Tag Archive: College Football


This is all that remains now that Joe Paterno’s statue has been removed from outside of Penn State’s football stadium.

As everyone with access to the internet, a cell phone, a television or newspaper is aware, the NCAA and Penn State negotiated severe sanctions for their football program in the wake of the scandal surrounding Jerry Sandusky’s serial child molestation case and the corresponding cover-up by the former Penn State President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Head Coach Joe Paterno. The sanctions were intense, including a $60 million fine to be paid over the course of the next five years, scholarship reductions including limiting the Penn State roster to 65 players for the next four seasons and limiting new Head Coach Bill O’Brien to only 15 players that he can sign to scholarships instead of the usual limit of 25. On top of that, Penn State faces a four year ban from bowl games and from the Big-10 championship game, and will be on probation for four seasons after the ban expires. As if that didn’t send a clear enough message, all of the 112 wins Joe Paterno and Penn State earned from the 1998 season through 2012 have been erased from the record books, removing Paterno as the all-time leader in wins in college football history. Ironically, the man who helped set this entire investigation in motion, Mike McQueary, was the last player to officially win a game as the starting quarterback at Penn State under Joe Paterno in 1997. Paterno’s wins have been erased, buildings named after him have been renamed, and the tailgating area has gone from “Paternoville” to “Nittanyville.” Oh yeah, and Paterno’s statue that previously stood as a reminder of all the incredible things he was able to accomplish and all the boys he was able to mold into men as head coach of the Penn State football program was removed, leaving only dirty, faded walls and jutting pieces of metal that previously anchored the statue of a fallen legend.

“Educator. Coach. Humanitarian.” He may have been the first two, but he certainly fell short of the third. Ultimately, Paterno turned out to be another cautionary tale about the corruptive tendencies of power, money and influence. He was considered to be the incorruptible face of morality and the poster boy of “winning the right way” in a time period where stories of recruiting scandals and underhanded dealings are the norm, even if they are rampantly underreported. He even went on an ESPN special with Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke entitled “Difference Makers” in which the coaches talked about how they were able to build programs where they not only molded high school kids into men who could leave their institutions prepared to contribute in a positive way to society, but also win a lot of games and national championships while they did it.

It is hard for me to watch that special in the wake of this scandal because it is hard for me to imagine how Paterno could live out this damning of a lie. He went on a nationally televised special focusing on the importance of integrity and morality while he and other senior Penn State administrators were protecting a serial child rapist that used his football program and all the glitz and glamour that came with it like candy to lure at-risk children from his own charity into his metaphorical van. I can’t imagine how Paterno could walk by his own statue and not be consumed by guilt and shame. “Humanitarian.” What kind of a humanitarian listens to another man describe the sexual assault of anyone, much less a young child, happening in a Penn State facility and doesn’t immediately go to the police? What kind of humanitarian not only tells the administrators of the university but then later manipulates them into inaction in the name of self preservation?

Not only is it hard for me to watch the ESPN special that Paterno was a featured guest on, it is hard for me to watch even the most basic coverage of the sanctions levied against Penn State on ESPN because of Penn State alumni talking about these sanctions creating “new victims” because of the severity of the penalties. Let’s get one thing clear, the players, current coaches, new administrators and the students are innocent bystanders in this situation. Sandusky took advantage of everyone in that community, betraying everyone that trusted him with children and using his reputation as a caretaker and a good man to prey on innocent boys that often needed a positive male role model in their lives. But make no mistake, even though the football program will have to deal with adversity they are in no way, shape, or form victims. They may be frustrated, they may be angry that Sandusky has negatively impacted them without ever even coaching them, but to assert that Sandusky has made them victims is insulting to the young people that he took advantage of in showers, in his house and in hotel rooms. The real victims of this case are every young boy that Sandusky sexually assaulted not only from 1998 on, but likely from 1977 (the year he started the Second Mile charity) until he was finally arrested during the football season this past year.

Let’s put this in perspective: the football team is still intact, albeit weaker than it was a year ago at this time, the players that had scholarships before these sanctions still have scholarships now, and if they don’t wish to deal with any more fallout from this tragedy they are free to transfer whenever they wish. Instead of being deprived of football for up to four seasons, a penalty that would have likely permanently crippled the Penn State football program for decades, Penn State will be playing football this season. Let’s consider that Southern Methodist (SMU) got the death penalty in 1987 and when the football team returned in 1989 the coach Forrest Gregg went 3-19 in his only two seasons as head coach. SMU continued to be largely irrelevant for the next 20 years before reaching its first bowl game since the sanctions in 2009, exactly 22 years after the death penalty was dealt to the program in 1987. That was a two year death penalty, so one can only imagine the damage a four year death penalty might have done to Penn State.

If you want to put your money where your mouth is, donate whatever you can afford here: https://donate.rainn.org/ This is a great organization and it also has plenty of helpful information to help improve awareness of rape, abuse and incest not only for yourself, but for your loved ones.

Penn State will be playing football next year, thousands of people who rely on the football team for jobs and business will not be seriously impacted by this, or at least not as seriously as they would have been had the team been shut down for the next four years. The football players will be fighting for their lives on the football field because the deck is certainly stacked against them when it comes to recruiting and roster size, but Bill O’Brien has echoed my sentiments that these severe sanctions are much better than the death penalty, and he said it succinctly “We will play football this season.” That says it all right there, but it also speaks to one of my problems with these sanctions and this scandal in general. These penalties doled out by the NCAA have drawn more attention to the football program yet again instead of focusing on the crimes Sandusky and those who covered them up committed. Mark Emmert, the President of the NCAA spoke about seeking to show that football had become the priority at Penn State and that it was unacceptable. While these penalties certainly set a precedent that suggest if anything close to this scope happens again it will incur serious penalties from the NCAA, it also draws attention to football and winning again all while talking about how that shouldn’t be the focus. Now everyone is talking about the “victims” that this has caused, and many are expressing sympathy for the football players who are being impacted by something they had nothing to do with. They certainly deserve sympathy, but they are not victims. Things could be much, much worse for them, but the NCAA’s sanctions were fairly player friendly given the circumstances. They can choose to stay at Penn State and help try to keep the football program’s metaphorical head above water or they can go to another school where they can chase more playing time, better academics or the chance to compete for a national title. The players that choose to stay at Penn State are not victims, they are players who are committed to the university, the community and the teammates they have grown to love. They are players who have chosen to remain there, not players who have been chained to the university by the NCAA. They are in fact the opposite, any potential transfer shackles that existed have been removed by the NCAA and speculation has run rampant as media and coaches alike speculate about who might leave the program and who might stay. So the players that walk onto that field wearing Nittany Lion blue and white on September 1st, 2012 are not victims, they are players who had every opportunity to leave and chose to stay. They have chosen to do what they could to heal a community that has been betrayed not only by a predator impersonating a charitable force for good, but by administrators who enabled him to continue to stalk their children that needed protection more than anyone else.

I don’t want to sound like I don’t appreciate the difficulty of what all of the Penn State players and alumni are going through. I can’t imagine the hell that the players have been put through having to try to focus on playing games amidst this scandal, not to mention just living their lives and succeeding in their classes. It isn’t fair and they shouldn’t have to deal with this, but this is an unfortunate lesson that they have to learn: life isn’t fair. All too often the strong prey on the weak, and all too often the strong use their influence to act in their own self interest. We have all had to clean up after someone else’s mess, but most of us are lucky to be able to do so without photographers taking pictures of us, without journalists writing about us and without thousands of people watching us every weekend. Unfortunately, the football players and the new coaching staff will be under a microscope, but I would be shocked if there was not an outpouring of support from the Penn State family and the surrounding community in the wake of this scandal. Everyone wants to move on after a tragedy like this, and this will be no exception. Football will provide an escape from this tragedy, even though in a twisted way it was what helped cause it, and Penn State will likely sell out their first couple of home games if not all of them. The team will likely struggle in the face of all this adversity but Penn State fans are fiercely loyal (as I have found out thanks to some of my tweets about this case and about how the players aren’t actually victims) and will support this team even if they struggle on the field.

