Tag Archive: Duke


These prospects aren’t necessarily my top ranked guys or players that are going to go in the first round, but they are guys that I am 100% sold on and would fight for if I was in a NFL Draft War Room. Enjoy.

QBs:

Geno Smith, West Virginia
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Honorable mentions: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse, Ryan Griffin, Tulane

Analysis: I have been fairly outspoken about not being a fan of this quarterback class. That’s not to say there won’t be solid starters that come out of this class, there will, but I’m not comfortable tying my reputation to many of these quarterbacks and even the guys that I like have flaws. Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson have been my top 2 guys for months and that’s not going to change. I think Wilson is going to be a very good value if he’s there on day 2 and whoever gets him is going to get a very good, tough leader who may not be a pro bowler but is a guy you can win with. Geno Smith has been completely overanalyzed by this point, but I don’t think he’s a “franchise” guy, but definitely has pro bowl upside. That’s worth a 1st round pick to me. He’s the #14 player on my overall big board. As for Nassib, he’s been my #3 QB for a long time as well and while his NFL success will be tied more to a good scheme fit than I think Smith and Wilson will I think that he’s going to be a quality starter as well. This is particularly true if he goes to a team with an entrenched veteran QB who can show him the ropes and give him time to develop. Like most of the QB’s in this class I don’t think he is ready to jump in and run the show from the start. And finally there is Ryan Griffin from Tulane who I wish I could have seen more of, but everything I saw of him was very intriguing. He’s going to be an early day 3 pick in my opinion and I really like his developmental upside. Should be a good #2 at least, potentially a solid starter. I’d roll the dice on him in round 4 or 5.

RBs:

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas
Benny Cunningham, Middle Tennessee State

Honorable mention: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Analysis: Franklin is my #2 running back in this class, Bernard is my #3, and Johnson is my #5. Franklin and Bernard have both been discussed an awful lot, I think they are both quality backs and will be effective NFL starters. Dennis Johnson is one player that I am far higher on than most, and I think he is going to shock a lot of people at the next level. When I watch him I see a young Michael Turner who can contribute on special teams as an effective kick returner. He’s a complete back and he is my early pick for the steal of the draft. Benny Cunningham is a late addition to this post, but I am extremely intrigued by him. He just ran a 4.51 at his pro day months after a season ending knee injury and if he comes back 100% I think he is going to be a steal on day 3. He absolutely has starter running back upside and if he gets his chance I think he will surprise people. Last but not least I couldn’t leave Montee Ball off this list. I’ve watched him live too many times at Camp Randall Stadium and despite his heavy college workload I think he is being underrated. He’s a quality back and he can likely be had in the 3rd or 4th round.

WRs

Keenan Allen, California
Robert Woods, USC
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Conner Vernon, Duke

Analysis: Allen has been my #1 WR since October and I haven’t wavered on that despite his knee injury, testing positive for marijuana at the combine or not being able to perform fully at Cal’s pro day. Maybe that makes me stubborn, but I’ve been watching him since he was a freshman and I’ve been convinced for three years that he has #1 WR upside at the next level, so why should I change my mind now? The tape screams NFL #1 to me, so that’s what I’m trusting. Robert Woods was initially my 1a to Keenan Allen but his injuries concerned me a bit and he dropped down on my rankings, but he is at worst a terrific #2 in the NFL and is back at #2 in my rankings. I wish I could hear more about his ankle to see if he was going to be 100% at the next level, but he’s a 1st round pick in my opinion and will be a very effective NFL receiver. Hopkins has been my #2 for a while but thanks to some possible character concerns I’ve dropped him down to #4, but I am still a big fan on tape. He should be a 1st round pick in my opinion, but if he drops to the 2nd round some team could get a nice value with him. And finally Conner Vernon is the last player I’ll “bang the table” for at the wide receiver position. In a class absolutely stacked with talent I wanted to add a late round guy who I think is worth fighting for. He may not be the biggest or the fastest, but Vernon just always seems to be open and he has very good hands. He’s not going to be a pro bowler, but he’s going to have a 10+ year NFL career in my opinion. Look for him on Day 3.

TEs

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Justice Cunningham, South Carolina

Analysis: Eifert may feel like a cop out, but he’s been my #1 TE for months now and he’s in my top 10 on my big board (#9) so I’m very confident he is going to be an impact tight end at the next level. Cunningham may seem a bit out of left field, but from the first time I noticed him I just had a gut feeling that he was being completely slept on and I still feel that way. He may not be a stud at the next level, but I’m not sure I’ve even seen anyone project him to get drafted. In a deep, talented tight end class I really think he could surprise and make a roster.

OTs

Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
DJ Fluker (RT/OG), Alabama
Reid Fragel, Ohio State

Analysis: I’ve been a big fan of Fisher since before the Senior Bowl and he was awfully impressive there and I feel confident saying I was one of the first people to say he was on Joeckel’s level (if not better) back in January. Others have since come to a similar conclusion, and while I have Joeckel rated above Fisher on my big board (#2 and #3 respectively) I am convinced Fisher has pro bowl potential at tackle and is worth a high draft pick. Fluker is an interesting prospect and while I think he would underwhelm in pass protection at right tackle I think he is so effective in the run game that he is worth banging the table for if you are a power running team. Not only that, but if he doesn’t pan out at right tackle you can just slide him inside to guard and enjoy pro bowl caliber play for the next 10 years. Reid Fragel is the last tackle I am a really big fan of. He is a developmental guy who needs some technique work and could stand to get stronger, but I think he has the upside to play left tackle and getting a guy like that in rounds 3-5 is something I and many NFL teams will always be interested in. I think he’s going to have a better NFL career than many expect.

OGs

Chance Warmack, Alabama
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Larry Warford, Kentucky
Hugh Thornton, Illinois

Analysis: Warmack and Cooper go without saying, they are studs and should be quality starters as rookies. Warford is a player some have cooled on, but I really like him as a quality starter at guard and I think he could start as a rookie. He’s short, squatty and not particularly mobile but he’s going to have a long, effective NFL career if you ask me. And finally there is Hugh Thornton, he’s had to overcome a lot of adversity in his life and some teams are reportedly concerned about the anger he has inside of him, but he screams effective NFL starter at guard and call me crazy, but I love the nastiness he plays with. There are some great stories in this NFL Draft, but it’s tough to think of a guy who’s had tougher luck than Thornton. I’m a fan of him on the field, but I’m honestly rooting for him more as a person than I am as a football player.

Cs

Barrett Jones, Alabama

Analysis: This is not my favorite crop of centers, and I’ve been pretty outspoken about Khaled Holmes being a mid-round pick (I gave him a 4th round grade in June) and while Barrett Jones may not be an elite center prospect I think he is too smart and too sound from a technique standpoint to not have a long NFL career as a starting center. He’s not going to dominate at the point of attack, but he’s as tough as they come and he’s going to be the leader of whatever offensive line he gets drafted to.

DEs

Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Tank Carradine, Florida State
Datone Jones, UCLA
Corey Lemonier, Auburn
William Gholston, Michigan State
David Bass, Missouri Western State
Stansly Maponga, TCU

Analysis: Werner, Carradine and Jones are pretty self explanatory. I think Werner has 10+ sack upside and he’s a top 10 player to me, as is Carradine. Jones may not have that same pass rush upside but I think he can be a very versatile player in the NFL, not to mention he is virtually unblockable 1 on 1 when he slides into DT in pass rush situations. Lemonier is a player some don’t like, but I think he has a ton of upside as a pass rusher. He needs some technique work but he’s a guy I think you roll the dice on, coach up and the dividend could be a stud right end if he commits and works hard. Gholston is a player that some don’t like, but I have a feeling that he could surprise some people. Part of that bad rep comes from simply having the same last name as Vernon Gholston, but he has all the size and athleticism you could want and I don’t think he was coached particularly hard at Michigan State because he was such a big time recruit for them. With some NFL coaching and guidance I think he could surprise a lot of people, so I’m definitely willing to bang the table for him. David Bass impressed me a lot at the East-West Shrine Game and I think he has starter upside at defensive end, so on Day 3 he is definitely worth a draft pick to me. And finally Stansly Maponga presents some upside on Day 3 as well. He doesn’t have the height you want, but I think he definitely presents value as a rotational pass rusher and could go earlier than some have him projected.

DTs

Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Jesse Williams, Alabama

Analysis: This is a deep crop of defensive tackles, but I am very high on both of these guys. Richardson has been my #1 DT for a long time and I think he’s going to be an absolute impact player whether he’s in a 4-3 or a 3-4 as a DE. As for Williams I think he is the rarely seen 3 down nose tackle that can be effective versus the run and the pass in a 4-3 scheme. He’s worth a 1st round pick and I think he’s going to have a long, effective NFL career.

