Tag Archive: OLB


1-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

3-      Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

5-      Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

6-      Arthur Brown, MLB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

8-      Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

9-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

10-   Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU

11-   Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

12-   Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

13-   Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

14-   Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

15-   Keenan Allen, WR, California

16-   Robert Woods, WR, USC

17-   Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

18-   Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

19-   Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

20-   Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas

21-   DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama

22-   Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU

23-   Deandre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

24-   Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

25-   Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

26-   Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

27-   Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

28-   Eric Reid, S, LSU

29-   Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

30-   Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

31-   Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

32-   Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn

33-   DJ Hayden, CB, Houston

34-   Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

35-   Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida

36-   Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

37-   Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame

38-   Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

39-   Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

40-   Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

41-   Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia

42-   Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

43-   Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

44-   Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

45-   Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

46-   Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin

47-   Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse

48-   Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

49-   Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

50-   Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

51-   Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU

52-   Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

53-   Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

54-   Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

55-   Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

56-   Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss

57-   Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

58-   Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State

59-   Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech

60-   Kyle Long, OG, Oregon

61-   Quanterus Smith, DE, Western Kentucky

62-   Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

63-   Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati

64-   Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

65-   Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia

66-   Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State

67-   Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut

68-   DJ Swearinger, S, South Carolina

69-   Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (OH)

70-   Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

71-   Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers

72-   Kiko Alonso, MLB, Oregon

73-   Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State

74-   Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee

75-   Jordan Reed, TE, Florida

76-   Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State

77-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

78-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

79-   Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois

80-   Brian Schwenke, C, California

81-   Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

82-   Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut

83-   Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

84-   David Amerson, CB, NC State

85-   Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State

86-   Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia

87-   John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

88-   Bennie Logan, DT, LSU

89-   Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

90-   Barrett Jones, C, Alabama

91-   EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State

92-   Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

93-   Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida

94-   DeVonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina

95-   Nickell Robey, CB, USC

96-   Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State

97-   Matt Elam, S, Florida

98-   Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

99-   Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

100- David Bakhtiari, OG, Colorado

Doege is fighting an uphill battle to get drafted, but he has a shot if he can show some progression during his second season as a starter.

Seth Doege, QB- Doege is the next in a long line of extremely productive Texas Tech quarterbacks who managed to produce on the college level despite less than ideal measurables or arm strength. Doege is listed at 6’1”, 205 pounds and may only be 6’0” tall in reality. He doesn’t have elite arm strength, but he might have enough to play at the next level. His statistics are obviously inflated due to the offense he runs (he passed for 4,004 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 68.5% of his passes, but threw the ball 581 times and completed 398 passes to do so). His yards per attempt was a relatively pedestrian 6.89 and that is largely due to the large number of quick passes the Red Raiders use. They run a lot of bubble and tunnel screens and the offense is predicated on getting the ball out of Doege’s hands quickly and accurately, which has enabled quarterbacks with relatively weak but accurate arms to put up gaudy numbers in this system that dwarfs the production of quarterbacks at other schools, even those with superior natural ability. This is the type of offense that turned me off from the spread because it covers up so many of the quarterback’s flaws. It’s a very smart coaching move that allows the staff to pluck smart, accurate passers up in their recruiting classes, some of which wouldn’t get offers from power schools in the same region, and develop them into 4,000+ yard passers. However, it makes it difficult to evaluate prospects in the system because it doesn’t translate well to the NFL (though some of the concepts translate more than they did a few years ago, particularly the love affair with spreading the defense out and throwing high percentage passes such as quick screens). The quarterback’s deficiencies are masked by the quick passing that doesn’t force him to make many NFL throws, go through difficult progressions and it makes it difficult to evaluate how the quarterback executes when throwing in a muddied pocket or with pressure bearing down on him. Running backs are often only getting carries out of the shotgun, offensive linemen don’t have to pass protect as long because of the sheer multitude of quick passes, and wide receivers rack up tons of yardage thanks to the quick-hitting offense that spreads out the defense.

I’m sure I’m coming off like an asshole right now, but this offense really does complicate things for talent evaluators and it’s one reason that quarterbacks that play in this specific kind of spread offense get drafted later than most think if they get drafted at all. I can’t tell you how many Houston fans were mad at me for saying Case Keenum wouldn’t get drafted two years ago, but when he got his chance, did he? Doege is fighting an uphill battle playing in this offense, and if he wants to get drafted he will have to show the arm strength to make NFL throws, particularly throws outside the hashes. He will need to show the ability to go through his progressions and not lock on to one receiver or one half of the field, and he will need to show that he knows how to manipulate the pocket, throw under duress and do so accurately and efficiently. That’s a lot to ask of him, but quarterback is the most demanding position in sports for a reason. But that’s just the issue with projecting quarterbacks from this offense into the NFL- they are often protected so much by the brilliance of this offensive scheme that by the end of their college career they aren’t prepared for the transition to the pros. Whether it is spending almost their entire college career in shotgun, making simple reads or throwing a multitude of short, high percentage passes and benefiting from yardage gained after the catch, these quarterbacks tend to struggle when forced to transition. Even Graham Harrell, one of the success stories of this Texas Tech program for making it to the NFL and competing to be Aaron Rodgers’ back-up in Green Bay, had to go to the CFL before he got his chance to really stick on a NFL roster. I’m not saying Doege will have to do the same thing, but I’m also not ready to say he will stick yet either. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer in his second full season as a starter this year.

Ward is only a junior this year but he really emerged as a sophomore last year. As Doege’s go-to guy he should be in line for an even bigger year this season.

Eric Ward, WR*- Now that I got that spread offense rant out of the way, I can continue on down the list of prospects that Texas Tech has to offer. The top returning wide receiver is Eric Ward, who is listed at 6’0”, 203 pounds. He totaled 84 receptions, 800 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore this year and as Doege’s go-to guy he has a very realistic chance at 100 catches, 1,000 yards and 10+ touchdowns this season in my opinion. Ward isn’t going to run a 4.4 flat in my estimation, but he has enough speed and burst to be a NFL receiver and proved that his hands were reliable last season. When I’ve seen him I’ve seen him catch with his hands, and that is critical for any receiver attempting to get to the next level. I’m excited to see what Ward can do this season, because I still don’t have a great feel for his route running and his ability to create yardage after the catch.

Darrin Moore, WR- Moore is the big, physical target that projects as a nice red-zone target at the next level. He is listed at 6’4”, 220 pounds and caught 47 passes for 571 yards and 8 touchdowns as a junior last year. I haven’t seen much of him at all, but if he is really 6’4” he may have the potential for a transition to tight end if he doesn’t stick as a receiver, though I’m sure he has very little experience as a blocker. Still, his size and red zone potential intrigued me enough to keep an eye on him this year.

LaAdrian Waddle, OT- Waddle is the only Texas Tech offensive lineman I was impressed with when I watched them, and he sticks out at 6’6”, 318 pounds. He’s got the measurables that evaluators will like, but as I mentioned earlier he is protected in this scheme by all of the quick passing. I’m not convinced that he can stick at left tackle in the NFL and I have yet to evaluate him much as a run blocker, but if he can generate any movement off the ball in that area he could be a solid fit at right tackle in the NFL.

