Tag Archive: Jerrel Jernigan


– LSU-Mississippi State:

Breakdown:

This game will be a game pitting strength versus strength, as Mississippi State’s run game will be facing a very tough LSU run defense. They are fast enough to take away a speed rushing attack like Oregon, but they are big enough and strong enough to match-up relatively effectively with a more powerful attack like Mississippi State’s. This match-up will be important, but because LSU will be so worried about stopping the run it may be just as critical for Chris Relf to demonstrate the ability to threaten the defense with the pass, especially downfield in the 10-15+ yard range. If they can’t do that, I think that Mississippi State will struggle to run the ball consistently throughout the game.

On the offensive side of the ball for LSU, running the ball will be key as well, but the deciding factor of the game may reside on Jarrett Lee’s ability to stretch the field, move the ball through the air, and keep running lanes open for Spencer Ware and the rest of LSU’s rushing attack. If they can run the ball effectively play action will be a key weapon for Lee and the rest of the offense, but if the burden falls on Lee to loosen up running lanes with downfield passing then LSU could struggle. Lee is an accurate passer but doesn’t have a rocket arm and I would compare him to Matt Flynn, a very successful former LSU Tiger quarterback. If Lee steps up and can carry the offense (this would be significantly easier if his receivers caught passes once they hit them in the hands) then LSU should be fine either way, but if Lee isn’t up to the challenge then LSU could be in trouble in their conference opener.

Key Players- LSU:

Jarrett Lee will be making his third start of the season and he has looked solid thus far, though his statistics have been hurt by some dropped passes in their opening games. This will be my second opportunity to watch him, the first being in the opening week against Oregon. I will be interested to see how he plays and how he has progressed since the opening weekend of the season. I think he has potential, and while he won’t be a first round pick by any means, I do think he warrants mid-late round consideration. He would fit into a West Coast offense very nicely, perhaps similar to Colt McCoy in Cleveland.

I’m a big fan of Tyrann Mathieu, and watching him play is always a treat. I think he has first round potential and I’ve thought that since he was playing at an All-American level early on in his freshman year last year. He is very good in coverage, he blitzes extremely well, he’s a great tackler, and he has a great knack for forcing fumbles and just being around the ball. He is the definition of a ball-hawk. I would be surprised if he didn’t force a turnover in this game.

Spencer Ware will be an important component of this game. He has had a relatively slow start to the season relative to his great cap to his freshman year with a 10 carry, 102 yard performance against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but I think he will get stronger as the season goes on. He’s definitely a power back as he is relatively compact at 5’11”, 225 pounds and he shows it. I like his running style and I think he will be a key cog in LSU’s offense because if the run game is slowed or ineffective Jarrett Lee won’t be able to utilize play action effectively and the offense may become one dimensional. Considering Lee’s relatively limited amount of starting experience I don’t think that is a path LSU should go down in their conference opener, especially on a national stage. But I think a lot of people underestimate what Lee brings to the table, and I think he is ready to step up should the running game not pace the offense in this game.

Deangelo Peterson, the tight end on LSU, is another key guy to watch. His stat line may not blow you away (5 receptions, 71 yards and 1 TD in 2 games so far) but he has great size at 6’4″, 235 pounds and he is very athletic. I imagine as Lee becomes more comfortable in the starting role that Peterson will become one of his frequent targets, and I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for them to split him out in the slot. He is a very dangerous red zone threat, and because of his size he is an easy target for Lee to throw to. I predict that he will have a touchdown in this game, and I hope that his skills will be on full display tonight.

Morris Claiborne is going to be an interesting guy to watch in this game because if Mississippi State has any success throwing the ball it will probably be going after someone other than him. He is replacing Patrick Peterson as “the” corner on LSU’s defense, and he’s got the size and athletic ability to do it. He had 6 pass break-ups and 5 INT’s last year when defenses targeted him instead of throwing at Peterson consistently, but now this year teams will certainly be avoiding him if they can help it. I don’t know if they will match him up against Mississippi State’s perceived best receiver (I’m a fan of Chris Smith), or if they will just let him attempt to shut down one side of the field, but if Relf decides to test him he had better make sure it’s a good ball because if he makes a mistake Claiborne knows how to make him pay.

