Tag Archive: Matt Kalil


Aundrey Walker took over as USC’s left tackle only a few practices into Spring Ball and hasn’t looked back. He is the only new starter on USC’s offensive line, and must replace Matt Kalil while protecting Matt Barkley’s blind side.

Tom: First of all Aundrey, 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 it like playing on USC last year?

Aundrey: I mean it was different from High School. I feel like camp here made you a man, and made you actually realize “did you want to play this game, do you want to play this sport” and at USC the team, the coaches, it’s a lot of love. I had a great time last season and I’m really looking forward to this season.

Tom: What ultimately made you decide to go and stay at USC despite the sanctions?

Aundrey: It was just my dream, it was my dream school and when I got the offer I was lost for words because it was just three years ago I was watching them on TV and now I had a chance to be a USC player so I thought why not take it. It wasn’t just looking at the football side, it was academics too. You can do a lot of things with a USC degree so I knew it was a good route to take.

Tom: What was the team’s mindset like given the 2nd and last year of the bowl ban?

Aundrey: The mindset was just go out there and have fun. I mean, we really didn’t worry about the bowl sanctions to be honest. It was more about establishing team unity and becoming more of a family. We just went out there and played, went out there and played as a team.

Tom: Is the team excited to finally have a chance at a BCS bowl game again?

Aundrey: Oh of course. It’s always been a dream for a high school kid to come to college and play in a bowl game. I’m happy that we have the opportunity to compete for a bowl and we are all looking forward to it.

Tom: What was your playing weight during the season last year?

Aundrey: Last year in January I was 378 on my visit here at USC and I went back home and my Uncle was told me “you can’t go to college at that weight” and I came to USC at 352. But through all that I was gaining weight as I was at USC. Mini-camp came around and I got down to 346, then I went home in December at 344 or 342 and came back 330. I just kept going through the training and weight lifting with the whole training staff and I lost 30 more pounds to get down to 296. That was my last time I weighed in at 296. It really only took me four months to lose all that weight.

Tom: That is amazing Aundrey. You should be really proud of that. Obviously you changed your eating habits, but what kind of weight training did you do to help you lose so much weight?

Aundrey: It was a lot of conditioning, a lot of running, a lot of cardio. And when we lift weights it will be low weight but heavy reps so you burn more fat.

Tom: Do you feel faster now that you are under 300 pounds?

Aundrey: Oh yeah of course, I feel like a gazelle out there.

Tom: What has playing lighter changed most about your game?

Aundrey: I’m more explosive and quicker off the ball and I feel like I can compete. When I played at 346 I was very sluggish and I lost my breath a lot. Within five plays I would lose my breath, but now I can play forever I feel like.

Tom: I remember reading that you said you were “surprised” that you were named the left tackle over Kevin Graf, did you expect to be at right tackle this year?

Aundrey: It was really just, whatever my team needed me to do I was going to do it. That was my mindset. If I was right tackle, right guard, left tackle, center it doesn’t matter. I was just out there working and they switched me over and if I got the opportunity to play left tackle why not take it. I worked hard and I’m still working hard to maintain this spot.

Tom: I read that Graf started out the spring at left tackle, but shortly after you were at left tackle the rest of the way. Is that true?

Aundrey: Yeah.

Tom: What was your reaction when the team moved you to the left side?

Aundrey: Did you say what was the team’s reaction?

Tom: No what was your reaction, but yeah both!

Aundrey: I mean the team was happy with it, it was a coaching decision and they felt comfortable with me playing there. I have to go out there and play hard every play to help keep Matt Barkley protected. But I was happy obviously, a very good feeling.

Tom: Did your offensive line coach mention anything to you about things you were doing well during spring ball?

Aundrey: I don’t ask him much about that, I’m more of a guy who likes to work on my game and work on the flaws of it so he’s going to send me a cut-up of things where I need to improve. We’re more focused on those things.

Tom: What are some of the things you think you need to work on?

Aundrey: I would say my point of contact, I think I open up a bit too much in pass pro just being honest with myself, I think I need to work on that. If I stop opening up so quick I think I can be a great pass protector.

Tom: I know you said you like to focus on where you need to improve, but if you had to pick one of your greatest strengths as an offensive tackle what would it be?

Aundrey: I like to pull and to get out in space and POUND dudes.