Dartwan Bush, DE*- Bush is an undersized pass rusher listed at 6’1”, 255 pounds and managed 28 tackles, 3 TFL and 2 sacks in 7 starts as a sophomore. He was impressive in the spring game based on what I was able to read about it and he recorded 2 sacks in that game alone. Bush is likely to be the Red Raiders best pass rusher this season and while I haven’t evaluated him much because he was only a sophomore last season I am interested to see if he can provide a pass rush off the edge that Texas Tech could really use on defense.

Terrance Bullitt, OLB*- Bullitt is a former safety who transitioned to the linebacker spot in Texas Tech’s new 4-3 defense this year. He started all 12 games at safety last year and managed 56 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 4 pass break-ups. Now he will be a strong side linebacker in their 4-3 defense, and at 6’3”, 215 pounds he has the frame to add weight and potentially hold up there. He’s got a nose for the ball-carrier and I am excited to see how he transitions to this new linebacker position full time, since he played in the box quite a bit as a safety last season.

Cody Davis, FS- I didn’t know much about Davis but the 6’2”, 203 pound safety was the Red Raiders’ leading tackler last season with 93 tackles, 3 TFL and 5 pass break-ups. He has moved back to more traditional safety position after spending a lot of time in the box in the 4-2-5 defense Texas Tech employed previously. Davis is a reliable tackler, though I don’t know much about his coverage abilities. From what I’ve seen of him, he looks like a primarily in the box type of safety, and is likely a fringe draftable prospect who should get a shot to contribute as a special teamer if nothing else.

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 Kansas State. I actually like Kansas State as a dark-horse to win the Big-12 this year (my favorite is West Virginia) but I think Kansas State is still flying under the radar. They return a lot of talent on offense, particularly at wide receiver where they are fairly deep. With Collin Klein and John Hubert in the backfield they should continue to run the ball effectively, and if Klein can continue to progress and open up as a passer the Wildcat’s offense should be dangerous. Klein accounted for 40 touchdowns last season (13 passing, 27 rushing) and while it will be difficult to match that lofty total again, I think he is in line for an increase in passing efficiency and production. He isn’t a prototypical quarterback, but he is a fearless leader and he improves the play of those around him much like Tim Tebow did at Florida. That is an incredibly rare and valuable trait for a quarterback to have, and Klein has it in spades. With Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson all returning at receiver Klein will certainly have players to throw to whether he wants to move the chains, threaten defenses horizontally or if he wants to stretch the field vertically. It will be interesting to see if or how he progresses as a passer this year. One important note about Kansas State’s offense is that Manase Foketi **DOUBLE CHECK THIS** was attempting to transfer out of the program after the completion of his junior season but as far as I know Kansas State has continued to block his request to transfer. I don’t have an update at this time, but Foketi is Klein’s blind-side protector and losing him would be a significant blow to their offense.

On defense, Kansas State was surprisingly good last year and they return a number of important starters. They have a couple of intriguing pass rushers at defensive end in Adam Davis and Meshak Williams, a stud middle linebacker in Arthur Brown, and a couple impressive defensive backs in Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman. Those core players should keep Kansas State’s defense competent, and if other guys can step up I think Kansas State’s defense will surprise. They return a number of key starters across their entire team, but having a pair of pass rushers like Davis and Williams will only help the secondary headlined by Malone and Zimmerman who are both instinctual defenders with quality ball skills. Kansas State may not have a player who will end up being drafted in the 1st round come April, but they have a well stocked team full of reliable players who may not be as flashy or freakish as some of the talent stocked by other programs, but they are effective and worthy of serious draft consideration. With that, here are the prospects to look out for on Kansas State:

Collin Klein may not be a typical quarterback, but I think he is going to get a chance to play QB in the NFL. Tebow did, why shouldn’t Klein?

Collin Klein, QB- Ah, Collin Klein, the Big-12’s Tim Tebow. The comparison isn’t perfect, but they sure do have their similarities. They have NFL size (Klein is listed at 6’5”, 226 pounds), strong arms, a hitch in their throwing motions, the ability to bowl over defenders when gaining yardage with their legs, inconsistent accuracy and fantastic toughness and leadership capability. Klein may not be at the top of many team’s quarterback wish lists, and he likely won’t be drafted in the 1st round like Tim Tebow was, but I think he will get a shot to play QB in the NFL. He needs some mechanical work on his throwing motion, but he actually flashed the ability to go through progressions and scan the field a bit despite being relied upon to run the ball so much. Klein is the type of guy that many will find fault with, and many draftniks will probably grade him pretty low, but he will likely impress teams in interviews due to his reported football IQ and obvious leadership capability as well as his willingness to take a beating and play hurt. I don’t know if he will ever be a starting QB in the NFL, but if Tebow has managed to do it, hell, maybe Klein can do it too. I expect to see Klein at the East-West Shrine Game, or perhaps more likely, the Senior Bowl and I look forward to seeing him up close and speaking with him.

John Hubert, RB*- Hubert’s production suffered more than anyone else’s thanks to Klein’s ability to gain tough yards in short yardage situations which led to his 27 rushing touchdowns last season. Hubert is a quality back though despite his somewhat diminutive listed size of 5’7”, 185 pounds. Packing that much weight onto that small of a frame isn’t as easy as you might think, and I think he is eager to prove he is more than just a scat-back. He produced 970 yards on 200 carries last season (4.8 ypc average) as well as 3 touchdowns. He also demonstrated that he can catch passes out of the backfield by tallying 24 receptions for 188 yards and 1 more touchdown. Hubert is only a junior and I would be surprised if he declared early, so as a senior he should have a chance to show what he can do as the main feature of Kansas State’s running game. As a junior, though, he will likely remain in Klein’s considerable shadow.

Tyler Lockett, WR**- Lockett is a gamebreaker and even though he is only a true sophomore I had to include him in this list. Unfortunately he suffered a lacerated kidney against Oklahoma State and missed the final four games, but he said he is feeling “fantastic” and he was able to participate in spring practices before being held out because of a hamstring injury. Here’s hoping he gets over the injury bug for the rest of his career, but at 5’11”, 170 pounds he will likely continue to get nicked up. However, despite missing the final four games last year Lockett managed to catch 18 passes for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns, carry the ball 10 times for 110 yards (11.0 ypc) and return 16 kickoffs for 563 yards (35.2 average per return) including 2 for touchdowns. And that was all in just nine games! He looks like he has legitimate sub 4.45 speed to me and will likely be Kansas State’s primary deep threat on offense as well as their most dynamic kickoff return man this year. So while he may not be eligible for the draft this year, there is no way I could have left a playmaker as dynamic as Lockett off of this list.

Harper is flying a little under the radar thanks to Kansas State’s less than flashy passing game, but he is Klein’s go-to guy and projects to the NFL as a reliable possession type receiver.

