Tag Archive: Markelle Martin


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

Today I am previewing Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had their best season in team history last year despite the crushing loss to Iowa State that prevented them from playing in the BCS National Championship game (a match-up I would have liked to see, actually, between Oklahoma State’s passing game and LSU’s pass defense). Still, Oklahoma State is coming off of a 41-38 OT win against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl and the program has a lot of momentum and buzz around it despite losing Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Markelle Martin to the NFL Draft. There was a lot of anticipation for Oklahoma State to name a starting quarterback, but on the day of the NFL Draft Head Coach Mike Gundy named true freshman Wes Lunt as the starting quarterback for the 2012 season. This surprised plenty of people (including myself) but it’s not hard to see why he made that decision. Gundy has said that he wants to continue the pocket passing-type offense that Dana Holgersen established at OSU with Brandon Weeden two years ago, and at 6’4″, 212 pounds Lunt fits that tall, strong armed pocket passer description better than junior Clint Chelf or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh (Chelf is 6’1″, 201 pounds and Walsh is 6’2″, 199 pounds). Obviously Lunt didn’t win the position based only on his height, he showed a strong, accurate arm when he was confident enough to unleash it and from what I was able to see of the spring game he showed some poise in the pocket even when pressured to keep his eyes downfield. This season will be a big test for him and Oklahoma State’s offense, and they will likely rely heavily on their run game spearheaded by Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, their respective lightning and thunder combo at running back. They have some returning talent at receiver in senior Tracy Moore and sophomore Josh Stewart, but the true surprise of the spring was junior Charlie Moore’s emergence. Together, Gundy is hoping they will keep Oklahoma State’s offense afloat while they also sort out some issues along the offensive line thanks to having to replace three starters up front.

However, Gundy has been quoted saying this 2012 defense might be the best one he’s had since taking over as the head man at Oklahoma State, and if the front four can help slow down opposing running games while providing some much needed pass rush, he might be right. Oklahoma State’s strength figures to be at linebacker and in the defensive secondary where they return 6 of the units 8 returning starters. These groups are headlined by linebackers Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey, cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert as well as safety Daytawion Lowe. If Oklahoma State’s defensive line can match the production of the rest of the defense then Gundy’s team might be able to coast on their running game and defensive prowess to a 9+ win season. They have the special teams to do it as well thanks to All-American Quinn Sharp returning for his senior season as Kicker, Punter and Kickoff specialist and the Cowboys have one of the nation’s most consistently productive return men in cornerback Justin Gilbert. This Oklahoma State team might look different than in the years past, but I believe that as Lunt becomes more comfortable as the starter this team could become a dark horse in the Big-12 despite losing two first round draft picks. Concerns on both the offensive and defensive lines scare me, but if those units come together they could push for another 10 win season. Here is the prospect breakdown for Oklahoma State:

Randle has a complete game thanks to his ability to run, catch and pass protect despite only one full season of starting experience. He will be the work-horse of Oklahoma State’s backfield this year, so we should know if he can carry the load or not after this season.

Joseph Randle, RB*- Randle is the top offensive player returning for Oklahoma State and will be relied upon to carry the load and help take pressure off of true freshman starting quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt has a strong arm and Brandon Weeden-esque size, but he will be only months removed from high school graduation and will need to be brought along slowly. This will be a huge test for Randle’s NFL prospects because if he is able to effectively gain yardage despite facing more defenders in the box then Randle’s stock should rise even higher than it already has. He has NFL size for a running back at 6’1”, 194 pounds, plenty of speed, and his versatility to gain yardage on the ground and catch the ball effectively out of the backfield will make him particularly valuable to Oklahoma State this season. I wonder just how great his acceleration is to hit the hole, as he looks like he runs at one speed once he gets the ball in the backfield. He has impressive lateral agility and can make guys miss while also running through arm tackles, but I don’t see the burst to get through the hole that others do (at least not yet). He seems to have impressive vision and does a good job finding cut-back lanes, and has enough straight-line speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. I was also impressed at how good he was in pass protection, as I never saw him let a free rusher get into Weeden’s face despite only being a sophomore. But this year his vision will be as important as anything else this season as teams will try to take him out of the game and force their true freshman quarterback to win the game with his arm instead of handing off to a potential top 50 pick running back.