Sleeper: Barkevious Mingo, on top of having an absolutely fantastic name, has a boatload of potential as a defensive end. He’s only a sophomore and he is about 6’5”, 240 pounds, but as a freshman last year he had 35 total tackles (18 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 6 pass break-ups, which is pretty great for a freshman at a position that generally has a long development period. He is very athletic and has chased down some pretty athletic running backs in his day, and seems to have a very good motor as evidenced by his backside pursuit. I’m excited to see how he will do against a Mississippi State offensive line that likes to run the ball, but is missing their best pass protector from a year ago in Derek Sherrod. Mingo could have a big game, though he is pretty raw, but I am excited about his potential so I want to see how he does.

Key Players- Mississippi State:

Chris Relf is a guy who is better known for his running than his passing, but his size definitely helps him in both aspects. He stands at 6’4”, 245 pounds and could probably convert to RB or FB at the next level, but I haven’t watched him enough to specifically project him to any one position yet. I don’t think he will be a QB at the next level, but he has shown some signs of improvement since last season. He threw for 1,776 yards in 13 games (an average of only 136.6 yards per game), completing 59% of his passes (128/217, a low number of passes attempted) for 12 TD’s and 6 INT’s. He was an efficient QB, but he wasn’t throwing the ball very much. This year it seems to be a bit different having already attempted 54 passes in just two games (33/55 for a 61.1% completion) for 397 yards, 3 touchdowns and only one interception. LSU will be a big test for him one week after he had a solid but relatively unspectacular game with 195 yards (60.6% completion with a 5.9 YPA, well below his average from last season) and 1 touchdown and interception against Auburn. LSU has a very tough defense that frequently creates turnovers, so ball security and making smart decisions will be critical for him in this game. I have to say that if Relf ends up throwing 25+ or even 30+ times in this game I think Mississippi State will lose. That will mean their running game is being slowed by LSU’s tough front seven, and the onus will be placed on Relf to move the ball through the air to open up running lanes. Against Memphis (obviously a totally different class of opponent) he threw 21 times, was very efficient and they won easily. Against Auburn in a close game (final score of 41-34) he threw 33 times, was less efficient with one interception and only a 5.9 YPA (which is in stark contrast to his 2010 season average of 8.2 and his 9.6 YPA against Memphis). To drill this point home a bit, when Relf threw 25 times or more last year Mississippi lost both games which accounted for two of their four losses on the season. The other losses were against LSU when he threw the ball only 8 times for 35 yards and 2 interceptions and against Alabama when he threw the ball 16 times for 70 yards and an interception. In the two other losses he threw the ball 25 times or more and lost in a close game (17-14 to Auburn and 38-31 to Arkansas, though he had a good game against them). So that is a trend of three losses in a row when Relf throws the ball 25 times or more, and it will be interesting to see if he is forced to surpass that number of attempts against LSU’s defense.

Vick Ballard is the other key cog to Mississippi State’s offense that focuses intently on the running game. Ballard had a fantastic season last year rushing 187 times for 981 yards (a 5.25 ypc average) and 20 touchdowns. This year, as a senior, he already has 301 yards rushing on just 31 attempts (an astounding 9.71 ypc) and 4 touchdowns. His success tonight against LSU’s tough run defense will set the tone for the game, and if he can find running room and grind out tough yards and first downs then it will make life significantly easier for Relf and the rest of Mississippi State’s passing attack. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with a game with about 20 attempts, 75-80 yards and maybe a score though, because yards are hard to come by against LSU’s defense.

Chris Smith is a receiver on Mississippi State that I came away impressed with after watching him against Michigan last year. He had a relatively mediocre statistical year last year with only 24 receptions, 264 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore, but I like his size and his hands impressed me last year as well as his route running. Keep in mind, his 24 receptions were about 11.1% of Relf’s total completions last year, so even though it is a low total and not overly impressive, he still accounted for 11% of Relf’s total completions and almost 15% (14.86%) of Relf’s total passing yards. So while it might not be obvious, he was a target for Mississippi State last year in the passing game. He only has two catches for 11 yards so far this year, so I am really hoping he finds a way to step up and make some plays in this game. I love players that find a way to make plays in critical games like this, especially on big stages, and I am hoping that Smith will find a way to do that tonight even against a talented LSU secondary.