Chris Harper, WR- Harper is widely considered Kansas State’s top wide receiver, and that was reflected in his statistics last season. He had 40 receptions (#2 WR had 21), 547 yards (#2 WR had 338) and 5 touchdowns (Lockett was #2 with 3, 5 were tied for #3 with 1 TD reception each). By catching 40 passes that meant that Harper caught almost 25% of Klein’s completions (40 of 161), accounted for 28.52% of the yards that Klein threw for (547 of 1,918) and accounted for 38.5% of the touchdowns that Klein threw (5 of 13). It may seem like I’m trying to skew the numbers to make Harper’s look more impressive, but the fact of the matter is Klein ran the ball 36 more times than he threw the ball last year and only threw for 470 more yards than he ran, yet had 14 more touchdowns rushing than he did passing. There just weren’t a ton of passes to go around, and it didn’t help that Klein only completed 57.3% of the 281 passes he attempted. Regardless, the 6’1”, 225 pound Harper figures to be the go-to guy for Klein again this season, and I think he has a shot at 50-60 receptions for 800 yards and 8 touchdowns if Klein continues to target him and if his accuracy improves at all. I don’t think Harper is going to be a top WR prospect even in a relatively weak WR class, but he has reliable hands to catch the ball outside his frame and while he isn’t a burner I think as he continues to improve his route running he will project pretty nicely as a possession receiver at the next level. Will he be a star? Probably not, but I think he will be a reliable WR who will be a pleasant surprise for whoever drafts him.

Tramaine Thompson, WR*- Tramaine Thompson is listed as a probable starter, but I think he will likely be Klein’s #3 option this season behind Harper and Lockett. Thompson was the 2nd on the team in receptions (21) and yardage (338) but that is largely due to the fact that Lockett missed the final 4 games and only finished with 3 fewer receptions and 88 fewer yards while scoring two more touchdowns. Thompson led the team in average per reception and certainly has the speed to threaten teams vertically, but at 5’7” 165 he is an even smaller target than Lockett and I’m not sure how reliable his hands are at this point. Kansas State is undeniably a run-first team so even though Kansas State has three legitimate pass catchers at receiver don’t expect Bill Snyder to demand that Kleinn throws for at least 3,000 yards. That means fewer targets for all of the receivers, and that includes Thompson.

Adam Davis, DE- Adam Davis teamed up with Meshak Williams to form a surprisingly formidable pass rushing duo last year, combining for 11 sacks (Davis had 4) and additional tackles for loss (Davis also had 4). There were a lot of questions surrounding Davis’ health at this time last year because of a severe back injury he suffered. Davis had a slipped disk and a pinched nerve in his back and after surgery he said he “couldn’t bend over because if I turned the wrong way it hit my nerve and sent pain down to my legs.” He worked hard and rehabbed from the injury and was still limited on August 18th when that interview was published, but despite all of that the 6’0”, 255 pound defensive end produced 34 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 2 pass break-ups while starting all 13 games for the Wildcats. Now a senior and a year removed from the injury everything appears to be fine but that is something that NFL teams will certainly want to check out when they scout him after this upcoming season. Davis has quality burst off of the ball, flashed some impressive hand usage to keep linemen from locking him up and can blow by slow-footed offensive linemen if he can keep their hands off of him. He’s obviously very undersized and may need to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but Davis is one man I would not bet against. He worked very hard to come back from that back injury and he is all effort and hustle. He’s a player and I think he has a shot to double his production from his junior season, his first game action with the Wildcats after transferring from junior college. Don’t sleep on him because of his height!

Meshak Williams, DE- Williams is the defensive end with superior height at 6’3” but actually weighs less than his defensive end counterpart Adam Davis, tipping the scales at only 245 pounds. Williams has burst off the ball as well and he converted that into 28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a team-leading 7 sacks last season. He too was a junior college transfer and thanks to his height he will be considered more favorably as a possible 4-3 defensive end. Both Williams and Davis have things to improve as pass rushers, but they have the burst to intrigue evaluators as pass rushers and together the tandem has a legitimate chance to combine for 15-20 sacks next year. They should be fun to watch if they remain healthy.

Arthur Brown is one of the top senior linebacker prospects in the country and reminds me quite a bit of former Nebraska standout Lavonte David.

Arthur Brown, MLB- Brown is arguably the top NFL prospect on Kansas State. He will draw a lot of favorable comparisons to former Nebraska and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Lavonte David thanks to their relative lack of size, impressive instincts, tackling and coverage skills. Because he is listed at 6’1”, 225 many will knock him for lacking size much like they did with David, but if he repeats his junior season (his first game action with Kansas State after transferring from Miami and sitting out in 2010) production with 101 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 pass break-ups and an interception then he could very well go in the 2nd round like Lavonte David did. Brown has the athleticism, instincts and quality fundamentals to be a quality weakside linebacker in the NFL and he is one of the top senior 4-3 linebackers in the nation.

Justin Tuggle, OLB- I saw the name Tuggle and just had to do some research to see if he was related to Jessie Tuggle and, in fact, he is. Justin is Jessie’s son and believe it or not he wasn’t a linebacker from birth. He was a quarterback (and a pretty good one) in high school and set school records in passing yards and passing touchdowns there. He started 3 games for Boston College at quarterback, throwing for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. He left for Community College in 2010 before transferring to Kansas State for his junior season. He didn’t contribute much, only playing in 4 games on special teams and totaling one tackle against Texas A&M, but if for no other reason than because he is Jessie’s son he is someone to keep an eye on. He is listed at 6’3”, 227 pounds and apparently has transitioned very naturally to the outside linebacker position (should that surprise anyone? It flows in his blood) and is in an intense competition for the only vacant starting linebacker spot. I don’t know if he has won it for sure or not, but it sounded like he pulled ahead after the spring game where he was able to tally 4 tackles including one for loss. Arthur Brown had this to say about Tuggle’s performance: “He’s doing a great job,” Brown said. “When he’s out there running after the ball, you can tell he’s a great athlete. He definitely transferred all his offensive skills to defense. I think he has a lot more potential.” I, for one, am excited to see if Tuggle holds onto the job and if he is able to capitalize on his potential and his quality linebacking pedigree. The NFL could use another Tuggle.

Nigel Malone, CB- Malone really catches your attention when you watch him and when you look at his stat line. He may be listed at only 5’10”, 176 pounds but he isn’t afraid to come up to support the run (as evidenced by his 58 tackles) and he has some of the best ball skills of any defensive back in the conference, tallying 10 pass break-ups as well as 7 interceptions in his first season with the Wildcats. Malone isn’t a technician at cornerback quite yet, but he has pretty impressive instincts and clearly has a nose for the ball. He won’t blow people away with his measurables in my opinion, but once you watch him play you have to be impressed with how well he plays the ball. I’m very interested to see how he does now that he has a year of starting experience under his belt, and I think he is a legitimate top 100 pick coming into the season. If he’s coachable and if he works hard he can improve his technique and maybe add a little weight to his frame, but I don’t think you can teach ball skills, especially not one’s that enable you to tally 17 passes defended (including 7 interceptions) in your first season as a starter in a major football conference. Keep an eye on Malone, he’s a playmaker.

Allen Chapman, CB- Champan is the “other” senior corner returning as a starter for Kansas State. He is listed at 5’11”, 180 pounds and was another junior college transfer who had his first game action as a Wildcat last year as a junior. He started 7 games, played in all 13 and had 50 tackles, 4 pass deflections and 1 interception. He was solid, but was obviously overshadowed by Malone’s dynamic performance opposite him. I don’t know how good Champan’s prospects are, but with Malone opposite him it’s only a matter of time before teams get tired of him deflecting passes and at times intercepting them, so he will get tested this year. It will be interesting to see how he holds up.