Tom: Did you pick anything up from Matt Kalil while you were at USC with him?

Aundrey: Oh yeah I picked up a lot from him! The reason I was so determined was because of him. He told me that I have to grind. He told me the left tackle spot was open and I had to go out and take it. I promised him I would come back at 320 pounds and I did. So I mean I always looked at him and his pass protecting, he was a great pass protector, a great run blocker. He was just an all around great player and athlete.

Tom: Would you say he’s one of your mentors for the position?

Aundrey: Oh of course, of course.

Tom: Do you have any other mentors?

Aundrey: I work with LeCharles Bentley, he helps me a lot.

Tom: Did you ever get to go up against Nick Perry in practice?

Aundrey: I think it happened one time. It was a lot to handle it really was, knowing that he was a big NFL prospect.

Tom: Did you stop him or did he get you?

Aundrey: Umm… It was at the point of contact and I couldn’t really move him he’s just a brick.

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

Aundrey: Everybody who is on defense right now is stickin’ out.

Tom: Give me one player who really balled out on defense.

Aundrey: TJ. But that’s normal for TJ, he’s a great player. On the whole we have a great defense. Dion [Bailey], Hayes [Pullard], Lamar [Holmes], Wes Horton, Nickell Robey.

Tom: Anyone on offense that has especially impressed you?

Aundrey: Same. All around we are a great team I feel like. Offense we have targets, defense we have talent. I can speak for everybody. Our whole offensive line, quarterback, running back, receivers, tight end, everybody is talented.

Tom: Do you feel any added pressure being the only new starter on the offensive line?

Aundrey: No, not at all.

Tom: I mentioned earlier that you’ve got a little nastiness to you, is there anyone else on the offensive line like that?

Aundrey: Khaled Holmes. He’s a great guy, a great role model. He’s very smart, very intelligent. He knows everything. The whole playbook, he’s like another coach away from the coaches.

Tom: That’s great to hear. I like John Martinez too, what’s the story on him?

Aundrey: Oh, John Martinez? Oh my god he’s an animal. Just one word: animal. That defines John Martinez.

Tom: I really like that he can play center and guard, I like that versatility.

Aundrey: Oh yeah absolutely. I mean he came in as the #1 recruit as a center right?

Tom: I think so. Oh, and tell me he still has the afro from last year.

Aundrey: Oh yeah he has braids now though.

Tom: Do you have any specific goals for the upcoming season, both for the team and for yourself?

Aundrey: Just go out there and play, just have fun. That’s all it is, go out there and try to win every game, step by step, day by day.

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

Aundrey: All games. All games are important and we just have to go game by game. There’s not one particular game I’m focused on because we need to win every game.

Tom: Is there a defensive lineman you are particularly excited to go up against?

Aundrey: I haven’t heard anything yet, probably during mini-camp and before the season I’ll hear something but no I’m not worried about anyone really.

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

Aundrey: I’m a great guy, I love to sing, and I’m determined and dedicated to be successful and failure is not an option.

Tom: Wow, that’s probably the best answer I’ve ever heard for that question. What’s your favorite song to sing?

Aundrey: My favorite thing to sing? Another Day, Another Dollar hahaha.

Tom: Haha! Good answer! My favorite thing to sing is any Eminem song.

Aundrey: Hahaha.

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

Aundrey: No not at all, thank you so much.

Tom: Great, well thank you for taking the time to talk with me and I am looking forward to watching you this season! I’m sure we’ll talk before the season, good luck with the rest of your training. When does summer camp start for you?

Aundrey: August 7th I believe.

Tom: Alright, well congratulations on all your progress, and I’ll be in touch! I’ll send you the link when I get the interview up on the site. Thanks again Aundrey.

Aundrey: Great, thank you.

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For weeks or months, the NFL Draft community has been speculating about what the St. Louis Rams will do with the #2 overall selection in the NFL Draft. Will they keep it and select Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon? Will they trade down with the Browns? Will they trade down with the Redskins or the Dolphins? I’ll be honest and say that I expected the Browns to get Robert Griffin III when all was said and done, but that does not appear to be likely anymore.

