Tag Archive: J.R. Collins


James Gayle is one of the best defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker prospects in the country, but somehow he seems to be flying under the radar. That won’t last long, as he is primed and ready for a double digit sack season as a junior.

Tom: First of all James, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know you’re busy.

Tom: What was your favorite thing about playing for Virginia Tech last season?

James: Probably the fans, just the Virginia Tech atmosphere and playing at Lane Stadium. I’d rather play in our stadium than anywhere else in the country.

Tom: You’ve been productive both seasons you’ve been at Virginia Tech even though last year was your first full season as a starter, do you expect an even more significant break-out year this season?

James: Definitely. I think the thing that hurt me last year was my injury, I missed 3 games and I still led the team in sacks. I’m healthy now though.

Tom: What is your accurate height, weight, and 40 yard dash time?

James: 6’4”, right now I weigh about 266 or 267 and the last time I ran I ran a 4.45 40 yard dash time, but I think I only weighed 257 or 258 at that point.

Tom: You “only” weighed 257 or 258 pounds and you ran in the 4.4’s, Josh Gordon just ran a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash at his pro-day and got drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and he weighs 40 pounds less than you!

James: Well I’ve always been fast though, even when I was in high school I was running in the 4.4’s but I guess I never got slower since all I’ve gained since coming to Virginia Tech is muscle.

Tom: Do you have any statistical goals for yourself or the team?

James: For the team I just want to be the #1 defense in the nation, or at least top 5. For myself I just want to have a better season than I did last year and continue to improve. I think if I stay healthy I’ll be better than I was last year and put myself in a good position.

Tom: What was it like watching Logan Thomas progress and grow as the season went on last year?

James: It was great. It was great watching him get acclimated to defenses but I think it was the Miami game where he really showed everyone what he could do.

Tom: Did he look even better in the spring?

James: You can tell he’s more comfortable and I think he’s getting better every day.

Tom: Everyone just kind of assumed he was going to play tight end when he was coming out of high school and now he’s one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, it’s crazy.

James: I knew he was going to play quarterback because I played in an all-star game with him in high school, haha.

Tom: Well then you knew something I didn’t! Now did your defensive coaches mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

James: Yeah they said I’m starting to get the little things down like my technique and my angles. I feel like I did an overall better job of that in the spring than I did in the past.

Tom: What kind of technique stuff did they specifically say you were improving on?

James: Just when I’m pass rushing taking the right angles. I usually just get by with my speed but that’s not going to work with every tackle so I’m just trying to get better with my hands and trying to take better angles to get to the quarterback.

Tom: That’s great to hear, that’s what you need to be a complete defensive end. You’re going to be scary when you get that technique down James.

James: Haha, well I’ve been working on it all summer.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a football player? Maybe your speed?

James: Yeah my speed, I’m just a natural pass rusher.

Tom: What about some of the things you think you need to work on? Obviously you’ve already mentioned technique.

James: Yeah, I mean I really haven’t been playing football that long to be honest my first season was my junior year in high school so basically I didn’t really have anybody to actually coach me up or teach me the position. Then I redshirted when I got to Virginia Tech and they don’t really teach you anything when you redshirt so I was just learning how to play the position my redshirt freshman year.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the defensive end position? People you’ve patterned your game after?

James: Oh yeah definitely. Coach [Charley] Wiles the defensive line coach, Cornell Brown has been really instrumental and then I watch a lot of film of Bruce Smith since he played here.

Tom: What is one thing that every defensive end has to have in order to be successful?

James: I think he has to be aggressive. That’s something you can’t really teach a guy to be honest. There are a bunch of guys that have ability but they’re not aggressive, but then there are guys that have less ability but are more aggressive and I think that’s important. I feel like that’s something you can’t teach, but I think that also goes for every position.

Tom: Are there any players on defense that stuck out to you during the spring? Anyone I might not have heard about?

James: Antone Exum. I think he’s going to be one of the best corners in the nation this year, him and Kyle Fuller. Antone runs a 4.3 and he’s like 225 pounds. He’s a good corner. Kyle is really good too he plays a lot bigger than he is. I’ve seen him lay some guys out that he was much smaller than.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

James: The running backs J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, then Logan Thomas. The receivers too, I know Marcus Davis is going to have a big year. For the most part our offense is going to do pretty well.