This statue of Paterno proved to be evidence of worshiping a false idol, and a reminder of the shortcomings of a coaching icon.

I just don’t want everyone to lose sight of what this case has taught us. Joe Paterno was looked up to by everyone in the Penn State community and was considered to be someone who could do no wrong. He was only human after all, however, and proved why we should not worship false idols. Our society today is too concerned with elevating successful people as beacons of perfection only for them to disappoint us with a scandal or a mistake. No one is perfect, not you, not me and not Joe Paterno. The difference is, Paterno was worshiped as a perfect man who won football games while also shaping young minds into productive members of society and, if you believe the rumors, he controlled Penn State and the athletic department, not the other way around. There is certainly evidence of this, particularly the $5.5 million severance package he received (including Paterno negotiating for additional money after the Sandusky scandal broke) when he was fired from Penn State. It secured his family use of the Penn State private jet, his wife access to the Lasch football facility that Sandusky was caught assaulting a young boy in, and obviously vast financial compensation. And while no one may have had a problem with a football coach controlling an entire university prior to this scandal, clearly it is easy to see that it was a problem now. Paterno’s interest in winning and in preserving his own job prevented him from making a decision to act in the interest of basic human decency and it enabled Sandusky to assault more children before he was finally arrested for his crimes. How anyone could live with themselves after that is beyond me, and I think Paterno finally realized what he had done after he was fired as the Head Coach of the football team. I think that once he was being persecuted by some (though not many) for what he had allowed to happen it finally registered that his actions played a critical role in not just one but multiple young boys having their innocence stolen from them by a predator, and then he passed away shortly after.

This article was not meant to focus only on Joe Paterno and ignore the crimes that Sandusky committed, because clearly Sandusky is the main perpetrator in this tragic case, but the fact remains that the culture permeated by Paterno at Penn State allowed Sandusky to operate in good faith without anyone sniffing around for foul play. That is why no one asked questions when he spent so much one on one time with boys from his charity. That is why no one asked questions about young boys staying in the same hotel room as Sandusky at Penn State away games. That is why no one asked questions about boys sleeping over in Sandusky’s water-bed in his basement. That is why no one asked questions about Sandusky showering with boys alone in Penn State facilities. That is why guidance councilors that his victims went to refused to believe what they alleged he had done to them and didn’t help. That is why Sandusky told his victims that were attempting to resist future advances that no one would believe them if they accused him of assaulting them. Sandusky did many awful things, and I hope he gets over 400 years of prison time even if he won’t live to see but a fraction of it. But one of the most tragic aspects of this case is that it could have been stopped, if not in 1998 or before at least in 2001, but it wasn’t. And while Sandusky is the man who committed many of the crimes, the administrators at Penn State and Joe Paterno certainly committed crimes of their own by harboring a child molester and not reporting him to police. So while some may allege that Sandusky deserves the ire of the media more than Paterno, I would allege that while Sandusky deserves (and has gotten) plenty of attention from the media, Paterno and his colleagues are certainly not exempt.

This case is proof that just because someone establishes a charity doesn’t mean it is for the right reasons. That just because a coach gets significant media praise doesn’t mean he is infallible. And just because a coach has a statue in front of a stadium doesn’t mean he doesn’t make mistakes. That certainly stands true in the case of Joe Paterno, because even though he did a lot of great things over the course of his tenure at Penn State he made at least one critical error choosing to ignore or cover up Sandusky’s heinous crimes. Paterno’s case proves that one can spend a lifetime building trust from friends, family, and your community, but that trust can be fleeting even if you are a legendary football coach. Paterno regularly practiced what he preached, but when he needed to act with morality and integrity the most he made the wrong decision, and instead of stopping multiple assaults and protecting young boys he sought to protect himself, his football program and his legacy. And now THAT is his legacy. He could have been an all-time great football coach and a man who truly practiced what he preached and stopped a monster in his own ranks once he was made aware of it. Instead he inexplicably protected him and now his beloved football program is paying the price.

Advertisements

As many of you are aware the Arizona Wildcats fired then coach Mike Stoops after a 1-5 start to the season. His teams gave up 72 points in his last two bowl games while scoring only 10 and he lost his last 5 games last year. That means in his last 11 games he was 1-10 with a lost bowl game in a blow-out. Arizona hasn’t really bounced back as they have only won 2 of their last five games with an interim coach as their search for a new coach has progressed.

It appears that search is coming to a conclusion. Many are now reporting that Rich Rodriguez, the former blockbuster coaching hire by Michigan, will be coaching the Wildcats next year.

This could be a match made in heaven for both organizations, at least for the next 3-5 years. Rodriguez was not a popular coaching candidate after he was ousted from Michigan, and while he could not win or play defense at Michigan with the players he recruited there Brady Hoke and his staff have molded this team into a legitimate Big Ten contender in less than a year. Despite this, Rodriguez’ ability as a recruiter can’t be denied and he has had success building potent offenses everywhere he went, but especially in West Virginia and even in Michigan. As far as I am aware Matt Scott, a senior quarterback that is Nick Foles’ primary back-up, hasn’t played yet this season. I can’t comment on this with any kind of certainty, but there is a possibility that Scott could be back next year with Rodriguez. We will have to see.

Arizona operates a pretty wide open offense right now, but it’s about to get even more wide open with Rodriguez in the fold. I think this is a great hire for Arizona because he knows how to draw talent to a program and I don’t think he will have any trouble doing that with solid access to both Texas and California where he is located in Arizona. Additionally, this is a pretty significant hire for a program that really hasn’t proven itself in the Pac-10 or the new Pac-12. Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez to replace a fantastic coach in Lloyd Carr. Arizona hired Rodriguez in the wake of… Mike Stoops?

I consider this a win for Arizona right now, but it’s a win for Rodriguez too. He has a chance to prove that he can rebuild this program and start to win at a school that has not won consistently in this sport for years. It will be interesting to see if he can do it, but one thing for Arizona Wildcat fans to be careful of is this: If Rich Rod turns you around and in three or four years you have a shot at a BCS game and finish with 9 or 10+ wins he is going to be getting calls from other high end/elite programs in college football to come do the same for them only with better resources and superior tradition. So while this looks like a steal for you guys in the short term, don’t forget that many people consider Rodriguez a snake for abandoning West Virginia and chances are his firing from Michigan hasn’t made him more loyal as a head coach. Should he succeed in turning Arizona around from their recent struggles I would not be surprised to see him leave Arizona for a “superior” coaching job.