Ty Zimmerman, SS*- Zimmerman is one of my favorite prospects on Kansas State and he really impressed me in coverage against a very good passing offense in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas. He deflected two passes intended for their big tight end Chris Gragg thanks to his impressive instincts, athleticism and ball skills. A player with his football IQ, awareness, instincts and ability to make plays on the ball will be very popular once he is ready to leave for the NFL. He is entering his junior season this year and while I don’t expect him to leave he certainly will have the option to. He currently has 25 career starts and assuming Kansas State manages to make a bowl game, he could leave after this season with as many as 38 career starts if he stays healthy. That’s pretty amazing, and starting experience and awareness is something that talent evaluators love to see in safeties. They are the quarterbacks of the secondary and football IQ is very important for them, and Zimmerman has that in abundance in my opinion. Keep an eye on him, he may not have gaudy statistics (he only has 5 career interceptions coming into the season) but he is without a doubt a NFL safety.

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 West Virginia. The Mountaineers had a good season last year finishing 10-3 with a huge exclamation point 70-33 win against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Geno Smith was already a legitimate NFL QB prospect by then, but he returned for his senior season and is one of the top senior quarterback prospects in the country. He returns two of the best receivers in college football in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, as well as sophomore running back Dustin Garrison who ran for 742 yards, 5.5 ypc and 5 touchdowns as a freshman while also catching 24 passes for 201 yards out of the backfield. WVU has plenty of skill position talent, and if their offensive line can give Smith some time he will carve up defenses again this year. The offense returns 8 starters and figures to be the strength of this team, led by their potent passing attack.

West Virginia was never really known for their defense under Rich Rodriguez, but last season they gave up the most points per game of any Mountaineer defense since at least 2005. They allowed 26.8 ppg and almost 350 offensive yards per game, though they only returned 4 starters. This year they return 6, but have lost their best pass rusher Bruce Irvin to the NFL Draft. They have one defensive player returning with more than 2 sacks, and that is linebacker/safety Terence Garvin, who comes into his senior season after 3.5 sacks as a junior. West Virginia ran a 3-3-5 last season, which is not my favorite defense, but they are switching to a 3-4 this season. That will be a transition, and while they have some talent I’m not convinced the players they have are a great scheme fit for this new 3-4 defense. Regardless, I am hoping Terence Garvin will emerge as a quality pass rush option, because without someone to fill the void vacated by Bruce Irvin as well as Julian Miller I think the secondary might have some problems. I like Brodrick Jenkins and Darwin Cook, but I’m not sold on Pat Miller and Travis Bell. The defense is a question mark for me coming into 2012, especially considering all the passing offenses that WVU will face in the Big-12. With Oklahoma and Landry Jones, TCU and Casey Pachall, Texas Tech and Seth Doege, there are some high octane pass offenses in this conference. Luckily they moved in the year after Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden were commanding offenses, and unless Nick Florence (Griffin’s replacement at Baylor) has a lot of tricks up his sleeve Baylor will not be as explosive as they were last year. Texas A&M has moved to the SEC, and Oklahoma State is replacing Weeden with a true freshman quarterback as of now. Still, the Big-12 knows how to move the ball and without a pass rush WVU will struggle in this conference. Luckily, Tavon Austin is one of the top return men in the nation thanks to his 36 returns for 938 yards (26.1 avg) and 2 touchdowns as well as 19 punt returns for 268 yards (14.1 avg). I think West Virginia has a good shot at 8+ wins, but games like an away game at Texas, Kansas State at home, TCU at home and Oklahoma at home figure to be serious tests. With that, here is my prospect preview for West Virginia:

Geno Smith is one of the top senior quarterbacks in the nation and has the potential to be drafted in the top 10 next April.

Geno Smith, QB- Geno Smith is one of the top quarterback prospects eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft. I will have a full-length scouting report up on him eventually, but as of right now the 6’3” 214 pound senior looks like a rock solid pick to be a 1st round selection in the 2013 Draft. He has the requisite arm strength, ball velocity, accuracy, poise in the pocket, football IQ and intangibles to be a top 10 selection come April. The only questions that remain about Smith are related to the offense he plays in which features a lot of quick throws such as bubble screens and swing passes and also involves playing from the shotgun on the vast majority of the plays he runs. These are legitimate concerns, but I think Smith has the talent and the work ethic to overcome them unlike other spread offense QB’s in the past. Smith is a legitimate NFL talent and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the Big-12 this season.

Tavon Austin, WR- Austin is widely regarded as one of the top senior WR’s in the 2013 Draft class and it’s not hard to see why. Despite being listed at only 5’9”, 174 pounds Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and 8 touchdowns, ran 16 times for 196 yards and 1 touchdown and also returned 36 kickoffs for 938 yards (26.1 avg) and 2 scores in addition to returning 19 punts for 268 yards and a 14.1 average per return. That’s a lot of versatility, playmaking ability, and remarkable consistency. He’s definitely got NFL speed, burst, acceleration and playmaking ability after the catch, but his lack of size and his inconsistent hands concern me. I’ve watched a number of passes bounce right off his hands, and from what I have gathered they seem to be concentration related rather than issues with his hands. Some WVU faithful (and perhaps even his Head Coach Dana Holgorsen) have questioned his effort level at times when he isn’t the primary target and that concerns me. He didn’t show any of those effort level questions in the bowl game shellacking of Clemson, but they had reportedly returned for West Virginia’s spring game. Austin has game-breaking NFL ability, but questions about his effort level and concentration definitely concern me.

Bailey may not be as widely known as Tavon Austin, but he is just as much of a big play threat and has just as much upside in my opinion.

Stedman Bailey, WR*- Bailey is the “other” explosive receiver on West Virginia. Standing at 5’10”, 194 pounds Bailey is bigger than Tavon Austin but doesn’t lack for explosiveness either. In fact, despite catching 29 fewer passes (72 for Bailey, 101 for Austin) he had more yardage (1,279 to 1,186) and touchdowns (12 to 8) despite being a redshirt sophomore. Entering his junior season he has been left off the Maxwell Award Watch list while Geno Smith and Tavon Austin were both selected, leading him to tweet “I still got a lot to prove I see… #Motivation.” I like to see that from a player, even if it is because of an individual award. Bailey is without a doubt a NFL player, and if you doubt that then go watch him against LSU. He scored a touchdown on Morris Claiborne, the #6 overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, in that game (pictured to the right). He’s explosive and has a lot of upside, but I hope he stays out of trouble. I found an article talking about Bailey being cited for attempting to steal a bottle of Theraflu for $4.99. He wasn’t arrested, and it’s not a big deal in the whole scheme of things, but I’m sure it raises eyebrows that he didn’t just pay for the cough medicine. Regardless, no judgment here, but when I found it while researching him I thought it warranted a mention. Keep an eye out for Bailey this year, I expect another 70+ catch, 1,000+ yard 10+ TD season from him. If he manages that I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he left early for the NFL Draft since Geno Smith and Tavon Austin will both be graduating.

