be in very many top 15 quarterback rankings coming into the season, but I saw a talented quarterback when I watched him as a freshman and I still believe he can play at the next level. He may be undersized, but he has a NFL arm and I am excited to see if he can prove that as a senior.

Top Juniors:

1-      Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville- Bridgewater put on a show as a sophomore last year and made a believer out of me. I think he has all the arm talent, athleticism, toughness and intangibles to be a stud quarterback in the NFL. It remains to be seen how he will do this upcoming season, but I definitely have high expectations for him.

2-      Brett Smith, Wyoming- Smith is another player Allbright pointed out to me last year. I haven’t seen as much of him as I’d like, but what I have seen was very intriguing.

3-      Blake Bortles, Central Florida- I haven’t watched much of Bortles, but what I have seen was intriguing. It was his first full season as a starter so I look forward to reviewing some of those games but also to seeing how he does as a junior and as a starter with more experience.

4-      Braxton Miller, Ohio State- I am not sold on Miller as a NFL QB yet, but he made some strides as a sophomore and he’s too intriguing of a playmaker to leave him off this list entirely. He’s got a lot of upside, it’s just a question of whether he can ever become as good of a pure passer as he is as a runner.

5-      Garrett Grayson, Colorado State- Grayson is a player I think has a lot of upside. He’s definitely flying under the radar, but I expect that he will be the starter for Colorado State and prior to his collarbone injury last year he really showed me something. He looks like he has a NFL arm, it’s just a question of whether he can keep the starting job, stay healthy, and put together some good film.

Top Sophomores:

1-      Kevin Hogan, Stanford- Hogan has future 1st round pick written all over him. He’s got the size, the arm strength (though his deep ball could use some work), athleticism and high football IQ I look for in a QB. He really impressed me when he took over for Josh Nunes, and he is embracing his role as a leader on Stanford and from what I’ve read seems to have a strong hold on Stanford’s complex offense. I think he’s going to be great this year and while he is eligible I expect him to come out after his junior season, not after his redshirt sophomore year.

2-      Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M- I know a lot of people will be surprised that I have anyone ranked over Manziel, but as far as the NFL is concerned I think Hogan is the superior prospect at this point. There’s no denying Manziel’s uncanny feel for the game, shocking athleticism and knack for game-changing plays, but he still has a long way to go before he is a “surgeon” rather than a butcher as a quarterback as Trent Dilfer would say. The upside is there, but he’s still learning.

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From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!

Today I am previewing the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels program has been under fire for what feels like an eternity to me (but I am a Tar Heels fan) and rumors continue to swirl around the program. Hopefully there aren’t extremely severe sanctions levied against the program, but that is all up in the air. All we can do is focus on football, and that’s what Larry Fedora and his team plan to do. I’ve been impressed with how Fedora has been handling this team, because Butch Davis was labeled a “player’s coach” but really was letting the inmates run the asylum, and while there were plenty of talented inmates he never coached them up or got the most out of them. He simply got what they were willing to give at any given time, but that was usually enough to win 8 games and be competitive. Fedora doesn’t share that same view, and in his first meetings even with returning starters and seniors he told them he expects them to drop weight, come back in better shape and improve before the season starts. Fedora seems to command respect, and Sylvester Williams noted that even though his Southern Miss team knew he was leaving after the bowl game they still played hard for him and won that game. Williams even said that played a role in him coming back for his second season with the team after transferring in from junior college. Fedora’s attitude appears to be contagious, as multiple players, most notably Williams and offensive guard Travis Bond, are supposedly in much better shape this summer and I am excited to see how that manifests itself on the field. The offense should be good even if it takes a bit to adjust to the new scheme, but Bryn Renner, Giovani Bernard, Erik Highsmith, Jheranie Boyd and Eric Ebron are ready to make plays and the offensive line returns three seniors and a junior, and is one of the most experienced offensive lines in the conference if not the entire country. And with Fedora pushing them to get in better shape and work hard to improve, I have no doubt the offense is going to be good for some big plays.

The defense has always been filled to the brim with talent, but for reasons I mentioned previously this unit never seemed to live up to it’s billing on paper. The Tar Heels defense has been churning out defensive prospects since Davis stepped on campus, and this year will be no different even with a new coaching staff in place. Kareem Martin, Sylvester Williams and Kevin Reddick continue the time-honored UNC tradition of generating quality defensive prospects, but there is more young talent there obviously. They are running a 4-2-5 this season, and while I prefer a 4-3 or a 3-4 I am willing to wait and see how this defense works. The Tar Heels have the talent to run it, so I’ll trust the coaching staff for now until I have reason to do otherwise. This team isn’t eligible to win the conference or play in the postseason this year, but that shouldn’t stop them from getting 8-10 wins this season. They have a very favorable schedule, with Louisville, Virginia Tech, Miami, NC State and Georgia Tech as their toughest tests in my opinion. With that, we move on to the prospects to keep an eye on:

Renner has enough tools to be considered a NFL prospect, but I want to see improved decision making and efficiency from him in his second season as a starter. With the great OL and bountiful weapons around him, he’s in line for a big season.