Jay Glazer is reporting that the St. Louis Rams have agreed to swap 2012 1st round selections (Rams own #2 overall, the Redskins own #6 overall) and the Rams will receiver two future 1st round selections as well as “additional” picks. I will update this with details later once they are finalized and confirmed. **UPDATE The additional pick is a 2012 2nd round pick from Washington** What we do know, at least for now, is that the Redskins have mortgaged a significant part of their future draft picks to move up to #2 overall. In all likelihood, they will be selecting Robert Griffin III with that selection, and they will have their quarterback of the future.

I’m not often in favor of these blockbuster trades, and I worried that the trade for Julio Jones may have been too much for one player and that it might have put too much pressure on Jones to perform well as a rookie. That was a trade for two 1st round selections as well as other valuable picks. This trade is for three 1st round selections and other picks, and because Griffin plays quarterback the pressure will be even more intense than it was for Jones. I personally don’t believe Griffin should play Day One, but I tend to be conservative with quarterback development (as I believe more NFL teams should be). Regardless, the Redskins made a very bold move to move up to #2 overall and will likely come away with their quarterback of the future with that selection.

I know I’ve been absent for a while, but I’m officially back in the saddle. Keep checking in for more NFL Draft news as the draft draws near!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

1- Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal: Grade: Top 5
2- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa: Grade: Top 10
3- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Grade: Top 15
4- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd round
5- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd round
6- Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi: Grade: 2nd round
7- Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State: Grade: 2nd round
8- Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State: Grade: 2nd/3rd round
9- Brandon Mosley, OT, Auburn: Grade: 3rd round
10- Matt McCants, OT, UAB: Grade: 3rd round
11- Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California: Grade: 4th round
12- Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa: Grade: 4th round
13- Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois: Grade: 4th round
14- Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska: 5th round
15- James Carmon, OT, Mississippi State: Grade: 5th round
16- Jeff Adams, OT, Columbia: Grade: 5th round
17- James Brown, OT, Troy: Grade: 5th/6th round
18- Tom Compton, OT, South Dakota: Grade: 6th round
19- Donald Stephenson, OT, Oklahoma: Grade: 6th round
20- Landon Walker, OT, Clemson: Grade: 6th round
21- Don Barclay, OT, West Virginia: Grade: 6th round
22- Mike Ryan, OT, Connecticut: Grade: 6th round
23- Bradley Sowell, OT, Mississippi: Grade: 6th/7th round
24- Alex Hoffman, OT, Cincinnati: Grade: 6th/7th round
25- Al Netter, OT, Northwestern: Grade: 7th round
26- Bryce Harris, OT, Fresno State: Grade: 7th round
27- Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech: Grade: 7th round
28- Jarvis Jones, OT, Oklahoma: Grade: 7th round/UDFA
29- J.B. Shugarts, OT, Ohio State: Grade: UDFA
30- Grant Freeman, OT, Arkansas: Grade: UDFA

Oh how the tables have turned. Just a few short years ago Stanford was the underdog and USC was the powerful program. Now? Stanford is the undefeated team with the inside track to the Rose Bowl.

This was the crown jewel of all the games on the day in my opinion as Stanford won 58-48 in triple overtime to stay undefeated on a day when two top ten teams lost (#5 ranked Clemson and #8 ranked Kansas State), four teams in the top 15 lost (#11 Michigan State and #15 Wisconsin), and six teams in the top 25 overall lost (#16 Texas A&M and #20 Texas Tech). And while that might not seem that significant, consider that seven of the games involving top 25 teams were decided by one score or less. There were a lot of close games, but Stanford managed to hang on for the win. This game was chalk full of NFL Draft prospects and talent, so let’s get to it!

This was a special game because it was a rare opportunity to watch a 7-0 team play a 6-1 squad, but also because of the two quarterbacks that were starting in this game. Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are my top two QB’s in my current quarterback rankings and I haven’t seen nearly enough from the other quarterbacks to make me consider changing the order at the top. Luck was fantastic in this game and even though he made a poor throw that resulted in a pick six (and seemingly gave USC all of the momentum) it is extremely important to note how he responded to that. He completed four of his six passes on the drive for 32 yards and scrambled for an additional 16 on one run. Then Stepfan Taylor punched it in to even the score with 38 seconds left. A lot of quarterbacks would have fallen apart in that situation, but Luck put the interception out of his mind and led Stanford right down the field for the game-tying score.