Joe Madsen, C- Madsen is West Virginia’s longest tenured offensive lineman, starting 38 games (every game he has played in he has started) over the last 3 years all at center. He is listed at 6’4”, 310 pounds and definitely has impressive size for a center. He isn’t a great NFL prospect because he doesn’t seem to anchor that well in 1 on 1 situations, he doesn’t look like he has very long arms and lets defenders get into his pads too much. He is a solid run blocker, but he isn’t a great pass blocker in my opinion. He has the potential to get drafted because of his size, experience and football IQ thanks to his vast playing experience, but he leaves something to be desired with his technique.

Jeff Braun, RG- Braun is West Virginia’s second most experienced offensive lineman but I’m not particularly impressed with him either. He has NFL size at 6’4”, 321 pounds and was playing at left guard when his more “natural” position is right guard, but I wasn’t overly impressed with his technique either and I think he is a late round prospect much like Madsen at this point. He has 38 career starts just like Madsen, and that should help the interior offensive line now that Josh Jenkins is returning from injury (Jenkins has 24 career starts as well) but I don’t think any of them will earn grades higher than late round/UDFA unless their play improves significantly as seniors.

Will Clarke, DE*- Clarke was playing a little out of position in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 as a defensive end and now that West Virginia is going to be running a 3-4 defense he is going to be playing out of position again as a down lineman in that scheme. That isn’t to say he can’t do it, but I don’t think it plays to his strengths. He doesn’t anchor that well since he is 6’6”, 269 pounds and would likely be a better fit as a DE in a 4-3 or perhaps even as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He has some get-off and despite being outweighed by 40-60 pounds by most guards and tackles he goes up against he can drive them back with a bull-rush initially, and flashes some hand usage and the awareness to stay at home on bootlegs, etc. He doesn’t seem like an ideal fit in a 3-4 though because he drops his head and doesn’t locate the ball very well when being blocked despite his height. And while he flashes some hand usage he can be controlled by bigger, stronger tackles at times. He’s athletic and has some quickness to him, but he will likely be playing very much out of position again for West Virginia this year. If he still makes plays despite it while also maintaining gap integrity then he is going to be on a lot of NFL radars.

Garvin was a safety/linebacker hybrid in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 defense last year, but will be moving to the outside linebacker spot in their 3-4 this year. He is the returning sack leader on the Mountaineer defense, so he may be their best bet to replace some of the pass rush they lost when Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller graduated.

Terence Garvin, OLB- Garvin is a 6’3”, 223 pound senior linebacker/safety who is going to be lining up as an outside linebacker in West Virginia’s new 3-4 defense. He was playing a hybrid position last season, and now they have chosen to let him continue to play off the edge as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s not big enough to play that in the NFL (yet) but he certainly has plenty of speed, burst and closing speed to be an impressive NFL linebacker. He seems to have pretty good instincts and is a good tackler as well, breaking down well in the open field when I have seen him and tackling effectively while also showing the potential to be a big hitter. He has the frame to add weight and I haven’t seen him engage and shed blocks much due to his size, but he definitely has upside as a linebacker.

Brodrick Jenkins, CB*- Jenkins is West Virginia’s top returning corner as he started opposite Keith Tandy towards the end of his sophomore year last season (4 games started but he played in all 13). He was second in pass break-ups with 8 (Tandy had 9) and also had 2 interceptions in his first season with any starting experience. He has NFL speed, has showed the ability to jam, turn and run, and also closes quickly on plays he reads in front of him. He has some instincts and ball skills, and I think he warrants some attention in what figures to be his first full season as a starter.

Darwin Cook, SS*- Cook is returning for his second season as a starter and the 5’11”, 204 pound strong safety finished with 85 tackles, 4 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions in 13 starts. It’s tough to get a great feel for his game because of poor camera angles for DB’s, but he was productive as a sophomore and figures to be just as productive as a junior.

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.

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!

Next up I am covering the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns had an underwhelming season by their standards in 2011, finishing 8-5 with a bowl victory over Cal for their 8th win of the season. The Longhorns season was defined by their quarterback controversy, originally starting Garrett Gilbert before they started a merry-go-round between Sophomore QB Case McCoy and True Freshman David Ash. McCoy was regarded as the better passer, and put up better passing numbers, but neither was convincing enough to get Mack Brown to name them the starting quarterback outright. However, David Ash appears to be in the lead after the spring, partially due to a better performance (based on what I saw) in the Spring Game. As the saying goes “when you have two quarterbacks, you really have none” and if Texas cycles between Ash and McCoy again this season their offense will never get off the ground. They have plenty of talent at running back with Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray and Jeremy Hillis all figuring to get some touches throughout the season. They return some talent at receiver as well with Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, Marquise Goodwin and speedster DJ Monroe. I also think their offensive line will be much better this season thanks to the addition of JUCO offensive tackle Donald Hawkins, who looks like a legitimate NFL prospect at left tackle. That caused a shuffle of returning starters on the line, leaving Trey Hopkins, a 2011 starter at right tackle, moving inside to left guard, and Josh Cochran, a 2011 starter at left tackle, moving to the right side. Dominic Espinosa and Mason Walters remain at center and right guard respectively, and outside of Hawkins Texas has four returning starters along the offensive line. That should really help their running game and their pass protection of either Ash or McCoy at quarterback.

The strength of the team figures to be the defense though, led by stars such as Alex Okafor, Jackson Jeffcoat, Jordan Hicks, Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs and Kenny Vaccaro. The defensive line looks to be ferocious as usual with Okafor and Jeffcoat manning the defensive end spots and another talented JUCO transfer Brandon Moore replacing Kheeston Randall at nose tackle with Ashton Dorsey emerging as the starter at the three technique. The linebacking core has the most to replace as they lost stalwarts Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, but Jordan Hicks looks to have fantastic upside there to help hold the unit together. Their secondary is as talented as ever with the star corner tandem of Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs at corner along with talented freshman Duke Thomas pushing for playing time. Kenny Vaccaro is the top safety on the team, and one of my favorite draft prospects at the position. Adrian Phillips will start opposite him, but sophomore Mykkele Thompson has been pushing him in the spring and had a kick return for a touchdown in the Spring Game. I’m not sure what to expect from their special teams, but they have plenty of potential return men in Jaxon Shipley, DJ Monroe and Mykkele Thompson, among others. This Longhorn squad will go as far as the offense can take them, as the defense figures to be extremely difficult to pass on thanks to their talented pass rushers and elite secondary. Here is the prospect summary for this 2012 Longhorn squad:

Ash may not be a good passer yet, but he has adequate arm strength and athleticism for the position. Not only that, he has clearly progressed since last season while Case McCoy continues to make similar mistakes.

David Ash, QB**- I didn’t want to include true sophomores in this post, but Ash, Shipley and Quandre Diggs made it impossible not to. Ash is the least talented of the three right now in my opinion, but the 6’3”, 222 pound quarterback looks like the odds on favorite to be the starter in 2012, particularly because Case McCoy did not impress me much in the Spring Game. Ash has the stronger arm and more athletic ability, but as he continues to become more comfortable in the offense I think his accuracy will start to improve. He showed much better decision making in the Spring Game and started to just take what the defense was giving him instead of forcing the issue, which is important for his development. I’m not sure he will ever be a great NFL prospect, but his success this season will be a critical factor in whether Texas is competing for the Big-12 title or whether they are a borderline bowl eligible team again.