Bryn Renner, QB*- Renner has been competing for the starting job since he was a freshman when he was TJ Yates’ primary back-up, and I was actually hoping he would start that season because I was not a big Yates fan. Regardless, he got his shot last season as a sophomore and had a very good first season. He passed for 3,086 yards, completed 68.3% of his passes and passed for 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He’s got solid size for a quarterback at 6’3”, 215 pounds and has some athleticism to extend the play, but he is a pocket passer first and foremost. He has some arm strength, and he flashes accuracy, but I was a little concerned with some of his decision making last season. I am hoping to see him improve in that department as well as the rest of his game, but he could cut down on his interception total pretty easily by throwing the ball away and not forcing passes into coverage. I think that’s a step he’s capable of taking this year, and with plenty of weapons at disposal and an offensive line that returns three seniors and a junior left tackle in James Hurst I think he has a chance at 3,500+ yards and 30+ touchdowns this season. I’m still not sure he’s more than a mid-round guy as a NFL prospect at this point, but I look forward to seeing him grow over the next two seasons because he definitely has a lot of potential. He’s still pretty new to the position having only played two years of quarterback in high school, so he should improve considerably over the next two seasons at UNC.

Giovani Bernard, RB**- Bernard emerged as the top back the Tar Heels had last season, playing in 13 games and starting 11 of them and earning the ACC Rookie Player of the Year award as he rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns (5.2 ypc) as well as catching 45 passes for 362 more yards and a touchdown. He has been through a lot in his life whether it was losing his mother at 10 years old, having to watch much of his family attempt to survive the disaster in Haiti, or sustaining season ending injuries as a senior in high school and as a true freshman at North Carolina, Bernard has been through plenty. He finally got on the field last season as a redshirt freshman and he obviously didn’t disappoint, becoming just the 14th UNC running back to rush for over 1,000 yards in the program’s history and the first since 1997. He provided a running game that the Tar Heels haven’t had since I started watching football attentively, and my god was that fun to see. He dealt with a hip injury in the middle of the season, but still managed to be productive and help carry the offense. Bernard is coming off of his worst performance of the season against Missouri in UNC’s bowl game, rushing 13 times for 31 yards and no touchdowns against the Tigers. I’m sure he will be focusing on never letting that happen again, and I feel bad for Elon’s team because he is going to take that pent up frustration out on them in week 1. Bernard has NFL back written all over him thanks to his compact frame (5’10”, 210 pounds), impressive speed, burst, vision and hands out of the backfield. He’s very close to becoming a complete back despite only being a sophomore, and that should really excite Tar Heels fans. Hopefully Rynner and Bernard will both be back for 2013, because they could be an even more special combo than they will be this season. Rumor has it Bernard will even be the team’s punt returner this year thanks to injuries at that spot, so keep an eye on him on offense and special teams.

I’ve had my eye on Highsmith for a long time, and it’s been a pleasure to watch him as a Tar Heel over the last four years. Hopefully his senior season is the best of them all.

Erik Highsmith, WR- Highsmith is a kid I have been keeping an eye on since he was a freshman, because it was then that he first flashed upside, catching 37 passes for 425 yards and 2 touchdowns that year despite being rated as a three star wide receiver prospect if I remember correctly. The 6’3”, 190 pound receiver has never slowed down, catching 25 balls for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns as a sophomore and grabbing 51 receptions for 726 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior. Dwight Jones has moved on (though to what, we’re not really sure) and Highsmith should be a breath of fresh air for NFL talent evaluators who saw Jones’ skill set but clearly questioned his dedication and determination which led to him being undrafted. It seems they were right to doubt him, as he quit shortly after signing with the Texans. Still, Highsmith has always been the overachieving type of player and truthfully I never expected to be writing about him as a legitimate NFL prospect when I watched him as a freshman. He’s got the size, long arms and soft hands that NFL teams will love in a receiver, and his work ethic and determination to improve is obvious because of his vast starting experience dating back to his freshman year, as he returns for his senior season with 30 career starts. He projects as more of a possession receiver at the next level, and I’d like to see him continue to improve his route running, but he’s better after the catch than you might expect and should prove to be the superior prospect to his teammate Jones who always got all the attention while at Chapel Hill. Highsmith is an easy kid to root for and I’m excited to see him this season.

Jheranie Boyd, WR- Boyd is another senior receiver but he is not nearly as polished or consistent as Highsmith. Boyd is a 6’2”, 190 pound speedster with an estimated 40 time in the 4.4’s who has been primarily a vertical threat for UNC for the past couple of years. Last season he led the team with a 20.9 average yards per catch despite only catching 14 balls for 292 yards and 5 touchdowns. He gives the Tar Heels a quick strike element to the team, slightly reminiscent of what Brandon Tate did for them a few years ago before his devastating injury. Boyd doesn’t have great hands at this point, and he could be a lot better than he currently is, but I’m hoping he can put it all together as a senior and really show what he can do. Teams will love his combination of size, speed and potential, but his inconsistency and lack of production will keep him as a mid-late round prospect until he really steps up his game. Hopefully that happens as a senior, because he has a lot of untapped upside.

TJ Thorpe, WR**- TJ Thorpe is another speedster that should provide the Tar Heels with a vertical threat, and despite only being a true sophomore with 2 receptions and 70 yards to his name I had to mention him because of his upside as a receiver as well as his already impressive production as a kick returner. As a true freshman Thorpe returned 36 kick-offs for 960 yards (26.7 avg) and 1 touchdown, and figures to continue to return kicks and hopefully punts as a true sophomore. He’s listed at 6’0”, 190 pounds but also has 4.4 speed and if his 35 yard average per reception last season is any indication he is going to threaten defenses vertically for the Tar Heels if he can stay healthy. Right now, unfortunately, that health is in question as he suffered a “serious” foot injury in early August and it is not known how much time he will miss. Hopefully it’s not much, because he has a lot of upside as a playmaker for the Tar Heels on offense and on special teams.