It will be interesting to see what happens with other coaching vacancies. Houston Nutt will be out of Ole Miss as soon as they can finish the paperwork, Luke Fickell isn’t likely to be the coach of Ohio State next year (though apparently Urban Meyer is?) and Butch Davis needs to be replaced at North Carolina. Other openings will come after the season, but with Rodriguez’ hiring as well as rumors of Meyer going to Ohio State, Gus Malzahn being mentioned for the Ole Miss job, and Skip Holtz potentially going to UNC the carousel has definitely started to spin!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Michigan-Notre Dame:

This game was extremely fun to watch and it was a thriller down to the end, especially in the fourth quarter. Michigan put up a staggering 28 points in the 4th quarter alone, and stunned Notre Dame with a touchdown with only two seconds left in regulation. They won 35-31, and perhaps gave credence to the notion that they aren’t the same old Michigan of the past few years. This was a tough game for them, but unlike in past years they found a way to win instead of screwing it up at the end. There were plenty of missed opportunities on both sides (the game had eight combined turnovers after all, five from Notre Dame and three from Michigan, all on interceptions thrown by Denard Robinson) but the litmus test of a potentially good team is whether they can win ugly or win despite not playing their best, and Michigan showed the ability to do that in this game. Do I expect them to dominate the Big-10 and win the conference championship? Not at all, but this was still an impressive win for them that should do a lot for their confidence.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, should be feeling pretty bad about themselves right now. They changed QB’s after their week one loss and Rees played pretty well overall, but their defense was awful in the fourth quarter and even before that they were allowing plenty of Michigan receivers to run free, Robinson just wasn’t able to throw a good ball (or even a remotely accurate ball) to take advantage of the opportunities being presented to him. Notre Dame lost despite scoring 31 points, throwing for 315 yards, having 198 yards rushing (134 of those yards came from Cierre Wood, a guy who really impressed me in this game), and holding Michigan to just 7 points through three quarters. Then, Denard Robinson and the rest of Michigan’s offense broke loose. They are now 0-2, and not to toot my own horn excessively, but I left them out of my top 25 preseason rankings intentionally. I felt that they were overrated (as they tend to be due to the vast amount of media attention they receive, at least in my opinion) and it’s hard to say that they weren’t overrated as a top 25 ranked team now that they are 0-2, and have a reasonable chance of being 1-3 or even 0-4 if they don’t play well.

As far as prospects go, Tommy Rees showed flashes of impressive ability but also showed some incredible inconsistency. He started out hot going 8/8 with no turnovers, but after that he was 5/14 the rest of the half with two interceptions that were a result of bad throws and poor decisions. He threw the ball a lot on the night and had a solid stat line of 27/39, 315 yards and 3 TD’s with 2 INT’s. He also lost a fumble in the red zone in the 2nd half. He made some very impressive throws at times, but other times he made poor decisions and didn’t place the ball accurately. It will be interesting to see if he hangs on to the starting role, and after playing relatively well in this game I would expect him to. If he does it will be interesting to see how he progresses as far as consistency is concerned, because he went from looking good, to playing quite poorly a couple of times in this game.

I was quite impressed with Cierre Wood though. He is Notre Dame’s starting RB #20. He ran effectively, showed a lot of speed, burst and explosiveness. He also showed some vision, though I need to watch him more to evaluate that better. But it looked solid in what I saw from him. He broke some ankles in the open field though, and Notre Dame has to continue to involve him in the running game as well as the passing game (screens, etc. He could be very effective in that part of the game). I’m excited to see him play the rest of the year, I had never seen him play before.

Michael Floyd was impressive. He was drawing some serious attention from the Michigan secondary and Rees was making sure he involved him which is why he had 13 catches and 159 yards receiving. He high points the ball very well, he’s a physical receiver and he’s dangerous on jump balls and has a lot of value in the red zone. He almost made an incredible catch over the defender on a fade route but the defender slapped the ball away as it got to him. It was a 50/50 ball but he almost came down with it. I still wonder just how well he will create separation in the NFL, but he’s got a lot of physical ability that allows him to get YAC even if he’s not the fastest WR. He can threaten teams deep due to his athleticism and his physicality.

Theo Riddick was impressive as well with 6 catches, 62 yards for two touchdowns. He’s a converted running back playing WR which I like to see because they tend to run really hard after the catch, and Notre Dame has had success with that recently with Golden Tate. I want to see more of Riddick to see how he catches the ball with his hands, how well he runs routes and if he runs after the catch like I think he does.

TJ Jones is a sophomore WR who flashed some potential. He’s a slot receiver for ND and he looked fast when he got the ball in his hands. It’ll be interesting to see how his role evolves this year, but since I imagine ND will be throwing the ball 25+ times a game on a regular basis I could see him getting some touches consistently. He strikes me as a guy who can be a game breaker.

Tyler Eifert is a huge WR on the Fighting Irish who I found very impressive. He is listed at 6’6”, 249 pounds and looked very athletic for his size when I watched him last night. I didn’t get to see him very much from a blocking aspect, but I love his potential as a receiving TE. He looked very fluid, he showed impressive hands and he looked like he adjusted to the ball very well while it was in the air. His combination of size and athleticism reminds me a bit of Jimmy Graham, so I am excited to see how he develops over the course of the season.

Denard Robinson looked solid for most of the game, but he absolutely took over in the 4th quarter. He had a substantial number of his yards in the 4th quarter, plus he threw for three of his four passing touchdowns in the final period in addition to running for his only score. He accounted for 446 total yards (338 passing, 108 rushing) and five total touchdowns (4 passing, one rushing). He also threw three interceptions, but more than made up for that during the fourth quarter. He is incredibly athletic and he has a strong arm, but he misses a lot of open receivers when all he has to do is put it near them or close to in stride to get a lot of yardage. He loves to stretch the field deep and that explains his poor completion percentage but his great YPA, but his accuracy really comes and goes and is the definition of inconsistency. His receivers regularly make plays on 50/50 balls that he throws up to the wrong shoulder and lets them attempt to make a play. I would love to see him in the slot or in the backfield as a running back, plus as a return man. But obviously in college he has the athletic ability to take over a game even if he isn’t passing accurately. But he definitely won’t be a quarterback in the NFL.

Junior Hemingway had a huge game averaging 55 yards per catch in this game. He had only three receptions but had 165 yards and one touchdown. I was impressed by his ability to go up and high point the ball in the air and he seems to have solid hands, though he dropped a pass at one point. He’s a big WR and he looks like a 4.55-4.6 guy as far as speed, almost looks like a TE at times, so I have to watch him more to decide if I think he can project to the NFL as a WR since I wonder how well he will be able to create separation since I didn’t see a lot of quickness/burst from him in this game.

Vincent Smith, #2, is Michigan’s 3rd down running back and he made the most out of his touches in this game. He was the guy who broke the screen late in the game to give Michigan the lead before Notre Dame responded with a score with 30 seconds remaining. He made about three or four guys miss on the play and it was truly an incredible individual effort to get into the end zone. It was a great play and is was a great flash of his potential when he gets the ball in his hands. I’m not sure he will ever be the feature back for Michigan or anyone else, but he’s got talent and players that can make guys miss are always a commodity in college or in the NFL.

This was a great game to watch and it really got exciting in the 4th quarter which you always love to see as a football fan. Notre Dame seemed to be in control most of the game but they absolutely blew it in the 4th quarter once Denard started to sling the ball around and improvise. It was extremely fun to watch, but I can’t help but gloat a bit about Notre Dame starting 0-2 when some questioned why I didn’t have them in my top 25 preseason rankings. I thought they were overrated, though I love some of the weapons they have on offense. They could very realistically be 1-3 or 0-4 after one third of the regular season. Michigan, on the other hand, has started 2-0 and has a relatively favorable schedule upcoming. It will be interesting to see if Denard Robinson can keep up this frantic pace of production he had in the 4th quarter against ND. One thing they should possibly worry about is their lack of any semblance of a running game beyond Robinson. He accounted for almost all of their offensive yardage, so they need someone to step up when he’s not running the ball. Perhaps Vincent Smith will be able to provide a spark.

Thanks for reading! More write-ups are on the way.

–Tom

Defensive Notes:

Series 1:
-Good run D, Babs beat a one on one block.
-Good heads-up play by Abe to get an INT on a tipped pass.

Series 2:
-Empty backfield, zone coverage. This is why we had to go get Ray Edwards. No pass rush with the front 4 and Henne completes it to Bess underneath in Lofton’s zone.
-Great play by Biermann vs the run, knifed inside and tackled the back for a short gain.
-Got a little heat on Henne, but not much. On the opposite side the WR turned Dunta around and had a step on him. Could have given up a big play if Henne had thrown that way.

