Tag Archive: Safety


Boise State-Washington Prospect Preview:

Boise State:

DJ Harper, RB- Harper looks like a solid back to me. He is compact like Doug Martin was, though he isn’t as strong and isn’t as good. He is listed at 5’9”, 205 pounds and has more than enough leg drive and strength to run through arm tackles and demonstrates this consistently. In watching some highlights and clips of him earlier in his career it seems that, not surprisingly, he has lost significant explosiveness and top-end speed as a result of his two ACL injuries. He still has some burst and can make subtle cuts without losing speed, but I don’t think he’s going to run any faster than a 4.5 in the 40. He has experience pass blocking and is solid in that department and isn’t a bad receiver out of the backfield either, but his injury question marks are serious ones and that will hurt his stock. To me he is a mid-late day 3 pick that has a chance to stick, but isn’t going to be a quality starter at the next level.

Matt Miller, WR- Matt Miller is the name of a NFL Draft analyst (@nfldraftscout) but he is also a sophomore wide receiver on Boise State’s offense. He has been their most productive receiver this year as the 6’3”, 215 pound wideout produced 60 receptions, 679 yards and 5 touchdowns. He may be matching up with Desmond Trufant today, so I’m interested to see how he does.

Holden Huff, TE- Huff is Boise State’s leading receiver at tight end despite only being a freshman. He’s listed at 6’5”, 213 pounds so he is essentially just a really big receiver at this point, but as he fills out his frame he could become a very intriguing joker tight end prospect. He only had 15 receptions, 215 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he is still only a freshman. Keep an eye on him in the future.

Demarcus Lawrence, DE- Lawrence and Ukwachu are two players I am very excited about. Lawrence is only a sophomore but he led Boise State in tackles for loss and sacks this year, his first with the program. He has 8.5 sacks, 5.0 TFL, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery (returned for a TD), an interception and a blocked kick. He is listed at 6’3”, 242 pounds and has some burst off the ball. I haven’t seen enough of him to have a great feel for his game, but he stuck out to me immediately when I watched Boise State a couple weeks ago. He’s may already be their best defensive player already despite only being a sophomore. ****UPDATE**** According to @IDS_BroncoBeat Lawrence has been sent home for a violation of team rules and will miss the bowl game against Washington. This is Lawrence’s second suspension. Huge loss for Boise State and concerning for such a talented player.

Samuel Ukwachu, DE- Ukwachu stuck out to me just as quickly as Lawrence did and he is only a freshman. He is listed at 6’4”, 222 pounds and had 4.5 sacks as well as 2.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble and one pass break-up. He’s not a starter yet, but he is explosive off the ball and seemed to have impressive length when I saw him earlier this year. These two are going to be a dynamic pass rushing tandem for the next two years if Lawrence stays in school until he’s a senior. If not, next year they could be one of the better young tandems in the country.

Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, DT*- I haven’t paid attention to Tjong-A-Tjoe much when I’ve watched Boise State, but his name alone is intriguing. Add in the fact that he is an athletic 6’2”, 296 pound defensive tackle and the fact that he is only a junior who is originally from the Netherlands and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him today. He’s flashed burst off the ball, some intriguing hand usage and he seems to have a good motor. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him today, but it seems that Boise State has certainly reloaded as far as their defensive line talent is concerned.

JC Percy, ILB- Percy is an undersized linebacker that likely won’t be a NFL Draft pick, but the 6’0”, 227 pound middle linebacker is a productive tackler who may not be a fantastic athlete, but could contribute on special teams and perhaps as a back-up linebacker at the next level. If he doesn’t make a NFL roster I think he may get CFL looks.

Jamar Taylor, CB- Taylor is a potential top 100 draft pick for Boise State. He is listed at 5’11”, 196 pounds and as far as I know he hasn’t been invited to the Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl yet. That surprises me a little bit, but hopefully he will be at one of them. I’m not that familiar with his game, but he is one guy I am definitely going to keep an eye on today. He is likely Boise State’s top 2013 prospect.

Darian Thompson, CB- Thompson is only a freshman but he has a lot of upside in my opinion. He’s listed at 6’1”, 197 pounds, he had 25 solo tackles this year, 3 pass break-ups, 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. This will be my first game to really key on him, but I’m excited to see if he gets to match up with Kasen Williams at all today. They’re both talented young players, so keep an eye on Thompson.