Eric Ebron, TE**- Ebron is another true sophomore that I had to include because he is penciled in as the starting tight end and he could be in for a big season. Ebron is listed at 6’4”, 230 pounds and while he only had 10 receptions last year he made the most of them, totaling 207 yards (20.7 ypc average, 2nd on the team only to Boyd) and 1 touchdown. A reliable tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, and if Ebron is ready to step up (which I really think he is) then he could have a huge season this year. He is said to have 4.5 speed, plenty of strength and that makes me think he’s ready to surpass his freshman totals easily. He should be played in-line and also split out in the slot which will cause a lot of match-up problems for opposing defenses. He’s got all the ability, but as long as he keeps himself on the right path off the field (he missed the Missouri bowl game because his grades weren’t up to par) he should catch a lot of eyes this season for the Tar Heels. Fedora’s offense and staff has a history of sending quality tight end prospects to the NFL, and Ebron is going to be the next in line in my opinion.

James Hurst, OT*- Hurst was a top recruit out of high school and chose to come to North Carolina where he made an immediate impact. He started 12 games at left tackle as a true freshman and started 13 more at left tackle as a sophomore. He should have 12 more starts at left tackle by the end of his junior year, and he will have a tough decision about whether or not he should come back for his senior season or enter the draft. At 6’7”, 310 pounds he has ideal left tackle size, arm length and still has the frame to add strength. He’s athletic for his size and while he isn’t a top 5 pick right now, he has that kind of upside. It will be interesting to see how much he has progressed over the summer, because if he starts matching up with some of the pass rush talent in the ACC (most notably that of Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech) he could vault himself into 1st round consideration easily. His match-up on October 6th against James Gayle and J.R. Collins of Virginia Tech is one everyone needs to watch.

Brennan Williams, OT- Williams plays on the right side and is obviously not the same prospect that Hurst is. He has similar size, being listed at 6’7”, 315 pounds, but isn’t the same athlete. He returns for his senior season with 14 career starts, and figures to continue to make his mark in the run game, as he totaled 30 knock downs last season. The true test for Williams will be how well he can show up in pass protection. Last year was his first full season as a starter, so it’s tough to project him right now. He’s probably in the mid-late round range right now, but could improve that easily with a good season.

Jonathan Cooper, OG- Right now Cooper is the best NFL Draft prospect on the team, though Hurst could pass him with a good or great season this year. Cooper has a whopping 35 career starts entering his senior season and all but one of them has been at left guard (one was at Center as a sophomore). The 6’3”, 305 pound guard isn’t the definition of a road grader, but he moves extremely well for an offensive lineman and should be an ideal pulling guard at the next level. I think he might be a great fit for a zone blocking scheme because of his quickness, change of direction speed and ability to get to the second level pretty much effortlessly. I’m not sure what I think of him in a power scheme, and he could stand to get stronger, but he still has a great shot at being a top 40 pick without much improvement as a senior.

Travis Bond, OG- Bond is the “other” guard on the Tar Heels who is very much overshadowed by Cooper. Bond is a massive player as he is listed at 6’7”, 345 pounds and was always the antithesis of Cooper and not moving very well. He supposedly ballooned up to 372 pounds after the bowl game against Missouri and Larry Fedora and his new coaching staff simply told him he couldn’t play in this offense at that weight. Bond heard the message loud and clear and through a lot of careful eating, cardio and even some sand pit work with defensive backs Bond dropped about 45 pounds and now weighs under 330, the lowest I’ve seen him listed at since he has been a Tar Heel. He claims he is moving much better and feels lighter on his feet, and has even been running with the second team at right tackle in practice. Bond may be completely under the radar right now, but look out for him at right guard this year now that he is in much better shape and if Williams goes down at right tackle it sounds like Bond would be the player the coaching staff would slide outside.

Kareem Martin, DE*- Martin has NFL size at 6’6”, 260 pounds and despite entering his sophomore season with only 3 career starts he outworked Donte Paige-Moss and took his starting job at defensive end, leading to an incredibly disappointing season for Paige-Moss that ended with a poorly thought out criticism of his coaches via Twitter as well as a serious knee injury. Martin enters his junior season with 16 career starts and had 40 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 sacks and 6 pass deflections last season. He has a large frame, long arms and plenty of athleticism. He is still developing as a prospect, but as he improves his technique and hand usage Martin will be getting a LOT of attention from NFL scouts. 6’6”, 260 pound defensive ends don’t grow on trees, and Martin has top 50 pick upside.

Williams had an instant impact after transferring from JUCO last year despite his lack of football experience, but now that he has slimmed down and improved his conditioning he’s ready to live up to his 1st round upside.

Sylvester Williams, DT- I’m a big fan of Williams and while he will be playing the 3 technique tackle position again in UNC’s new 4-2-5 defense. That is going to put new pressure on the front four to stop the run, because the 5th defensive back is likely going to be Gene Robinson, a 5’11”, 190 pound in the box type safety. That means Williams is going to have to step up and defend the run better, as he had a problem with this at times last season, particularly against Missouri. He was driven off the ball by double teams in that game and thanks to Tydreke Powell’s problems in that game as well it led to huge running lanes for the Tigers. Williams has all the size, athleticism and potential you could want at 6’3”, 315 pounds and he has the burst and speed to penetrate and make plays in the backfield as evidenced by his 54 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception in his first season with the Tar Heels. He is still learning the position and barely played football in high school and transferred from Junior College to the Tar Heels last year and made an immediate impact. He may not be polished and refined even after this season, but his upside is undeniable. He is supposedly down to about 300 pounds this season after Larry Fedora motivated him to lose weight and come into camp in better shape, much like he did with Travis Bond and other Tar Heels. He has said that he feels much lighter, quicker but just as strong. Hopefully that helps him defend the run better, and I think it will help him boost the Tar Heels’ pass rush. He has plenty of strength, has flashed violent hands and with this added burst he could shock people with his season this year. I’m excited to see Williams as a senior because I think he has 1st round upside, and with Fedora and his quality coaching staff pushing him I think he can reach it.