Series 3:
-Easy INT by Grimes. He bit on the play action but quickly recovered and made a nice play on the ball, easy INT. Great recovery by Grimes. Henne thought he had a free completion, nice play by Grimes.

Series 4:
-Franks flew off the corner to pressure Henne, could have had a sack but didn’t back down. Henne got hit and the ball was dropped.
-Sidbury showed some speed, forced Henne to step up but he had room to run and got the 1st down on 3rd and 8.
-Jerry stayed blocked way too long. Needs to something happen vs a 1 on 1 block or he needs to be replaced/upgraded.
-Sidbury showed more speed off the edge, but he can’t get around the OT on the outside. If he doesn’t step up this year then RE is a huge need for us.
-Chris Owens got absolutely burned. Dime back at most.

Series 5:
-Matt Moore wisely didn’t force the ball downfield.
-Peters working well vs 1 on 1 blocks, Sidbury showed a good motor. On the surface his good motor and edge speed make him intriguing, but he just can’t manage to get the edge or get off blocks. Moore threw a wobbly ball on the run.

Series 6:
-#36 looked BAAD in coverage. #39 misplayed the ball as well. Cliff Matthews got upfield and applied some pressure though. Good to see.
-Moore threw a good ball in the face of pressure here.
-#39 has whiffed on two hits in a row.
-Matthews with a good burst, impressive swim move. He might make the team if he keeps showing ability. Peters showed a good motor to chase down and tackle the RB in the flat.

Series 7:
-Owens showed some ability as a blitzer coming off the edge here.
-Chris Matthews has flashed some speed off the edge.
-Good tackle in flat by Franks. Seems to be a good tackler and blitzer which I like.
-Sidbury and Matthews are flying off the edge but keep getting knocked down as they try to get the corner. Sidbury needs to get stronger. Jerry and Sidbury both had a slot to drag down Moore but he got away.

Series 8:
-Matt Moore got leveled and threw a ball up, but Dent LEVELED Moore.

Series 9:
-Matthews has shown some speed and shoulder dip, just gets knocked down too much.

Series 10:
-Owens is a good tackling corner.
-Matt Moore looks ok. Solid arm strength and accuracy, some toughness. Good patience in pocket, good feel to step up. Deals with pressure well. Good anticipation.
-Edmond Gates has looked good. Great speed, good hands as well.
-Jerry just doesn’t shed blocks well. Doesn’t look disruptive.
-Robert James has looked good. I think he’ll make the 53 man roster.
-TD Edmond Gates. Nice catch, nice throw by Moore too.
-I like Darrin Walls, I think he’ll be the 5th CB. I’d keep him over Owens at this point.

Series 11:
-Jerry seemed to flash a nice move inside as he got a nice hit on Devlin.
-Matthews with a nice get off, good bull rush and shed, plus a good motor to sack Devlin. Nice play, I hope he finds  away to make the 53 man.

Series 12:
-Jerry beat his man and would have had a sack if he hadn’t drawn a BAD holding call. The OL had his arm around Jerry’s neck.
-Matthews has a good motor. Would have loved to see him at the East-West Shrine Game.

Thanks for reading! I’m going to preview some college games that everyone should watch, and I’ll be watching the Wisconsin-UNLV game and posting a write-up once it’s over and I have time to type everything up.

–Tom

I have put together a top 25 list that I will post over the next few days in incriments of five teams. Tomorrow will be #16-20 and so on. Enjoy!

Bray is one of the best young NFL quarterbacks in the country and should help keep Tennessee relevant this year.

21. Tennessee- I am a huge Tyler Bray fan and that alone makes me think that Tennessee is ready to surprise some people. They may not be returning an abundance of elite SEC talent but I think they have enough talent on offense and on defense to compete in the SEC. They might not end up in the top 25 by the end of the season, but no one thought they would end up in a bowl game after their awful start last year either, and Bray was having none of that. A good or great QB can reverse the fortunes of even the worst teams, and Bray is living proof of that for Tennessee. This is his first full season as a starter, so it will be interesting to see if he can maintain the success he had late in the year last year, but if I had to pick I would anticipate him to continue to play well, even if he has a bit of a sophomore slump.

22. Baylor- I may not be a fan of Robert Griffin’s NFL prospects, but he has the upside to be a very good college quarterback and he has a chance to lead a Baylor team that is returning most of their talent (if not almost all of it). They have a lot of quality players on offense, led by Josh Gordon, a big, physical receiver with a listed 40 time of 4.42 (who I am very high on). They should have a very productive offense if Griffin can pass more accurately than he did at times last year, but he should be 100% healthy by now and won’t be as rusty as he was at the beginning of last season which should help the Baylor Bears prospects. Additionally, Baylor has some talent on defense worth noting and could have a pretty nice pass rush this season.

23. Mississippi State- The Bulldogs took the SEC by surprise last year and walloped Michigan in their bowl game last year thanks to a brutally effective rushing attack predicated on power. They lose some talent to the draft but they return talent on both sides of the ball, so it will be interesting to see if they can string two good seasons together in a row, or whether they won’t live up to expectations now that they have been raised. If they can get the ball out to Chris Smith (who I think is poised for a break-out season) they could have a more significant passing attack than they did at times last year.

Gilbert had his struggles last year, but we all saw flashes of potential in him against Alabama two years ago. If he can recapture that then Texas could be a dark-horse in the Big-12.

24. Texas- Texas is always good with recruiting and they have a lot of returning talent, but like so many teams their quarterback will make or break their season. Garrett Gilbert didn’t have a very good season last year (260/441, 59% completion, 2744 yards and 10 TD’s with an out of control 17 interceptions, plus 380 yards and 5 rushing TD’s) and if Texas is going to legitimize themselves as a contender they are going to need him to step it up. The flashes of greatness he showed against Alabama were nowhere to be found last year, and if he doesn’t recapture the poise and accuracy he flashed in that game two years ago then Texas is going to be in trouble, regardless of how much talent they are bringing in.

25. BYU- BYU has definite upside because even though they may not be a powerhouse they have a quality quarterback in Jake Heaps, who as a true freshman managed to complete 219 of 384 passes (57% completion) for 2,316 yards, and 15 TD’s with only 9 interceptions. Those are impressive numbers for a freshman, and he really stepped up against UTEP in their bowl game when he had his best game of the season with his 2nd highest career total in completions and he tied his career high for touchdowns with four. Heaps may not be a big guy, but even though he’s about 6’0” 195 he can sling the pigskin and he will give BYU a chance to remain competitive for the next three years if he stays healthy.

Look out for more rankings in the coming days! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Game analysis: Oklahoma State

Solder is very athletic, but he needs to get stronger and improve his hand usage to raise his draft stock in my opinion.

Nate Solder is an intriguing physical specimen, but he still has a lot of room to grow if he is really only 305-310 pounds at 6’9”. He needs to get a lot stronger in his lower body so he can anchor better against bull rushes, and so he can get a more significant push in the run game. However, he has impressive mobility from what I can tell and looks like a TE running around in open space. He is a good combo-blocker, and moves with good fluidity from the double team to the next level to engage a linebacker. He takes away the speed rush easily because he is an athletic guy and gets out of his stance quickly on a pretty regular basis (though sometimes he will be slow out of it, I can’t say I’m sure why). His footwork looks better than it did when I saw him against Texas earlier this year, but he still worries too much about the speed rush sometimes and opens his hips up too early, making him vulnerable to an inside counter move. I have seen this before from guys who are slower and less athletic, but they usually open their hips up too early to attempt to compensate for their lack of lateral agility. Solder doesn’t have that issue, so it is just something he needs to be coached up on and drilled on as far as I can tell.