OLBs

Sean Porter, Texas A&M
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
Brandon Magee, Arizona State

Analysis: This may seem like a random group of outside linebackers, but I have been a fan of Porter for two years now and he is a poor-man’s Von Miller to me. He won’t be the dominant player Von is, but I think he can be effective if allowed to rush the passer in a similar capacity. I may be alone in that thinking though. Khaseem Greene is a guy that I think is going to be a good leader and an effective OLB in a 4-3, likely on the weak side. And Magee is a late round sleeper that I think is going to outperform everyone’s expectations for him.

ILBs

Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Kiko Alonso, Oregon

Analysis: Arthur Brown is my favorite 4-3 linebacker in this class and I personally think he is a definite first round draft pick and can play inside or outside in that scheme. Alonso may not be for everyone, but I love the way he plays and I think he is going to be good whether he’s inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3.

CBs

Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Nickell Robey, USC
Nigel Malone, Kansas State

Analysis: Jamar Taylor and Johnthan Banks are traditionally ranked pretty high by most analysts, at least those that I interact with, and I really think Taylor is worth a 1st round pick. Banks may not have had the workouts that he needed to go in round 1, but he has good ball skills as well as the size and length that is becoming more and more popular to match up with bigger wide receivers. Poyer has been a favorite of mine for years, really since he housed an interception on Matt Barkley when Barkley was a sophomore. He’s a top 40 player on my board and I think he’s going to be a good corner in the NFL. Robey and Malone are two other players I think I am a lot higher on than most. Robey is a top 100 player in my book despite his obvious lack of size. He’s an absolute playmaker and I think you can never have too many of those at corner. Malone is undersized and doesn’t have elite athleticism, but he’s going to stick on a NFL roster, likely as a nickel or dime guy, and make plays on the ball when he’s on the field. I’ll take guys who can play the ball like Malone on my roster any day, especially late in the draft.

Safeties

Kenny Vacarro, Texas
Jonathan Cyprien, FIU
DJ Swearinger, South Carolina
Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
Duke Williams, Nevada

Analysis: Vacarro is at the top of plenty of safety rankings and I think he’s going to be a very good safety at the next level, and I feel the same about Cyprien. I was really impressed with what I saw from him when I watched him on tape and live. Swearinger was a popular name for a while but has cooled lately, but I’m still a big fan of his. If he’s there in the 3rd round I’d jump all over him. Rambo has some questions surrounding him but he strikes me as an absolute ballhawk and those aren’t as easy to find at the safety position as it may seem. I’d also jump all over him in round 3. And finally Duke Williams, a guy I’ve been rooting for since I saw him LAY someone out in a bowl game a couple years ago, should go sometime on Day 3 and I think he has legitimate starter upside.

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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.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) looked pretty good as usual. His accuracy is still not where I would like it to be, but he continues to look like the best quarterback at the Shrine Game. He threw well on the move today from what I saw but still seems to be working on his footwork. He drives the ball well though, and just needs coaching and I think his accuracy will improve. He was less erratic today, so hopefully he continues to improve over the course of the week. I haven’t seen him make very good reads so far this week either and he should have thrown a pick today, but he has the intangibles and is reportedly a huge film junkie so I don’t think that will be an issue down the line. He’s a developmental guy with impressive intangibles from what I have been able to find out about him, but he will need time once he gets to the NFL. Give him a couple years though and I think he can be a starter.

Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) looked better today, but I think playing next to Brantley helps that a bit. I’d say that Davis is probably the third best quarterback here behind Coleman and Chandler Harnish, but that’s my personal opinion. Davis is a late round guy in my eyes and I don’t think that will change much this week. He’s got intangibles and a solid arm so I think he has the potential to stick somewhere as a back-up. I don’t think he has much starter upside at all, which means he’s a 6th/7th round guy or maybe an undrafted free agent. His ball velocity is noticeably less than Coleman’s and he doesn’t have great size or athleticism. He’s solid in many areas but spectacular in none, but you know what you are getting with him. There just isn’t that much upside to his game though.

John Brantley (Florida) is probably going to go undrafted to be honest. He has more upside than Davis because he’s not a finished product and isn’t as polished, but his mechanics are a pretty obvious issue. Like Davis he projects to be a back-up in the NFL but unlike Davis he isn’t ready to stick as a #3 right away and compete for a roster spot. The future doesn’t look too bright for Brantley and even if he continues to improve during the week I don’t see it helping his stock much. He’s been kind of an afterthought with the scouts I have been around, though he did look a little more comfortable today.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) continues to impress and I still think he’s the best back here. He’s not going to walk into the NFL and start as a couple scouts have pointed out for the past two days, but I do think he can contribute immediately. He’s not going to rip off huge chunks of yardage and make the big highlight runs, but I think he will be a reliable back in the NFL. He strikes me as a nice 4th or 5th round pick-up that will make the team and contribute more than people expected coming in. He’s my early favorite for the Offensive MVP of the game on Saturday.

Davin Meggett from Maryland and Alfred Morris from Florida Atlantic haven’t impressed me much. Meggett has shown some ability to make cuts as has Morris, but I think the game will be important to evaluate both of them. Meggett is a quality physical specimen that should be better than he actually is at running through contact, and Morris is more of a physical type runner than a quick/burst type of runner. Both have late round/UDFA grades from me right now, but I’ll see how they look the rest of the week.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continues to look good as a route runner and he continued to create separation again today. He had a couple drops early in practice but overall he had a good day and has probably had the strongest start to the week of any receiver here outside of Devon Wylie. He’s got good hands and he can catch passes outside of his frame which I really like, but I don’t think he’s going to be much of a yards after catch guy at the next level. But if he can create separation and catch the ball consistently like he has so far this week he should be able to get drafted and make a roster.

Unlike yesterday A.J. Jenkins (Illinois) looked much better today catching the ball. He didn’t look like himself to me yesterday as a route runner or as a pass catcher, but today he looked more comfortable and caught the ball much better which was good to see. One scout that was near me was very high on him, thought he was the fastest guy of the group of East WR’s. I’m not sure I agree with that because I think Hardy could run faster than him, but Jenkins does have some speed and pretty good hands. I have been high on him for a long time, so it was good to see him bounce back strong.

I didn’t see too much from receivers other than that, though Lance Lewis (East Carolina) and Thomas Mayo (Cal PA) did continue to demonstrate pretty good hands. Lewis looks like a pretty good athlete and I like him as a 5th/6th round sleeper at receiver. Mayo still looked slow to me today and is clearly very raw as a route runner, but he has pretty reliable hands.

Kevin Hardy (Citadel) and LaRon Byrd (Miami) continue to disappoint. Hardy can at least run and get open but his hands are as inconsistent as any receiver at the Shrine Game. He body catches often when he does make the reception, but more often than any receiver here he has dropped passes. Jenkins seemed to give him a run for his money on the first day, but he definitely has the most drops of anyone that I have seen so far. One other guy I anticipated having hands issues was B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) and he has shown his inconsistency so far as he has struggled to catch the ball consistently. He had a better day today from what I saw as he was generating more separation and catching the ball cleanly. There are times when he looks like he could be a quality NFL receiver when he catches the ball cleanly, but more than anything I think Cunningham is inconsistent. He should get drafted in the 4th-6th round range but I’m not sure he will ever be a NFL starter.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continues to impress which definitely took me by surprise. He continues to show pretty good hands and he made a very nice catch off of a tipped ball. At 6’6” with 33 inch arms he presents a big target for quarterbacks to throw to. He may be playing himself into the NFL Draft this week, he even impressed as a blocker at times today. He seems to have taken over the top TE spot for the East as the scouts around me weren’t very taken with Evan Rodriguez (Temple) today. He’s a smaller guy at 6’1.5”, 242 pounds with only 31 5/8 inch arms, so length can be an issue at times. He looked pretty good when he was lined up at fullback today and could be a FB/H-Back type prospect in the NFL. Not sure if he’s built to consistently line up as a NFL tight end, and may not have the speed to threaten down the seam if he is split out, but he is solid.

