Tag Archive: RG


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!

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.