One thing that I think Solder needs to work on is his hand usage. I saw some signs of improvement between the Texas game and the Oklahoma State game I just watched, but he still has issues sustaining blocks sometimes, though he looked much better in this regard when it came to pass blocking in this game. Part of that probably has to do with Texas having much better pass rushers than Oklahoma State, but Solder did his job and neutralized the man he went up against more times than not in this game, so that’s what matters. Another thing that looked better, even though he still needs work on it, was his footwork. Against Texas I noticed that he was back-pedaling a lot to take away the edge in pass protection, but in this game he was using his kick slide well and, aside from opening his hips prematurely, he took away the corner with better fundamentals. He is a natural knee bender it looks like, and it didn’t look like he was bending at the waist in this game from what I could tell. He did a decent job of anchoring against the bull rush, but he needs to get much stronger in his lower body or he will get walked into the quarterback on a regular basis when he gets to the next level, especially when he will have trouble winning the leverage battle since he is 6’9”.

Solder has great size, long arms and impressive athleticism, but he needs to fill out his frame if he is going to be a quality NFL player and a high draft pick.

Overall, I liked what I saw from Solder in this game. Is he an elite prospect? Not in my opinion. Is he well polished? No, not yet. Does he have a lot of potential? Absolutely. A 6’9”, 305 pound man who can move like he does is incredibly rare, and he looked more fundamentally sound in this game than when I saw him before. I will absolutely watch him two, three or maybe four times next season, and I hope to see better footwork, a stronger lower body, better hand usage to sustain blocks and hopefully he won’t open his hips prematurely as often as he did both times I saw him. If he can work on those flaws he will be a much more polished prospect, which will only help his stock. I am excited to see how he does next year, because a guy with his combination of size and athletic ability is very rare for the position, and I think he could be a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme for that reason.

Hopefully you enjoyed this read, and keep an eye out for Solder next year. He’s hard to miss on the left side of Colorado’s offensive line!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Analysis of Game: Oklahoma State

Jerrod Johnson has a lot of talent, but I think he needs to work on his fundamentals to warrant a draft selection as high as the 2nd round.

I realized that I would get an opportunity to watch Johnson in this game while I looked for further highlights of Andre Sexton, so I paid particular attention to him in this game. To be perfectly honest, I was not very impressed. He clearly has a lot of talent, but his fundamentals are relatively sloppy overall and his throwing motion is not clean in my estimation. He doesn’t operate out of an exclusively spread offense, but Texas A&M does run a lot of four and five wide receiver sets over the course of a game. That means Johnson is in shotgun quite a bit, though to his credit he did line up under center a number of times. He doesn’t have much poise in the pocket, and needs significant work on learning to stay patient in the pocket so he can buy time by stepping up or side-stepping the rush (which he should have no problem with considering his mobility). However, some of that has to do with his offensive line’s poor performance. I imagine he is used to having to scramble for more time, but if he gets drafted and developed properly by a team with a decent pass-blocking offensive line he should be able to adjust to having a fairly consistent amount of time to scan the field. But as it stands right now he is being pressured very frequently. To make matters worse, it usually happens before he has had ample time to go through his progressions. This isn’t an excuse for ALL of his bad footwork and his other bad habits, but it certainly does explain how he developed some of them and why they are so persistent.

This picture isn't the greatest example of his throwing motion, but against Oklahoma State it looked like he had a dip or a hitch in his throwing motion. That can be an issue.

Johnson does have pretty good size, mobility and arm strength, but a lot of his passes had a surprising amount of air under them in this game. I think this has to do with him not stepping into some of his throws, throwing off of his back foot, etc. However, it is still an issue that I noticed and I thought it warranted mention. So between his lackluster footwork, his throwing motion with a bitch of a hitch in it (he seems to drop it down below his chest on a regular basis) and a number of his passes hanging in the air for too long, Johnson has some issues he will have to overcome to get drafted in the first three rounds come April. Not to mention he will have issues transitioning to the NFL because of his experience in a more wide-open attack at Texas A&M, largely because of all the snaps he takes in shotgun. However, he also rarely goes through more than one of his progressions, and if that option is covered he usually starts to scramble to try to extend the play instead of staying patient, going through his other reads and buying time inside of the pocket. Perhaps as a Senior he will have matured and he will spend more time in the pocket, but he seems to have been conditioned to scramble after his first reads aren’t there, partially because of the offense he runs and how he plays and partially because his offensive line doesn’t consistently give him enough time to comfortably stay in the pocket.

Jerrod Johnson has natural talent that is worth developing, but unless he shows that he is more fundamentally sound this year I would be surprised if he was picked in the first two rounds.

I personally grade Johnson as a 4th rounder at this point, but he could move up with another good season this year. But a good statistical season won’t suffice in my opinion. I think he needs to show more patience in the pocket, better footwork, perhaps better mechanics on his release, and more consistency in going through more than just one or maybe two of his reads on any given play. I would be very surprised if he showed improvement in all these areas, especially if it was significant improvement, but I will watch a few of his games regardless to get an accurate feel of his strengths and his weaknesses. But at this point this is my impression of his ability and if I had to put a grade on him today I would grade him as a 4th rounder. He definitely has talent that warrants development, but he needs mechanical work and that means for a year or two he will need to be developed before he can get any kind of significant playing time.

Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with this, I love getting comments and the conversation generated from my posts can be very interesting. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this, and thanks for visiting my blog!

–Tom

This blog post is focused on Case Keenum, the quarterback of the Houston Cougars. He is rather well known for his gaudy passing numbers but there is a lot more to a quarterback than impressive stats. Read on to find out why Keenum will be lucky to be drafted barring significant improvement as a senior despite all of the accolades he may get for his passing production.

Analysis of Game: Houston @ Oklahoma State

When I watched this game I was actually watching the game so I could find highlights to use for a highlight reel for Andre Sexton. It’s a long story, but the Sports Agency I have an internship with represents him and I need to put a highlight reel together for him. But one of the games I watched today (I watched four) featured Case Keenum and Houston against Oklahoma State, and I figured I would give Keenum some of my attention while I watched out for noteworthy plays for Sexton. I will state ahead of time that I am not a believer in Keenum and I think he is the essence of a system quarterback, I don’t think he has a very strong arm, I don’t think he can read defenses well and I think he is worth a 6th or a 7th round pick at best as of right now. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get on with what I saw when I had the opportunity to watch him in this game:

Case Keenum has impressive passing stats, but that isn't unusual for a quarterback operating out of a spread offense.

First of all, Keenum operates out of a pure spread offense and is almost exclusively in the shotgun. If you haven’t read any of my previous posts, the reason this is such an issue is because when QB’s spend the majority, if not all of their time in the shotgun, they don’t get a chance to improve their footwork on their three, five and seven step drops. In addition, they don’t learn to read defenses from under center (where it is more difficult to judge what the defense is doing than when you are standing back in shotgun) and spread offense QB’s regularly look at only their first or maybe second read. All of those things are extremely hindering once they get to the NFL, and that results in a very high bust rate in spread offense QB’s. I was not surprised that he was operating out of the shotgun that often, but still it is disappointing not to see a sizeable percentage of snaps from under center mixed in.

Second of all, Keenum did not strike me as an impressive QB despite his gaudy numbers and reputation as a quality QB. He panicked easily in the face of pressure, he left the pocket prematurely on a regular basis, and he rarely, if ever, went through more than one or two of his progressions the entire game. He forced passes into coverage, threw passes across his body at times and showed very little ability to buy time in the pocket by stepping up while still looking downfield. He didn’t look like he had very good mechanics, and when he is facing pressure he is more than willing to throw off of his back foot with no regard to his usual mechanics as far as I can tell. To his credit, he is accurate when he isn’t pressured as far as I can tell, and his throwing motion looks relatively clean. He also showed more mobility than I would have previously expected as he scrambled up the middle, bounced the run outside to avoid pursuit from the backside and scored on a 20 or so yard touchdown run in this game. So if the play breaks down he is a threat to run, which helps his value.