Jeremy Smith, RB*- Smith is the alleged thunder to Randle’s lightning and he backs that up, weighing 204 pounds despite only being listed at 5’10”. He figures to be a key cog in Oklahoma State’s offense this season as he will have to help keep Randle fresh over the course of the year. The running game has never been more important for Oklahoma State now that they are starting a true freshman quarterback, so Smith will be counted on to produce another season like his 2011 one where he totaled 646 rushing yards (7.1 ypc), 9 touchdowns and 11 receptions for 81 more yards out of the backfield. Randle and Smith combined to rush for 33 touchdowns last season, and both averaged better than 5.8 yards per carry. The yards may not be as easy to come by at times this season now that the wide open passing attack won’t be operated by a 28 year old veteran with a top 10 NFL Draft pick stretching defenses vertically, but the duo should be able to effectively take pressure off of Wes Lunt as he acclimates himself to the Big-12.

Tracy Moore, WR- Moore is the top returning receiver for Oklahoma State this season and figures to be the go-to guy for Wes Lunt in the passing game. He is listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds and returns after a 2011 season with 45 receptions, 672 yards and 4 touchdowns. He has shown fairly reliable hands, the ability to adjust to the ball well in the air and reportedly has similar straight-line speed as Justin Blackmon. Like Blackmon, he also can gain yards after the catch thanks to his speed and strength. That makes me think he has the potential to really improve his draft stock this season if Lunt can get the passing attack off the ground. Unfortunately, much like Blackmon, Moore has had a couple of run-ins with the law. He was held out of the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford by Mike Gundy (haven’t been able to find a specific incident that led to this) and has had two run-ins with the police in a three month span. He was arrested on March 24th on suspicion of public intoxication (he was of legal age to drink at that point I believe) and at 2 am on Sunday, June 3rd he was cited for public urination. He was only fined in both instances, totaling $398 in all, but after some of Blackmon’s run-ins with the law as well as other arrests in both the football program and other Oklahoma State programs I’m sure it would help the coaching staff sleep better at night if their players stayed out of trouble more than they currently do.

Charlie Moore may be an under the radar name right now, but if his 9 receptions, 243 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Oklahoma State Spring Game are any indication, he’s ready to break out as a junior.

Charlie Moore, WR*- Moore is a 6’2”, 202 pound junior who only had 3 receptions for 56 yards as a sophomore. Now that top targets Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper have moved on, Moore has an opportunity for more playing time. He has reportedly seized it as he had 9 receptions, 243 yards and 3 touchdowns in the spring game and it sounds like he had a very good spring. His performance in the spring game prompted Joseph Randle to say this: “I’ve been saying that he’s gonna be an All-American since the first day of spring.” It may not have surprised Randle, but suffice it to say it surprised pretty much everyone else. There’s no guarantee Moore will be one of the passing game’s primary targets because of his spring game performance, but I’m certainly not going to write it off and I don’t think Oklahoma State coaches are going to either. He showed some straight-line speed, an impressive ability to high point the ball and come down with catches in traffic and showed reliable hands as well. Moore definitely has some sleeper potential to him, so don’t be surprised if he and Moore both catch 50+ balls on the outside while sophomore Josh Stewart tears things up in the slot.

Lane Taylor, RG- Taylor stands at 6’3”, 328 pounds and comes into his senior season with 36 career starts including 12 as a junior when he didn’t allow a single sack. That doesn’t guarantee that he is a quality pass protector, but it’s a flashy stat at least. He is by far the most experienced starter on Oklahoma State’s offensive line, a unit that had its struggles during the spring, so it will be interesting to see if he plays well without a savvy veteran under center. He has shown the ability to drive block defenders as a mauling guard but also has a little phone-booth quickness to position himself and seal defenders to create running room for Randle and others. He looks a little slow footed and doesn’t project that well to a ZBS or a scheme that requires him to pull consistently, but he looks like a possible mid-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft right now.