Jaxon Shipley, WR**- I wanted to leave Shipley off this list very badly, but I just couldn’t do it. He’s too talented. He is Texas’ best returning receiver in my opinion, finishing just one catch short of the team lead with Mike Davis (Davis had 45, Shipley had 44 as a true freshman), he was 2 yards short of the team lead for receiving yardage (Davis had 609, Shipley had 607) and was tied for the team lead with 3 touchdowns. He made a lot of plays last year despite the musical chairs at the quarterback position, and with David Ash looking like the 2012 starter at quarterback Shipley should have plenty of opportunities to get on the same page with him and make even more plays. He offers a lot of versatility as a dangerous receiver, return man, and is a threat to throw the deep ball on gadget plays as he showed in the bowl game against Cal and in the 2012 Spring Game where he threw a perfect touchdown pass to Mike Davis. Shipley may only be a true sophomore, but he has NFL written all over him.

D.J. Monroe, WR- Monroe is a 5’9”, 175 pound senior and while he won’t be a starter at wide receiver I think he warrants NFL consideration because of his impressive speed and his versatility. He is learning to play receiver exclusively so that Texas can run their sweep play with him without it being a give-away every time he is on the field. If he gets opportunities in the return game I think he can prove to be an impact player there as he was in 2009 when he returned only 16 kickoffs for 537 yards (33.56 avg) and 2 touchdowns. He hasn’t been as effective since, but he has game-breaking speed and any time he gets the ball in his hands he can take it the distance. That’s exactly why I think he will catch some eyes as both a receiver, a runner and as a kick returner if he gets enough touches.

Donald Hawkins looks like he has definite left tackle potential and should help anchor a talented Longhorns offensive line this season.

Donald Hawkins, LT*- Hawkins is a JUCO transfer who stands at 6’5”, 310 pounds and based on what I have seen he has legitimate NFL potential as a left tackle prospect. He moves VERY well for a man his size, showing some burst off the snap and impressive change of direction ability for a 310 pound man. He has very impressive burst into his pass set out of the two point stance, and flashes some ability to anchor. He moves very well for such a big man, gets to the second level easily and locates defenders and blocks them effectively. Needs some work technique wise, and he’s clearly raw, but he has immense upside. At times he opens up his hips a bit too early, making him vulnerable to the inside move. Seems to mirror defenders pretty well, but has more than enough foot speed and athleticism to take away speed rush without having to open hips so early. I’d like to see him finish blocks better, but he clearly flashes left tackle athleticism and impressive mobility in the run game. I’m very excited to see how he does in his first season as a starter right out of JUCO. Keep an eye on him.

Mason Walters, RG*- Walters is a 6’6”, 315 pound guard with room for additional mass on his large frame. He comes into his junior season with an amazing 25 career starts all at right guard. Not only does he have a ton of starting experience for a junior, he also snaps at center during the spring. That versatility certainly appeals to NFL evaluators, as does his experience. He could stand to get bigger and fill out his frame, as he looks pretty skinny at only 315 pounds (it feels weird to type that). He is the most experienced starter on Texas’ offensive line, so it will be interesting to see how he does as a junior.

Trey Hopkins, LG*- Hopkins is listed at 6’4”, 298 pounds and has moved inside to left guard after starting 13 games at right tackle last season. Haven’t been able to get a great feel for his game, but he has 17 career starts coming into his junior season and should get a lot of attention as scouts flock to games to see Texas’ defense, but also their impressive left tackle Donald Hawkins.

Alex Okafor definitely has NFL potential, but I don’t think I see an elite NFL pass rusher when I watch him.

Alex Okafor, DE- Okafor has 4-3 defensive end size at 6’5”, 260 pounds. He has the athleticism to drop into coverage when asked, so I think he can play OLB in a 3-4 or DE in a 4-3. I don’t think he has as much burst/explosion out of a two point stance as he does with his hand in the dirt. Unfortunately, he doesn’t look like he has a lot of edge speed to me. He looks like more of a 4-3 LE to me than a guy you want to rely on for 8-10 sacks and consistent pressure. He doesn’t have elite explosion off the ball and he seems to be more of a fundamentally sound, hard working player rather than a physical freak in my opinion. I’d like to see him dominate more blocks, particularly when he is only being blocked by tight ends in the running game. He has good awareness and a good motor, and plenty of athleticism as well as long arms, but I don’t see the bend and elite explosion to make him a top draft pick. I think his future is at left end in a 4-3 or at strong side linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I think as he gets a bit stronger he will be better versus the run, and if he improves on his flashes of hand usage I think he will be more effective. Okafor has plenty of NFL upside, I’m just not convinced it will be at the right end position in a 4-3 defense.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE*- Jeffcoat is the more explosive, high upside half of Texas’ elite defensive end duo. Jeffcoat has more edge speed and burst than Okafor does, but outside of his speed rush I don’t see much to like about Jeffcoat’s pass rushing. The 6’5”, 250 pounder has the speed to get the edge versus most college tackles but struggled to do so versus Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M’s impressive left tackle. And when he can’t win with his speed rush he is largely rendered ineffective. He doesn’t have much else in his repertoire and gets taken out of the play once he is engaged. He was very productive last season, especially in the 2nd half of the year, where he totaled all 8 of his sacks in the last 7 games and had a sack in 6 of the last 7 games Texas played, only coming up empty versus Texas A&M on Thanksgiving (against a NFL caliber left tackle). He had 3.5 TFL and 0 sacks in Texas’ first 6 games, and that leads me to believe his best football is awaiting him in his junior season at Texas. He needs to add pass rush moves to his repertoire, get stronger and improve his hand usage for that to happen though.

Brandon Moore, DT*- Moore looks to play a little upright which negates his listed size of 6’5”, 335 pounds, though he doesn’t look like he weighs that much on film. If he does weigh that much, he looks to carry it pretty well. He shows some burst off the ball and has flashed the ability to split double teams as a pass rusher, and has reportedly shown the anchor and lower body strength to make himself very difficult to move versus the run. He flashes some awareness and change of direction ability, though I’m not sure how good his motor is. If Moore can anchor the nose tackle position vacated by Kheeston Randall and provide not only a plugger in the middle to help clog up running lanes but also demand double teams as a pass rusher life will be a lot easier for the smaller, quicker Ashton Dorsey inside.

Ashton Dorsey, DT*- Dorsey is only listed at 6’2”, 295 pounds but he makes up for his lack of ideal size with impressive athleticism. He is quick off the ball and shows that he can be disruptive, and managed 6 tackles for loss and 1 sack as a sophomore in 2011 despite only starting 4 games. He is the man at the 3 tech position now though, and could be one of the key cogs on a very talented defensive line. I don’t think he will be ready to make the jump even if he has a big season this year, but he certainly has a chance to be put on the NFL radar thanks to Texas’ duo of talented defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat.

Jordan Hicks has superstar potential at linebacker, and figures to pick up where Keenan Robinson left off at linebacker for Texas.

Jordan Hicks, OLB*- Hicks is listed at 6’2”, 235 pounds and from all I have read he has superstar potential at outside linebacker. He has shown ability in coverage, as a blitzer, and returns with 65 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack and four pass deflections in 8 starts last season as a sophomore. He had the best game of his young career in the bowl game against Cal as he totaled 7 total tackles (5 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss (including 1.5 sacks) and a pass break-up against the Golden Bears. He has reportedly had a great spring, and seems to be ready to pick up where Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho left off.