Tom: I’m sure Hokie fans will be encouraged to hear that the running backs look good since you just lost David Wilson and Josh Oglesby.

James: Yeah it’s pretty different because when I came here I played against three All-American running backs. I played against Darren Evans first, then Ryan [Williams] and then David [Wilson]. So I’m pretty sure one of those guys is ready to step up next.

Tom: You’re getting some hype coming into the season, do you feel any added pressure because of some loftier expectations?

James: No not at all. I feel like I’m just going to play my game. I feel like the expectations that people have for me coming into the season aren’t any higher than the expectations I already have for myself, so it’s not any different. I feel like I should be one of the best defensive ends in the country and I feel like I should be an All-American.

Tom: I know you saw me mention that you and J.R. Collins are one of the best defensive end tandems in college football, what do you think makes him so dangerous?

James: J.R. Collins is relentless. I totally agree that we’re a great tandem too because I think that J.R. Collins’ name should be up there with any of the best defensive ends in the ACC this year. He’s relentless, he’s hard-nosed and if I could pick anybody to play on the opposite side of me it would be him.

Tom: That’s a glowing recommendation. And I was just looking at your defensive line depth chart last night and it occurred to me that you guys could have one of the best defensive lines in the country as well. Do you think that’s possible?

James: I definitely think it’s possible. I feel like if it weren’t for my injury last year we would have been one of the best in the country from a pass rush standpoint.

Tom: And then you have the Hopkins brothers. You guys have a lot of returning experience on that defensive line.

James: Yeah the Hopkins brothers! I feel like our defensive line is going to be one of the best of the country. Both of them are really good players, and then we’ve got Luther Maddy who started last year as a true freshman at defensive tackle, so we essentially have a couple starters at second string.

Tom: Ok, who are the rotational guys behind you and J.R.?

James: Tyrel Wilson is the guy behind me, he did well last year. And behind J.R. is Zack McCray, plus we have another defensive end named Dadi Nicholas who redshirted last year.

Tom: Did you say his first name is Dadi? That’s AWESOME!

James: Yeah his first name is Dadi, haha.

Tom: What is it like playing for Bud Foster in his aggressive defense? I imagine it’s pretty fun.

James: Oh definitely, because I feel like I’m a pretty aggressive player so coming to school with an aggressive defensive coordinator it just matches. So I really enjoy playing for him.

Tom: Are you comfortable buzzing into coverage? Foster likes to bring zone blitzes so I know he asks you to drop sometimes.

James: Yeah definitely I feel really comfortable dropping into coverage. At first when you don’t do it for a while it’s weird but I’ve been doing it all summer since I’ve been working out with the DB’s so I’m comfortable doing it.

Tom: Uh-oh… I hope they don’t move you to safety James. You’ve got the speed for it after all.

James: Hahaha. I don’t think I’m ready for some of these little receivers though!

Tom: Is there one game this year you are particularly looking forward to? Maybe Clemson?

James: Oh yeah definitely Clemson. They had our number last year but this year they gotta be ready to go to war.

Tom: You and Tajh [Boyd] go back to high school I’m sure you want to get a W against him.

James: Oh Tajh? Yeah definitely. I’ve been playing him since high school but I’ve never been able to beat him.

Tom: I think this year might be the year then James.

James: Yeah, hopefully.

Tom: You’ve got a pretty good football pedigree with your dad Jimmy playing running back at Ohio State from 1979-82 and your Uncle Shaun playing DB for the Buckeyes and in the NFL from 1984-95 as well. Do you think that has helped you pick up the game so quickly?

James: Absolutely. I feel like I have strong football bloodlines since both my father and uncle played at Ohio State. I think my dad was an All-Big Ten running back so that might be where I get my speed from. Actually in high school my father was one of the fastest backs in the nation. I think that’s where the speed came from.

Tom: I definitely think that could be where you got your speed from.

James: Yeah I’d say that’s it, haha.