Ryan Robinson, DE- Robinson is returning for his second season at Oklahoma State after he transferred in from junior college the year before. He stands at 6’4”, 246 pounds and reportedly looked quick off the edge in the spring and Mike Gundy said that he was in much better shape this spring and that he had finally “gotten it” after a year with the program. He only had 21 tackles, 2 TFL and 1 sack as a rotational player last year, but now that he figures to be in the starting line-up in better shape with the light-bulb coming on he could be a surprise pass rush threat for an Oklahoma State that desperately needs one; they don’t have a single defender returning that had more than 2 sacks or 4 quarterback hurries in 2011. Oklahoma State might have some talented linebackers and defensive backs, but without a pass rush the defense won’t improve. Robinson may play a critical role in providing that pass rush.

Alex Elkins, WLB- Elkins is the second leading tackler from 2011 and the 6’3”, 222 pounder returns for his second season with Oklahoma State after transferring from junior college to try to build on his 90 tackle, 4 TFL,1 sack, 2 pass break-up and 1 interception statistics from a season ago. Oklahoma State returns each of its three starting linebackers and figures to be a strength of the defense. Elkins was the most productive last season and has a chance to be even more productive now that he has a year of starting experience under his belt.

Caleb Lavey, MLB*- Lavey started all 13 games for Oklahoma State in the middle last season and as a first year starter he had 74 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack and an interception. There are rumblings that he could be the next great linebacker at Oklahoma State, and while I can’t attest to that it sounds like he had a good spring and figures to be a strength of perhaps the strongest part of Oklahoma State’s defense: their linebacking core. He is listed at 6’3”, 240 pounds and figures to be even more productive than he was as a true sophomore in his first season as a starter.

Brodrick Brown, CB- Brown is an undersized corner, listed at only 5’8”, 183 pounds, but there is no doubt that he can make plays on the ball due to his 15 pass deflections and 5 interceptions in 2011. It wasn’t a fluke either, he had 8 pass deflections and 2 interceptions as a sophomore (his first season with significant playing time). He may be undersized but his skills are undeniable, and while he doesn’t project to playing corner outside in the NFL he may have ideal nickel corner skills. He won’t be a high pick because of his lack of size, but if he has another productive season as he continues to demonstrate his impressive ball skills he will be a sure-fire NFL Draft pick.

Gilbert may have the most upside of any defender returning for Oklahoma State. His combination of size, athletic ability, ball skills and his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands after a turnover or on a kick-return make him a very intriguing NFL Draft prospect.

Justin Gilbert, CB*- Gilbert is the taller and perhaps more athletic of the two starting corners for Oklahoma State standing at 6’0”, 194 pounds, but he was similarly productive as his teammate Brodrick Brown. He had 10 pass deflections and 5 interceptions as a sophomore, his first as a starter. However, he also offers explosive potential as a kick returner as he returned 26 kick-offs for 698 yards (26.85 avg) and 2 touchdowns as a freshman before following it up with a near identical season as a sophomore with 26 kick-off returns for 703 yards (27.04 avg) and 2 more touchdowns. If you’re a betting man (or woman) I would probably bet on him returning 26 kick-offs for about 700 yards and 2 touchdowns on kick-offs again this year, but you assume all risk and reward if you actually bet on that. Regardless, Gilbert clearly has legitimate NFL talent as a corner and as a return man, and that means he should be on your radar heading into 2012.

DayTawion Lowe, FS*- Lowe is Oklahoma State’s returning leading tackler on defense, and having a safety lead your team in tackling can be an indication of a poor defense, and that was the case last year for Oklahoma State according to most. Regardless, Lowe had 97 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 pass break-ups and 1 interception in his first season as a starter. Lowe stands at 5’11”, 198 pounds and is the 3rd starter returning to Oklahoma State’s secondary which figures to be a strength of the defense. If the defensive line can pick things up the Oklahoma State could be a sneakily good defense, but the secondary figures to be reliable again this year with both starting corners and a starting safety returning.

Quinn Sharp, K/P/KOS- Sharp was an All-American as both a Kicker and a Punter last season. The 6’1”, 205 pound special teams ace made 22/25 field goals (missing 2 from 30-39 and 1 from 40-49, he did not attempt a 50+ yard field goal) and had a 38.8 yard net average as well as 12 punts of 47 downed inside the 20 yard line. I personally think Tress Way of Oklahoma was more deserving of All-American honors as a punter, but on top of being an effective field goal kicker and punter he also had a remarkable 61 touchbacks on kick-offs which was first in the nation by 21. This was preceded by 53 touchbacks in 2010, so it wasn’t a fluke. He’s a safe bet to be a reliable kicker, punter and kick-off man again in 2012, and may have a NFL future as a kicker and kick-off specialist if not as a punter as well.