Carrington Byndom, CB*- Byndom certainly looks like he’s going to be the next quality NFL corner in a long line of quality NFL corners to come out of Texas. He stands at 6’0”, 180 pounds, has impressive speed, closing burst, instincts and ball skills. He had 58 tackles, 8 TFL (amazing for a corner), 15 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions as a sophomore. He only has 13 career starts, all coming as a sophomore, but if he has another impressive season this year he could very well be a top 40 draft pick.

Quandre Diggs, CB**- Diggs is only a sophomore, and a true sophomore at that, but I just couldn’t leave him off this list. That’s how good he is. As a true freshman the 5’10”, 200 pound corner was 2nd Team All Big-12, had 51 tackles, 4 TFL, 15 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions. Clearly quarterbacks figured out that there was no sense in challenging him to avoid passing at Byndom, as Diggs and Byndom combined to break up 30 passes and intercept 6, forming one of the top cornerback tandems in the nation. That tandem figures to only get better this season, especially since Texas has ANOTHER talented true freshman corner who has been impressive in the spring by the name of Duke Thomas. Keep an eye on all three of these corners, because they are going to make it very difficult for opposing offenses to pass on them, especially with all the talent they have on the defensive line.

Kenny Vaccaro, FS- Vaccaro is the most experienced member of the Texas secondary with 19 starts coming into his senior season. He’s a ball-hawk and a playmaker, and has demonstrated the ability to be a playmaker in coverage, versus he run and as a blitzer. He returns as Texas’ leading tackler with 82 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 8 pass deflections and 2 interceptions. He stands at 6’1”, 215 pounds and as if it wasn’t hard enough to pass on Texas’ talented cornerbacks, Vaccaro makes it even more difficult roaming in the defensive backfield. I think Vaccaro has top 50 pick written all over him if he continues to play like he did last season.

1st– Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2nd– Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
3rd– Cleveland (F/ MIN): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
4th– Minnesota (F/CLE): Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
5th– Jacksonville (F/ TB): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
6th– St. Louis: Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal
7th– Tampa Bay (F/ JAX): Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
8th– Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
9th– Carolina: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
10th– Buffalo: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
11th– Kansas City: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
12th– Seattle: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
13th– Arizona: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
14th– Dallas: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
15th– Philadelphia: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
16th– New York Jets: Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
17th: Cincinnati: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
18th– San Diego: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois
19th– Chicago: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
20th– Tennessee: Nick Perry, DE, Southern Cal
21st– Cincinnati: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
22nd– Cleveland: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
23rd– Detroit: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
24th– Pittsburgh: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin
25th– Denver: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
26th– Houston: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
27th– New England: Dont’a Hightower, OLB, Alabama
28th– Green Bay: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
29th– Baltimore: Michael Brockers, DE/DT, LSU
30th– San Francisco: Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State
31st– New England: Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State
32nd– New York Giants: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

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.

Offensive Line:

Cordy Glenn (Georgia) was the clear offensive lineman winner today. He showed the ability to play outside at tackle as well as at guard today, and he was effective against every player except for Quinton Coples who was able to beat him on a couple of 1 on 1’s. He’s agile for his size and in talking to scouts they didn’t think his occasional waist-bending was a serious issue. He has the potential to play at four offensive lineman positions. He is strong enough and has a good enough anchor that he can recover if he’s initially pushed back, which enabled him to slow down Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram today.

Glenn’s ability to slow Upshaw and Ingram down today definitely set him apart from Zebrie Sanders (Florida State), Matt McCants (UAB) and James Brown (Troy) today. All three struggled mightily with bull-rushes today and were consistently pushed back and beaten thanks to their lack of lower body strength and ability to anchor. I like Zebrie Sanders’ potential, but his lower body strength is a serious issue right now. I think he has a shot at the 1st round still because of his upside, but he hasn’t been good the last couple of days.

Ben Jones (Georgia) and William Vlachos (Alabama) have had a down week so far in my opinion. Jones is a mid-round center prospect in my opinion who has struggled with bull-rushes and speed at times this week. He’s not a center that can handle defenders one on one in the run game or pass protection for the most part. Vlachos is a very physically limited offensive lineman who has a late round or free agent grade in my opinion. He might stick on a roster because of his football IQ, but his short arms and limited size will hurt him.

Jeff Allen (Illinois) continued a strong week today, this time inside at guard. That versatility will help him as he was consistently good at both tackle and offensive guard this week. Good, not great, but he’s definitely draftable in the 3rd or 4th round range.

Defensive Line:

Quinton Coples (North Carolina) continues to show his fantastic upside. He isn’t a top 10 or possibly a top 15 pick, but he’s definitely got a 1st round grade from me. His upside is incredibly intriguing, but I don’t think he can consistently be a pass rushing force from the RE position, though I do think he could be a fantastic left defensive end. He can be as good as he wants to be, so interviews will be extremely important for him. I saw someone mention it on Twitter, but he seems like a possible candidate for a guy who breaks out in his contract year, earns a huge deal, and never lives up to the deal. He’s got red flags for sure, but his potential is extremely intriguing.

Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Melvin Ingrim (South Carolina) continued to impress me. I think they are both versatile enough to play in a 3-4 at OLB or in a 4-3 at left defensive end. They both struggled a bit against Cordy Glenn, but he may be a top 50 prospect in my opinion, so I understand that to an extent.

Kheeston Randall (Texas) continued to struggle today. He showed some of his agility and his athleticism but he struggled to disengage once blocked and too often was effectively blocked by William Vlachos, someone I don’t think is going to be a very effective center in the NFL because of significant physical limitations. However, I like what I have seen from Brandon Thompson (Clemson) and Jaye Howard (Florida). I’ve liked Howard for some time, but Thompson has definitely made it clear that he has quality starter upside as a 3-tech which is what I saw from the tape I’ve watched of him.

Check out NFL Draft Monsters for the rest of our Senior Bowl Coverage!

South Roster Notes:

Tight Ends:

Ladarius Green (Louisiana Lafayette) is my favorite tight end on this roster. He’s my #2 TE in Mobile behind only Michael Egnew, but Green may have just as much upside as any tight end in the draft. His combination of pure size and athleticism is extremely intriguing and like Egnew he has good hands. He needs work as a blocker, but if the effort and work ethic is there that can be coached. But he will be a helluva match-up problem as a receiver who can be split out in the NFL, and those joker tight ends are all the rage right now. He looks like a 2nd or 3rd round prospect to me. Deangelo Peterson (LSU) is another player I’ve liked all year. He’s a sleeper because he never got much of a chance to show what he can do as a receiver at LSU, so he could surprise people once he gets to the next level. He’s got pretty good hands, size and athleticism and should end up in the 4th round or maybe a little higher on draft day. Brad Smelley (Alabama) has had a solid couple of days. He’s not an early-round guy by any means, but he’s draftable and has the work ethic to be a contributor on special teams and work his way up the tight end depth chart despite his lack of great size and athleticism.