Washington:

Keith Price, QB*- Price was a popular name as he took the Pac-12 by storm as a sophomore last year and capped it off with a terrific performance against Baylor’s pathetic defense in Washington’s exciting loss in the Alamo Bowl (video courtesy of @jmpasq, follow him on Twitter). This year he has underwhelmed and it is reflected in the win column for Washington and on Price’s personal stat sheet. He doesn’t have great arm strength, though I do think it is above average, as is his accuracy. He looked like a potentially special player last year, but he has come back down to Earth this year. He’s athletic and he has a flair for the improvisational play, but his decision-making could use improvement and while he still has a year of eligibility left it’s hard to project him as anything beyond a Day 3 pick at this point. Still, he has more than enough talent to be a quality college starter, and if Boise State sleeps on him he could surprise them with a performance reminiscent of his game against Baylor last year. He’s got plenty of weapons to choose from, most notably Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams.

Bishop Sankey, RB- Sankey is a player that I am not at all familiar with, but in replacing Chris Polk this year the 5’10” 200 pound sophomore has produced 1,234 rushing yards (4.76 ypc) and 15 touchdowns as well as 175 yards on 27 receptions through the air. If Boise State can slow him down it will make Washington one dimensional and put a lot of pressure on Keith Price to carry the load, but if Sankey makes plays and Boise State has to put an additional safety in the box Price is going to take deep shots down the seam to Sefarian-Jenkins and on the outside to Kasen Williams. Much like Polk was last year, Sankey is the cog that makes this offense go.

Kasen Williams, WR- Williams is a sophomore receiver that I really, really like. He is listed at 6’2”, 216 pounds and he has impressive athleticism, hands and he has been making plays since he was a freshman last year. He has 6 touchdowns this year (matching his production as a freshman) and he gives Washington a dynamic duo of pass catchers between himself and Sefarian-Jenkins. They’re both future NFL Draft picks, though ASJ will likely go higher. Still, Williams is a very impressive talent and I can’t wait to see him against Jamar Taylor today.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE- Sefarian-Jenkins, or “ASJ”, is the best tight end in the country. I love Tyler Eifert, but ASJ is better in my opinion. He isn’t eligible for the draft this year, but I think ASJ is going to be a 1st round pick next year barring injury and he reminds me so much of Tony Gonzalez. He stuck out immediately when I watched Washington last year to get a look at Chris Polk and he has become incredibly popular ever since. I’d like to think I was one of the earliest on his bandwagon, but regardless of how early I was or wasn’t a fan of his it’s blatantly obvious that he is a very special talent at tight end. He is a player that Boise State just won’t have an answer for on defense and if Washington wants to win they need to get him the ball early and often.

Josh Shirley, DE/OLB- Shirley is a player that stuck out a lot against Baylor and RGIII last year and he has a lot of explosion off the ball to threaten the edge with the speed rush. I’m interested to see how Boise State deals with the talented sophomore because he could give Southwick a lot of problems off the edge. He’s undersized at 6’3”, 230 pounds though so if you run at him you can wear him down. I imagine that is the gameplan for Boise State today with DJ Harper. He has 15 sacks the past two years (6.5 this year) though, so don’t be surprised if he gets another one today.

Andrew Hudson, DE/OLB- Hudson is a player I’m not as familiar with as Shirley but he is a talented pass rusher as well. He’s more filled out than Shirley at 6’3”, 249 pounds and registered 3.5 sacks as a freshman before totaling 6.5 this year to tie Shirley for the team lead. These two are both just sophomores but they have plenty of upside and I’m very interested to see them play against a balanced offense like Boise State today. If they can hold up versus the run and put some pressure on Southwick they will have a chance for an upset.

Danny Shelton, DT- Shelton is yet another talented sophomore on Washington’s defense, but Shelton has been tasked with replacing Alameda Ta’amu after he graduated last year, leaving a gaping hole at nose tackle (literally). Shelton is still very young, but the squatty 6’1”, 317 pound defensive tackle played a key role in upsetting Stanford earlier this season and if he continues to progress he is going to be a very appealing 3-4 NT at the next level. He hasn’t offered a ton of pass rush thus far, but if he can plug up the run and force Boise State into 3rd and longs Washington will have a great chance at an upset today.

Desmond Trufant, CB- Trufant is a talented senior corner with a NFL lineage thanks to his brother Marcus. He will likely be a Day Two pick (2nd-3rd round) and I am looking forward to seeing him today and in person at the senior bowl. He is Washington’s top NFL prospect, so I am looking forward to seeing him match up with Kasen Williams on the outside today. He’s listed at 6’0”, 186 pounds and has NFL caliber athleticism and is a talented man coverage corner. He only has 7 pass break-ups and 1 interception this year, but that likely has to do with teams avoiding him and testing other Washington corners instead. He has impressive ball skills and looks like a quality NFL starter to me.