Defensive Ends:

1- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina: Coples was dominant at times this week and looked unblockable in 1 on 1 drills versus almost everyone on the South offensive line. He can be as good as he wants to be thanks to his great combination of size, length and athleticism. He projects to be a great LE in the NFL if he continues to work and provide the effort level that he had this week.

2- Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama: Upshaw has convinced me that he can play 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB. I think he might be a better 3-4 outside linebacker, but he’s got plenty of upside. He might not have ideal measurable and 40 yard dash times, but he is a very strong, powerful player that is fundamentally sound. I wouldn’t bet against Upshaw in the NFL, and I don’t think you should either.

3- Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina: Ingram definitely impressed me this week. I think he can play in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 as well, and should be fine at outside linebacker where I think he might have the most upside. He has an impressive variety of pass rush moves and was all effort this week, taking reps standing up, with his hand in the dirt at DE and even inside at defensive tackle at times in 1 on 1’s.

4- Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State: McClellin feels like he should be higher on this list, but the three guys ahead of him are potential 1st rounders much like McClellin might end up being. He’s an impressive kid with better speed and pass rushing ability than a lot of people give him credit for. He’s a top 60 pick for sure, may be a top 40 guy when all is said and done.

5- Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall: Curry definitely has upside, and should get a 2nd or 3rd round grade from me after I finish my tape study of him, but he didn’t beat Mike Adams all week and didn’t look overly impressive rushing the passer this week. Once he was engaged he struggled to rush the passer, and while he has size and athletic ability he needs some development.

Defensive Tackles:

1- Mike Martin, DT, Michigan: Martin really impressed me this week. He’s not tall, but he’s very well built and is extremely strong, plus he has natural leverage because of his lack of ideal height. He’s got a terrific motor and very active hands, and just doesn’t stay blocked. He’s going to go higher than a lot of people expect him to.

2- Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson: Thompson definitely showed his athleticism this week when he beat people off the ball initially with his burst and hand usage. He’s a 2nd round pick in my opinion but he’s got plenty of upside as a 3-tech, and he reminds me a bit of Jonathan Babineaux from the Atlanta Falcons.

3- Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut: Reyes weighed in lighter than I was hoping him to, but he’s got plenty of burst and athleticism off the snap. He’s got upside as a pass rusher, and might be able to contribute in a rotation early on in his career in pass rushing situations, but I worry about him versus the run. He can penetrate and get into the backfield, but I think he might get washed out in the run game if he doesn’t get stronger and put on a little weight.

4- Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati: Wolfe came into the week very underrated but he had a strong week all week, showing his versatility to play defensive end or defensive tackle. He projects very well to a 5 technique or to a 3 technique at the next level in my opinion. His versatility will definitely help him on draft day, and he really opened some eyes this week if they hadn’t watched him play much. He may end up with a 3rd or 4th round grade from me once all is said and done. I think he has a future as a NFL starter without a doubt.

5- Jaye Howard, DT, Florida: Howard is someone I’ve been a fan of since early on in his junior season when I was watching tape of Florida. He’s got NFL size and athleticism, and I think he may end up in the fourth round when all is said and done. He’s not rated high but he’s got the ability to contribute to a NFL rotation early on in his career.

Linebackers:

1- Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas: Robinson is my favorite linebacker here and it was really fun to be able to interview him yesterday. He’s a complete linebacker than can play all three positions if needed, but projects best to the weak-side. He’s strong, can attack blocks, is a very good tackler who has pop as a hitter, shows ability in coverage and can blitz when asked to. He’s got it all, and he’s very underrated despite that. I may end up putting a 2nd round grade on him when my film study on him is done.

2- Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina: Brown had a great week, partially because the practices were non-contact and he wasn’t able to display his relatively poor tackling skills. This week was the perfect venue for Brown to show off his terrific athleticism and his ability to run around and find the ball. However, when he’s got the pads on and is asked to tackle he will come back down to Earth because he’s not a fundamentally sound tackler and often tries to go for the big hit. He also likes to arm tackle, and doesn’t consistently wrap up at all. I expect two or more missed tackles from him today.

3- Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska: David is an undersized linebacker who will probably have to play weak-side linebacker in the NFL, but he’s a very good tackler who is a pretty complete linebacker himself. If he was a little bit bigger he would be a very highly thought of prospect, and I have always been one who doesn’t like to overlook smaller players with lots of talent.

4- Sean Spence, OLB, Miami: Spence is another undersized playmaker at linebacker. He’s even smaller than David is unfortunately, and at the beginning of the week there was talk of moving him to safety, but I think he has to stay at linebacker personally. He’s got good instincts, is a reliable tackler and shows some ability in coverage. Play him at weak-side linebacker and he should be fine.

5- James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada: JMJ is one of the more athletic middle linebacker prospects in the draft this year. Like Brown, the practices this week were a chance for him to put on a show thanks to his athletic ability. I’m much more interested to see how he tackles today.

Cornerbacks:

1- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: Jenkins looked like a 1st round pick the entire week. He’s an impressive athlete  with the ability to play press-man, off-man or zone coverage in my opinion. Some were not high on him coming into the week, but I knew I was watching a special corner when I saw him at Florida. He’s got off-field concerns that will hurt his stock, but I still see him ending up in round 1. I feel more comfortable with him on the field than I do with Dre Kirkpatrick.

2- Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia: Boykin is an undersized corner but he presents plenty of upside as a starter at corner as well as a return man. He won a college football award for versatility this year, and I think he may end up in the 2nd or 3rd round range once all is said and done.

3- Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt: Hayward has been underrated for the last two years but he’s finally starting to catch some people’s eyes. He told me he thought part of that was that not a lot of people watch Vanderbilt, which I definitely think has some merit. But he put his skills on display this week and I think he’s a top 100 player without a doubt.

4- Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming is a guy that not a lot of people have been high on, but I like his upside as a man or zone coverage corner. He’s a quality cover man, and I think he has starter potential in the NFL.

5- Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Leonard Johnson came into the week with a little hype and I think he lived up to it. He’s not a very good off-man corner, though he does have the ability to mirror receivers which impressed me, but his value comes as a press-man corner or perhaps in zone. I think he’s a top 100 player as well.

6- Ryan Steed, CB, Furman: Steed isn’t a big corner but he has pretty good change of direction ability which he showed this week. He looked better in press-man than off-man, but struggled a bit when asked to locate the ball and make a play on it at times. I haven’t seen much tape on him, but I think he has upside and would like to see more of him if I get the chance.

Safeties:

1- George Iloka, S, Boise State: Iloka is one of the more physically impressive players here thanks to his impressive size, length and athletic ability. He didn’t impress me in man coverage this week, but he’s got pretty good range and his size will help him deep against big, physically imposing receivers at the next level.

2- Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Martin didn’t stick out to me a lot this week, but he’s always looked reliable on film and in a weak safety class he may go earlier than he should. I’m interested to see how he does when he’s asked to play deep in pretty vanilla coverages today.

3- Brandon Taylor, S, LSU: Taylor was a playmaker at safety this year for LSU but I didn’t quite see the playmaking ability here this week. He’s definitely a draftable prospect in the 4th round range, but I’m not sure how much upside he has.

4- Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina: Allen is a player that has a good feel for finding the ball and seems to be a pretty reliable tackler. I’m not sure how he is in coverage though, so I’m looking forward to seeing him more today.

5- Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Smith has had a solid week but he hasn’t been great. He’s not a flashy player and seems like a pretty reliable guy, but I’m not sure he has starter upside at the next level.

Kickers/Punters:

1- Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M: Bullock was the Lou Groza award winner this year and he was a great kid to talk to when I had the chance. He’s got a strong leg and he’s obviously very accurate, so I’ll be rooting for him in the NFL. He may even have a chance to get drafted, which isn’t a given for kickers.

2- Drew Butler, P, Georgia: Butler has a very strong leg, I noticed it last year when I was scouting Justin Houston. He can really punt that ball a long way, and has a shot at getting drafted even though he had a pretty inconsistent year kicking for Georgia when I watched him.

3- Brad Nortman, P, Wisconsin: Nortman is a very good punter with a strong leg as well. He, Butler and Anger from the Shrine Game all showed draftable ability to me which is pretty rare for punters.