Fair or not, Matt Barkley will forever be compared with Andrew Luck if he comes out this year as the consensus #2 draft eligible quarterback.

It is also worthwhile to point out how well Barkley played. His numbers were impressive and I thought overall he placed the ball well in this game, but if Robert Woods had helped him out even a little bit this would have been an entirely different game. Now, I’m very high on Woods and a lot of people will read this and be very surprised since I’ve been talking about how good he is since early in his freshman season. However, he dropped a sure completion that would have had the Trojans inside the ten yard line if he didn’t make it into the end zone in the 1st quarter, and he arguably dropped another touchdown on a 50/50 ball on a fade that he couldn’t come down with (to be fair, he was clearly interfered with and it wasn’t called, but if he wants to be the best then he has to make that catch). Those are two game-changing plays, and I believe he had at least one or two other drops besides those. But that first potential touchdown drop eventually led that drive to stall when it could have tied the game early at 7 all. And before that Barkley was throwing strikes, but after it he seemed to have a little less confidence in his receivers and wasn’t as accurate the rest of the drive. He rebounded, but it’s clear that Woods’ is his favorite target and it definitely threw Barkley off a bit not being able to rely on him like usual. I was personally shocked to see Woods drop multiple passes like that because his hands are usually as reliable as they come. But as the game progressed he was body catching and didn’t seem to have the confidence in his hands that he usually does. It was one of the more surprising things about this game in my opinion.

Barkley was still effective even despite that completing 28 of his 45 passes for 284 yards, a completion percentage of 62.2 and three touchdowns with only one interception. Had Woods not dropped a couple of those passes it is fair to assume he would have had a completion percentage of 66, 300+ yards and at least four touchdowns. That’s a pretty significant impact.

Curtis McNeal has all of Trojan Nation jumping for joy now that he has helped establish a consistent running game for USC's offense.

And even though I have spoken highly of him before on my Twitter I don’t think I have ever formally thrown my support behind USC running back Curtis McNeal on this blog. I have been very impressed with him every time USC gives him carries, and he seems to have some potential as a receiver out of the backfield. In the first four games of the season he had a combined 17 carries for 129 yards (good for a 7.59 ypc average) and no TD’s. 79 of those yards came against Syracuse, but still he didn’t get consistent touches the next week. However, in the last four games when he has been getting some consistent touches he has 68 carries, 424 yards (6.24 ypc average), and 4 touchdowns. That’s quite the bump in production isn’t it? He had the best game of his entire career against Stanford, but unfortunately it will likely be overshadowed by his fumble in the third overtime that Stanford recovered to seal the victory. He had 146 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries in this game, a great game for any running back, and yet one unfortunate play will likely define it for him.

Regardless of how that game ended for McNeal, it’s clear he is very talented. If I’m not mistaken he was a five star recruit coming out of high school and due to USC’s insanely talented backfield this is the first time he’s gotten significant playing time. He isn’t a very big guy at only 5’7″, 180 pounds but he is fast, has great burst and has made the most of the opportunities he has been given so far this season as he has amassed 552 rushing yards and 4 TD’s so far despite only carrying the ball 17 times in the first four games. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on, and if I was USC I would start him the rest of the season and move on from Marc Tyler. McNeal clearly has much more upside.

Marqise Lee may not be quite as good as Robert Woods, but he is a very impressive freshman receiver in his own right. It's no coincidence that the Trojan offense has started to take off as he has emerged as a legitimate threat opposite Woods.

Another player on USC’s offense that I have become quite taken with is Marqise Lee. He’s only a freshman but he has really stepped up opposite Robert Woods and has made opposing defenses pay for leaving him one on one with a corner while doubling Robert Woods. Lee has had a very impressive start to his USC career with 34 catches, 534 yards and 5 TD’s so far this season. He isn’t as tall as he looks on TV as he stands at 6’0″ and only weighs 190 pounds, but he has the frame to get over 200 pounds easily once he becomes acclimated to USC’s vaunted workout program. But what Lee does have is vertical speed, impressive burst, very reliable hands and plenty of upside. Woods is one of the best receivers in the country right now, but Lee is quietly having a very impressive freshman season of his own.