Jonathan Banks is a cornerback that I came away very impressed with last year when I was actually watching the Bulldogs to get a look at Derek Sherrod. He has been very reliable and consistent for the Bulldogs ever since his freshman year. Now a junior, Banks already has an interception and two pass break-ups this year, bringing his career total to 8 interceptions (7 in his previous two seasons) and 12 pass break-ups. He is a very tall, skinny corner as he stands at a listed height and weight of 6’2”, 185 pounds. I mentioned him in a previous post listing potential break-out players for this 2011 season, and mentioned that I am going to be watching him to evaluate his hips, namely his ability to flip his hips in coverage, his ability to click and close on passes in front of him, and his ability to recover if and when he makes a mistake. He has already demonstrated his ability to use his size to his advantage, and he has shown the ability to turn and run with receivers downfield. I just want to see how well he transitions, because it’s pretty obvious when you watch him play that he can locate the ball in the air and make a play on it. He has impressive ball skills, and his size really helps him defend 50/50 balls even against very tall wide receivers. LSU has some big guys like they always do, so look for Banks to mirror them and take away some of Lee’s bigger, more physical targets.

Nickoe Whitley is a safety that I noticed around the same time I noticed Banks last year. He demonstrated impressive ball skills when I watched him last year and seemed to be a pretty good tackler which is evidenced by his 34 solo tackles (52 total). He also had 1.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 3 INT’s and 1 forced fumble last year. He already has an INT this year as well as one pass break up (plus a pretty impressive 6 solo tackles out of 7 total). It will be interesting to see if he is tested deep much as Jarrett Lee doesn’t have a very strong arm. I could see him playing up in the box more, so it will be interesting to see if he lets anyone get behind him in this game.

Sleeper: My sleeper for the Bulldogs is Jameon Lewis, a freshman receiver. He already has 5 receptions, 116 yards and 1 TD as well as 2 rushes for 29 yards and 1 TD. In addition, he returns kicks and punts as well though his success has been limited in that aspect so far. He is a smaller guy listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds, though packing 185 pounds onto that small of a frame is actually pretty impressive (has a similar build to Jerrel Jernigan, the WR from Troy who actually was very well built for a small receiver). The Bulldogs have shown that they like to get the ball in his hands any way they can, whether it is throwing it to him, handing it off or letting him return kicks and punts, so look for at least one big play from him in this game.

I apologize for the length of this post. It started out shorter but I got really in depth. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and it got you excited for this SEC matchup tonight. Enjoy!

–Tom

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Scouting Report:

Jernigan has game-breaking ability as a receiver and I think he will be a very good slot receiver in the NFL.

Positives: Jernigan has great speed and burst. He has very good change of direction speed and is a big YAC threat because of his speed. He has game-breaking ability to gain yardage and can take any play the distance because of his speed, vision and ability to run through arm tackles. He might be small but he is very strong for his size and can run through arm tackles well. He has very impressive leg drive and doesn’t go down easily. Has reliable hands and has the quickness and change of direction speed to be a very good route runner and YAC man in the NFL.

Negatives: Jernigan’s size will hurt him in the NFL and it will make it hard for him to make catches in traffic against bigger defensive backs. I haven’t really ever seen him block and I don’t think he has much experience doing so, and his size will hinder him in that respect also. May have durability concerns because of his size, and may be forced to remain in the slot because he doesn’t project well as an outside receiver.

Overall: Jernigan has game-breaking ability as a receiver, runner and return man and I think he will be a very dangerous slot receiver in the NFL. Maybe he won’t be a pro-bowler, but if you need a guy who can stretch a defense, make guys miss in the open field and get a lot of yards after the catch Jernigan is your man. He may not be a great red zone threat or a dominant outside receiver, but I think he will be very effective in the slot in the NFL and in the right offense I think he could contend for offensive rookie of the year.

Projection: 2nd round. He could go early in the 2nd and he could go late, but I think he will end up in round 2. I think he would be a great value if he made it out of the top 45-50 picks because I really think he will be an effective NFL receiver from the get-go and I have always been impressed with him when I have seen him play.

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

Speed: 4.5
Hands: 3.5
After Catch: 4.0
Body Control: 3.5
Range: 3.5

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

I didn’t have as many notes on this game but I still have some thoughts on a few prospects.

Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy (Senior)- Jernigan was the best NFL Draft eligible prospect that I watched all day on the first day of bowl season. He is a little undersized at 5’9″ listed, but he is not as skinny as you might think he would be considering his explosiveness. He is pretty well built for a 5’9″ guy if he is really 185-190 pounds like he is listed as. But boy can he move. Troy gets him the ball on kickoffs, punts, by throwing it to him and by running jet-sweeps with him because he just needs to have the ball in his hands. The turf was not ideal for cuts, but boy when he could plant and explode he made some people look foolish. On his touchdown he ran a slant, caught it easily with good separation, continued on his diagonal path towards the end zone but while he did it he juked one guy, then broke another dude’s ankles and turned on the jets as another guy dove at his ankles and then all of a sudden he was walking into the end zone by himself. It was pretty amazing how much explosiveness he has and how quick he can go from 0-60 so to speak. He looks like he has pretty solid hands, but this is a pretty small sample size to judge that on. I think he has definite 3rd round potential and he could definitely work his way into the second round if he tests pretty well and does well in post-season games. I really like him as a slot receiver and return man in the NFL and I think with time he could develop into a reliable #2 who can stretch the field but also be reliable for quick passes, kind of like a “Wes Welker” role.

Corey Robinson, QB, Troy (Freshman)- Robinson is pretty damn impressive for a freshman. I couldn’t believe this when I heard it, but as a Senior in high school he threw for 91, yes, 91 touchdowns in one season and threw only four interceptions that year. You might wonder why he didn’t get scholarships from everyone in the country considering he played in a pro-style offense and broke the national record for most passing touchdowns in a single season, and the answer is probably his height. He is only listed at 6’0″, and that means there is a chance he is only 5’11” in reality. He’s a pretty small guy, but he has a quality arm and showed some pretty good zip and accuracy in this game. He didn’t look incredible necessarily, but he looked like a quality college QB. I don’t know if his game will ultimately translate to the NFL, but he runs their no-huddle offense pretty effectively, especially for a freshman.

Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy (Sophomore)- Massaquoi impressed me almost as much as Jernigan in this game. Every time I watched him he reminded me more and more of a small-school Brandon Graham. Yes, that is high praise, but it is fitting for Massaquoi. He is relatively undersized at 6’2″, 252 pounds (listed), he lined up at LE for Troy, he showed a great burst and impressive acceleration to beat his blocker to the inside or to the outside, and he has a terrific motor. He even chased down a WR on a screen thrown into the flat and wrapped him up from behind. He is the real deal, and coming into the game he had 17.5 TFL and 10 sacks. He definitely added to that in this game, and probably will finish the season with 20 TFL and 11 sacks if not a little more. I am excited to see how he develops next year, because if he continues to improve and fill out his frame he could be the next stud pass rusher to come out of Troy. Obviously I’m a fan, and I’m going to keep serious tabs on him from now until the 2012 draft, and if you like quality pass rushing prospects you should too.

This might sound weird, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with any NFL prospects on Ohio in this game… I was hoping to get a solid look at Terrence McCrae, their senior WR (#11) but they threw the ball so little in the first half of the game that he had almost no passes thrown his way and ended up with three catches for only 24 yards in this game.

Hopefully the Troy notes were enough for you guys, I can’t believe I have to wait until the 21st for more football!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Bowl Predictions:

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

Predicted winner: BYU

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

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

Score: BYU: 24 – UTEP: 13

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

Predicted winner: NIU

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

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

Score: NIU: 31 – FSU: 21

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

Predicted winner: Troy

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

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

Score: Troy: 34 – Ohio: 31

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

Predicted winner: Louisville

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

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

Score: Louisville: 24 – Southern Miss: 20

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

Predicted winner: Boise State

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

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

Score: Boise State: 45 – Utah: 24

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

Predicted winner: San Diego State

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

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

Score: San Diego State: 31 – Navy: 17

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

Predicted Winner: Hawai’i

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

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

Score: Hawai’i: 45 – Tulsa: 31

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

Predicted winner: Toledo

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

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

Score: Toledo: 31 – FIU: 20

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

Predicted winner: Georgia Tech

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

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

Score: Georgia Tech: 27 – Air Force: 21

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

Predicted Winner: West Virginia

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

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

Score: West Virginia: 24 – NC State: 13

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

Predicted Winner: Missouri

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

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

Score: Missouri: 24 – Iowa: 20

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

–Tom