Offensive Line:

Derek Dennis (Temple) and Desmond Wynn (Rutgers) continue to impress me, though again it was largely in 1 on 1 drills. Both had their ups and downs today and neither are perfect prospects, but I think they can both be solid NFL starters given coaching and development. Dennis seemed to struggle with speed off the ball at times as Micanor Regis was able to beat him off the ball due to his burst and athleticism off the line (plus a nice swim move). However, he did a pretty good job against Jean-Baptiste, a guy who has been very tough to block 1 on 1 this week. Desmond Wynn still plays a bit high and his technique isn’t very well refined but he has good size and when he matched up well with Akiem Hicks today. None of the offensive tackles are very impressive in my book, though I think Jeff Adams (Columbia) has the best chance to be drafted of any of the East tackles. He doesn’t have good feet and will have to try to stick as a tackle on the right side in the NFL, but he showed some push in the run game and looked better in pass protection that the other tackles. You can tell he has long arms as he was able to use them to his advantage to slow defensive ends down in 1 on 1 drills. Joe Long (Wayne State) has the size and length to engulf smaller rushers like Jabaree Tuani at times, but he leans a lot and doesn’t have good balance in my opinion.

Quentin Saulsberry (Mississippi State) continued to have a solid week of practice. He’s not a stud and he doesn’t do great when matched up 1 on 1 with a defensive tackle like Jean-Baptiste, but I think he has the potential to be a solid starting center in the NFL. He won’t be able to drive block defensive tackles which can be so valuable in a center, but he can be a reliable player for you. I still am not very high on Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA), though he does have NFL size and can get a quality push in the running game. He has some character question marks which could scare some teams off, but he has upside.

Defensive Line:

Nick Jean-Baptiste (Baylor) and Akiem Hicks (Regina, Canada) both continued to impress me at defensive tackle today. NJB drew double teams constantly in team drills and continued to prove very difficult to block in 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t always dominate his man and he ended up on the ground a time or two, but he definitely looks like a high effort guy that has demonstrated a quality motor so far this week. He has very active hands plus he is powerful. He didn’t stand up to double teams quite as well as I would have liked today, but he did a pretty good job. Hicks continues to struggle to play with good leverage as he stands up and gets too high after he comes out of his stance. If he can be coached to play with better pad level to avoid giving up leverage he could be quite a talent. He looks strong in his lower body and has plenty of power there. He’s raw and needs development but there is undoubtedly potential there.

I liked what I saw from Travian Robertson (South Carolina) today as well. He looked good in 1 on 1 drills and in team drills. He seems fundamentally sound and played with good leverage consistently. This was particularly evident when he and Hicks would go one after another in 1 on 1 drills. Micanor Regis (Miami) also showed some ability since he has burst off the snap and can beat you with an initial move if you aren’t ready for him. He’s not much more than a rotational guy in the NFL and is a fringe draft prospect at this point.

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) and Matt Conrath (Virginia) didn’t have very good days today. Wilber, as I expected, didn’t hold up very well in the run game thanks to his thin lower body and light frame. He also struggled to win match-ups 1 on 1 in drills as his moves looked slow. Conrath also looked slow off the edge but that’s not surprising. He needs to bulk up and play 3-4 defensive end.

Linebackers:

Brandon Lindsey (Pittsbugh) and Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) both looked good to me today. Lindsey is showing some ability to drop into coverage which is impressive for a guy who has played a lot of defensive end in the past two seasons. Gruder continues to play instinctual football and while he isn’t that strong he is fundamentally sound and reliable. He will get drafted and play special teams and work his way up as a reserve. Lindsey’s value is really as a pass rusher, but I don’t think there’s much question he has it in him to play there now that he has shown he can drop into coverage. He’s helped himself this week even if he hasn’t made a lot of splash plays.

Shawn Loiseau (Merrimack College) looked good today as well. He seems to be the leader of the defense which speaks to quality intangibles and he seems to be pretty athletic. I don’t have a draftable grade on him yet, but if he has a strong rest of the week he could draw some attention as a UDFA.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) continues to impress, and he even remembered his own helmet today! He continues to display quality ball skills, impressive closing speed and he was ready to lay a couple people out today. He closed like a heat-seeking missile a couple times, so look for him to hit someone HARD on Saturday. Micah Pellerin (Hampton) and Norman were the two names scouts seemed to think were the best defensive backs on the East roster. I tend to agree, though I’m not as high on Pellerin as some. He’s athletic though, so he has some upside. He’s a fluid athlete who looks good in drills but haven’t been as impressed with him in coverage. None of the other corners impressed me much today, and I think it’s clear Norman has separated himself a bit from the pack.

Matt Daniels (Duke) continued to struggle in man coverage today though he did have a nice hit on Chase Ford after he made a nice catch over the middle. Problem was, they weren’t supposed to be hitting. Jerrell Young (South Florida) looked good in drills and seems to be athletic, but he got burned on day one in coverage and I didn’t see him much today. I’ll be keeping an eye on him.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Coleman was far and away the best quarterback on the East roster and was in my opinion the best quarterback of both practices. He measured in at 6’3”, 234 pounds and had huge 10 ¼ inch hands (this was apparent when I shook his hand when I chatted with him after practice, he has a very strong handshake). His arm strength was apparent from the first throw he made and his passes cut right through the wind. His mechanics looked good as he has a compact, over the top delivery. The ball really shoots off of his hand and he has a quick release. He threw a couple nice deep balls today and demonstrated quality play fakes which I like to see. His accuracy was a bit erratic at times so he has room to improve from an accuracy perspective, but he easily has the best arm in St. Petersburg. He did have a couple wobbly throws during practice and that is something I noticed when I watched film of him, so that’s something I will be keeping a close eye on. I’ll have an interview with BJ up later in the week, so look out for that!

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Davis was probably the second best quarterback on the East today. He doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Coleman or John Brantley, but he still made some impressive throws over the middle and had a nice deep ball one play after Coleman’s beautiful deep ball early in practice. You couldn’t tell the difference between who threw the ball if you only saw the ball, which is a plus for Davis. Davis’ height will make it hard to boost his stock since he measured in at just over 6’1”, 218 pounds. He isn’t the most physically impressive quarterback, but a couple times after a play I saw him pull a receiver aside and talk with him. That definitely impressed me, and it gave me a sense for the intangible qualities I’ve heard he has. It’ll be interesting to see how he does the rest of the week, but he’s never going to throw great passes from the far hash to the opposite sideline, he just doesn’t have that kind of arm strength. I’m not sure he has upside as a starter like Coleman does, but I do think he has the potential to stick on a roster and develop as a back-up.

John Brantley, QB, Florida: Brantley definitely has a strong arm but from the first throw he made you could see the hitch in his throwing motion. His mechanics definitely need work because his throwing motion dips down which elongates it. He has the arm strength to mask it a bit, but his mechanical flaws were obvious when he was alternating snaps with BJ Coleman early in practice. His arm strength was apparent, but his accuracy was inconsistent. Here’s hoping he picks it up the rest of the week because he left something to be desired today.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Poole is the top running back in St. Petersburg in my opinion. It’s not easy to evaluate running backs when everyone is in shells and no one can tackle, but Poole displayed quality burst to hit the hole today. Obviously it will be easier to see more when they have pads on the rest of the week, so I will definitely have my eyes on Poole tomorrow. He may not go higher than round 4 or so but I think he can contribute to a NFL team as a rookie at running back. I’ll have an interview with Tauren later this week as well, so keep an eye out for that.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech: Benford was the best receiver on the East roster today without question in my opinion. I was consistently impressed with him and three different scouts I talked to liked what they saw from him as well. He created very consistent separation, was regularly targeted and had only one drop near the end of practice. Otherwise he was catching everything with his hands whether it was inside or outside of his frame. He seemed to be running crisp routes and showed some physicality and toughness which I liked. He absolutely ran over Jerrell Young on one play when Young got in his way on his route, and after he beat another defender for a catch in traffic he bumped him as he finished the rep. I really like this kid and I can’t wait to see how he looks the rest of the week. I will have an interview with Tim later this week as well.

Thomas Mayo, WR, California (PA): Mayo has been getting some hype as a small-school receiver and he definitely lived up to some of it today. He displayed impressive hands as he made a couple nice snags outside of his frame today. One scout I talked to said that when he worked him out he thought he had some concentration issues that led to drops, but that didn’t look like an issue today. It’s something I will be looking for the rest of the week though. I thought he looked a bit slow when he was running his routes though and he does need coaching up with his route running, but I think he has more straight line speed than quickness and burst. It will be interesting to see if that hypothesis holds up this week, but I did like some of what I saw from Mayo today.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Jenkins is a guy that I have been high on for a long time and I even had him on my list of potential break-out players before the season started. He had a good season like I expected, but he did not have a good day today. He had way too many drops, at least four if I remember correctly, and while he showed the ability to create separation and to beat guys deep he didn’t finish the play with a reception. That really disappointed me, and I’m hoping that since he was a relatively late addition to the game that he just had an off day. I have high expectations for him the rest of the week, but today was not a good start for him at all.

Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Lewis didn’t stick out to me much today, but on a couple plays he did demonstrate solid athleticism and hands. He looked passes into his hands well, but early on in practice he seemed a little bit nervous. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, but regardless I expect him to be more involved in the next three days of practice than he seemed to be today. He’s got draftable ability despite measuring in smaller than his previously listed 6’3” height.

B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Cunningham started off the practice great today making catches on passes outside of his frame and looking like a polished receiver ready for the next level. But as practice progressed and he started going up against defenders he struggled to separate from some of the athletic defensive backs and showcased his inconsistent hands by dropping a number of passes. I was frankly surprised how well he was catching the ball early on in practice because I always questioned his hands when I watched film of him. He definitely lived up to that billing though, but it’s tough to figure out if his hands aren’t that good, if he has concentration issues or if it’s a mixture of both. I’ll keep track of it the rest of the week and post my thoughts on it.

Kevin Hardy, WR, Citadel: Hardy definitely has some athleticism and he showed quality speed and burst when he was running routes. His hands were inconsistent as well and definitely dropped some passes early on in practice. This same thing happened with Perry Baker last year and he recovered well and had a great rest of the week, so hopefully Hardy can do the same.

LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: This may be one of the last times I give Byrd much mention in my notes because as expected I don’t think he will be drafted. He looked slow today, showed little to no burst or suddenness in his route running, and had as many dropped passes as anyone if not the most of any receiver all day. He’s an undrafted guy for sure and I’m not sure he will even get practice squad looks.

Tight Ends:

Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: Rodriguez looked like the best tight end on the East roster today. He showed good burst and speed to threaten down the seam and absolutely burned Jerrell Young down the seam as he used good suddenness in his route to catch him flat footed and literally fly right by him. Young recovered though and managed to get up and deflect the pass which was lucky for him because Rodriguez was 5+ yards away from him down the field. Regardless, Rodriguez impressed me today and I will definitely be paying more attention to him as a blocker the rest of the week.

Chase Ford, TE, Miami: I did not have a lot of praise for Ford in my preview for this game but I have to admit he looked pretty good today. He isn’t a great in-line blocker and that showed today, but he made a number of nice catches outside of his frame and showed quality hands. I don’t know that he will be able to threaten much down the seam, but he made a couple nice catches in traffic today which helps him. He’s still an undrafted guy in my book, but he helped himself today.

Offensive Line:

Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: Dennis may have been the most impressive offensive lineman today in my opinion. I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the offensive line today, but every time I watched him he played with good pad level, bent at the knees, showed good hand placement and balance. I didn’t see him match up with Nick Jean-Baptiste at all, but that is a match-up I can’t WAIT to watch the rest of the week.

Desmond Wynn, OT, Rutgers: Wynn was listed as an OG by the Shrine Game roster but I think he has a chance to stick as a RT or as a guard. He measured in at 6’5”, 305 pounds today with 34 inch arms and 10 inch hands. He definitely started the day out right at the weigh in and continued his strong day in practice. Wynn was one of the only guys I saw slow down Akiem Hicks today and if he can work on his pad level a bit I think he has a future as a starter on the offensive line.

Rishaw Johnson, OG, California (PA): Johnson was getting some hype coming into the day but I wasn’t very impressed, particularly in the run game. He did a better job in 1 on 1’s in pass protection, but looked slow and heavy footed in the run game.

I didn’t get many notes on the offensive tackles today, but overall I was not impressed with them as a group. They did a good job in 1 on 1’s against guys like Julian Miller and Jabaree Tuani, but struggled against guys like Kyle Wilber and Micanor Regis. I don’t think this OT class is particularly strong, but it was only the first day. I’ll definitely have more notes on the offensive line the rest of the week.

Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State: Saulsberry doesn’t look like a dominant center but he looks like a well-rounded player who looked good in 1 on 1’s. This may just have been because his teammate Tyler Horn looked completely overmatched and didn’t look draftable today, particularly in 1 on 1’s. I’m excited to see him the rest of the week.

Defensive Line:

Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: All I can say is WOW. NJB as he will be referred to in the rest of my notes was fantastic in 1 on 1’s today. I didn’t pay attention to him in the team drills, but believe me I will be the rest of the week. I had concerns about him holding up versus the run and those concerns have not yet been dissuaded, but NJB looked like BJ Raji in 1 on 1’s. He is a shorter defensive tackle as he measured in at just under 6’2”, 335 pounds much like Raji is and his frame reminds me of Raji’s as well. That’s not to say NJB will end up in the top 10, but the comparison popped into my head today when I was watching him. He showed good burst off the snap, very active, strong and powerful hands and was essentially unblockable. Even when an offensive lineman was in good position and mirrored him he continued fighting thanks to an impressive motor (at least in this drill) and usually ended up winning the drill. I was very impressed and he looked like the #1 DT on either roster based on what I saw from him today. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table the rest of the week, but I hope he does this well in team drills particularly versus the run.

Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina (Canada): Like NJB I mostly saw Hicks in 1 on 1’s but he impressed me there as well. He was solid off the ball, showed active hands and quality bend and hip flexibility which was very nice to see. I was told to watch out for him this week and I definitely see some of what I was told to watch for. He’s got a ways to go as far as technique but the effort seemed to be there. While his hands were active they weren’t always effective and his pad level was inconsistent. When he got his pads low though he showed an effective bull rush which was definitely encouraging. He needs coaching, but the kid has upside without a doubt. He definitely won the weigh-in if that counts for anything since he measured in at 6’4.5”, 324 pounds with 35 1/8 inch arms and 10 1/8 inch hands.

Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath predictably looked slow off the edge today and gave credence to the people who have been projecting him inside to defensive tackle. But he measured in at 6’7”, 281 pounds so I don’t think that is his best position despite what others might think. I think he should continue to bulk up and get stronger and attempt to play 3-4 defensive end where his edge speed wouldn’t be as much of an issue and his height and frame would be a huge plus. He has upside but it isn’t as a 4-3 defensive end which is where he is playing this week. That’s unfortunate for him, but hopefully he can demonstrate his value despite playing out of position today.

Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber looks just as skinny in person as he does in film and his legs in particular looked very lean which is concerning, but he looked like a natural in 1 on 1’s. He demonstrated quality hand usage and looked smooth using his hands and pass rush moves to beat seemingly overmatched offensive tackles. He won’t hold up well in the run game because of his lack of size and strength, but he is a possible OLB convert thanks to some of his pass rush potential. He didn’t have a big year rushing the passer like I thought he might, but I am really excited to see what he does the rest of the week.

Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis had a couple nice plays today and looked solid in 1 on 1’s. He had a couple impressive bull rushes where he decimated the offensive lineman he was going up against but he was also swallowed up at times. He’s got upside and I think he has some draftable ability so I will be watching him the rest of the week, but I don’t think he helped himself too much today.

Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: Miller didn’t impress me much today and looked unspectacular in 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t create much push and didn’t show much edge speed either. He is either a versatile player or a ‘tweener, and right now it looks more like the latter unfortunately.

Linebackers:

Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey started his full-time transition to linebacker today and from what I saw it went pretty well. I am very interested to see how he does in coverage the rest of the week but the little I saw of him today was positive. It’s not easy to transition from a down lineman to outside linebacker so I expect some significant growing pains at some point, but I expect he will demonstrate his upside at some point as well.

Max Gruder, LB, Pittsburgh: A couple of scouts sitting around me had good things to say about Gruder today and they were talking about the positive experience they had watching him when they traveled to Pitt’s campus on a scouting trip this year. That doesn’t surprise me one bit because while Gruder isn’t a physical freak he is very fundamentally sound. He’s easy to like for that reason, so while he may not have much starter upside I do have a draftable grade on him because I think he would be very valuable on special teams and as a reserve.

Cornerbacks:

Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Everyone was talking about Norman today as a result of his two interceptions. Not too many people mentioned that on the play he collected his 2nd interception on he made significant contact with the receiver as he was running his route and enabled him to recover and track the deep ball and come down with the interception. Not exactly perfect coverage, but he did display quality ball skills all practice thanks to his two interceptions plus a couple of nice pass deflections. He definitely impressed me as I had never seen him before but he consistently stuck out in one on one drills. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on him this week.

Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin impressed me today as well though I didn’t see him very much. He definitely seemed to give B.J. Cunningham fits when he matched up against him, but he showed quality athleticism, closing speed and seemed to be a pretty fluid athlete. Combine that with measuring in at just over 6’0” this morning and he had a good day.