I project Keenum to be a 7th round draft pick, which is probably much lower than most NFL Draft sites. But I have my reasons.

Overall I can’t say I am impressed with Keenum at all, but it was good to finally get a feel for how he plays the game. But I value poise under pressure, leadership and the ability to read defenses quite a bit, and Keenum did not impress me in any of those regards when I watched him in this game. I project him as a 7th round pick right now, but we will see how he looks during the season this year. You might look at his stats and think, wow, a quarterback who put up 5671 yards, who completed 70.3% of his passes, averaged 8.10 yards per attempt, and had 44 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions (that includes a whopping six interceptions against Air Force in Houston’s bowl game), he must really be something. Well, not quite in my opinion. I learned my lesson about trusting stats, especially when it comes to spread offense quarterbacks, a long time ago. I thought I’d pass that along to anyone who reads my blog.

So now when your friends talk about how good Case Keenum is, feel free to tell them exactly why that may just not be the case.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

First of all, I apologize profusely for the huge gap between this post and my last post, which was close to three weeks ago. My computer had a bunch of viruses on it and apparently the hard drive was about to break (which Geek Squad said was probably caused by bumping or dropping it, woops!) so I got it fixed, it took about a week, and I now have Windows 7 instead of Vista and I just installed Microsoft Office 2007 about an hour ago before I finished writing this up (since I couldn’t read any of my notes before that because I didn’t have Microsoft Word on my laptop. It was a pretty serious issue. I also couldn’t watch tape all that time!) Anyways, between my laptop breaking and not having Microsoft Office I had a long unintentional break between my posts, so thank you for bearing with me and occasionally checking my blog out to see if I had gotten my act together and written anything! Here, at long last, is my post about the Wisconsin-Miami Champs Bowl game from last season!

Harris is talented both as a runner and as a passer, but he needs to learn to put more zip on his throws if he is going to legitimize himself as a NFL prospect.

When you watch Miami games Jacory Harris is a guy you just have to take notes on. He’s a very talented guy, he’s a good quarterback and he’s a threat to run, and those players are always intriguing and they always warrant a lot of discussion and projection, especially if they mature throughout their careers, learn to make better decisions, read defenses, and generally just become more efficient. An efficient QB who can run when all else fails and pick up quality yards is scary, which is why Mike Vick was the #1 overall pick in 2001. Little did we all know that you can’t just learn to throw accurately, make good decisions and read defenses from the pocket once you get to the NFL, but he was picked that high because if he became as good at throwing as he was at running he would have been one of the best players in the NFL. Anyways, Harris warrants discussion for a number of reasons. He has pretty good accuracy, and does a respectable job of reading defenses for a young quarterback and showed the ability to recognize a blitz and find his hot read quickly to avoid a sack and to pick up quality yards. That’s good to see.

However, Harris really seemed to struggle in this game. He does not strike me as a tough quarterback at all, and at times he would run timidly and does not seem at all willing to take a hit even if it means picking up the first down. I know you don’t want your quarterback running around initializing contact, but when he’s scrambling and he can either run out of bounds two yards short of the first down marker or put his head down and get as many yards as possible, I want my QB to put his head down and go for it, not run out of bounds with his tail between his legs. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I feel about it. Harris seems to prefer jogging out of bounds, and I don’t really like to see that. He also seemed bothered by the cold, but that wasn’t just a problem for him, the whole Miami team was huddled around the heaters and it was only 50 or 55 degrees outside. The Wisconsin players all had short sleeves on, mostly because in the Winter it gets real cold up north, so 50+ is t-shirt weather to those of us from Minnesota and Wisconsin. So between his timid running style and the fact that he seemed to be bothered by the “cold” I was not very happy with how Harris did in this game from a toughness aspect. He did take some shots and he popped right back up from all of them, but that just confused me more because you’d think that if he could absorb the hits he was taking when he was dropping back to pass that he could “suck it up” (so to speak) and run harder when he does scramble.

Harris never got comfortable against Wisconsin. Whether it was his ankle injury, the regular pressure from Wisconsin or the "cold" weather, he never settled in and got into a rhythm.

One thing that is a little alarming about Harris’ game is the amount of touch and air he puts under the majority of his throws. He throws an accurate ball and does great when touch is required, but sometimes you need to throw the ball with some zip and he does not seem to understand when that is necessary. He floats a LOT of passes, whether he is on the run, whether he has his feet set in the pocket, or whether he is throwing into a quickly closing window over the middle. I don’t know if that is something he will ever be able to stop doing since he has probably been getting away with it for his entire playing career, but if it is indeed correctable then he should already be working on it as we speak. Hopefully he shows me some progression in this area because it is really concerning how much air and touch he has on the majority of his passes.

Harris also never really looked comfortable in this game. He had his moments when he completed a few passes in a row, but Wisconsin got enough pressure on him (which, along with his injured ankle, had to contribute to him never getting into a rhythm) to keep him from ever getting into a groove and it definitely showed. He didn’t go through his progressions as well as I would have liked, he stared down his receivers regularly, he didn’t do a good job of buying time in the pocket without scrambling outside of the tackle box, and he looked sloppy throwing on the run when he couldn’t set his feet. He needs to do a better job of keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage even when rolling to his left. That is when you will see right-handed QB’s get a little less accurate if they don’t keep their shoulders square. In my experience it is because their throwing motion will be slightly elongated and their mechanics will therefore be different, meaning the throw won’t be as accurate and won’t have as much zip on it as it would have regularly had if he had set his feet or kept his shoulders square while rolling out.

Overall, Harris has a lot of talent and ability, but he has to work harder on the little things, the fundamentals, if he is going to take big enough strides to be considered a potential NFL starter and an early NFL Draft pick. Right now I’d grade him as a 4th or 5th round selection because of his potential and ability. That alone warrants some consideration in the mid-rounds and if he can be coached up well then he could be well worth the investment. However, he does not look like a NFL starter to me yet. Of course it is very early to be predicting how he will do in the NFL and where he will be drafted because he is going to be a Junior in his second season as the full-time starter, so I realize I am jumping the gun with this. I just feel obligated to state where I think he is as far as his progression as a QB, and in my opinion he is still rather raw and needs developing. Hopefully he stays through his Senior season so he can get as much experience as possible before moving on to the NFL. I have to say, I am intrigued by some of his ability and I really hope he works on putting more zip and less touch on some of his passes this year. Hopefully he takes some significant strides in his second season as a starter.

If Cooper can come back from his serious knee injury healthy then he could still be an impact player in the NFL.

One other player I knew I had to take notes on was Graig Cooper, who was a junior running back for the ‘Canes at the time. As soon as you see him touch the ball you can tell that this kid is fast. He flies around the field, has great acceleration and great burst to hit holes, seams, anything. He definitely has potential as a game-changing running back in the NFL. The tragic part about this was that he suffered a very serious knee injury in this game in the 2nd half on a rather run of the mill kick-off return. In fact, if he hadn’t suffered the injury he could have potentially scored on the play, though that is purely my own speculation. I don’t have much of an update on his rehab obviously, but I read that he has not yet been cleared to begin running as of early April. Hopefully he has made progress since then, but the fact remains that this was a very serious injury, and I would be pretty surprised if he was 100% during his senior season, which is disappointing for him and for his fans (of which I was one) because I was really rooting for him last year. It’s a shame this had to happen to him at such a critical time in his career.