Sean Parker, S*- I’m not very familiar with Parker’s game, but he is one of the Huskies’ starting safeties and he has a knack for coming up with interceptions. He has 7 in his young career, including 6 the last two years (2 this year, 4 as a sophomore). He is listed at 5’10”, 190 pounds and is from Los Angeles, California but has been overshadowed by the dynamic talent of Shaq Thompson this year. I think Parker has some talent of his own though, so I’m interested to see how he does today.

Shaq Thompson, S- Plenty of people are familiar with Thompson, but in case you aren’t he was one of the best players in California and one of the best safeties in the nation coming out of high school and he has predictably made an immediate impact as a true freshman this year. I hope you’re sitting down, because the 6’2”, 215 pound safety has 66 total tackles (40 solo, and he packs a punch as a hitter), 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 pass break-ups, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Don’t be surprised if this dynamic safety is making plays all over the field today. However, he is still young, so it will be interesting to see if he makes any freshman mistakes against a historically disciplined Boise State team.

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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 the Miami Hurricanes. Miami has had a lot of trouble off the field, both from potential scandal and sanction and because they lost a shocking amount of juniors to early declaration for the NFL Draft. For some it worked out ok, for others it didn’t. Regardless, it left Miami with a relatively inexperienced roster that only projects to start a few seniors on either side of the ball (5 by my count on both offense and defense). That means some growing pains are in order, but I think it will make them a much more competitive team in a year or two. They have the strong armed Stephen Morris at quarterback who will hopefully breathe a breath of fresh air into the Hurricanes offense after watching Jacory Harris bumble around for so many years. They also have underrated running back Mike James back in the fold, and he is being severely overlooked by the college football community and NFL Draftniks. He’s going to have a big year this year. They are relatively inexperienced at wideout, but they have young talent in the form of Allen Hurns and Phillip Dorsett. Their offensive line is actually shockingly good, and they have four players listed at over 6’5″, 310 pounds (the only one who isn’t is their center who is 6’4″, 290 pounds) and return some experience as well. Their offense should be fine, but probably not that explosive unless Morris surprises and multiple receivers break out for them this season.

I’m not sure what to expect from the defense on the other hand. They have some talent, but I have a feeling they are going to go through some growing pains just like the offense will. The unit is highlighted by star defensive end Anthony Chickillo who tied for the team lead in sacks as a true freshman with 5 and future stud Middle Linebacker Denzel Perryman. Ray-Ray Armstrong is no longer with the team, and that means an inexperienced player will likely be replacing him in the backfield next to elder statesmen Vaughn Telemaque. I’m not sure how this defense is going to perform, but if I had to guess I’d say they will probably be an average unit this season. And with that, here are the prospects to keep an eye on:

Stephen Morris, QB*- Morris is a solid but not spectacular college quarterback and I don’t think he’s much of a NFL prospect at this point. He’s listed at 6’2”, 214 pounds and is pretty decently filled out. He’s got some experience starting, and honestly I would have preferred playing him to Jacory Harris last season. You knew what you were getting with Harris, and I would have rather let Morris try to grow and develop but that’s just me! Now Morris is the starter and he is coming into the season with 5 career starts at quarterback. He wasn’t overly efficient as a freshman, and he missed time in spring practice, but it will be interesting to see how strong his command of the offense is since he has been in and out of games so often his first two years.

James is replacing Lamar Miller as the feature back and I expect him to open a lot of eyes this season. He’s very underrated.

Mike James, RB- James was overshadowed by Lamar Miller last season, but he rushed for 275 yards on just 72 carries and 7 touchdowns. He also had 9 receptions for 80 yards and another touchdown. I am actually a big Mike James fan. He’s got the size you love in a running back at a compact 5’11”, 222 pounds and he has a very strong lower half. He doesn’t have the elite speed that Miller does, he’s probably more of a 4.48-4.5 guy, and he doesn’t have the same explosion and acceleration. However, he has fantastic leg drive and absolutely doesn’t go down to arm tackles. He was reportedly struggling with turf toe last season which might explain why he didn’t look as explosive to me, and Al Golden was quoted as saying that he looked faster and quicker in the spring. If that’s the case then James is going to shoot up draft boards this year because his vision, leg drive, shiftiness to make guys miss, his ability to push a pile, balance and his tendency to lower his pads and initiate contact with the defender will endear him to evaluators. And if he’s faster and quicker then he is going to rush for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns easily in my opinion. He has soft hands and can catch the ball away from his body even though he hasn’t been used much in that capacity outside of screens. I haven’t seen him in pass protection a lot, but when I have he has shown good effort as a blocker and has even lined up at fullback at times and blocked for Lamar Miller. He’s a complete back who is ready to be a top 100 pick. Keep an eye on him, I’m a big James fan and he’s easy to root for, especially since his mother died in a car accident a couple of years ago. I’m looking forward to him blowing up and shooting up draft boards this season.