An underrated performer who I think has a lot of potential for USC is their freshman TE Randall Telfer. He had five catches last night (the most of his career thus far) and on the season has 15 receptions, 172 yards and 3 TD’s. He has great size for such a young TE at 6’4″, 230 pounds and has plenty of room on his frame to add additional weight over the rest of his career as a Trojan. Additionally, he has already become something of a red-zone target due to his size, and he showed reliable hands last night in a huge game against Stanford. He may not be the starter and his stat sheet isn’t glowing, but Telfer has plenty of upside and I’m excited to watch him develop.

Matt Kalil is arguably the best draft eligible tackle prospect in the country, and figures to be a top five selection in the NFL Draft should he declare after his junior season.

As is to be expected, USC has plenty of talent along their offensive and defensive lines too. The two players that everyone was watching yesterday were Matt Kalil and Nick Perry. Kalil is the consensus #1 draft-eligible offensive tackle in the country right now, and while plenty of fans want their bottom dwelling team to “Suck for Luck” I think there are a number of teams that could really stand to “Kneel for Kalil.” The Vikings definitely come to mind when thinking about teams that have awful records but won’t necessarily be looking for a quarterback early in the draft. I don’t think the Vikings will end up with the #1 overall pick, so Luck is likely out of the question (especially if Ponder finds a way to win a couple of games as a starter). I don’t see Barkley as a huge upgrade over Ponder, so while he might make sense I think the Vikings would be wise to surround Ponder with some talent. Left tackle is a serious issue for them, and Kalil is the best one available. Seems like a match made in heaven to me. Kalil isn’t a perfect tackle, but he is about as polished as any offensive tackle prospect I have seen in recent years and has tons of starting experience. Keep in mind it was Kalil’s ability as a left tackle that kept Tyron Smith, an absolute freakish athlete for an offensive lineman, at right tackle while he was at USC. He later went #9 overall to the Dallas Cowboys and seems to be their future at left tackle.

Nick Perry has an intriguing combination of size and athletic ability, but he doesn't strike me as a quick-twitch athlete and I think he needs to significantly improve his hand usage before he will be effective in the NFL.

Nick Perry, on the other hand, isn’t impressing me nearly as much as Kalil. Perry is very athletic and has plenty of upside due to his size (6’3″, 250 pounds) but he just hasn’t put it all together yet. He can speed rush and bull rush, but he has struggled to disengage once he is blocked as a pass rusher and doesn’t seem to have very good hand usage or pass rush moves. This limits him significantly as a pass rusher as he either has to beat his man around the edge or he likely isn’t getting to the QB unless he is left unblocked. He can get off blocks, but usually it is more because of effort than actual technique. This means he is getting to the quarterback later than he could be, and means he is applying less pressure than he is potentially capable of. I think he has upside if he is drafted to a team that has a quality defensive line coach, but USC produces plenty of talented defensive linemen than use their hands better than Perry does, so it makes me wonder exactly why he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. I thought he was ready to break out this year, and to a certain extent he has. He has 39 total tackles (21 solo), 6.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 pass deflections. However, he hasn’t been anything close to dominant and if he came out this season I would project him in the 3rd round as a player with plenty of upside but limited production. He’s worth the risk in that area of the draft, but he just hasn’t shown me enough to consider him as early as the 2nd round, much less the 1st round.

DaJohn Harris' statline may not wow potential talent evaluators, but he has been consistently disruptive at defensive tackle for USC this season.

I know it may seem like I am obsessed with USC, but everyone knows they are always loaded with talent so it takes a while to get through their roster when I break their games down in this format. Three players that I really like on USC’s defense are DaJohn Harris, Dion Bailey and Nickell Robey. Harris is a 6’4″, 310 pound senior defensive tackle who has consistently impressed me when I have watched him. As will often happen with interior defensive linemen, their true impact can’t be gleaned from a stat sheet. Harris only has 17 total tackles (9 solo), 6.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks and an impressive 5 pass break-ups on the season, but he has consistently penetrated into the backfield (as evidenced by his 6 tackles for loss) and helped free up his linebackers to make plays. He absolutely has NFL size and ability, and he has definitely been helping his stock this season. I am very much looking forward to seeing him at a post-season all-star game this year, my guess would be the Senior Bowl.