Keleche Osemele is one of the best offensive guard prospects in the country. His combination of size and strength is very intriguing.

Kelechi Osemele, OT, Iowa State- Osemele impressed me tonight. He’s so big and strong that once he locks on he can drive defenders off the ball in the run game. He seems to finish blocks well and will be fine blocking interior defensive linemen because of his great size (listed at 6’6″, 345 pounds) with long arms and great strength. He doesn’t have the foot speed/lateral agility to stick at LT in the NFL in my opinion, and while he might have a shot at RT I think his upside is highest inside at guard. At that spot he is a first round pick. His long arms will help him in pass protection at guard as well, and he doesn’t seem to lean into blocks and reach in pass protection. Doesn’t bend at the waist, he bends at the knees and lets defenders come to him in his stance. He’s a quality prospect, one of the best offensive guard prospects in the country. Don’t have a report on him yet, but I will eventually.

Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State- I can’t say enough about how well Leonard Johnson played tonight. Weeden throws the ball to Blackmon a lot, but a number of times Johnson’s blanket coverage on Blackmon forced Weeden to look at other receivers, hold onto the ball too long and at times force throws. Johnson was very good in man coverage, particularly down the sideline. He did a great job of taking away Weeden’s windows to throw to Blackmon by using the sideline to his advantage and staying right in Blackmon’s hip pocket making it nearly impossible to throw into that window. I wasn’t sure how impressed I was in zone coverage, and even in spite of his great effort mirroring Blackmon for the entire game he still gave up 10 catches for 99 yards and 1 TD. There wasn’t anything he could do about the TD, it was just a terrific play by Blackmon, but he definitely frustrated him and it was a very heated, competitive battle. Additionally, at least three or four of his catches were on screens at the line of scrimmage. Downfield Johnson had very good coverage for the majority of the game. They both seem to be very intense competitors, and while Johnson was jawing at Blackmon more and more throughout the game he never seemed to get so heated that he lost his cool. I had never specifically watched Johnson before, but he left a terrific impression on me tonight. He played great against arguably the best wide receiver in the country.

Brandon Weeden was on top of many Heisman lists prior to this game, but he won't be after his relatively disappointing performance against Iowa State.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State- Weeden has definitely had better nights. He was checking down a lot and throwing a LOT of bubble screens which kind of bothered me. More importantly he was checking down in critical situations. He was throwing underneath and into the backfield on 3rd downs late in the fourth quarter instead of pushing the ball downfield. Now, Blackmon was well covered overall tonight and if it weren’t for some bubble screens he probably wouldn’t have had many catches, and while Moore and Cooper stepped up when Weeden got them the ball it didn’t seem like he was consistently making good reads and good decisions tonight. He didn’t come up big in crunch time when his team needed him (until he made a nice touchdown throw to Cooper in the first OT which was immediately followed by an interception on a tipped ball that was forced to Blackmon against pretty solid coverage) and that’s a problem for me when evaluating QB prospects. Considering his age, his throwing motion which could stand to be tinkered with to speed up his release, and some of his issues in this close game it’s hard for me to grade him as a 3rd round prospect right now.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State- Blackmon had a good statistical game, but he struggled to create separation against Johnson tonight. Definitely not his best game, and while I’m not sure how many drops he had (may not have had any, but I thought I remembered at least one) he did make some nice catches extending his arms fully and had a terrific play against good man coverage by Johnson as he went up and made a great catch in mid-air as he demonstrated great body control and hands. He scored on that play, and it was definitely a highlight reel play. So while Blackmon didn’t have the best game of his career he still managed to make a couple great catches and plays to help his team. I think he could have done more, but some of that blame has to be placed on Weeden. It was encouraging to see him make plays like that, but at the same time I was hoping to see him step up late in the 4th quarter and in the overtime periods.

Darius Reynolds displayed some upside in this game, and I was particularly impressed with his hand-eye coordination as well as his ability to high point the ball in the air.