Kevin Reddick, MLB- Reddick feels like he has been on the Tar Heels for an eternity to me, and he has 31 career starts entering his senior season with the team. Reddick is going to be one of the key cogs in the new 4-2-5 defense and I am hoping that the 6’3”, 240 pound linebacker won’t play as soft as past senior defensive prospects have on the Tar Heels, most notably Zach Brown who many nicknamed “Pillow Hands” because of how much he seemed to despise contact. Reddick is the leading returning tackler for the Tar Heels, and he had 71 last year as well as 5 TFL, 1 sack and 4 pass break-ups as a junior. He is a good tackler though he attempts more arm tackles and tackles high more than I would like, but hopefully he can improve his tackling technique a bit as a senior. He is expected to be one of the leaders of the defense and I can’t wait to see how he does in this new scheme.

Tim Scott, CB**- Scott started 8 games last season as a true freshman corner and certainly did not disappoint. The 5’11”, 180 pound corner with plenty of speed had 43 tackles, 2 TFL, 6 pass break-ups and 1 interception in his first season with the Tar Heels. He may only be a true sophomore, but he has a lot of potential and if the Tar Heels defensive line can apply consistent pressure I think you will see Scott break out this season. Keep an eye on him.

Tre Boston, S*- Boston returns for his junior season with 14 career starts and is coming off of a season where he totaled 70 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 pass break-ups and 3 interceptions as a sophomore. He’s listed at 6’1”, 190 pounds and while I’m not that familiar with his game I am excited to see how he plays this year. He’s the most experienced starter in the Tar Heel secondary and will be relied upon while the rest of the defense adjusts to the new defense.

Casey Barth, K- Barth is a very experienced kicker and is the next in line of talented Barth kickers who have played at North Carolina. His older brother, Connor, is a talented kicker who went undrafted but is now a very reliable kicker on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Casey is just as talented in my opinion, and has 63 career field goal attempts. He was 10/15 with a long of 42 as a true freshman, 21/25 with a long of 42 as a sophomore, 19/22 with a long of 49 as a junior, and then missed last season after making 11 extra points and 1 46 yard field goal last season before a groin injury sidelined him for all but 3 games. He’s back for his 5th year with the Tar Heels now, and should provide a very reliable kicking leg for the new coaching staff if he can stay healthy. I’m not sure he will be drafted, but I think he will be one of the better kickers in the conference.

Renner has plenty of potential and I'm excited to see what the future holds for him and North Carolina's offense now that Larry Fedora is running things.

Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina: Renner is a quality QB but in his first year as a starter he wasn’t able to win the bowl game this year. However, he returns a lot of talent next year as a junior in Giovanni Bernard, Erik Highsmith (who was his real go-to guy today) and Jheranie Boyd. Additionally he will have an experienced offensive line blocking for him. He made some significant strides this year and finished with the 2nd most passing yards in North Carolina history thanks in part to the weapons he had at his disposal on offense (Dwight Jones most notably) and to Bernard establishing a running game. There’s plenty of upside there and you have to be excited by the hire of Larry Fedora who will hopefully aid Renner’s development like he did with Austin Davis. Renner has above average arm strength, solid accuracy and he’s more athletic than most realize. However, he spent too much time dropping his eyes to look at the rush and was left scrambling on 3rd and long situations too much that led to punts. That’s not all on him since he didn’t always have much to do with the negative plays that led to the 3rd and long situations, but it does provide evidence that he needs to develop as a quarterback. Not sure he will ever be a great NFL prospect, but he’s got the ability to be a quality college and NFL quarterback if he is developed correctly.

Giovanni Bernard, RB, North Carolina: Bernard is a special running back and I think he is going to end up going in the first round eventually. He started slow in this game but he showed his potential when he was had some room to run. He’s surprisingly patient for a freshman running back, he has impressive burst, good speed, catches the ball well out of the backfield, has impressive shiftiness as a runner and can run through arm tackles effectively. He’s got a boatload of upside and if Renner stays through his senior season then he could help fuel a very intriguing offensive unit for the Tar Heels.

Ryan Houston, RB, North Carolina: I didn’t see him get a single carry in this game which really is a shame. He was a senior in his final game, and makes me wonder if he was becoming a problem child in the locker room or if he wasn’t keeping his weight in check. Earlier in the year he looked much lighter and effective but didn’t warrant much if any work in this game. I’m hoping he gets an invite to some kind of All-Star Game so he can show what he can do because I think he warrants at least UDFA consideration. Will he be drafted? Honestly, probably not. But I still think he can contribute. Here’s hoping he gets his shot to do just that.

Dwight Jones has plenty of upside thanks to his size and athleticism but his hands are inconsistent and I don't think he has the potential to be a #1 target in the NFL.

Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina: Dwight Jones started out with an impressive touchdown catch as well as a couple other receptions but he really struggled to catch the ball after that as he had at least three drops that I counted. When it comes down to it his hands just aren’t that good. He body catches regularly and doesn’t make very many tough catches away from his body which limits his range as a receiver and means whoever is throwing him the ball has to make a stick throw right on his body or he isn’t as likely to catch it. He can threaten teams deep and has an impressive combination of size and speed but his hands just aren’t what you would expect them to be. He has upside without a doubt but I don’t think he has the makings of a #1 receiver in the NFL at all. I don’t think he is a leader that can be counted upon for a big catch when you need a 3rd down conversion or a critical touchdown, nor do I think he had the right attitude when the Tar Heels were losing this game in the 1st half and again in the 2nd half. I don’t really think it’s a coincidence that he was not targeted after dropping a number of passes and had nothing to do with their most successful scoring drives after his initial touchdown reception. Jones is a quality NFL prospect with upside but there is no way I would put a first round grade on him. Like I thought earlier in the year I still have a 2nd-3rd round grade on him and I don’t think he will be a #1 receiver in the NFL, though I do think if he landed in the right situation he could be a quality #2.

Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina: I am convinced that Highsmith has the best hands of any receiver on the Tar Heels this year. He made a number of catches in traffic and made catches to convert 3rd downs when the team needed it the most. He did a good job catching passes away from his body, making catches despite contact and moving the chains for the Heels. He even got vertical once or twice but the passes were underthrown from Renner (evidence of less than ideal arm strength) and he couldn’t come down with them. Highsmith will be back for his senior season and with quality size at 6’3” (he only weighs 190 pounds according to the listing I found, but he’s been adding weight every year) as well as 49 receptions, 726 yards and 5 TD’s after the bowl game today. He should be Renner’s go-to receiver next year when he needs to move the chains and in the red zone especially.

Jheranie Boyd, WR, North Carolina: Boyd may not have great hands, much like Jones, as he body catches frequently and I’m not convinced he has the range to make catches outside of his body like Highsmith does but boy can he stretch a defense vertically. He has impressive speed to get downfield despite a surprising listed 40 yard dash time of 4.52. He looks a LOT faster than that on the field, and I have a feeling that that time is not accurate. Regardless, he stretched the defense vertically very effectively today and finished with three receptions for 95 yards and a 44 yard touchdown. That gives him 14 receptions, 292 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. That may not be an impressive stat line, but keep in mind that the Tar Heels offense was pretty balanced this year with its first 1,000 yard rusher in over a decade in Bernard and well over half of Renner’s passing yards were accounted for by Jones and Highsmith. Boyd’s role should increase next year as long as he can continue to haul passes in, avoid drops, and stretch defenses vertically.

Jon Cooper will be one of the top three senior offensive guards in the country next year so keep an eye on him.

Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: Cooper is a quality guard prospect and should be one of the top three senior offensive guards in the nation next year especially if David DeCastro of Stanford elects to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft. Cooper has quality size at 6’3”, 310 pounds but moves very well for his size as evidenced by how well he gets to the second level and by how well he pulls. I haven’t been able to evaluate him as much in one on one situations when trying to drive block, but he is definitely the Heels’ best offensive lineman. Look out for him next year!

Travis Bond, OG, North Carolina: I wasn’t able to see much of Bond today but he is the “other” offensive guard prospect on the Tar Heels. He’s much larger than Cooper as he stands at 6’6”, 340 pounds and is less mobile than the nimble Cooper. His size helps and hurts because he is the size of an offensive tackle but is inside at guard which can create issues against smaller defensive tackles that can gain automatic leverage because of his height. I’ll make sure to watch him more next year since it wasn’t much of a priority since I was confident that he wasn’t going to declare, but keep an eye on him since he will be in the 3rd-4th round mix next year.

Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples may be the most well-known prospect on the Tar Heels and for good reason. He’s a talented player with a great combination of size, athleticism and strength. He has very strong hands which he uses to help him shed blocks and keep blockers off of him. He is listed at 6’6”, 285 pounds with a 4.76 40 yard dash time. His edge speed isn’t great and I think that is going to prevent him from being an impact 10+ sack player in the NFL, but I do think he will be a quality 4-3 LE if he is drafted. That makes me think he won’t be a top 10 pick like a lot of people thought he would be coming into the season, but I could see him as a top 20 overall selection because a 4-3 that can stop the run and rush the passer is a pretty rare find. Coples has shown he can do that and that he has a quality motor, though I don’t think his football IQ and recognition skills are very impressive. The Heels gave up a staggering number of rushing yards today, but the defensive tackles were more to blame for that than Coples was in my opinion. Coples played a role in it, but I don’t think that it was necessarily indicative of his run defense as an individual. I would be very surprised if he dropped out of the 1st round after a less than stellar senior season but I don’t think he should go in the top 10 at this point.

Donte Paige-Moss underwhelmed just about everyone this year as many expected him to declare after this season and go in the 1st or 2nd round.

Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina: Paige-Moss was widely considered a possible early declaration and a potential 1st round draft pick before the season began (despite some claims that he was overrated from a select few, you know who you are) but he had a minimal impact all season and was replaced by Kareem Martin opposite Coples for the entire season. Paige-Moss is a freak athlete but his technique is almost non-existent and his only success occurs when he can beat the offensive tackle off the edge using his impressive athleticism to run around the edge for the sack. He’s got a lot of upside still, but without getting stronger and learning some semblance of hand usage he won’t ever live up to his potential. One slight sign of hope is that Paige-Moss made a great effort pursuing downfield and from the backside today which was encouraging to see when many Tar Heel defenders seemed to be going through the motions. This offseason will be crucial for him because if he hits the weight room and works on his hand usage then he might be able to redeem himself. It’s all up to him and what level of work he is willing to put in. I’m not saying he is going to prove his doubters wrong, of which I am one of them based on his performance this year, but I can’t rule it out.

Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina: Tydreke Powell is a solid NFL Draft prospect and he will likely be at the Senior Bowl in Alabama (hopefully I will be as well) but he played poorly today. His upside as a pass rusher is limited and I don’t think he will be a significant pass rusher in the NFL by any means, but if he is going to be able to be a 2-down nose tackle in a 4-3 or a 3-4 he is going to have to hold up against the run well and he was struggling in that aspect today. He was able to penetrate on occasion, but he was not maintaining his gap responsibility at all and that led to gaping holes for Missouri up the middle for Franklin, Lawrence and Moore to run through. It was pathetic to be honest, and Powell is the nose tackle that is usually double teamed and frankly he wasn’t doing his job. This game isn’t a 100% accurate reflection of his ability but it definitely hurts his stock in my eyes. His value is going to be as an occasional penetrator but primarily being able to stand up effectively versus double teams and not get washed out. He didn’t do a good job of that today and that hurts his stock going into the All-Star game portion of the year.

Sylvester Williams has a ton of potential and should be back for his senior season. He's very raw and is still early on in his development as a defensive tackle, but with quality coaching he could be a stud.

Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina: Williams was the other starting defensive tackle for the Heels today and while I love his upside as a prospect he also struggled to stop the run today against Missouri. He was mostly facing double teams but he was pushed off the ball more than I would like and struggled to get off blocks at times. He’s a very raw player as he barely played football in high school and played at a junior college before transferring to the Tar Heels. He’s got a ton of upside but he is still developing, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he hasn’t developed the technique necessary to be a dominant defensive tackle. He definitely has that upside and has definitely flashed his upside by penetrating and disrupting plays in the backfield. The next step is to get stronger, develop his hand usage and learn to stand up better versus one on one blocks to avoid getting washed out. He definitely contributed to the problems today but because he isn’t often lined up at nose tackle he isn’t always the key cog to holding up the offensive linemen at the point of attack. He is asked to win one on one match-ups more often than not, Powell is usually the guy that is expected to occupy the double team and keep the linebackers clean. Neither happened today and that was what led to a lot of running lanes up the middle for Missouri.

Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: Zach Brown has a lot of upside due to his athletic ability but he struggles against the run at times and that is very concerning to me. He’s pretty good in coverage and he made a great catch on an interception today but he very rarely made plays versus the run and on the seemingly infrequent occasion that he was in position to make a play he missed at least four or five tackles and I only saw him wrap up for a tackle one time the entire game on a tackle he made late in the 2nd half at the line of scrimmage. His tackling and run defense is a serious concern, but his ability to blitz allows him to make plays in the backfield due to his athleticism and he is so athletic that he makes plays in coverage. I just don’t think he’s a very sound football player and that’s why I don’t have a 1st round grade on him and personally think he is quite overrated. He’s got a lot of potential but he doesn’t fight off blocks well, he isn’t a good tackler and he will be a liability versus the run unless he gets stronger. I have a 3rd round grade on him currently because he has

Reddick is a quality middle linebacker and while he is a better tackler than Zach Brown he still tackles too high at times.

Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina: Reddick is a quality linebacker that should come back for his senior season. He’s a junior so he is draft eligible but I think that even though there may be sanctions and a transition from Butch Davis’ regime to Larry Fedora’s it would be good for him as a prospect if he returned. Hopefully Fedora finds a defensive coordinator that likes to attack because the Heels defense is ferocious when it can dictate games with its athleticism and pass rush. That said, Reddick is a solid NFL Draft prospect himself and I think he is a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate Zach Brown. He’s a better tackler than Brown (even though he attempts more arm tackles and tackles high more than I would like) and at 6’3”, 240 with a listed 40 time of 4.67 he isn’t a slouch when it comes to combinations of size and athletic ability. He missed a tackle or two today as well and isn’t necessarily the impact player that Brown is at times, but he is more reliable in my opinion. It will be interesting to see if he comes back or not but I think it makes sense for him to return. He isn’t an elite prospect and even if he comes back next year I wouldn’t expect him to go much higher than the 3rd round.

Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: Brown is another undersized, primarily zone corner that the Tar Heels have produced but I don’t think he is as good as Burney was at the position. Brown is a solid tackler and is decent against the run but his only value is in zone coverage and even in that aspect he is not much more than above average. He can close on plays in front of him but his ball skills are less than stellar and his ability in man coverage is limited by his lack of size, speed and ball skills. He will be a late round pick if he is drafted at all, and if he is drafted when Burney went undrafted it would be a pity. Burney was always the better corner in my mind.

James Franklin has definitely progressed since the beginning of the season and that is encouraging. He threw 8 of his 11 total interceptions in three games, so it will be interesting to see how he does in the SEC.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Franklin had a terrific first half but demonstrated some of his inconsistencies by struggling at times in the second half. Some of that was the playcalling taking the foot off the gas to some extent, but he was not making the same impressive stick throws he was in the first half. He was very productive thanks to his rushing total but his passing wasn’t as impressive nor was his decision making. He’s got upside due to his size, arm strength and developing accuracy as well as his athleticism to pick up yardage with his legs. He’s improved since the beginning of the season in my opinion, and that’s all you can ask for from a young quarterback. It will be interesting to see what strides he can take next season as a junior against tougher defenses in the SEC.