Now, Dion Bailey may only be a freshman but he is a very impressive player. He was initially a safety, but USC moved him into the box as a linebacker and he has taken off ever since. He has been incredibly productive for a freshman still adjusting to a new position as he has 67 total tackles (39 solo), 2.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble. That would be a fantastic stat line for any freshman linebacker after an entire season, but that is what Bailey has managed in only 8 games! He may not be a huge player at only 6’0″, 200 pounds, but he has room to add weight to his frame and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him playing at around 220 pounds at the start of his sophomore season next year. Bailey has incredible potential because of his combination of reliable tackling, his pop as a hitter, his instincts and ability in coverage as well as his ball skills because of his experience as a safety. He’s an exciting player, and I can’t wait to see him develop into the top talent I expect him to be.

Nickell Robey has been displaying his impressive ball skills since he got to USC last year, and in this game he not only forced a rare Andrew Luck interception, but he returned it for a USC touchdown.

And finally, we have Nickell Robey. Most of you will recognize him as the corner who drove on the throw by Andrew Luck, picked it off and returned it for a touchdown last night. And even though I have never talked about him on my blog, he has been making plays all season long. Robey is only a 5’8, 165 pound sophomore but he has plenty of ability as evidenced not only by his pick-six on Andrew Luck, but by his stat line. He has produced 41 total tackles (23 solo), 0.5 TFL, 2 INT’s (including 1 TD) as well as a very impressive 6 pass break-ups. He may only be a sophomore and he doesn’t have impressive size by any means, but he has plenty of speed, burst and ball skills to be an impact corner for USC. Their defense is slowly becoming more and more talented, and Robey may be one of their key players next year as they look to take the next step as a defense.

Now, while I have talked about plenty of USC players already I feel it is necessary to discuss T.J. McDonald briefly. McDonald has tons of upside due to his fantastic combination of size and athletic ability and he has been productive this season. At 6’3″, 205 pounds  he has produced 41 total tackles (24 solo), 1.5 TFL, 2 INT’s and one pass break-up. McDonald is solid in coverage, but he also loves to deliver the big hit. Unfortunately, even though he is a good tackler and has plenty of pop as a hitter, he has a tendency to draw personal foul penalties for his bone-crushing hits. They aren’t always good calls (such as the terrible personal foul call he drew for lighting up Chris Owusu of Stanford last night) but referees are looking for hits anywhere near the head and they are practically willing to call a wideout with the ball in his hands a defenseless receiver these days. He has to know that and make sure he doesn’t give the refs any reason to call a penalty on him, but game after game he draws these flags. He has plenty of upside, but his inconsistency is an issue for me. I’m not sold on his instincts and his ability in coverage either. So while he might look like a first round pick lining up for USC, I am not so sure.

Coby Fleener is a very well rounded tight end and he figures to be a first or second day draft pick after he graduates at the end of this season.

Finally, I’m done with USC! Now on to Stanford, a very talented team in their own right. I think the most notable part of Stanford outside of their fantastic quarterback is their absurd amount of talent at tight end. I believe they have at least three NFL caliber tight ends on their rosters (all draft eligible actually, though I wouldn’t expect all three to leave) and I think they are hiding one or two more listing them as fullbacks! The best of the bunch is arguably Coby Fleener, a 6’6″, 244 pound TE who has great hands and is a very willing blocker. You practically have to be to get playing time in Stanford’s physical pro-style offense, and while I haven’t scouted Fleener specifically I have been impressed with him when I have seen him play. Their second TE is Zach Ertz, who actually has five more receptions than Fleener does on the season (though Fleener has 7 TD’s to Ertz’s 3). Ertz, a junior, stands at 6’6″, 249 pounds and gives Stanford almost an additional two offensive linemen when he and Fleener line up on the field at the same time. Their third TE is Levine Toilolo who is an absolutely massive 6’8″, 263 pound junior. Even as the #3 TE option he has 12 receptions, 210 yards and 4 TD’s on the year. When he was split out against a defensive back I just knew Andrew Luck was going to throw a fade to him and lo-and-behold that was the play-call, and Toilolo didn’t disappoint even though the ball was thrown slightly behind him and didn’t allow him to go up and high point it in the air. One of the guys Stanford is hiding as a fullback is a guy I think will stick at TE in the NFL. Ryan Hewitt, a 6’4″, 238 pound “fullback” is a quality pass catcher who has 19 receptions, 171 yards and 4 TD’s on the season. I see him as more of an H-Back in the NFL, though he does have 7 carries for 21 yards on the year. He would be awfully tall for a fullback, but I definitely think he has a future in the NFl as well.