Offensive Line:

Zebrie Sanders (Florida State) impressed me today to a point. He’s an impressive athlete with a good first step, he can get out of his stance quickly and block down on defensive tackles which I liked. He really needs to get stronger in the lower body though and his hand placement was an issue today. He was letting his hands get too far outside which will draw holding calls and limit his ability to control the defender after he’s engaged him. He’s struggled to “finish” blocks as well. Multiple times in 1 on 1’s he had won the battle right up until the end when Coples or Ingram would finish and he didn’t. Sustaining that block and playing to the whistle isn’t always something you can coach. He’s got the athleticism and the length to play left tackle though, he just needs some coaching and weight training. I still have a late 1st round grade on him, but he’s obviously not perfect. Jeff Allen (Illinois) continues to impress. I’ll credit Wes Bunting (@WesBunting follow him) for showing me the light on him so to speak, but whenever I watched him I thought he looked like a solid tackle. He’s one of those players that the more I’ve watched him the more I like him. He’s definitely a sleeper at left tackle right now and while he struggled with Coples a couple times today, so did everyone. Allen held his own all day though and impressed scouts without a doubt. He’s got left tackle ability and will definitely go higher than people think. He could go in the 2nd round when all is said and done.

Ben Jones (Georgia) did not impress me today. He was consistently beat off the snap by quicker players like Brandon Thompson and struggled to anchor against stronger players. He’s an average athlete that is a mid-late round player in my opinion, definitely not a 2nd or 3rd round Center. His stock is on its way down in my opinion. William Vlachos (Alabama) also looked bad today. His arms just look remarkably short (he measured in with 30 inch arms, which is not good for an offensive lineman) and he struggled to anchor today as well. He looks like a late round player to me. Matt McCants (UAB) had a bad day as well outside at tackle. He was victimized multiple times by Coples and Ingram as well as Courtney Upshaw. He has little strength in his lower body and it showed today. But he doesn’t look like an impressive athlete and just flat got beat off the edge a couple of times today. He’s not earning a high grade from me either, though I still need to study him. Will Blackwell (LSU) didn’t look very good to me today either, though he was solid. He’s an average player in my eyes, not sure how much starting potential he has. He’s got a draftable grade from me, but didn’t impress me too much today.

Philip Blake (Baylor) impressed me today though. He showed a strong anchor and looked pretty good at guard and at center today. I will definitely be keeping an eye on him the rest of the week. Cordy Glenn (Georgia) was a very pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect a great week from him. He didn’t show much bend in his waist and had an impressive ability to anchor and sustain. He’s an impressive player that might be able to stick outside at tackle or succeed inside at guard. He’s definitely above Kelechi Osemele on my board right now. Troy Brown (Troy) didn’t impress me much today though. He didn’t look very good at tackle, and I think he might have to shift inside at the next level. He’s a solid player, but I’m not sold on him at tackle.

Defensive Line:

Quentin Coples (North Carolina) was the biggest winner out of anyone I watched today. The guy absolutely has top 5 talent, it’s just a question of how much he wants it. He will be as good as he wants to be, so it’s a question of desire and work ethic for judging him. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a sense of that throughout the week. He is just so athletic for his size that he had me drooling at his potential as a strong side end in a 4-3. He’s not an ideal right end in my opinion but as a left end he could be one of the best in the league if he wants it bad enough. I just hope he lands somewhere with a great defensive line coach that can light a fire under him. He’s got some red flags around him, but his upside is as intriguing as any defensive player in this entire draft in my opinion. Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) and Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) continued to impress me today. Ingram looked very fluid in pass rush drills, showed an impressive variety of pass rush moves and consistently won 1 on 1 battles in the pit. I think he is fluid enough to be a 3-4 OLB and I think he has enough strength and power to play 4-3 DE. He’s a versatile player that will likely earn a 1st round grade from me once I’m able to watch him more on tape. Upshaw is such a physically impressive player. He’s not a freak from a measurables standpoint but you can tell he’s going to be a quality player in the NFL from watching him. He’s so strong and physical that I would never bet against him. His lack of length might limit his upside a bit, but there’s no question he can be a starting outside linebacker in a 3-4 or maybe even a 4-3 left end. I just haven’t watched him enough yet, but I like his game.

My two favorite defensive tackles on this roster were Brandon Thompson (Clemson) and Jaye Howard (Florida). Thompson has solid measurables and packed 311 pounds onto his 6’2” frame but his burst and quickness is my favorite part about his game. He gets off the ball very quickly and overwhelmed some of the interior linemen on the South today. He was consistently disruptive all practice and looks like a quality 3-tech in the NFL, perhaps a similar player to Jonathan Babineaux on the Atlanta Falcons. Howard is a guy I’ve liked since I watched him play over the course of his junior season and I was happy to get to see him live today. He’s lighter than I would have liked right now, but he beat Cordy Glenn a couple times in 1 on 1 drills. He’s got some burst and athleticism, but I’d like to see him get stronger and get up above 300 pounds for sure.

Kheeston Randall (Texas) continued to disappoint today. He got pancaked by Ben Jones, a player I am not high on, and struggled consistently against everyone he went up against. He won a couple of battles, but his stock has been slipping all season and nothing I saw today will change that. He looks like a guy who will go in the 4th round range to me. He’s got the size you’d love in a defensive tackle but he has limited length and he weighed in at under 300 pounds. He’s got potential, but he hasn’t lived up to it at all. Tydreke Powell (North Carolina) and Tony Jerod-Eddie (Texas A&M) both showed some ability as bull-rushers in 1 on 1 drills when they were able to push their man off the ball, but neither showed the ability to shed and they look like 2-down guys in the NFL. Powell plays too high at times and negates his strength, and on film I’ve seen him try to penetrate upfield and make plays in the backfield despite his lack of great burst or quickness. He’s a mid-round guy in my opinion, and I’m not sure he has much upside. Jerod-Eddie is similar but when I’ve seen him he seems like he has a bit better gap responsibility, but I haven’t done enough study on him yet. He seems like he could possibly be a 3-4 defensive end, but if he plays defensive tackle in a 4-3 he would strictly be a run stopper.

Linebackers:

I think my favorite linebacker in all of Mobile is Keenan Robinson (Texas). He’s got experience playing all three linebacker positions but I think his best position is probably the weak-side. He’s a helluva hitter, a very good tackler and he has ability in coverage. He’s a complete linebacker and he’s going to be a riser after this week. Keep an eye on him at practice, he will impress you. One player who surprised me a bit was Zach Brown (North Carolina). I shouldn’t be so surprised he looked good in practice because that is when he should theoretically look best since there is no tackling allowed and that is something he struggles to do. But he took better angles than I saw on tape and clearly has all the athleticism you could want in coverage. Sean Spence (Miami) was disruptive today and when you watch him you can’t help but imagine how good he would be if he was bigger. His weigh-in likely hurt his stock, but in the right system (perhaps a Cover-2 or heavy zone system) he could be an impact linebacker. Nigel Bradham (Florida State) is another player I like. He’s just a solid, fundamentally sound guy that I think has a NFL future as a starter. I’ve liked him since his junior year, so I am excited to take a closer look at him the rest of the week when I have the chance.

I was focusing on the offensive line and the defensive line today, but my colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Brandon Howard was keeping an eye on the skill position players today. Give him a follow on Twitter @DashDiallo1 and follow this link to see the rest of our coverage of the South practice! Thanks for reading!

–Tom