Tom: I read in an article that before you started playing football you were “more of a video game guy” and that after you got done with video games you said “I think I’ll just play football.” How did that come about?

James: I really wasn’t that interested in playing football when school first started so I just played video games. Then I got tired of that and just decided to play football, but I had never lifted weights or anything so I was like 160 pounds at the end of my 10th grade year. So I just started lifting weights and eating right and by the beginning of my senior year I was like 210. Now that I’m over 260 I’ve put on over 100 pounds of muscle since high school.

Tom: And you haven’t lost any speed, that’s the scary thing. Now, do you still play video games? If so, what’s your favorite game to play?

James: Nah, I guess I kinda played myself out of that. I guess I play some NCAA. They’ve got me rated as one of the best defensive ends on the game so that’s good.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

James: Man, that’s tough. I guess that I can actually run a 4.4 because every time I get on the internet I see people saying I run a 4.7 or something like that. I want people to know that I have that kind of speed because that’s what I take pride in.

Tom: I had definitely read that you had 4.4 speed, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to believe that a 260 pound defensive end had 4.4 speed, that shit scares me.

James: Well I’ve seen guys at 270 be timed in the 4.5’s! It’s possible, there are guys that can do it. I guess we’ll see if I get my shot at the combine.

Tom: Well I predict that you will, that’s my prediction. It’s not bold, but it’s a prediction.

James: Haha, we’ll see.

Tom: I just want you to realize how unfair it is that you can run a 4.4 at that size, even a 4.5 would be just disgusting.

James: Well I’m very confident I can run a 4.5. I’ve never ran a laser 40 time, but I know I can do it.

Tom: Well that’s about all I have, do you have any questions for me?

James: No I don’t think so.

Tom: Well thank you for your time James, I appreciate the chance to talk with you a little more in depth. When does camp start up for you?

James: August 7th, I’m getting ready.

Only a couple weeks away! I’m ready for some football. Well good luck with the rest of your training and good luck this season!

James: Thanks! It was great talking to you.

Tom: You’re welcome, it was great talking with you as well. Take care.

Logan Thomas will be filling Tyrod Taylor's shoes at quarterback, and I have high expectations for him. He has a ton of upside.

11. Virginia Tech- A lot of people might be surprised to see VT this high, but even though they don’t often come away victorious against the best teams they are incredibly consistent and they are definitely a program that finds a way to reload versus rebuild, and that is exactly what they will be doing in lieu of losing Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and Rashad Carmichael to the NFL draft. David Wilson is ready to be the man at RB now that Williams and Evans have departed, and the word explosive might be an understatement for him. He compiled 619 rushing yards (5 TD’s), 234 receiving yards (4 TD’s) and 584 kickoff return yards (2 TD’s) on only 150 touches! That’s over 1,300 total yards on exactly 150 touches, which is pretty impressive especially in a rotational role. He will be the man now though, and Logan Thomas looked very impressive in spring ball from what I heard, and I am excited to watch him play. He looked good to me when I saw him sling the ball a couple times last year, but this will be his first season as a starter. At a listed height and weight of 6’6”, 242 pounds plus mobility he is going to be one to watch I’m sure. VT always has a fast defense and they have a few guys ready to emerge as quality pass rushers this year. J.R. Collins (a sophomore in 2011) had 5 sacks last year and apparently looked very good this spring, and I expect him to emerge as the best pass rusher on the team. Additionally, Chris Drager has shown some ability but I’m not sure whether or not he will start as a senior. And finally, James Gayle (a sophomore in 2011) had 4 sacks in limited playing time last year and should get more snaps as a part of VT’s rotation. VT also has a talented secondary, led by Jayron Hosley, a cornerback with 1st round NFL draft potential. VT is a team to watch this year, as they should contend with Florida State, Miami and hopefully North Carolina to be the top dog in the ACC.