Allen Hurns, WR*- Hurns is a 6’3”, 190 pound junior who had 31 receptions for 415 yards and 4 touchdowns in 7 starts as a sophomore last season. He’s got 4.4 speed and he may be ready for a breakout season this year. He’s the leading returning receiver and with Tommy Streeter, Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd moving on to the NFL there is going to be a lot of production to replace. I’m excited to see if Hurns can step up and become the go-to guy for Morris. I really think he is capable of filling that void.

Phillip Dorsett, WR**- Dorsett is a speedster who supposedly has sub 4.4 speed. He’s undersized at 5’10”, 186 pounds but his speed and burst compensates for it. Not only will he likely play frequently in the slot, but he will be replacing Travis Benjamin as the team’s primary return man on kick-offs and punts. I haven’t seen him before since he is just a true sophomore, but he’s explosive and he’s going to make an impact in the slot and on special teams this season.

Clive Walford, TE**- Walford may be the next Miami tight end to head to the NFL and make an impact. He’s listed at 6’4”, 250 pounds and has 4.6-4.7 speed. Walford was a redshirt freshman last season and only had 18 receptions for 172 yards and 1 touchdown, but I’m intrigued by him and I think that he is going to build off of his 8 starts as a freshman and take big steps forward as a sophomore. Technically he will be eligible for the draft after this season, but I think he will be in Miami for at least two more years. Keep an eye on him, I have a feeling Morris will be getting the ball to him frequently this season.

Malcolm Bunche, OT**- Bunche is a redshirt sophomore this season and he is the guy who has held off Seantrel Henderson from being the left tackle (in addition to Henderson’s injury issues). Bunche is no small lineman either, he’s listed at 6’7”, 325 pounds and while he only had 1 start last year he played in 8 games despite struggling with a back injury last year. According to offensive line coach Art Kehoe he was the ‘Canes best offensive lineman in the spring and is also the strongest player on the ‘Canes, allegedly having done 36 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press despite being only a sophomore! Bunche strikes me as a potential NFL left tackle because despite his size he has pretty good feet and really seems to “get it.” He supposedly watches a lot of film, makes sure he eats healthy, and frequently does extra work with star defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Bunche has never started a game at left tackle, and I’m sure he will have some growing pains at the position but I think he has a lot of upside.

Seantrel Henderson, OT*- Henderson was a top recruit who actually played high school football in Minnesota. He was heavily recruited and was considered the top offensive tackle recruit in the country at the time. When I watched him in high school it was evident he was dominating because he was bigger than everyone else, and I never thought he could play left tackle in college. I also questioned how well he would transition to blocking players that he can’t dominate quite as easily thanks to his size, length and brute strength. We haven’t gotten much of a taste for that as he has only started 11 games in two years with Miami and 9 of those came as a redshirt freshman. He has dealt with injuries and while he has a lot of upside thanks to his size and strength he needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight if he’s going to have any chance of living up to his potential. Because of how highly he was recruited many people think he has 1st round potential, but Bunche is the tackle on Miami who has upside that high. Henderson has a lot of unrealized potential, but I’m not sure he is ever going to live up to his high school billing.

Jon Feliciano, OG**- I don’t know much about Feliciano’s game since he was a redshirt freshman last season, but he started 8 games at right tackle and didn’t allow a single sack. The 6’5”, 320 pound lineman has moved inside to left guard, and should help form a formidable left side playing next to Malcolm Bunche. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing on the opposite side of the line and inside at guard, but his size and work ethic makes him a very intriguing player.