Darius Reynolds, WR, Iowa State- Reynolds had a pedestrian game by statistical standards with only 4 catches, 39 yards and 1 touchdown. However, I was impressed with his hands overall (though he did have at least one or two drops) as he made a great catch high pointing the ball well above the defender for his only touchdown in the first half. He almost had a second touchdown but it was ultimately ruled an incompletion. I personally believed it was a touchdown, but regardless of how it was ruled he still made a terrific play to get a hand on the ball, focus on it as he his arm was being grabbed while falling in the air and ultimately reel it in before he hit the ground. Broderick Brown stripped it out after it seemed clear to me that he had maintained control of it, but the referees ruled that there was not indisputable visual evidence to overturn the call of an incomplete pass on the field. Regardless, I had never seen Reynolds play before and he flashed some impressive ability. He’s a late round pick right now, but he flashed some upside tonight.

Jared Barnett, QB, Iowa State- Barnett wasn’t overly impressive in this game statistically, but I was convinced he had poise and composure by how he was playing as the game went on. Then the 4th quarter came about and Barnett made some big time throws and plays to help move Iowa State not only within striking distance but led the comeback to tie the game. He’s a redshirt freshman quarterback but his efforts in this game were very impressive. They weren’t all pretty, but he came up big when his team needed him to.

A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State- Klein is a junior linebacker on Iowa State that impressed me tonight. He seemed to be a reliable tackler, showed some ability in coverage by deflecting a pass or two, and seemed to be around the ball consistently in this game. I’d grade him as a 3rd-4th rounder for the 2013 class as he has some ability, but haven’t seen enough of him yet and I don’t think he’s an elite athlete. I liked what I saw from him tonight though.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State- Martin is an athletic player and he had a couple nice plays in coverage tonight. He missed some tackles early in the game and overall I think he earned mixed reviews in this game. He’s an athletic specimen, but I don’t know how high I am on him at this point.

Hopefully you enjoyed my thoughts on the Oklahoma State-Iowa State game. It was sloppy at times, but overall it was a fantastic game and a huge upset. It was definitely a very fun game to watch, and it had a number of legitimate NFL prospects to take a look at. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