12. Miami- I have been saying for months that I think Miami is going to be very tough this year and now it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. They just have so much talent! It all comes down to quarterback though. I realize this might feel high, especially considering my very low opinion of Jacory Harris, but I can’t imagine that Al Golden will leave him in there too long unless he plays well. So either he plays bad for a few games, gets yanked, and Morris steps in or Harris recovers his sophomore year form and Miami immediately becomes a contender for the ACC title. But outside of QB they have a load of talent. Headlining that group are guys like Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Blake Ayles (a transfer from USC), Olivier Vernon, Marcus Forston, Adewale Ojomo, Sam Spence, Vaughn Telemaque and Ray Ray Armstrong, among others. Their defensive line is going to be incredibly scary if they can all mesh together, because I had three or four of their defensive linemen on my list of potential breakout players this year. Vernon, Forston and Ojomo alone should guarantee a good run defense and a FIERCE pass rush, so I am very excited to see how this team does this year. They have a ton of potential, I just hope they live up to it.

I have been a Kirk Cousins fan since he was splitting time with Keith Nichol as a sophomore. Now it seems everyone is realizing what kind of a QB he is. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

13. Michigan State- Michigan State is coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Crimson Tide in their bowl game and I think they will be hungry after barely missing out on the Big-10 Championship (even though they beat the eventual winner, Wisconsin, handing them their only loss before they lost to TCU in the Rose Bowl). They return a ton of talent such as Kirk Cousins at quarterback, and three quality running backs led by Edwin Baker with Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper providing quality touches when Baker is rotated out. They also have a game breaker in Keshawn Martin, a dangerous slot receiver and kick return man, plus B.J. Cunningham is returning. That means they will have two experienced receivers for Cousins to throw to. If their offensive line holds up they should have another very balanced attack that runs the ball effectively which opens up the play action pass, which makes them very tough to stop. On defense they will have a lot of talent up front as they started three sophomores and a freshman last year (headlined by Jerel Worthy and Tyler Hoover), and they have a huge sophomore William Gholston who is ready to step up for some playing time as well. They all have a lot of experience up front and they are young, and I think they will have no problem stuffing the run like they did last year and they should get after the passer as well. Their DL is the strength of their defensive unit, and it should make things easier for their LB’s (I believe they lost all three of their starting LB’s) and their defensive backs. Michigan State is definitely one of my favorites to win the Big-10, right up there with Wisconsin and Nebraska.

14. Nebraska- Nebraska has officially joined the Big-10 (which now has 12 teams) after leaving the Big-12 (which now has 11 teams… I think. Sometimes I can’t keep up). However, their playing style meshes perfectly with the Big-10 as they play great defense, they are physical and they love to run the ball. They are immediately contenders for the Big-10 title, but they aren’t as familiar with the conference as other teams are, so it’s hard for me to anoint them the front-runners for the conference title over teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State, who are both returning a lot of significant talent. Nebraska will be dangerous though, even without Roy Helu and Niles Paul on offense. They also have a good deal of talent on defense, headlined by Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonso Dennard. They will be a fun team to watch this year, especially if Taylor Martinez can figure out how to throw the ball accurately.

Kellen Moore has one last chance to lead Boise State to a National Title or elite bowl game, but it won't be as easy as in past years.

15. Boise State- I have Boise State lower then some people do, but I have my reasons. First, they start out their season with a tough game against Georgia. Georgia may not be a powerhouse, but they are consistently competitive and even without a lot of RB help they still have a good quarterback in Aaron Murray, the best TE in the country in Orson Charles, and like all good SEC teams do they recruit well and have some nice incoming talent. With Boise State losing some of their best weapons on offense (Titus Young and Austin Pettis in particular) along with their offensive coordinator (who went to Texas) it isn’t unrealistic to expect them to be in a dog fight (pun intended) with Georgia in week one. But major props to Boise State for scheduling a legitimate out of conference opponent, because most teams don’t have the cojones to do that, especially teams from non-AQ conferences that are out of the title and elite bowl game race with just one loss. If they can get past Georgia, though, they have a shot to make it to the title game if they win out. But every year there is a scare or two, even for teams with as much experience as Boise, but Boise has the talent and they have done this enough times with Kellen Moore at the helm that I think they have a good shot at ending the season with one or no losses. I can’t wait to see the game against Georgia, I really have no idea what way that will go.

Thanks for reading my third installment of the top 25! The top 10 will be unveiled over the next two days, so check in soon!