In any event, I still managed to get some notes on him from this game before his injury, and though it would be particularly impressive if he came back to pre-injury form I think he will still have value even if he isn’t just as explosive as he was before he got hurt. He seems to have pretty good vision, and on one particular play that I remember JJ Watt did not stay at home and collapsed to where the run was supposed to go, but Cooper got the ball and immediately cut to the outside to where Watt would normally be and got a nice gain on the play. If he plays next year (which I really hope he will, even if it isn’t a significant amount) I will be interested to see how much of his great quickness and explosiveness he regains as he gets closer and closer to 100%. Hopefully he comes back as strong as can be expected, and I will be carefully monitoring his progress as more information becomes available. I’ll keep you all posted naturally.

Hankerson made this incredible one-handed grab late in the game. I know he has reliable hands, but if he can show this kind of concentration even on routine catches he will be an early NFL Draft pick.

Harris’ primary receivers on the ‘Canes are Leonard Hankerson, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin, which is a pretty nice trio of receiving targets. I didn’t get a lot of notes on them in this game, though I have been impressed with each of them at different times when I have seen them. Frankly, Harris didn’t give them a lot of catchable balls in this game so it was hard to find times to take notes on them, but when I saw them catch passes they all impressed me. Hankerson had a great one-handed catch late in the game and made another catch or two with his hands which was nice to see. Byrd, as far as I can tell from my notes, didn’t make a catch without catching the ball away from his body which was great to see. And Benjamin has always been good for big chunks of yardage and a lot of separation, and he nearly pulled off a terrific 3rd down catch along the sidelines on Miami’s last ditch attempt after they recovered an onside kick. I am excited to see how all three progress this season, and I think that if Harris continues to improve and if Miami’s offensive line holds up they could have a very explosive offense on their hands. I am excited to see them all play.

Orlando Franklin, Miami’s left tackle in this game, is going to receive mixed reviews from me. I heard rather frequently last year that he looked good filling in for Jason Fox, Miami’s very reliable left tackle who got hurt during his senior season before he left for the NFL. However, he looks more like a left guard to me than a left tackle, though he will have ample opportunity to prove me wrong during his senior campaign. He doesn’t look very quick out of his stance, and he seemed to struggle with Schofield and Watt versus the pass and Watt gave him some trouble with his quickness off the ball versus the run as well. Overall, he just didn’t seem athletic enough to handle Schofield, Watt or Chris Borland, a linebacker who will occasionally play with his hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs. I don’t know if he was quite prepared to play left tackle last season, so hopefully he will look more comfortable on the outside as a senior when he is preparing to play the position. I will definitely be paying attention to him this year.

Bailey has a lot of potential and natural athletic ability, but I am not a believer yet. He needs to get stronger versus the run and improve his hand usage before I buy him as a potential 1st round pick.

On the defensive side of the ball Miami naturally has some talented players, but Allen Bailey is definitely one of the more highly touted players on the roster. He has drawn comparisons to Justin Tuck because of his versatility to play defensive tackle and defensive end, though I think he mainly played defensive end in this game. However, I can’t say I was entirely impressed with him in this game. He had a sack where he got a nice bull-rush on Josh Oglesby, shed his block and wrapped Tolzien up for a sack, but he was also blocked effectively in the run game by Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks and Oglesby multiple times. That was particularly alarming because a DE/DT ‘tweener should be strong enough with good enough hand usage to man-handle 95% of TE blocks. I can understand getting blocked effectively by Graham a time or two because he has a good reputation as a run blocker (even if I think he gets away with holding rather regularly). But he got blocked effectively by Graham multiple times one on one, by Kendricks multiple times, and got blocked one on one effectively by Josh Oglesby versus the run. That was pretty shocking, and it really made me question him as a prospect. Sure, he can get after the passer, but if he can’t defend the run or shed blocks in the trenches then his value as a prospect will be significantly lower to me. He’s getting a lot of positive pub right now, but I am definitely not a believer in Bailey as of today. He has another year to show me what he can do, but he needs to show me a lot more ability versus the run for me to think he will be the quality player everyone else seems to think he will be.

One player I saw flash some impressive ability was Olivier Vernon, a freshman defensive end on Miami. He didn’t get a lot of playing time as a freshman, but he absolutely tossed Gabe Carimi like a rag-doll on a run play and got a great TFL. He didn’t make any other plays as good as this one in the game that I noticed, but he sure did flash some ability on this play. I have high hopes for him in his career, and I think that he will show some substantial growth as a sophomore. I am very interested in seeing him play this season, he is definitely a sleeper for the DE position. Hopefully he breaks out and makes me look smart!

Harris has 1st round ability, and he is one of my favorite draft elligible corners this year. (Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

Finally, one player that I am a big fan of on Miami’s defense is their corner Brandon Harris. He was only a sophomore last season but he managed 15 pass deflections and two interceptions on the year. I watched the Miami-FSU game early in the year and I immediately noticed him. He just makes big plays whenever I watch him. There was one particular play against Wisconsin when Harris got beaten, I believe it was by Garrett Graham underneath, and he turned upfield and I thought it was a certain touchdown. But Harris didn’t give up on the play and he came up behind Graham and as he began to wrap him up he punched the ball out just before he crossed the goal line. Miami recovered the ball in the end zone for a touch-back and Miami stayed in the game, all because Harris didn’t give up on this play and forced the fumble. I think he is going to end up declaring after his junior season and he is going to be a high draft pick if he plays well this year in my opinion. He is definitely one of my favorite draft-eligible corners, even if he doesn’t support the run as well as I might like. Definitely keep an eye out for Harris next season, I think he is going to break out even more than he did last year.

That just about concludes the notes I have for the Miami Hurricanes. Check out my blog post below for my write-ups on the Wisconsin players I took enough notes on to get a feel for their ability as a player. Hopefully you enjoy this post and my other posts to come. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I recently re-watched this game to take a look at a number of the prospects on Wisconsin and on Miami. There were so many that I have to split it up into two parts much like I did with the Virginia Tech-Tennessee write-up that I did a couple of weeks ago. Here is my write-up for all of the Wisconsin players I took notes on:

Kendricks may very well be my favorite TE in this draft class. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

There were a lot of players for me to take notes on in this game, but none of them stuck out more than Lance Kendricks, a TE on Wisconsin. He was only a junior in this game, but he arguably the best game of his career against Miami with at least 8 catches and well over 100 yards, many of the catches came on critical first down conversions, and he did a great job of catching every pass with his hands and getting quality yards after the catch. He also did a very good job of sealing the edge on a number of good run plays, and even gave Alan Bailey, a stand-out defensive lineman on Miami, trouble in one on one blocking situations. Overall, Kendricks was the best player in this game as far as I’m concerned, and he is definitely one of my favorite TE’s in the draft next year. Heck, he might be my favorite. If he wasn’t so good already I would have him as my sleeper without a doubt. I can’t wait to see him play this season.

I also took a lot of notes on Scott Tolzien, who had a solid game against Miami. He had a good number of yards, and aside from an unlucky interception that came after one of his passes was deflected at the line and intercepted by a defensive lineman, he didn’t make many mistakes (if any) by throwing the ball into coverage. He took what the defense gave him and usually that involved a pass to Lance Kendricks or Garrett Graham. He has solid footwork, decent arm strength and decent accuracy, but he is not a stand-out in any area. He flashed some pocket poise, but other times he would get happy feet and rush a throw or get outside of the pocket unnecessarily. Not many of his throws were NFL caliber throws, meaning you have to have NFL quality arm strength and accuracy to make the throw. Usually his man was open or a few times he would throw the ball up and let his man go make a play on it. He had decent timing, but I am not sure how good he is at anticipating what will happen on any given play. He seems to do an ok job of pre-snap reads, and at times he would check out of a play, but other times Miami would be showing a blitz (often in the 2nd half they would bring a run blitz on 1st down to try to force Wisconsin into 2nd and 3rd and long situations) and he would just leave the play as is and they would get stuffed for a short gain or a loss. This is partially on Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator for getting extremely predictable and calling a run play on at least nine first downs in a row without throwing a pass, but it is also partially on Tolzien because I think he has the ability to check out of a bad play-call like that. It was hard to watch that kind of ineptitude over and over.