R.J. Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t stick out to me too much today but he did seem to have a pretty good feel in coverage. This isn’t a great barometer, but on one play he was covering LaRon Byrd and he almost seemed to run Byrd’s route better than he did. That probably has something to do with Byrd having no suddenness as a route runner, but it was still impressive to see from Blanton.

Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: As I pointed out in my preview, Brown’s upside is as a zone corner and he showed that today as he closed well on plays in front of him. He turns and runs pretty well though he does have a bit of tightness in his hips. I’m not very high on him and I don’t think he has a lot to offer as a man coverage corner, but he has a chance to prove me wrong this week.

Justin Bethel, CB, Presbyterian: Bethel was a bit of a confusing prospect for me today because he showed some ability to close on plays in front of him but his backpedal needs serious work. There were times he wasn’t even pedaling in 1 on 1’s which was a bit surprising to see. He’s a small school guy who probably got away with some sloppy technique against a lower level of competition, but that won’t work very well here. If he tries that against the talented group of West receivers on Saturday he will get abused.

Safeties:

Matt Daniels, SS, Duke: Daniels has some ability but he didn’t look very good in man coverage today. He got burned a couple times and one time he got burned so bad that when he reached out to try to grab and hold the receiver as he ran his route he couldn’t even reach the guy. I expect that he will have better days than he did today, but today wasn’t a great day for him.

Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: I mentioned him a few times in earlier notes I had on offensive players and that means there weren’t a lot of positive plays that I saw from Young today. He got caught flat-footed in coverage a couple times and got burned as a result of it.

Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State: I didn’t take a lot of notes on Thompson but he didn’t measure in very well this morning. He was just over 6’0”, 213 pounds and only had 31 5/8 inch arms and small 8 ¼ inch hands. He also looked leggy in his backpedal and didn’t click and close very effectively when I was watching him early on in drills. Overall this group of safeties did not impress me, the corners looked much better today.

Quarterbacks:

-BJ Coleman, QB, Tennessee – Chattanooga. 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.93 40 yard dash
-I really like B.J. Coleman. He missed some time due to injury this year which I thought might hurt him, but I was very happy to see him get an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. His game reminds me a bit of Nathan Enderle from last year, and there are some parallels between them that are pretty interesting (both started Senior season vs Nebraska, strong armed QB’s without much talent around them, both invited to East-West Shrine Game. I could go on, but I won’t.) Regardless, Coleman is a quality prospect in his own right and I think he has a chance to go in the first four rounds. This week will be big for him but if he is healthy he should have impressive ball velocity, good accuracy and pretty good pocket presence. I look forward to taking notes on him all week.

-Johnny Brantley, QB, Florida: 6’3”, 220 pounds, 4.89 40 yard dash
-I left his name as “Johnny” since that was how it was listed on the official roster and it cracked me up. Brantley is a guy that is starting to get some buzz as a sleeper and I understand why. He’s got experience playing in the SEC and he’s got a very strong arm. He did not have much success in his last two seasons as a starter in Florida but playing for two entirely different coaching staffs with very different offensive philosophies certainly didn’t help. I’m sure he appreciated not being taken out on 1st and 2nd down and thrust into a 3rd and long this year like he was in Urban Meyer’s last season at Florida (his first as a starter). He still didn’t do much passing this year in his first and only year under Charlie Weiss (who is now the head man at Kansas) but he did throw for 2,044 yards while completing 60% of his passes for an 8.5 yard average per attempt. He only threw 11 touchdowns as compared to 7 interceptions, but that was an improvement over his very unimpressive 9 touchdown, 10 interception stat line as a junior. Plenty of people have soured on him and don’t give him much of a chance at the NFL, but guys with his size and arm strength are always in demand. He’s been through a lot at Florida, but if he can have a solid week at the Shrine Game it could ensure him a chance as a late round draft pick or as an undrafted free agent come April.

-Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: 6’1”, 221 pounds, 4.78 40 yard dash
-Davis is the quarterback with the least upside of the quarterbacks on the East Roster. His size and arm strength are both average for the NFL and if there are any windy days down in St. Petersburg I think that will become very apparent. He’s the most athletic of the three quarterbacks and he does have an abundance of starting experience but I don’t think he has enough upside to warrant much consideration before the 7th round or as a priority free agent in April. He’s solid in a number of areas but spectacular in none, though he is supposed to have pretty good intangibles and football IQ. I don’t expect to see anything different than what I did at Southern Mississippi, but he might have the biggest adjustment to taking snaps from under center since Brantley had a chance to do that a bit with Weiss at Florida this year and Coleman ran an offense with pro-style looks in it. He’s definitely #3 on the depth chart for me, but it will be interesting to see him up close.

Running Backs:

– Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: 5’10”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-Poole isn’t a freak athlete and he isn’t a burner, but he is a compact, well built running back. I like running backs that have compact, well filled out frames and Poole fits that bill. He runs hard, he’s strong, he has a good natural pad level because of his size, and he has shown the ability to run through arm tackles and gain yardage after contact. He’s my #1 RB at the East-West Shrine Game and I’m excited to see him in person. He’s an underrated guy that may not go very high on draft day but will be ready to contribute immediately and surprise people in training camp.

-Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: 5’8”, 215 pounds, 4.56 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big fan of Meggett. He’s never really been the feature back until this season and his lack of production gives me pause when trying to evaluate him. He’s got the compact frame that I like in a running back, but he doesn’t break as many tackles and gain as many yards after contact as you would think given his size and strength. He’s supposed to be a big weight room guy who works very hard and was a team captain, but weight room strength doesn’t always translate to the football field and I’m worried that it doesn’t in his case. I question his balance a bit and that concerns me since I’m not sold on his vision and he doesn’t have the burst and speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. He’s a complete back though because he can run the ball, catch it out of the backfield and offer effort as a pass blocker. He needs work in all areas in my opinion, but there is ability to mold in all facets. He’s got some upside because he’s never really gotten a chance to be a feature back, but I wonder if he will ever reach it.

Wide Receivers:

-T.J. Graham, WR, North Carolina State: 5’11”, 180 pounds, 4.36 40 yard dash
-Graham definitely doesn’t look like he weighs 180 pounds to me so I will be very interested to see what he weighs in at. My estimation would be he’s actually about 5’10”, 170 pounds but that is just my opinion. Regardless of his official measurements there is no denying his speed and explosiveness. He put all of his ability on display in NC State’s bowl game against Louisville as he put on a show with 7 receptions for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game. He finished the season with 46 receptions, 757 yards and 7 TD’s receiving this year which nearly exceeded all of his production as a receiver from his previous three seasons on the Wolfpack. In his first three years he totaled 52 career receptions, 673 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He was only 6 receptions short of doubling his career receptions, yards and touchdowns total as a receiver as a senior. On top of that, Graham also has 630 career punt return yards with one touchdown and 3,157 career kick return yards and two more touchdowns. He had well over 5,000 total yards as a member of the Wolfpack and I think that his value as a receiver and a kick returner will be on full display during the East-West Shrine Game. I definitely think Graham will be a riser during the week and I really like his NFL upside. He’s my #1 WR on the East going into the week, so it will be very fun to see him play in person.

-B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: 6’2”, 216 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-I’m not a big Cunningham fan personally but there’s no denying the production he has amassed while at Michigan State. He has never had a season with under 500 receiving yards in his four years as a Spartan and in the past two years he has totaled 129 receptions, 1,917 yards and 21 touchdowns receiving. The list of more impressive stat lines over the last two seasons is pretty short and it’s headlined by a potential top five pick in Justin Blackmon. As a senior Cunningham had by far his best season with 79 receptions, 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a junior he was pretty inconsistent and dropped too many passes for my liking, but he seemed to improve that a bit as a senior. His hands are still a concern for me and I will be paying close attention to both how well he catches the ball this week and HOW he catches the ball. Namely, is he snagging passes outside of his frame, therefore displaying quality range, or is he body catching and letting passes outside of his frame bounce off his hands.

-Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech: 6’0”, 200 pounds, 4.43 40 yard dash
-Coale is a guy I have been paying attention to for the last two years because I’ve watched a significant amount of Virginia Tech over that time and while he may not be the #1 receiver on their depth chart there isn’t a lot of doubt in my mind that he had the best hands on the team. I was and still am high on Jarrett Boykin, a fellow senior who will be vying to be drafted, but Coale is a quality player in his own right. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him drop a routine pass and he adjusts very well to the ball when it’s in the air and has much better timed speed than I expected him to have. He’s got serious sleeper potential and I think he could be a guy that catches a lot of people’s eyes during the week of practices at the Shrine Game because he will almost certainly make a great catch that sticks in people’s minds. He is all effort all the time and while he probably won’t go very high in the draft I would be shocked if he didn’t end up making a NFL roster and working his way into a contributing role.

-Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: 6’1”, 209 pounds, 4.50 40 yard dash
-Lewis is a solidly built WR that has more speed than I expected him to have. I haven’t seen him enough to quantify exactly how good his hands are, but he strikes me as a mid-late round prospect that should be able to stick on a NFL roster. He missed three or four games this season which hurt his statistics as he totaled 60 receptions, 600 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year. That’s a solid total, but it pales in comparison to his junior season (his first with East Carolina) when he burst onto the scene with 89 receptions, 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns. I haven’t done enough tape study to figure out if the drop-off is due only to his missed playing time or if he was not the same player he was last year when he had Dwayne Harris playing with him. Hopefully he is 100% ready to go and he can impress in this game because I think he has enough value to get drafted in the 5th or 6th round range.

-Thomas Mayo, WR, California-Pennsylvania: 6’2”, 200 pounds, 4.59 40 yard dash
-Pennsylvania: Mayo is a guy who is getting some love as a small-school sleeper. I haven’t seen any game tape of him yet, but I have heard good things. I’m very excited to see him in person and I think he has a chance to make himself some money if he plays well. I have a feeling a lot of people know of him, but don’t have a great feel for his game yet.

-LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: 6’4”, 220 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-I’m not sure why Byrd is on this roster to be honest. I thought he had some upside a couple of years ago, but he has continually disappointed me and anyone else who expected him to be productive. He was effectively buried on Miami’s depth chart and Jacory Harris’ ineptitude at quarterback didn’t help things, but I am pretty skeptical of Byrd’s talents at this point. He had more touchdowns as a freshman (4) than he had the next three years of his career (3, one each season). On top of that, he capped off his career as a Hurricane with a monster season totaling 11 receptions, 125 yards and 1 touchdown. Obviously I was being sarcastic saying he had a monster season since there are players playing in this game that have almost as many touchdown receptions this year as he had overall receptions. Byrd has the size and athleticism combination you would like to have in a receiver, but I’m not sold on his hands and his lack of almost any progression over his entire career at Miami makes me question whether he will ever reach the potential he seemed to flash as a freshman three years ago.

Tight Ends:

-Chase Ford, TE, Miami: 6’5”, 245 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Ford’s 9 receptions, 88 yards and 1 touchdown may not seem that impressive, but he nearly matched LaRon Byrd’s production, so he must be good! I personally don’t think Ford was the best tight end on Miami’s roster, I think Blake Ayles (a USC transfer) was. Unfortunately, Ayles went down with an injury at the beginning of the season and didn’t accrue any stats this year. Hopefully he will be healthy soon, but in the mean-time I can’t say I think Ford has much of a chance of being drafted. Ayles would have been the starter had it not been for his injury, so I don’t have very high expectations for Ford this week. Frankly, I think there are other more deserving tight ends that could have been in this game. Ladarius Green, Nick Provo, Aron White and James Hanna are all guys I like at this position that won’t be at this game.

Offensive Guards:

-Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: 6’3”, 328 pounds, 5.45 40 yard dash
-I wanted to give you guys a synopsis of what I expect from the offensive tackles for this roster but I haven’t seen any of them enough to give you what I consider a quality breakdown of their abilities. I’ve always enjoyed watching offensive line play though, so rest assured I will keep a close eye on them throughout the week. Dennis, however, I have seen. I’ll admit before the first time I saw him I glanced at his 40 yard dash time and wondered how athletic he could be, but that’s just another reason not to put stock in the 40 yard dash times of offensive linemen. Dennis moves much better than his 40 yard dash time would seem to indicate, especially for such a large man. I think Dennis could be a real riser this week, especially if his line coach can coach him up a bit and help him with his technique. Dennis has some tools you look for in an offensive lineman and while I don’t think he will go before round 4 or 5 I do think he has starter potential in the future. He’s going to take a year or two of coaching up and developing, but if he takes coaching well and has a good work ethic I think you could see him starting in a few years.

Centers:

-Quentin Saulsberry, OC, Mississippi State: 6’2”, 300 pounds, 5.16 40 yard dash
-Saulsberry is kind of under the radar right now since there are some talented interior offensive linemen in this class. The center class is headlined by a first round center in Peter Konz, but it has some draftable talent and Saulsberry is in that group. I don’t have a great feel for his game yet, but he is being mentioned as a sleeper and I am excited to see how he looks this next week. He’s an under the radar guy, but he might be a riser this week.

Defensive Ends:

-Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: 6’7”, 280 pounds, 4.84 40 yard dash
-Conrath has played DE at Virginia for a long time but a few people have started to project him inside. I disagree with that because I think he has a pretty ideal frame to bulk up and play defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He might not be big enough yet, but at 6’7” he has the frame you love to see in 3-4 defensive ends. It will be interesting to see where he plays this week since I don’t think he is a great fit as a left end in a 4-3 defensive scheme but I don’t think he fits well as a defensive tackle in that scheme either. As a result he might be a little out of position this week depending on where he lines up, but as a mid-late round guy I like him.

-Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: 6’3”, 268 pounds, 4.76 40 yard dash
-Miller is a solid but not spectacular defensive end for West Virginia. Playing opposite Bruce Irvin meant he didn’t attract a lot of attention and that helped him rack up 57 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass break-ups this season. I don’t think he has a lot of edge speed and I don’t think he’s fantastic against the run either, so I question how much upside he has at defensive end. I think his best case scenario is being a rotational defensive end in the NFL, but I am looking forward to seeing how he looks in person getting off the ball, how much bend he has and how well he uses his hands among other things.

-Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: 6’4”, 240 pounds, 4.70 40 yard dash
-Wilber is a guy that I was high on coming into the season but he didn’t have the break-out season that I expected him to have. Many people think he will have to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL and I tend to agree. He has a pretty skinny frame despite his 6’4” height so I don’t know how much weight he will be able to pack on. He’s listed at 240 pounds and I think he could get up to 250 or 255 pounds on a quality weight training program but even at that weight he is likely too light to be able to play at right end in the NFL. This week will be important for him because he may get a chance to drop into coverage at some point. I haven’t seen him do that much at Wake Forest but I haven’t completed my film study on him yet. Regardless, he’s an athletic guy with upside in my opinion. This year he had 69 total tackles (47 solo), 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass deflection and he also blocked a kick. In the past two years he has 25 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 6 pass break-ups and 2 blocked kicks. The production and athletic ability is there, so I’m hoping he can have a big week and help demonstrate the ability that led me to put him on my list of potential break-out players at the beginning of the season.

Defensive Tackles:

-Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: 6’2”, 335 pounds, 5.06 40 yard dash
-Jean-Baptiste definitely catches your eye when he’s on the field because of his sheer size. The weigh-in will be important for him because if he comes in looking flabby and out of shape it will raise some concern from talent evaluators. However, his combination of size and athleticism is pretty impressive. I just don’t think he is as good as he could be yet given his natural size and athleticism. He was a complete non-factor in the Anti-Defense Bowl between Baylor and Washington a couple weeks ago and that’s concerning to me. I am interested to see how he plays this week but it seems that defensive tackles, perhaps more than any other position (at least, off the top of my head) really know how to turn it on when they are playing for a pay-check. Albert Haynesworth is the best example I can think of to support this claim, and if Jean-Baptiste plays great this week in stark contrast to his performance against Washington it will help his stock but make teams wonder where this effort level and ability was when everyone watching that game was begging for a quality defensive performance.

-Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: 6’2”, 305 pounds, 5.20 40 yard dash
-Regis was definitely overshadowed at Miami because that defensive line was bursting with talent. They didn’t live up to it this year unfortunately, but a defensive line with Olivier Vernon, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo had a lot of potential. That left Regis in a reserve role before Forston’s injury, and even though he has had playing time throughout his career at Miami he has never had more than 8.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks, which he posted as a junior last year. I’m not sure he has much upside beyond a defensive tackle that can contribute to a 4-3 rotation, but it will be interesting to see how he looks this week.

Linebackers:

-Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: 6’2”, 250 pounds, 4.68 40 yard dash
-Lindsey flashed onto the scene as a junior when he posted an impressive 18.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks and 3 fumbles forced after Greg Romeus went down with another injury. This year he was without Romeus and Jabaal Sheard but he still posted 55 total tackles (31 solo), 11.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 pass deflection. Lindsey doesn’t project to a defensive end position very well but I think he will be able to transition effectively to the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense. He’s an athletic guy and has shown that he’s capable of producing at Pittsburgh even though he may not have been used properly.