1- Janzen Jackson, FS, Tennessee
Analysis:
Jackson played one season with Eric Berry and I think that Berry passed the torch as the best safety in the country to Jackson, however there is a lot of uncertainty of whether or not he will actually be on the field this year. He left the program in February according to what I have read to deal with personal reasons, and Tennessee’s Head Coach Derek Dooley has repeatedly said he left on his own accord to deal with personal issues and that he was not suspended or kicked off the team. Hopefully Jackson will be able to get his head right and his life in order in time for him to come back to play this season because he really is an incredible talent. So even though there is no guarantee that he will be back I am obligated to rank him as my top safety because if he comes back that is exactly what he will be: the best safety in the country.
2- Robert Lester, FS, Alabama
Analysis: I watched Lester play quite a bit last year when I was scouting Alabama and I have to say I was pretty impressed. He is a ball-hawk in the secondary and definitely has a lot of potential as such, but he is not a very good tackler at all if I remember. He has his upside but also has things he needs to work on. But he is definitely one of the best safeties in the country. Last season he produced 52 tackles (29 solo), 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 8 INT’s (102 return yards), 1 FR and 4 pass deflections. I am looking forward to see him play in one of the best secondaries in the country next year as I believe Alabama returns all four of their starting DB’s.
3- T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal
Analysis: McDonald won’t be playing in a bowl game this year and while I wish they would have taken the bowl ban off of USC’s program there is little to do about it now. However, McDonald should emerge as a very good player this year and I think he will live up to my #3 safety in the country ranking. He has good size at 6’2″, 205 pounds and has a listed 40 time of 4.54, plus last year he produced 89 total tackles (54 solo), 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 INT’s, 4 pass break-ups and 1 kick/punt block. He was productive last year but I am anxious to see him in coverage this season as I didn’t get to see him a  lot in that capacity last year. I have heard one of his weaknesses may be long speed but if he has a good burst to close as well as quality ball skills and hopefully good tackling fundamentals that won’t be much of an issue, at least not in my opinion.
4- Markelle Martin, SS, Oklahoma State
Analysis: Martin is a quality safety on Oklahoma State, a team and program I am liking more and more every year. I actually just visited their stadium when I was in Oklahoma for the weekend and my Facebook profile picture is me striking a pose in their end zone. They have a great stadium and I really like their team, so I am glad I have an excuse to watch their defense so I can see Martin play this year. He has pretty solid size for a safety at 6’1, 195 pounds and he has a 4.47 40 yard dash time. Last year he had 55 total tackles and a remarkable 49 solo tackles, I’ve never seen a tackle total quite like that. He also had 2.0 TFL, 3 INT’s (1 TD), and 10 pass break-ups. He was very productive last year but I want to see how he plays in coverage and I’d like to see if he is as good of a tackler as his stat sheet would seem to indicate. I can’t wait to watch him and Go Cowboys!
5- Trenton Robinson, FS, Michigan State
Analysis: Robinson is going to be the anchor of Michigan State’s secondary and even though he is the size of a corner he is quite the effective safety. He stands at 5’10”, 195 pounds and has a 4.46 40 yard dash time, but he played safety and recorded 76 total tackles (35 solo), 4 INT’s, and 8 pass break-ups last season. I am looking forward to evaluating him because I have not seen him play much and I didn’t pay much attention to him when I watched Michigan State this past season. Between Jerell Worthy and Robinson the Spartans definitely have some talent on defense.
6- George Iloka, FS, Boise State
Analysis: Iloka is big for a safety as he stands at 6’3″, 215 pounds and has a listed 4.50 40 yard dash time. He was productive last year for Boise State as a junior when he totaled 63 total tackles (49 solo), 3.0 TFL, 2 INT’s, 5 pass break-ups and 1 FF. I have no idea as far as what his tendencies are and I haven’t seen him play much, so I will definitely be looking into Boise State this year so I can evaluate him.
7- Aaron Henry, FS, Wisconsin
Analysis: Henry is easily the best player in Wisconsin’s secondary and is probably one of the best players on Wisconsin’s defense now that Watt has left for the NFL. He has solid size at 6’0″, 210 pounds and has a listed 4.52 40 yard dash time. Last season he produced 57 total tackles (46 solo), 0.5 TFL, 2 INT’s (2 TD’s), 7 pass break-ups, 2 FR’s (1 TD). It will be interesting to see how he does this year since I am not sure how good Wisconsin’s pass rush is going to be, and their pass defense wasn’t exactly elite last year even with J.J. Watt living in the backfield.
8- Tony Dye, SS, UCLA
Analysis: Dye has solid safety size at 5’11”, 206 pounds and has a listed 40 yard dash time of 4.52. He played opposite Rahim Moore last year and it will be interesting to see how he does this season without Moore ballhawking in the backfield. Last year he produced 96 total tackles (59 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, and 9 pass deflections. This year he will be the man in the secondary as a Senior and he will have to step up in pass coverage. It will be interesting to see how he does.
9- Antonio Allen, SS, South Carolina
Analysis: Allen is part of a pretty talented secondary for South Carolina. They have a few potential starting safeties but I think Allen might be the best of the bunch. He is 6’1″, 208 pounds and has a listed 4.57 40 yard dash time. Last year he produced 69 total tackles (38 solo), 10.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT (1 TD), 4 pass break-ups, and 2 FF. I can’t believe he had 10.5 tackles for loss as a safety, but he seems to be a quality tackler. I can’t wait to evaluate him and the other talented players on South Carolina’s defense next year. They could have quite a defense in 2011.
10- Rashard Hall, FS, Clemson
Analysis: Hall has an intriguing combination of size and speed for the safety position. He is 6’2″, 200 pounds and has a listed 4.52 40 yard dash time. He totaled 62 total tackles (35 solo), 1.0 TFL, 2 INT’s (1 TD), and 2 pass deflections last season. He will be playing safety without DeAndre McDaniel this year so it will be interesting to see how he does. He seems like a pretty cerebral player contrary to a lot of Clemson players I have scouted in years past, so it will be interesting to see if that proves to be true and if he can step up to lead Clemson’s secondary this season.

And that concludes my safety rankings but also all of my pre-season rankings for this season. It feels good to be done, and hopefully you all enjoyed reading them. I’ll update them throughout the year, but for now I need a break from them to be honest. They can be a grind. I am going to start watching film now and get to work on putting up some early pre-season scouting reports based off of the film I watch. Ryan Lindley will be the first one I post as I have already watched all the film I have on him, so expect that either later today or tonight. Thanks for reading!

–Tom