–Tom

This post was so long even after I split up the break-out players and the potential sleepers that I had to split it up again. So here is part one, and I’ll post part two later today. Enjoy!

Vernon has as much upside as any DE in the country in my opinion, and I can't wait to see how his junior season turns out.

Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami:

Measurables: 6’4”, 250 pounds, #35

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 39 tackles (25 solo), 10.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks

Analysis: Vernon is an explosive athlete. He has a great combination of size and athletic ability. He has an impressive burst off the line, very impressive strength and he flashes the ability to stand up at the point of attack against the run. He showed some explosive ability last year as a pass rusher and I think he has the potential to get 10 sacks this year as a starting RE on the Hurricanes. He has a very high ceiling and I can’t wait to see how he produces as a junior this year.

Mathieu was incredibly impressive to me as a freshman and I think he will be a game-changing defensive back whether he is at corner or safety.

Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU:

Measurables: 5’9”, 180 pounds, #14

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 57 tackles (34 solo), 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT’s, 5 FF’s, 2 FR’s, 7 pass break ups.

Analysis: Mathieu made himself known every single time I watched LSU last year. Seeing a defensive back impact games like this, especially as a freshman, is something that I have rarely (if ever) seen. He’s got great instincts, a lot of athletic ability and he was incredibly productive. I honestly don’t see him lasting past his junior season. He may be undersized, but I think he can be a great corner or safety for LSU. Hell, he may already be.

Kendricks really caught my attention when I was scouting Cameron Jordan and I think he will be on a lot of NFL Draft radars by the end of his Senior year.

Mychal Kendricks, OLB, California:

Measurables: 6’0”, 241 pounds, #30

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 65 tackles (39 solo), 14.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 INT

Analysis: Kendricks was very productive as a junior as he flashed a lot of potential. He showed good speed off the edge, good bend/flexibility and also good instincts. I think he has the potential to match or exceed the production he had as a junior. He might not have elite height for the 3-4 OLB position but too many people get wrapped up in the height of players at times, and I think it would be a grave mistake to underestimate Kendricks because he isn’t 6’3″. He has a lot of ability and I expect him to demonstrate that all season.

Allen has as much upside as any receiver in the Pac-10 and it won't be long before he is considered one of the best receivers in the country.

Keenan Allen, WR, California:

Measurables: 6’3”, 195 pounds, #21

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 47 receptions, 496 yards, 5 TD’s. 18 attempts, 136 yards, 1 TD. 18 KR, 406 yards (22.56 avg)

Analysis: Allen really impressed me when I watched tape of him and I think he is going to be the next superstar receiver in the Pac-10. He has good size, impressive speed, very reliable hands and even as a freshman he was one of Cal’s go-to-guys on offense. I think he will break out even more as a true sophomore, and if he has a good sophomore year I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he left after his junior year.

Minnifield has an intriguing combination of size, athletic ability and ball skills.

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia:

Measurables: 6’0”, 185 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 48 tackles (34 solo), 3.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 6 INT’s, 4 pass break ups. 13 PR, 84 yards (6.46 avg)

Analysis: Minnifield impressed me in the limited time I was able to watch him play. He has pretty solid stats for a corner along with good size and seemingly good hips and speed. He seems to have good ball skills and I think that makes him an intriguing candidate to watch. I don’t think a lot of people know him, but I readily expect him to become more popular as the season progresses. If he turns and runs well with receivers and plays good man coverage (which I have the impression that he does) then he will be a hot commodity come draft day due to his size and ball skills. He has top 50 pick potential at corner in my opinion, and I think a lot of people will be tuning in to watch Virginia just to see him play.


Jenkins has a lot of upside and his game reminds me of Mike Williams, the former Syracuse WR.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois:

Measurables: 6’0”, 185 pounds, #8

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 56 receptions, 746 yards, 7 TD’s

Analysis: Jenkins impressed me when I was watching him because he is a fluid athlete with good speed, good hands and he seems to run pretty good routes. He creates good separation and was easily the go-to guy in Illinois’ passing game. Now that he won’t be dealing with a raw freshman quarterback I think Jenkins has the chance to hit 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns as a senior. He may not be as tall and I don’t know what he runs in the 40 yard dash, but his playing style reminds me of Mike Williams, the controversial former Syracuse receiver. I was very high on Williams, so I am excited to see if Jenkins lives up to this comparison.