Tolzien still looks like a game manager to me, but I am interested to see how he progresses in his second season as a starter.

So my impression of Tolzien hasn’t really changed. Wisconsin lives off the run game, especially John Clay, and Tolzien just has to manage the game, not force throws into coverage, and convert some 3rd downs when he is asked to. Early in the game Wisconsin was very conservative on 3rd and long, and would almost just give up on the drive if they were in a 3rd and long. But as the game went on Tolzien got more confident and regularly found Kendricks or Graham on 3rd and long to extend the drive. So, Tolzien might not look like a quality NFL starter, but he looks like a 7th round/UDFA type player who could end up on a practice squad. I’m not sure he is #3 QB material yet, but he will have a year to prove that he can still develop and get better, so it will be interesting to see how he does in his second season as a starter this year.

Obviously you have to take note of how John Clay does when you watch Wisconsin, and he had a good game today. He played through some kind of ankle injury that he suffered during the game but he had an effective day and eclipsed the 100 yard mark yet again. He runs hard, finishes runs strong and runs through arm tackles with ease. He doesn’t have much burst, and I think he is going to be more of a one dimensional power-back in the NFL if he doesn’t show that he can block on 3rd downs in the backfield or threaten defenses as a receiver out of the backfield. He had a catch or two underneath in this game, but he needs to show more than that to make me think he is a reliable option out of the backfield. Right now I think he is more of a 3rd or 4th round prospect, but next year I would like to see him play at a lighter weight than 248 pounds, which is what he was listed at. I have a feeling he was heavier than 250 in this game, and he really seemed to have a gut when he would stand up straight or lean over before the play would start. If he could get down to under 240 I think he would be more effective, he wouldn’t wear down as easily, he would have better stamina and he might have more of a burst to hit the hole when he finds it. He is a quality power-back right now, but I don’t think he is going to be a high draft pick if he doesn’t get in better shape. Just imagine a leaner version of Clay with more strength, less fat and a little more quickness. He would be very hard to slow down. Hopefully someone is in his ear telling him this so he can terrorize the Big 10 again next year.

John Clay is a true power back, but it would really help his draft stock if he could show the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and to block on passing downs.

Nick Toon is a receiver who is really flying under the radar but I love his game. He gets good separation, has solid size and does a good job of catching passes away from his body with his hands. He has nearly made some spectacular catches along the sideline, and if Tolzien had helped him out a bit he could have come down with a big catch on a deep ball down the sideline. When I watched it live I definitely thought it was a catch, so he nearly got his feet in-bounds. I think that Toon will emerge some more this season, and I really think he is a good sleeper candidate for his class. I would be surprised if he declared after his junior year this season, but I think he could solidify his draft stock for a big push as a senior with another good year this year. I am excited to see how he builds upon his 800+ yard season as a sophomore.

I have become quite fond of scouting offensive linemen, and Wisconsin is usually a good unit to scout for that, especially if you like good run blockers. Wisconsin has three pretty good upper classmen this year: Gabe Carimi, their LT, Josh Oglesby, their RT (who is a junior), and John Moffit, who plays C and OG. Carimi and Moffitt are both seniors. I took some notes on them, but this wasn’t exactly a banner day for any of them.

Carimi may be best prospect out of the three, so I will start with him. My general impression of him is that he will have to slide over to RT in the NFL. He is a pretty good run blocker, but he isn’t the drive blocker I thought he might be when I started watching this game initially. He can get some push off the line, but he doesn’t dominate his man in the running game like Jake Long did at Michigan. However, he doesn’t look especially fluid as a pass blocker, nor does he seem mirror speed rushers particularly well. Miami has a couple of good speed rushers, and he didn’t really get beat in this game, but I personally think his ceiling is higher at RT. Naturally I will need to watch more of him, especially from a pass blocking standpoint, because if I had taken notes on him, Oglesby and Moffitt on every snap this would have taken hours longer for me to scout. However, my impression remains unchanged that he has a higher ceiling at RT than at LT in the NFL, though potentially he could start at RT and be a back-up at LT that could play there in a pinch. He didn’t really look like a 1st rounder in this game to me, but he is still a quality OT prospect despite that.

Carimi is a quality tackle prospect, but I don't think he is a 1st round talent right now.

Next I will break down Moffitt a bit for you. I actually anticipated him playing at OG in this game, so I was a little surprised to see him inside at center. He looked good on every snap though, I don’t believe I recorded a bad snap from him when Tolzien was under center or when he was in shotgun, which is pretty impressive for a guy who spent a lot of last year playing offensive guard. If center is his true NFL position then he could be a pretty rare prospect because of his ability to block effectively in the run game. He’s a pretty big guy, and he has the ability to block a defensive tackle one on one, which is extremely rare for a center. However, I think he may slide outside to guard in the NFL, even though I think he projects just fine to the pivot spot. He should be a solid guard, a pretty good run blocker and a pretty good pass protector, but I wouldn’t grade him any higher than a 3rd rounder or maybe a 4th rounder right now. Obviously I will have to see how he does as a senior, but he looks like a solid OG prospect and a potentially good center prospect to me right now.

Oglesby is a bit different from Carimi and Moffitt. Those two guys are pretty fundamentally sound, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, and they are two of the leaders on that offensive line. Oh, and Carimi came back from a knee injury in this game when he got rolled up on from behind. He just walked it off and came back in, that was impressive. But Oglesby is a huge RT with long arms, but he isn’t as fundamentally sound. He is an effective run blocker more-so because of his size than his technique, and he leans a lot into his blocks and ends up on the ground his fair share. He is usually just bigger than the guy he is blocking, so his fundamentals don’t need to be very well developed in order for him to move him off the line or to get him to the ground. But when he has to pass protect his size isn’t a significant advantage like it is versus the run, and he doesn’t look like he has good footwork or lateral agility. That becomes an issue when he is asked to neutralize speed rushers. When he can get his hands on the defender he can usually neutralize him with relative effectiveness, but if he has to mirror a speed rush he can have some issues. He needs to do what he can to improve his lateral agility and really work hard to improve his footwork or he is going to have serious issues trying to play RT in the NFL. He has great size and strength, but he needs to polish his fundamentals a lot.

Watt has impressive size but he was too quick for Orlando Franklin versus the run in this game.

JJ Watt is an intriguing defensive end with good size and athletic ability. I didn’t watch him on every play, but he seems to have a pretty good motor, and he does a good job of getting upfield and penetrating into the backfield. There were a few plays he disrupted for a loss in this game, and he looked like he was too quick for Orlando Franklin versus the run. He also does a good job of getting his hands up in passing lanes to knock down passes or alter throws, as he had one or two pass deflections against Miami. There were a couple plays that he misread or did not keep contain on, and on both plays it allowed the Miami ball-carrier to bounce outside and to gain some yardage. He needs to work on keeping contain, not overreacting to the run, and I’m not sure how good his hand usage is. I need to watch him on a snap to snap basis to evaluate his burst off the snap, how much speed he has to get the edge, and what kind of pass rush moves he has. From what I saw in this game he doesn’t seem to have much to offer as a pass rusher, but that can change between his junior and senior seasons, and I didn’t get a lot of good looks at him. But versus the run he sure does have an impact. He will get a lot more attention this year since O’Brien Schofield has graduated and moved on to the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how effective he is this year.

That about does it for Wisconsin and Miami. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and liked what I had to say. Feel free to leave comments! I can’t wait for the football season to get here.

Thanks again!

–Tom Melton