Needless to say, Stanford is absolutely stacked at the TE position and I can’t wait to scout all of them in the future. They all have bright futures in the NFL in my opinion.

Jonathan Martin has helped make life easy for Andrew Luck by protecting his blind side in college, but I am not 100% sold on him being a quality blind side protector at the next level.

Before continuing on to other Stanford prospects, Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro need to be discussed. Martin is one of the top OT’s available in the 2012 NFL Draft and DeCastro may be the top offensive guard in the country right now. I am not 100% sold on Martin being a NFL left tackle, but he has the potential to stick at that position and if he doesn’t I would be surprised if he didn’t end up being a starter at right tackle in the NFL. He struggled at times with Nick Perry’s athleticism and speed rush, but overall I thought he had a good game before his injury. I haven’t scouted Martin or DeCastro specifically, but they are without a doubt the anchors of that offensive line and the big guys up front set the tone for this entire Stanford team with their physicality and their willingness to do the dirty work so Luck and the other position players get all the glory. Keep an eye on these two offensive linemen, they are both very good.

It’s hard to argue that anyone has benefited more from Andrew Luck’s presence than Stepfan Taylor, Stanford’s starting running back. Playing in such a physical offense, it’s only natural that you would want to stack the box against Stanford’s rushing attack. However, with Luck at QB it is nearly impossible to take away their running game because if you don’t respect Luck as a passer he will absolutely shred you (and sometimes he does this even when you are trying to take him away as a passer). This has helped the 5’11”, 208 pound junior tailback produce 796 yards on only 134 carries (a 5.94 ypc average) as well as 8 touchdowns. He has also shown soft hands out of the backfield, catching 16 passes for 106 yards and another score. It is unclear whether or not Taylor plans to come back for his senior season or not, but after Luck leaves he won’t have much to prove after potentially having consecutive 1,000+ yard rushing seasons as well as 10+ touchdowns (he had 1,137 yards and 15 TD’s as a sophomore). Plus, teams will be much more willing to stack the box, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Taylor left. I haven’t scouted him as much as I might like, but while he doesn’t have burning speed he does have the potential to be a feature back. I was always impressed with him when he relieved Gerhart as a freshman, and that hasn’t changed.

If Taylor does leave, that would likely leave the workload to current junior running back Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney has impressed me when giving Taylor a breather, but that’s not hard to do with such a great offensive line as well as so many tight ends that block effectively. Gaffney will be a senior next year and I’m sure he is hoping Taylor leaves so that he can get a shot at being the workhorse. Gaffney is bigger than Taylor is, standing at 6’1″, 216 pounds. This year he has 41 carries for 288 yards (a 6.86 ypc average) as well as 5 TD’s. His yardage and touchdown totals have already exceeded his numbers from his sophomore year (255 yards and 4 TD’s in 10 games) and he has done it in only 8 games with 19 fewer carries! Gaffney may not be the workhorse yet, but I hope he gets his chance to be as a senior next year.

Chase Thomas has had an extremely productive career at linebacker for Stanford, and as a result he is starting to get serious NFL looks.

And before I wrap this post up, it would be impossible not to talk about Stanford without talking about Chase Thomas, their all-everything outside linebacker. Thomas has quality linebacker size at 6’4″, 239 pounds and has had a fantastic career at Stanford. Since he got significant playing time as a sophomore he has been terrific. His sophomore year he had 36 total tackles (20 solo), 7.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and one blocked kick. Then as a junior he produced 69 total tackles (49 solo), 11.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and three pass break-ups. He has been even more spectacular this year, notching 34 total tackles (22 solo), 11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in Stanford’s first 8 games. He has a great chance at notching 60 total tackles (with 40 solos), 15+ TFL, 7.5+ sacks and four or more forced fumbles on the season. That would be an incredible stat line. He didn’t have a sack against Matt Kalil, but he did manage 1.5 TFL’s on the day against USC. I haven’t scouted him specifically yet, so I don’t know exactly what he is capable of, but having seen him play multiple times I do know that he is a very talented player with a great history of production.