Nick Perry has a ton of upside and from what I am hearing it sounds like he is ready to live up to all of his potential this year.

Nick Perry, DE, Southern Cal:

Measurables: 6’3”, 250 pounds, #8

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 25 tackles (15 solo), 7.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 FF’s, 1 FR and 3 pass break ups

Analysis: I thought Perry might break out as a sophomore but he didn’t end up doing that as he was still a rotational end. This year is the year for him to break out though, and I honestly think he has 8-10 sack potential this year. He is very fast off the ball, has a lot of athleticism and he has good size and strength. I am excited to see if he lives up to some of the potential that he has this year. He has apparently looked great in spring ball, so I am looking forward to a great year from him.

Robert Woods is probably the most impressive freshman receiver I've ever seen, and I am extremely excited to see how he progresses.

Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal:

Measurables: 6’1”, 185 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 64 receptions, 786 yards, 6 TD’s. 7 attempts, 56 yards (8.0 ypc). 38 KR, 971 yards (25.55 avg), 1 TD

Analysis: Woods is one of the most gifted freshmen WR’s I have ever seen. He runs great routes, he has very reliable hands, he makes great catches in traffic, he is dangerous after the catch, and he is a very reliable return man. You can’t really say enough about the things he was doing last year, and I honestly hope USC’s bowl game ban is lifted for this year just so I can see this kid for an extra game. That’s how good he is. He has a ton of potential and I think he is going to be the next superstar receiver at USC.

Gordon is a big, physical receiver with deceptive deep speed and good hands. He has a lot of upside.

Josh Gordon, WR, Baylor:

Measurables: 6’3”, 220 pounds, #12

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 42 receptions, 714 yards, 7 TD’s. 3 KR, 74 yards (24.67 avg)

Analysis: Gordon is a big possession receiver. He is a long strider so he has deceptive deep speed, but I’d be surprised if he ran much faster than a 4.5 in the 40. He has reliable hands and makes catches well away from his body and was pretty productive as a junior. With Griffin III healthy for a second year in a row I think Gordon will have much better chemistry with him, so 60+ catches, 900+ yards and 8-10 TD’s is definitely a realistic expectation for his junior season.

Wright is definitely the big play guy for Baylor and he projects very nicely to the slot in the NFL.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor:

Measurables: 5’10”, 190 pounds, #1

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 78 receptions, 952 yards, 7 TD’s. 8 rushes, 53 yards (6.63 avg).

Analysis: Wright is the big play guy on Baylor and I think he projects nicely as a slot receiver in the NFL. He has less than ideal size for the position but he impressive speed, probably 4.45 if not a bit faster, and he has very reliable hands and catches the ball well in traffic. He is tougher than his size would indicate too, and I think he has a great shot at being picked in the top 75-90 picks if he has another good senior season. 80 catches, 1,000 yards and 8 TD’s is definitely a realistic expectation.

Shackelford was everywhere when I was watching Ole Miss and I like his instincts and quality tackling a whole lot.

D.T. Shackelford, LB, Mississippi:

Measurables: 6’1”, 235 pounds, #42

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 48 tackles (27 solo), 9.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR

Analysis: Shackelford seems to have impressive instincts and he fills run versus the run. I like his potential and upside and if he is healthy when the season starts I expect him to surpass all of the numbers he put up as a sophomore last season. That is a bit of a question mark, but hopefully he will be healthy because I think he has a lot of potential. He might be the best linebacker that Ole Miss has had since Patrick Willis. Hopefully I’m not anointing him or hyping him up too much, but that is what I thought when I was watching him last year.


Devin Taylor has Julius Peppers upside, that is how impressive he was to me when I saw him last year.

Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina:

Measurables: 6’7”, 249 pounds, #98

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 46 tackles (33 solo), 13.0 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 1 INT (1 TD), 1 FR, 8 Pass break ups

Analysis: Devin Taylor has incredible potential and he actually reminds me of Julius Peppers. His combination of size, athleticism and his ability to impact games from the defensive end position is rare, and he did this all as a sophomore in the SEC. I think he has the potential to get 55 tackles, 15+ TFL and 10+ sacks, plus a consistent number of pass break ups and forced fumbles as a junior. If he has a season anything like what he had as a sophomore I expect him to be long gone for the NFL because he has such great size, speed and length that he will be an ideal 4-3 DE in the NFL. This kid has the potential to be a top five pick in the NFL with a good season next year, he is that good. I just want to see how well he bends and how good his hand usage is, but the size and athletic ability is all there.

I think Nickoe Whitley has ball-hawk written all over him, and I can't wait to see how he progresses.

Nickoe Whitley, S, Mississippi State:

Measurables: 6’0”, 200 pounds, #31

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 52 tackles (34 solo), 1.5 TFL, 3 INTs, 1.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 1 FF

Analysis: Whitley has a lot of potential because as a freshman in the SEC he managed 50+ tackles, 3 INT’s, 3 pass break-ups and a forced fumble. That’s not easy to come by in such a talented conference, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does as a sophomore. I see no reason why he shouldn’t improve on all of the numbers he put up as a freshman.

Marcus Forston has a lot of disruptive potential and I think he will have a great season on a talented Miami defense.

Marcus Forston, DT, Miami:

Measurables: 6’3”, 305 pounds, #99

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 37 tackles (16 solo), 12.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks

Analysis: I was honestly surprised to see Forston’s stat line when I looked at it because I expected it to be more filled out than it was. That’s not a knock on him, I am only saying that whenever I watched Miami he was a disruptive force at DT, and I didn’t feel that the stats did that justice despite his impressive 12.0 TFL’s as a sophomore. I expect more of that as a junior as I think he could very well get 50 tackles, 15 TFL’s and 5+ sacks as a junior. He will be on an incredibly talented Miami team, but the front seven he will be playing on is going to be incredibly talented so I would be surprised if he didn’t improve on these statistics unless they go down just because there are only so many TFL’s and sacks to go around.


Ojomo could be a dominant force at LE for Miami this year especially considering the talent on that defensive line.

Adewale Ojomo, DE, Miami:

Measurables: 6’4”, 260 pounds, #97

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 38 tackles (21 solo), 7.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 pass break up

Analysis: Ojomo is not very well known on Miami’s defensive line but he clearly demonstrated the potential he has given his 7.5 TFL and 5.0 sacks as a junior. I don’t know for sure, but I would be surprised if he wasn’t starting opposite Olivier Vernon on Miami’s defensive line with Marcus Robinson rotating in. Ojomo seemed to have good edge speed and he has perfect 4-3 DE size, and if he gets off the ball well and has good edge speed he’s going to be a hot commodity if he maintains or improves on his junior year production. He should do that if he gets a starting job.

Armstrong has a great combination of size and athletic ability and he should continue to be a play-maker in Miami's secondary.

Ray-Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami:

Measurables: 6’4”, 220 pounds, #26

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 79 tackles (44 solo), 4.5 TFL, 3 INT (1 TD), 3 pass break ups

Analysis: Armstrong is a physical freak for the safety position at 6’4”, 220 pounds and he was productive as a sophomore with almost 80 tackles and some plays on the ball with 3 INT’s and 3 pass break ups. I am really looking forward to how he does as a junior and I think his numbers could go way up considering the amount of talent that will be around him on defense, especially in the front four and seven. This Miami defense has so much talent that I am high on that I think they could be one of the best defenses in the country next year. They have a ton of talent along the front seven and they have two very talented defensive backs with Telemaque and Armstrong. If they can get a solid performance from Stephen Morris and replace the three corners they lost to graduation and the draft then they could run away with the ACC.

I have been high on Boykin for a year now and he really stepped up last year. I think he has another great year left in him.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Virginia Tech:

Measurables: 6’2”, 215 pounds, #81

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 53 receptions, 847 yards, 6 TD’s

Analysis: I have been high on Boykin since last June and I identified him as the #1 WR on Virginia Tech before his Junior season and he proved me right by becoming one of the go-to guys on the offense. His production speaks for itself, but he has very reliable hands and rarely drops passes even in traffic. He hasn’t turned the corner on making the huge, crucial catch when his team needs it most yet, but he has shown the ability to make catches under pressure. I think he definitely has a NFL future even if he doesn’t have elite size, speed or hands. He is a well-rounded receiver and I see him being a nice mid-round selection in the NFL draft with another good senior season.