-Max Gruder, MLB, Pittsburgh: 6’1”, 230 pounds, 4.71 40 yard dash
-Gruder isn’t a freak athlete by any means and he probably doesn’t project to be a NFL starter now or in the future, but I think he’s going to be a great special teams player and a quality reserve in the NFL. He’s a reliable tackler and the Pittsburgh coaching staff admitted that they continued to try to take him out of the lineup but he was so fundamentally sound that he always found his way back onto the field. It will be interesting to see how he looks this week, but I wouldn’t expect him to be dominant in any one phase of the game. He seems like a guy who is solid in all facets but spectacular in none, and while that may help get him drafted I don’t think it gives him a great shot to start in the NFL.

Cornerbacks:

-Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: 5’9”, 204 pounds, 4.49 40 yard dash
-Brown is another undersized cornerback from North Carolina that I think is primarily a zone corner personally. I always thought that his former teammate Kendric Burney was the better player and Burney went undrafted. That’s not to say that Brown will also go undrafted, but it speaks to where his draft stock is likely to end up barring a spectacular performance this week. I don’t think Brown has the size and speed to stick with receivers in man coverage very effectively, but North Carolina likes to run zone coverage and Brown should offer value in that phase of the game. I am interested to see him try to press corners during the week and I want to see how he does in man to man, though I anticipate him having some issues especially against taller, more physical receivers.

Safeties:

-Matt Daniels, S, Duke: 6’0”, 210 pounds, 4.53 40 yard dash
-Daniels is a quality sleeper prospect at the safety position. He isn’t a freak athlete but based on what I have read he has great intangibles, a high football IQ and an impressive work ethic. Those kinds of players are the ones you like to bet on when it comes to the NFL because they’ll get the most out of their ability even if they don’t project to be perennial pro-bowl players. Daniels has always impressed me as a tackler when I’ve watched him play over the last two years but I have never seen him much in coverage. This year he produced 126 tackles (65 solo), 4.0 TFL, 14 pass deflections, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. I am interested to see how he looks in coverage this week but I expect him to be one of the more reliable tacklers at the East practices all week.

Kickers:

-Blair Walsh, K, Georgia:
-Walsh is a confusing player to me, but then again kickers in general are pretty confusing to me. During his sophomore and junior seasons he missed a combined five field goals, a terrific stat line for any kicker. In his first three years he missed 13 field goals, eight of which occurred when he was kicking as a freshman. Then this season he inexplicably missed 14 field goals, more than he had missed his entire career up until this point! I haven’t done my film study of Georgia yet but I definitely will and I am very interested to see what situations he missed kicks in. I’m not sure what to expect from him this week, but hopefully he gets his mojo back and starts making kicks more consistently because he’s got a helluva leg. He had 19 touchbacks this year and that was kicking from the 30. In the NFL he will be able to kick the ball into the end zone very consistently and provide a lot of touchbacks for his special teams unit. That gives him value, but it won’t mean much if he can’t make field goals when asked to.

This is obviously just a fraction of the talent at the East-West Shrine Game, but these are the players I am more familiar with. I’ll have notes on most every player by the end of the week and they will be posted here every day after practice, so check in every day for your East-West Shrine Game fix!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Vanderbilt-Kentucky:

-Jordan Rodgers has helped revitalize Vanderbilt’s season and in his fourth consecutive start he has Vanderbilt within one game of bowl eligibility. He’s very athletic, has some arm talent, but is still improving and developing as a quarterback. He isn’t on the same level as his brother, but it is worth watching what he can do in the SEC both this year and next. He’s got some weapons on offense in Zac Stacy at RB plus Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd at WR. Matthews and Boyd are both 6’3″ plus, and as Rodgers continues to develop and gain experience I think he might make Vanderbilt a potentially fun offense to watch next year. Rodgers will be a senior in his first full season as a starter next year, Stacy will be a senior, Matthews will be a junior and Boyd will be a sophomore. They’ve got some intriguing pieces on offense, let’s hope this isn’t just a teaser and that they actually take the next step next year. I for one will be rooting for them to do so.
-Zac Stacy had another big day for Vanderbilt. I’ll need to watch him more because he has had a productive season this year. He now has 891 yards and 9 TD’s on the season as well as 16 receptions for 78 yards. I would expect him to exceed 1,000 yards rushing either this upcoming week or next, and if he is able to do then Vanderbilt has a solid shot at a bowl game. He’s their workhorse, and without him I don’t think Vanderbilt’s offense would be nearly as productive as they have been recently. I haven’t scouted him yet, but I will get to it soon when I watch Rodgers just to get a baseline idea of what he can do.
-I’m not sure anyone has enjoyed Rodgers’ presence at the quarterback position more than Jordan Matthews. He had his 3rd consecutive 100+ yard game after totaling just 8 receptions, 107 yards and 1 TD in the first six games he played in (he missed the game against Alabama). It has been a totally different story the last three weeks as he has produced 21 receptions, 452 yards and three touchdowns (one in each of the last three games). He’s been super productive and has helped open up Vanderbilt’s offense. Can’t wait to watch some of these recent games to see what he can do.

Baylor-Kansas:

-Robert Griffin had a very slow start, and while I didn’t see the game and I can’t speculate on how it happened, it certainly seemed like he carried Baylor back into the game and ultimately won it in overtime today against Kansas. I was wondering why he was struggling so much against such a seemingly bad Kansas squad, but he really rallied Baylor late in the game and helped erase a 21 point 4th quarter deficit. They scored three touchdowns in the quarter (all by Griffin, 1 rushing TD and 2 passing TD’s), forced overtime and Kansas went for a two point conversion and failed, resulting in a one point win for Baylor. I’ll definitely be watching this game later, because I have been wondering if Griffin had the ability to lead his team to a comeback win like this for a while. It was against a bad Kansas team, but it is still more than I have seen from him before. Obviously my thoughts on this game will be posted on my blog once I have a chance to break it down at a later date.

Georgia-Auburn:

-Aaron Murray is a guy I’ve been impressed with since he was a freshman. It feels like he’s been leading Georgia forever, but he is still only a sophomore. Still, he seems more mature than your average sophomore and is without a doubt the leader of Georgia’s football team. He had one of the best games of his career today when he went 14/18 for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns while adding 21 yards rushing. He was making plenty of stick throws and was placing the ball perfectly today. It was fun to watch him play this well.
-Jarvis Jones is an animal. I don’t have a lot of defensive players in this list because it’s tough to find stats for defenders the day of the game, but Jones warrants mention. I’m not sure what his final statistics were in this game, but I know he had at least one sack because I saw it. He has 9 sacks on the season I believe and an unreal 16 tackles for loss. He’s been fantastic for Georgia, and has incredible upside. It’s going to be fun to watch him develop. He’s only a sophomore, but he has had an absolute break-out season this year. He’s listed at 6’3″, 241 pounds and looks skinny on film. He has plenty of room to add weight, and I would be surprised if he wasn’t 250+ next year as a junior for Georgia.

TCU-Boise State:

-I definitely kept an eye on this game not only because there were plenty of prospects to see, but because these two teams always seem to play each-other pretty tough. TCU played them tough again today and unfortunately it came down to another field goal attempt and Boise State couldn’t capitalize on it. Must be frustrating for Boise and their fans, but yet again they won’t get a shot at an elite bowl game. I hate to say it, but I have been one of their detractors who said that if they were in a better conference they wouldn’t always be undefeated. They aren’t exactly changing my mind by losing to Nevada last year and TCU this year.
-Kellen Moore is a good QB, but I question his ability to be a NFL starter. His arm strength is an issue, but that can be improved up and overcome at least to a degree. It’s definitely worrisome that he doesn’t throw a great deep ball because of his lack of arm strength and he doesn’t have good zip on intermediate or longer throws. He’s an accurate quarterback though, he’s very intelligent and he has tons of starting experience as a four year starter. I think he can stick in the NFL, I just don’t think his combination of size and arm strength give him a lot of upside as a potential NFL starter. I do think he will make a roster and be quality back-up that might eventually get his shot, but I think he is a developmental guy that will get drafted in the 4th round range. One thing that bothered me about him today was his issues handling pressure that TCU was bringing. He isn’t used to getting hit, and when TCU was able to pressure him, hit him and sack him he seemed rattled and was missing some throws that he usually makes. He obviously rebounded in the second half, but I thought that was worth noting.