Brandon Linder, OG*- Linder is another mammoth sized offensive lineman who is projected to start for the ‘Canes this season. He is the fourth offensive lineman who is listed at 6’5” or taller while weighing 310 pounds or more. Linder is listed at 6’6”, 310 pounds and still has plenty of room to add weight to his frame. He enters his junior season with 14 career starts, including 12 last season all at right guard. He’s considered the leader of the offensive line since he is the most experienced member of the front five. I’m not that familiar with his game, but he should help anchor a surprisingly talented offensive line.

Two of my favorite ‘Canes; Mike James spraying Anthony Chickillo with a water bottle during practice. Both will have to play great this year for Miami to go to a bowl game.

Anthony Chickillo, DE**- Chickillo is my favorite prospect on the entire Hurricanes roster. He’s only a true sophomore but he is listed at 6’4”, 258 pounds and was tied for the team lead with 5 sacks last season while starting 9 games as a true freshman. He’s going to be a 1st round pick in a couple years and I can’t wait to see what he does this season. He’s already assuming leadership of the defensive line thanks to all the losses they sustained last season, and I think his combination of size, athleticism, work ethic and intangibles are going to culminate in at least two more special seasons before he leaves for the NFL Draft. If you don’t know him, watch him.

Darius Smith, DT- Smith has only flashed some potential at Miami, but his previous listing of 6’2”, 360 pounds meant that while he is a short, squatty player who has the potential to clog up the middle of the defense he also needed to improve his conditioning considerably. He had 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack and 1 pass break-up during his first season with the ‘Canes after transferring from a junior college last season. His conditioning should be much better this year, as he is supposedly weighing in at about 324 pounds now and should move better and be more explosive this season. He is very strong and has big, strong hands that he uses to effectively occupy blockers to plug up the middle of the defense. That earned him the nickname “the Plug” and if he can show that he can stand up to double teams and collapse the pocket as a pass rusher he could move up draft boards this season.

Curtis Porter, DT*- Porter is a 6’1”, 300 pound junior defensive tackle who has a lot of ability but has had a tough go of it with injuries. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2010, and then in August of 2011 he broke a bone in his finger (it actually broke the skin) and unfortunately got infected not once but twice after that. He’s finally healthy and ready to start this season, and he’s got a lot of potential. Despite the injury to his knee two years ago his teammate Darius Smith said that Porter is the quickest and most explosive off the ball of all of the Miami defensive linemen. He only had 10 tackles last year because of his problems with his finger, but hopefully he can stay healthy and prove to be a disruptive force on the Hurricanes defensive line.

Denzel Perryman, MLB**- Perryman is a 6’0”, 225 pound linebacker who had a great season as a true freshman. He started 5 games but played in 12 and totaled 69 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 1 sack. Some have gone so far as to compare him to Miami Hurricanes great and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis this offseason. I won’t go that far, but Perryman has boatloads of potential and should do a fantastic job replacing Sean Spence at middle linebacker for the ‘Canes. He plays aggressive and loves to hit, and stepping into the middle linebacker spot as a true sophomore is a testament to his ability. He may not be Ray Lewis yet, but he did have similar statistics as Ray did as a freshman at Miami and he also wears #52, just like Ray. Perhaps the stars are aligning for the second coming of Ray Lewis, but if Perryman plays as well as Ray on the field and comes anywhere close to his intangibles and leadership capability the ‘Canes will have a special, special player on their hands. I look forward to seeing how he does this season.

Ramon Buchanan, OLB- Buchanan is back for another season with Miami after receiving a medical hardship waiver for a knee injury he sustained last season. Hopefully he is back to 100%, and the 6’1”, 222 pound Buchanan can end his Miami career on a high note. Like many players recruited to Miami he has tons of athletic ability and is very rangy, but struggles to get off blocks once engaged and prefers to avoid blockers and work through the trash to make plays. If he’s all the way back from his knee injury he could be in for a surprisingly good season, and his experience will be helpful as there are only a couple other projected starters on defense that are seniors.

Brandon McGee, CB- McGee is another very talented Hurricane who came to Miami with high expectations but has yet to live up to them. He’s listed at 6’0”, 190 pounds and has a lot of speed and smooth hips, but all of his athletic ability hasn’t translated into production on the field. He had 38 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass break-ups and 1 interception last season, but a player with his ability is capable of more than that. It will be interesting to see if he steps up his play this year, as I think his technique and awareness could use improving. Whether that happens or not will determine whether he’s a late bloomer or a player who never put it together. If the light starts to come on some teams will begin to wonder if his best football is ahead of him, while others will worry that he was motivated by a NFL pay day.