So, at long last, I have completed my thoughts on the Stanford-USC game. It was more of a prospect round-up than actual thoughts on the game, but it was such a good game with so much talent that I just had to break down some of the prospects that you all need to keep an eye on. Hopefully you enjoyed it, and I apologize for the length of the post. It took about three hours of constant writing and research to look up stats for this article to complete it, so thanks for reading!

–Tom

1- Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal
Analysis: Kalil was so secure at left tackle for Southern Cal that Tyron Smith, an athletic freak for the tackle position, was relegated to the RT position for the Trojans. I haven’t scouted Kalil specifically, but my expectations for him are quite high because of how strong his hold on that position was when Smith was there. I look forward to seeing him play at length this season.
2- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Analysis: Reiff was a guy that I thought was a dark-horse to declare this season even though he was a redshirt sophomore, but I think coming back to school was probably a good decision. He will have another year of starting experience under his belt and if he declares after a good junior season there is no reason he couldn’t go in the top 15 in the draft.
3- Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Analysis: Martin definitely got some of the spotlight that was drawn from the media by Andrew Luck this past year, but I am not positive he is a LT in the NFL as of now so I couldn’t rate him over Kalil and Reiff who I am positive are NFL LT’s. I am looking forward to watching him this season to evaluate whether I think he is for sure a RT or potentially a LT.
4- Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State
Analysis: Datko might be a bit underrated at this point, but from what I know of him he is pretty athletic and I think that he should be a NFL LT. I haven’t watched him enough to say that for sure, but I think he could surprise some people. It will be interesting to see how he does protecting Manuel’s blind side this season, but I think he will impress this year.
5- Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State
Analysis: Adcock is fairly unknown but I have a feeling he will catch some eyes this year when people are focusing on Weeden and Blackmon on their offensive unit. I haven’t seen much of him yet so I don’t know if he is a LT in the NFL or not yet, but I am looking forward to finding out over the course of the year.
6- Elvis Fisher, OT, Missouri
Analysis: Fisher might not get as much attention this year as he may have had Gabbert stayed and been considered an elite QB prospect as a Senior, but I think he warrants consideration as a LT in the NFL. I definitely haven’t scouted him specifically yet but I will be watching more of my Missouri tape later this summer and that should give me a better handle on him as a prospect before this season.
7- Tanner Hawkinson, OT, Kansas
Analysis: Hawkinson may be the best prospect on the Jayhawks at this point as he has started at LT since he was a freshman and is now a junior this season. He should have at least three years of starting experience by the time he declares for the draft, but there is no guarantee that he will come out after this year because he isn’t considered one of the top OT’s in the draft… yet. I am excited to watch the Kansas tape I have to see how he looks. I have been told he is a good guy and is pretty smart, so it’s hard for me not to like him as a potential sleeper.
8- Matt McCants, OT, UAB
Analysis: McCants has a lot of upside but struggled with academics earlier in his career after starting at LT as a freshman. He seems to have gotten himself back on track and from what I have read he seems to have learned from his experience, and I hope he has because it’s important to learn from mistakes you make in your life (especially of that magnitude, he had a 1.7 gpa and if he didn’t get it up to 2.0 he was going to be kicked out of the school besides already being ineligible for the football team). I haven’t seen him play, but I am going to work hard to get a look at him this year.
9- Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
Analysis: Potter is rated pretty high but I have never been very impressed with him and I am not sold on him as a LT in the NFL by any means. I think he might even have to move inside to guard, but that was just my initial impression. However, I definitely can’t rank him as a top five offensive tackle if I think he might be sliding inside. I will definitely keep an eye on him this year though because Boise State will have some talent I need to keep an eye on.
10- Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Analysis: Adams almost fell out of my top 10 and he might not be drafted as high as some expect him to because of the fallout of the Ohio State scandal going on right now. He is suspended for the first five games of the upcoming season and I am not convinced that he is a LT in the NFL, I think he is a RT at this point. If that is the case, he will have to fight an uphill battle to crack the 1st or 2nd round considering the suspension and the negative buzz around both him and his program that will be present this season. His character will come into question, but even as a player I am not sold on him being a top 50 pick at this point, but I need to watch more of him obviously.

Hopefully you enjoyed my Early 2012 Offensive Tackle Rankings. I am churning out the content now right? I’ll finish the offensive line in the next day or two and then get to defense which I am excited about. Thanks for reading!

–Tom