Wisconsin-Minnesota:

-Russell Wilson was the epitome of efficiency and Montee Ball broke the Big 10 single season touchdown record with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) today against Minnesota. He has an unreal 27 touchdowns on the season now. He has 1,232 yards, 23 rushing touchdowns and 14 catches, 234 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. Definitely a fantastic year, and they still have two games left against Illinois and Penn State (I have a ticket to the Penn State game, very excited for that). Russell Wilson literally threw one incompletion today, and threw for 178 yards and 4 touchdowns.
-Nick Toon showed up big for Wisconsin today, but I am a little concerned that he all but disappeared in Wisconsin’s big games against Michigan State and Ohio State with a combined 5 catches for 97 total yards and 0 TD’s in those games. His only 100 yard games have been against the likes of South Dakota and now Minnesota, two teams with vastly less talent than Wisconsin. To be fair to Toon, who I think has NFL upside, he did have 4 catches, 94 yards and 1 TD against Nebraska which was Wisconsin’s first big game of the year. However, it is a bit concerning that he didn’t step up in much closer games later in the year, but is showing up against less significant opposition like he has.

USC-Washington:

-Matt Barkley continues to play well and I have to say he made Steve Sarkisian look pretty smart for saying he’d draft Barkley over Andrew Luck considering Luck’s relative struggles against Oregon tonight (to be covered later in this post) as well as Barkley’s quality season this year. He seems to have gotten better every week, which makes me think that the chances of him declaring early might be increasing. Regardless, still fun to see him play well because I have been high on him since he was a freshman.
-If you read my blog consistently you may remember me saying that I don’t know why Curtis McNeal isn’t getting more touches for USC a few weeks ago. Well recently he has been, and he has been playing fantastic. He has exceeded 100 yards rushing in three of the last four games, and has exceeded 85 yards rushing in each of the last five. Last week against Colorado he sat most of the second half, but in the first half he had 10 carries for 87 yards. Against Washington today he had 18 carries for 148 yards and another touchdown. Keep feeding McNeal USC, he’s got tons of ability. Looking forward to seeing him continue to grow and develop.
-Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are still beasts. Really fun to watch them play. People are really underestimating how significant Lee’s emergence has been for Woods. If Lee wasn’t playing this well as a freshman then Woods would be getting doubled and USC’s passing attack would be significantly impaired. It’s fun to watch these guys when Barkley has time to get them the ball.

Arkansas-Tennessee:

-Tyler Wilson continues to have a very good season for Arkansas. He’s flying a little under the radar, but he has played very well. He has 2,850 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions on the season after the game against Tennessee today. He has NFL upside, but I don’t think I will put a first round grade on him assuming he comes back for his senior year next year. I’d place him in the 2nd round conversation because he has upside, but needs to work on some things. Doesn’t always spin a clean ball, doesn’t have a rocket arm (though replacing Mallett would make anyone’s arm strength look inferior) but has quality accuracy.
-Dennis Johnson has been very strong the last four weeks and is showing Arkansas fans what might have been if he hadn’t gotten hurt and allowed Knile Davis to become the staple of their running game last season. He has filled in pretty well, and is one of the more underrated running backs in the SEC.
-Jarius Wright continues his fantastic season. He has the potential to end up in the 1st round, he has had a terrific year this year. He has 53 catches, 906 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games now. He is their go-to guy on offense.

Virginia-Duke:

-I didn’t get to see this game since it wasn’t on in my area, but Chase Minnifield, a cornerback on Virginia that I am very high on, had his 3rd interception of the season (13th of his career) and returned it for his first career defensive touchdown. I’m high on him and I look forward to getting to watch him more often.

Oregon-Stanford:

-This was supposed to be the game of the night but Oregon definitely surprised me and played much better than I expected them to. They were in control of this game after the 1st quarter, and they just had way too much speed and athletic ability on offense for Stanford.
-Andrew Luck played well in my opinion, but made a few mistakes and was flustered at times. He threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and struggled to make plays downfield due to his lack of talent available to him at wide receiver. He still played a good game, but even Luck couldn’t find a way to win this one. His team was overmatched talent wise, especially at wide receiver and cornerback. Luck looked human in this game, but he is still a very good quarterback. He responds very well to adversity and was simply trying to make a play with his back against the wall when he threw his pick 6. It’s unfortunate how it played out for him, but he’s still a lock for the #1 overall pick in my opinion.
-Darron Thomas threw the ball as well as I have ever seen him throw it in this game. He would miss a throw every once in a while, but he was throwing darts all over the field and made some legitimate NFL throws in this game. Makes me wonder where this has been all season, because he looked like a completely different quarterback in this game. I didn’t even see him throw the ball like this last year when he led Oregon to the National Championship game against LSU.
-LaMichael James continues to play well, and it is very reassuring to see him healthy even if he has to play with that big pad on his right arm. He’s very explosive, agile and is stronger with better leg drive than he has had in previous years. I still have a 2nd round grade on him, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to hold up as a feature back in the NFL.
-Chase Thomas, an outside linebacker on Stanford, had a horrible game today in my opinion. He was taken out of the passing game by Darrion Weems, the senior Left Tackle on Oregon, and struggled mightily against the zone read that Oregon runs so well. He consistently collapsed on the running back instead of staying disciplined and making sure Thomas didn’t pull it and run. Instead, Thomas was able to keep it and scamper for significant rushing yardage a number of times and each time it was Thomas who let him break contain. Definitely a disappointing game for Thomas.

Arizona State-Washington State:

-It is fitting that this was the last game on tonight as well as the last game in this post because in my opinion it was the best game of the night. I completely expected Arizona State to win, but Washington State pulled off the upset thanks to two unreal individual performances.
-Connor Halliday is a freshman quarterback that has played in only three games in his college football career. I’m not even sure that he started this game for Washington State since I started watching after it had already started, but that doesn’t take away from what he was able to do. Halliday, a 6’4″, 180 pound freshman went 27/36 for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns and led the Cougars to an upset of Arizona State. He wasn’t just checking down and hitting drag routes for lots of YAC either, Halliday was making stick throw after stick throw and he was doing it under pressure, on 3rd down, it didn’t seem to matter. When he was threatening to take the lead he threw a strike to the end zone and it was dropped. Then it was 3rd and long, his RT jumped for a false start penalty. Now it was 3rd and longer and what does he do? Deliver another strike to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game to take the lead. Halliday played a fantastic game and while he doesn’t have perfect mechanics, a rocket arm or perfect accuracy he certainly has good arm strength, accuracy and shockingly good pocket poise for a freshman. The amount of poise it took to go toe to toe with Arizona State’s potent offense led by a quarterback in Brock Osweiler that has legitimate 1st round talent in his first significant playing time in his college career is inconceivable. He played a fantastic game, and was honestly the most impressive player that I watched today. That’s how good he was.
-Marquess Wilson was Halliday’s favorite target today as he accumulated 8 receptions, 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had an absolutely unreal game today, and while I had heard of him before as one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 I didn’t really think he was on the same level as Robert Woods and Keenan Allen but after seeing him tonight I think he is worthy of being mentioned as one of the best young receivers in the Pac-12. This was the first I’d ever seen him, but he had an absolutely fantastic game. He made a number of tough catches and obviously came up big when his team needed him to, and he helped make Connor Halliday look like a 4th year starter who had led 10 4th quarter comebacks in his career tonight.
-Brock Osweiler was impressive as well, though his performance will likely be lost in the shuffle because of Connor Halliday’s emergence and because he ultimately won the game. However, Osweiler still went 28/44 for 351 yards and 1 touchdown in this game despite an anemic running game that mustered just 60 yards on 24 carries. Osweiler would have had even more yards if his receivers hadn’t dropped a few catchable balls (particularly one by #13 that absolutely changed the game. He dropped a ball right on the money in a hole in the zone on 3rd and goal that would have been a TD, Arizona State then attempted a field goal and missed it, giving Washington State control). However, he was making some very impressive NFL throws. He was putting touch on passes to get the ball over the linebacker and in front of the safety down the seam and behind the corner, in front of the safety down the sideline. He made stick throw after stick throw in the 2nd half to lead his team to touchdown drives to try to stick with Washington State’s suddenly potent offense. I was very impressed even though he had a couple questionable decisions, but he played very well and deserves props for that. I’m still very high on him for the 2013 NFL Draft.
-Gerell Robinson had a huge game for Arizona State. He had 8 receptions, 158 yards and 1 TD tonight, and when I was watching I didn’t see him drop any passes he should have caught.

I know it was a long post, but hopefully you appreciated some of my thoughts on the afternoon and evening games. Thanks for reading!

–Tom