Vaughn Telemaque, SS- Telemaque is the most experienced returning defender for the Hurricanes as he has 36 career starts. The 6’2”, 211 pound safety has a lot of potential and is a rangy defender that tackles well, but he only had 59 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 pass break-up and an interception as a junior. I expect more from him and so does the rest of the Miami coaching staff and fan base. He’s got the upside of a top-100 pick, I’m just not sure whether or not he will live up to that this season.

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 the Kansas Jayhawks. It might seem like there is a dearth of talent on the Jayhawks, and one might assume that given their abysmal 2-10 record last year and statistically awful defense. However, I was quite pleasantly surprised at the talent level of the Jayhawks roster. There isn’t a lot of depth, but just having talent at all was a bit of a surprise for me honestly. Weis was able to recruit some 5th year seniors eligible for immediate playing time, most notably Dayne Crist, and has a chance to make a run at 6 wins and a bowl game in his inaugural year as Head Coach. I’m not sure they’ll get there, but I think they have a real shot at 4-5 wins. They won’t beat teams like Oklahoma, West Virginia or Texas, but games against San Diego State and Rice are winnable and they won’t be as overmatched against TCU and Illinois as some might assume. I’m not going to guarantee a bowl game for Kansas, but I will guarantee 4 wins. They’re good enough to accomplish that even given the enormous amount of coaching turnover in the last 4 years. So keep an eye on Kansas, they might be good for a shocking upset this season, and if they get a couple breaks against better teams they could find themselves in a bowl game. Here are the prospects to look out for on the Jayhawks:

Crist has been through a lot of adversity during his college career, but the former top high school recruit has one last chance to redeem himself at Kansas. I’m rooting for him to end his career on a high note.

Dayne Crist, QB- Weis’ first priority was trying to find a quarterback to run his offense at Kansas, and who better than someone he was already familiar with. That undoubtably was the deciding factor in Crist choosing to transfer to Kansas over other schools, and as a result he will have one last shot to show NFL teams what he can do. I don’t anticipate him ever being a NFL starter, and he might not even stick in the NFL despite his obvious arm talent and NFL size. But for Kansas, having a 6’4”, 235 pound quarterback with a rocket arm is something very new and different, and if he performs well it could really help Weis with recruiting. “I picked Dayne Crist off of Notre Dame’s scrap heap and made him productive, imagine what I could do with you!” Regardless, Crist has a chance to show off one last time for evaluators this year, and I hope he makes the most of it. I’ve never been impressed with his poise in the pocket, he doesn’t seem to be “the guy” in big games or moments, and he looks nervous when he is pressured. The key for Kansas will be keeping him clean and giving him functional space, and if they can do that while helping him get the ball out of his hands quickly as they did regularly in the Spring Game then he could be successful this season. I really have no idea what to expect from Crist this year, and I don’t think he’s going to get drafted, but it will be fun to see what he and Weis can do together in his last hurrah as a college quarterback. Crist has been through a lot, and I may not love him as a quarterback prospect, but you want to root for him after his injury issues to both knees at Notre Dame before being benched by Brian Kelly in favor of Tommy Rees. Here’s hoping he has a good season and avoids any further injuries.

James Sims, RB*- Sims was Kansas’ leading rusher last year with 727 yards and 9 touchdowns (4.0 ypc) and the 6’0” 202 pound back with surprising speed had a firm grip on the starting position until he was arrested for a DUI in April leading Charlie Weiss to suspend him for the first three games of the 2012 season. That may not seem like a huge blow, particularly for something as serious as a DUI, but as far as I can tell that is Sims’ first run-in and Weiss has shown that he will not tolerate that kind of behavior as he dismissed 10 players from the team shortly after being named Head Coach. The Jayhawks have a surprising amount of talent and depth at running back, so Sims will have to fight and produce when he comes back from his suspension to earn his job back. He’s got some potential, but I want to see how he does in the final 9 games (or 10 if they can somehow get to a bowl game), but I’m glad Weis is taking a firm stance on these kinds of issues. That’s a quick and easy way to show your players that you aren’t joking around when it comes to keeping yourself out of trouble- suspend your leading rusher and a sure-fire starter when he slips up off the field. Good for Weis.