L’Damian Washington, WR, Missouri: L’Damian Washington is definitely a WR to keep an eye on. For one he is a great story even beyond football thanks to all he and his family have been through which makes it even more fun to see him having success on the football field. On top of that, he’s a 6’4″, 185 pound receiver that increased his production from 5 receptions for 35 yards and 0 TD’s as a freshman to 20 receptions, 364 yards (leading to a team-leading 18.20 yards per reception average) and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers are sure to increase over the next two years as he and James Franklin continue to develop together. He demonstrated reliable hands against North Carolina and has intriguing upside because of his size, athleticism, body control and hands. Keep an eye on this kid, I know I’m rooting for him.

Wes Kemp, WR, Missouri: Kemp is a senior wide receiver on Missouri that will probably not end up getting drafted however he has a pretty impressive combination of size and athleticism as he stands at 6’4″, 220 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.47. I don’t think he’s much of a sleeper and at best will be a 7th round pick barring a significant stock jump thanks to an All-Star game or an impressive performance at the combine. This is largely due to his inconsistent hands that led to some drops when I watched him last year against Blaine Gabbert and his production did not elevate as a senior. He will intrigue some teams because of his physical attributes, but at best I see him improving his hands and developing into a solid #4 or #5 receiver in the NFL, and that is assuming he makes a roster. But don’t be surprised if teams give him a shot because you can’t find 6’4″, 220 pound receivers that run a 4.5 or faster everywhere.

Moe isn't the biggest or the fastest player in Missouri, but he may be the most reliable and while it isn't flashy it certainly counts for something.

T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri: Moe is a pretty underrated receiver that has solid NFL upside. He’s not the biggest, the fastest or the most explosive but he was Gabbert’s most reliable target last year and I don’t think that has changed with Franklin throwing him the ball. Moe had 54 receptions, 649 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving this year and also contributed 61 yards rushing, 47 yards on punt returns and a solid 607 yards with a 23.35 yards per return on kick-offs. He is listed at 5’11”, 195 pounds with a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.49 and none of that blows you away, but he is as reliable as they come and should have a good senior season next year. I’m not sure he will be more than a 4th round pick because I’m not sure he has a lot of upside since what you see is what you get with him: a receiver that doesn’t have great size or great speed but has very reliable hands and will make plays for you when you really need it. He won’t be at the top of everyone’s list but he will be one of those guys that goes a little lower than he probably should but then surprises everyone in training camp when he catches everything and becomes a favorite of the coaching staff.

Does this look familiar? If you watched the Saints beat the Falcons on Monday Night Football you saw Jimmy Graham catch a very similar touchdown against a quality corner Brent Grimes. Egnew has similar potential.

Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: Egnew may be the most underrated tight end in the country right now. He’s got great size at 6’6”, 245 pounds and a very impressive listed 40 yard dash time of 4.6 flat. He is definitely an impressive athletic specimen and when you combine that with his very reliable hands you have a very intriguing tight end on your hands. His closest comparison may be Jimmy Graham to his combination of great size, athleticism and very reliable hands (though Graham does drop passes from time to time). However, Egnew is often split out as a receiver and rarely lines up and blocks as an inline tight end which will be one of the major things he has to work on. His blocking has not been demonstrated like the other top draft eligible tight ends and that will make teams that run the ball a lot with an inline tight end blocking wonder if he will be a good fit in their scheme. Additionally he is rarely jammed off the line of scrimmage allowing for an easy release which won’t continue in the NFL. Despite this both his blocking and defeating jams off the line of scrimmage can be coached and that makes me think that if he is picked anywhere outside of the top 50 that he may be one of the better values in the draft.

Dan Hoch, OT, Missouri: Hoch is a guy that I thought might be able to slide over to LT at some point when I was scouting Blaine Gabbert last year. That never really materialized but I think he may have draftable ability as an offensive tackle prospect. He doesn’t have very good athleticism but he has great size at 6’6”, 320 pounds as well as quality length. If he is drafted it will be as a late round pick in the 6th or 7th round but the more likely scenario may be signing with a team as an undrafted free agent and attempting to make a roster that way.

Jacquies Smith, DE, Missouri: I honestly didn’t see much of Smith today and that might be a pretty accurate reflection of the impact he had this year. It’s pretty clear to me that Aldon Smith created the havoc as a pass rusher for Missouri last year and that Jacquies Smith was more of a secondary pass rush option that benefited from his presence opposite him. Without Aldon Smith around Jacquies Smith’s numbers dropped slightly from 10.0 TFL’s and 5.5 sacks to 8.0 TFL’s and 5.0 sacks. Now, that isn’t a huge drop, but with or without Aldon Smith it demonstrates that Jacquies Smith isn’t an impact pass rusher and that hurts his stock. However, he does have the build and some athletic ability to offer possible upside thanks to his 6’3”, 255 pound frame and his listed 40 yard dash time of 4.62. He’s got upside due to his athleticism but his production has been less than impressive. I still need to watch him more to determine exactly why, but I would be surprised if he went before the 4th round when players with measurables but limited production tend to start coming off the board.

Hamilton may not be a stud DT prospect but he definitely has draftable ability as a 4-3 NT and I think he may go as high as the 5th round.

Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton seemed to have a pretty good game today as Missouri bottled up a very good running back in Giovanni Bernard early and often despite the occasional quality run. Hamilton may not be a household name at defensive tackle and honestly I haven’t scouted him specifically at this time, but at 6’5”, 305 pounds he definitely has the size to play NT in the NFL either as a 4-3 NT or as a 3-4 NT depending on whether he can add weight to that frame. I’d be surprised if he couldn’t to be honest, and judging by the issues UNC had running up the middle I’d say Hamilton can create some problems by occupying blockers in the middle. It sure would have been interesting to see if Hamilton could have made the same impact for the Tar Heels at nose tackle today, but that is neither here nor there. Right now I don’t have a great fix on Hamilton’s ability but there are a number of quality nose tackle prospects popping up in this 2012 class so don’t be surprised if you see a number of defensive tackles drafted this year. There may not be a lot of elite talent but it seems to be shaping up to have some depth to it.

Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri: Gooden is a junior linebacker for Missouri who flashed some potential today and made a very impressive interception on a ball that rolled on Dwight Jones’ back that he managed to corral before it hit the ground. He’s definitely on the draft radar for next year and hopefully he goes back to school to continue to improve. He’s 6’2”, 230 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.67. He’s not a freak athlete as far as size or athleticism is concerned, but he was pretty productive this year with 80 total tackles (54 solo), 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and one blocked kick. It will be interesting to see how he does next year in the SEC against potentially tougher competition.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading! More prospect recaps are on the way as bowl season heats up!

–Tom

Will West Virginia's coaching drama distract the team? Or will it provide motivation to keep everyone together?

16. West Virginia- I have West Virginia pretty high even in spite of all the problems they have been having. Sometimes those can be distractions, but other times they can provide you with a chance to escape from the off field circus and focus on football. I think it is easier to do this when you have an established coach who has weathered the storm before instead of a new guy (whose hiring started the whole fiasco in the first place), but I won’t write them off yet. They have a lot of talent, headlined by Geno Smith at quarterback (who some have mentioned as a Heisman candidate) and they have a lot of pass rushing potential on their defensive line, which makes every defense better. They might not win the Big East, but you have to remember… it’s the Big East. Anyone can win the Big East.

17. USC- Southern Cal is loaded with talent as usual, and even if they can’t go to a bowl game this year (which I think is stupid, for the record. Punishing kids who didn’t do anything wrong, at least for what they are being punished for, is wrong. And upholding it for two years instead of letting these guys play in a bowl game if they earn it… I can’t get behind that) they should be dangerous. I don’t think they have it in them to win the Pac-12 because Oregon and Stanford are both great teams, but they will definitely make it interesting. Matt Barkley is ready for a break-out season I believe and he has so much talent around him. I am one of the biggest Robert Woods fans in the world I think, because it just baffles me how he can be so good at running routes, have such great hands and just overall be so polished and impressive at receiver as a freshman. It blows my mind. Their defense was a problem for them last year, so it will be interesting to see if their pass rush gets ramped up (it should, Nick Perry has been ready to blow up for two years now) because without a pass rush their defense just doesn’t function correctly. I like USC’s chances this year, and that just makes it all the more unfortunate that they can’t play in a bowl game.

Bryn Renner is in charge of running the Tar Heels offense now, but he shouldn't have a ton of pressure on him thanks to the Tar Heels' talented defense.

18. North Carolina- North Carolina is one of the most talented teams in the country, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but between suspensions and poor coaching (at times in my opinion) they don’t seem to live up to their potential. Now they have a new QB in Bryn Rynner, a guy who almost took the starting job from T.J. Yates last spring as a freshman, but he should have some talent to work with. Not a lot of dynamic talent at RB, but he has quality receivers to throw to plus an extremely talented defense that should help keep points off the board. Quentin Coples, Donte Paige-Moss and Zach Brown are all very good players with lots of upside, and I’m sure more will emerge over the course of the year.

19. Texas A&M- With Ryan Tannehill, Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller on offense the Aggies are going to be potent on that side of the ball, especially if Tannehill can continue to progress at the same rate he did when he took over for Jerrod Johnson last year when he led the Aggies on a late season tear culminating in a bowl game loss to LSU. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, steps up to try to replace Von Miller’s substantial impact as a pass rusher for the Aggies.

Aaron Murray (left) and Orson Charles (right) were lethal last year, and with one more year of experience together they should be even more lethal this year.

20. Georgia- Georgia is a bit of a sleeper this year, though they were a bit more formidable before they lost both Washaun Ealey AND Caleb King (Ealey transferred to Jacksonville State and Caleb King declared for the NFL Supplemental Draft after being declared academically ineligible for the 2011 season). Now their rushing attack relies on a freshman. He might be an incredibly talented freshman, but he is a freshman none-the-less so you never know exactly how he will transition, plus that is a lot of pressure to put on an 18 or 19 year old kid. However, Aaron Murray, Orson Charles and Tavarres King should help take some of the pressure off of him, and if he can give the running game a boost Georgia’s offense could be relatively formidable. Their defense is a question mark after losing sack artist Justin Houston and middle linebacker Akeem Dent but I am very high on Christian Robinson (his replacement at MLB), I like Brandon Boykin and they have a fierce SS in Bacarri Rambo. Cornelius Washington will probably be the one expected to step up and replace Justin Houston at 3-4 OLB and nickel defensive end, and while he had limited production last year he is only a junior this year and he has some edge speed, so I am looking forward to seeing how he develops.

Hopefully you are enjoying my rankings so far! I’ll have the top 15 teams coming right up in the next couple of days, so keep an eye out! Thanks for reading!

–Tom