Davis has a lot of upside and he has looked great in Spring Ball from what I have heard, so watch out for him.


Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech:

Measurables: 6’4”, 229 pounds, #7

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 19 receptions, 239 yards, 2 TD’s. 1 rush, 12 yards.

Analysis: I thought Davis was a TE he was so big but he is a WR and he moves well for his size. He gets behind coverage surprisingly well and was a couple overthrown passes from Tyrod Taylor from having 25 catches and well over 300 yards and a couple more touchdowns last year. I have heard he looked great in the spring game though I haven’t seen it myself, and I think he could really blow up this year.

Collins flashed some potential last year also and he has been fantastic in Spring Ball from what I have heard, I am very excited to see what he can do with more playing time.

J.R. Collins, DE, Virginia Tech:

Measurables: 6’2”, 254 pounds, #42

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 25 tackles (12 solo), 6.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks

Analysis: Collins is another guy that I think could blow up this year, especially on a defensive line that doesn’t have a lot of returning starters. He was disruptive in a rotational role last season as you can see from his 6.5 TFL and 5.0 sacks, but he was very disruptive in the spring game with two sacks in that game, not to mention a couple of sacks and 4 TFL in a scrimmage before that from what I am told. I think he has the potential to blow up this year with more consistent playing time, and his performance in spring ball did nothing to dissuade me from thinking this.

Bradham has definite upside and I can't wait to get a better look at him during his Senior season.

Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State:

Measurables: 6’2”, 241 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 97 tackles (53 solo), 5.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 5 pass break ups, 1 kick/punt blocked

Analysis: Bradham was very productive as a junior for Florida State but I think he can do even better than that as a Senior. 100 tackles, 8 TFL and 5 sacks is a realistic expectation for him. I want to see how good he is in coverage though, because it was pretty apparent that he can defend the run, but I want to assess his instincts as a run defender and in coverage to see how good of a NFL prospect he is. However, I definitely think he could blow up as a senior and improve his stock.


Rambo really packs a punch as a hitter and I think he can be an enforcer for Georgia, I just wish he had better hands.

Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia:

Measurables: 6’0”, 211 pounds, #18

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 82 tackles (58 solo), 5.0 TFL, 3 INTs (1 TD), 3 pass break ups

Analysis: Rambo was impressive as a sophomore but I really think he could blow up as a junior because he has good size, speed and he hits like a freight train. He really laid some people out as a sophomore, and while he does that a bit too much (going for the big hit instead of wrapping up) he still is a pretty good tackler and run defender. I want to see more from him in coverage, as I am not sold on him in coverage and his ball skills are lacking despite his 3 INT’s and pass break-ups. He could have had one or more interceptions if his hands were better just in the games I saw.

Orson Charles may very well be my favorite TE in the country right now, I can't wait to see him progress with a more seasoned Aaron Murray this year.

Orson Charles, TE, Georgia:

Measurables: 6’3”, 240 pounds, #7

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 26 receptions, 422 yards, 2 TD’s

Analysis: I am an absolutely huge fan of Orson Charles. I think he is going to double all of his statistics from last season. If he has anything less than 50+ catches, 700+ yards and 6+ touchdowns then I would be absolutely shocked. He is going to be one of Murray’s go-to guys as the Bulldogs seek to replace A.J. Green’s unreal production but Charles is definitely up to the challenge. He has good size, he has impressive speed to stretch the field form the TE position, not to mention very reliable hands and great chemistry with Murray. I think if Charles has a good enough year this year he could leave as a junior, but I think there is a pretty good chance he returns for another year with Murray as a junior when they could make a strong run at a National Title if they return enough starters. Regardless, I expect Charles to blow his sophomore year numbers out of the water this year, he is extremely talented and may very well be my favorite tight end in the country.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed part one of my preview! There is a lot more to come!

–Tom