Tony Pierson, RB**- Pierson is a true sophomore but I really like his upside. He’s a speedster listed at 5’11”, 170 pounds so he could really stand to add some weight to help him hold up as a potential feature back, but on only 71 carries he managed 396 yards and 3 touchdowns as a freshman (5.6 ypc). Brandon Bourbon will be his main competition for the starting job for the first three games, and Bourbon is more of a power back like Sims thanks to his 6’2”, 220 pound size and running style. Look for Pierson and Bourbon to both be mixed in a lot for those first three games, with Bourbon handling short yardage and the Jayhawks trying to get Pierson in space as much as possible. He showed impressive shiftiness as a runner last year and ripped off an 88 yard touchdown run in the Jayhawks’ Spring Game, so look for him to make plays even though he is still young.

Patterson is an undersized speedster and should be frequently targeted by Crist this year thanks to his ability to make defenders miss and generate yardage after the catch.

Daymond Patterson, WR- Patterson was injured for most of the season last year and chose to take a redshirt so he could come back healthy for one last go-round as a Jayhawks receiver. I’m glad he did, because he is going to be a part of a very intriguing offense this year. They have three returning seniors at receiver in him, Kale Pick and DJ Beshears who have all shown they can produce, they have an intriguing 6’4” target Andrew Turzilli who is just a sophomore, and they have three productive running backs at their disposal. If the offensive line holds up and Crist gets comfortable this could actually be a productive offense. Patterson would play a big role in that, as he had 60 receptions for 487 yards and 2 touchdowns as a junior, his first as a receiver after being converted from corner. He doesn’t have a NFL future at corner, but his unique experience playing corner and his familiarity with tackling will make it easier to play special teams as he fights for a NFL roster spot next year. He’s got pretty reliable hands and the 5’8”, 178 pound receiver has some speed and shiftiness to him. He should be Kansas’ top receiver this year, but he won’t be alone by any means.

Kale Pick, WR- I like Pick a lot, and like many players on Kansas he started his career playing a different position. Pick used to be a quarterback, but last year was his first as a receiver and all the 6’2”, 205 pounder did was catch 34 passes for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not bad for your first season at a totally new position, especially in only 7 starts. Pick figures to be Kansas’ #2 target this year behind only Patterson, and his emergence should allow Beshears and Patterson to play in the slot more. I didn’t see much of Pick last year, but he showed me reliable hands, solid route running and some shiftiness with the ball in his hands. He’s not polished yet, but I think he has a chance to stick as a NFL receiver. I am looking forward to watching him this year.

DJ Beshears, WR- When I saw Beshears catching a pass in the slot I thought he was a running back split out, I didn’t realize he was a slot receiver. He is listed at 5’9”, 185 but may only be 5’8” and his lower body looks more like Maurice Jones-Drew than any receiver I have ever seen. He’s got some burst and solid hands, and while I don’t think he’s draftable at this point it should be interesting to see what he can do in Weis’ offense. He led the team with 40 receptions for 437 yards and 3 touchdowns last season but with Patterson and Pick emerging I think he will be more of a complementary target this year.

Andrew Turzilli, WR**- Turzilli is a sophomore this year and obviously won’t be declaring for the draft, but he presents some very intriguing size and athleticism for Kansas that they haven’t really had in a while. He is listed at 6’4”, 185 pounds and has the size and speed to threaten defenses vertically unlike any other receiver on Kansas’ football team right now. He is behind three senior receivers this year, but that should give him a chance to sneak up on people and create some big plays down the field without getting much attention from defenses. I would be surprised if Weis elected not to use him since he is an intriguing weapon, and a four WR set with Pick and Turzilli on the outside with Patterson and Beshears in the slot sure would be intriguing, and not many defenses in the Big-12 could take that away easily. He’s unproven right now, but I like Turzilli’s upside.

Mike Ragone, TE- Ragone is yet another transfer from Notre Dame that Weis used his former coaching job to pull. Ragone is a senior and has plenty of size at 6’4”, 250 pounds. Like Crist, he has struggled with injuries and Notre Dame just keeps churning out top NFL talent at tight end, most recently Kyle Rudolph and now Tyler Eifert has a shot at the 1st round. That all contributed to Ragone following Weis to Kansas, and he figures to be the starter for the Jayhawks this year. He only has 11 career receptions for 109 yards, so he is far from a proven commodity, but part of that is due to his struggles with injuries and the two NFL players he has been stuck behind. He’s an undrafted free agent at this point for obvious reasons, from a lack of production to injury issues, but it will be interesting to see if Ragone can stay healthy and get some targets in this offense. There’s a very real possibility that if he earns the starting job that he could double his career production in just one season, and it would be really cool to see him score his first collegiate touchdown with his last chance at Kansas.

Tanner Hawkinson, OT- Tanner Hawkinson is likely Kansas’ top NFL Draft prospect at this point, and he has been a mainstay on the offensive line for the Jayhawks, entering his senior season with a remarkable 36 career starts. He started his first 24 at left tackle before moving to the right side last year, but now he is back at left tackle for his senior season. He’s listed at 6’6”, 295 pounds and he moves well for a man his size, and you can tell that he is a former tight end. I’m not sure he will be able to stick at left tackle, but there is some potential for him to do so. He is athletic and his biggest problem is his lack of lower body strength and ability to anchor in my opinion. If he can get even stronger (to be fair, he has added 70 pounds of weight since arriving at Kansas) in his lower half it would help him anchor better versus bull rushes and generate more push in the run game. Right now he’s a late round prospect, but NFL teams might look at his athleticism and see an unfinished product despite the possibility he will leave Kansas with 48 career starts.

Duane Zlatnik, OG- Zlatnik is probably the second best offensive lineman after Hawkinson, but while I am hoping Hawkinson can get stronger that isn’t a problem with Zlatnik. He is listed at 6’4”, 311 pounds and is considered to be the strongest player on the team. I’m not that familiar with him from a technique standpoint, but now that I have uncovered all of this talent on Kansas’ football team I will likely be watching much more of them this season. He enters the year with 21 career starts, 20 of them coming at right guard, but he will be at left guard next to Hawkinson this season.

Opurum is a former running back (and a pretty good one at that) but his athleticism is on full display at defensive end. I think he has a chance to get 8 sacks this season, he’s got upside as a pass rusher.

Toben Opurum, DE- Opurum is a captain and I listened to an interview he did during the spring and I was impressed with what he had to say. He’s a hard worker, a leader, a team captain and seems like a nice kid. Like so many Jayhawks, he started at another position and for Opurum it was running back. He moved to defensive end, bulked up and after transitioning to DE as a sophomore he produced 45 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 4 sacks, one forced fumble, and a pass break-up as a junior. He’s Kansas’ top returning pass rusher, and was also credited with 7 QB hurries (I don’t like to list those because they are so subjective and usually poorly recorded). Opurum is listed at 6’2”, 245 pounds and likely won’t be a 4-3 DE at that size. It’s tough to make it as a 4-3 DE when you’re 6’2” or under, and few are productive if they get the chance. Opurum’s best bet is probably as a 3-4 OLB where his size wouldn’t be as problematic and his athleticism may be better utilized. Opurum has impressive burst and speed, and while he is new to the position I think he has a shot to double his TFL and sack production from last season. I think he has 10+ TFL and 8 sacks in him, I really do. I like Opurum and I’m really rooting for him to have a great season and get drafted, and I hope to see him at the East-West Shrine Game this year.

Darius Willis, MLB*- Willis is a junior middle linebacker who has NFL size at 6’2”, 243 pounds and is the team’s 2nd leading tackler who is returning this year. He had 81 tackles, 7 TFL and 1 sack last season, his first with the Jayhawks after transferring from Buffalo and sitting out the 2010 season. He has 14 career starts including his two starts as a freshman at Buffalo, and still has two years of eligibility remaining. The Jayhawks are amassing some talent along the defensive line, so it will be interesting to see how Willis builds on his impressive sophomore season. I particularly want to see how he does in coverage.

Tunde Bakare, OLB/SS- Bakare is a hybrid player that I’m not super familiar with, but I do know that in 7 starts last year the 5’10”, 205 pounder amassed 51 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break-up. The most impressive thing about Bakare is that, according to Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, he has 4.35 speed. That’s blistering, and while he’s not much of a NFL prospect at this point that sure would get the attention of NFL teams and it could help him get a roster spot as an undrafted free agent if he shows up on special teams.

Tyler Patmon, CB*- Patmon is Kansas’ top corner in my opinion, and the junior is listed at 5’11”, 180 pounds. As a freshman he started 9 games and had 45 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 10 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. He followed that up with 7 starts as a sophomore, producing 43 tackles, 2 TFL, four pass deflections and another interception. I haven’t seen him play much so I am interested to see if he can continue his playmaking ways as a junior.

Greg Brown, CB- Brown is another solid corner standing at 5’11”, 185 pounds. He had 6 passes defended as a sophomore and had 43 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 pass deflections and 2 interceptions as a junior. I haven’t seen him play much either, so I want to see if he’s draftable. At this point I don’t have him graded as much more than an undrafted free agent, but a good season this year could help change that.

Bradley McDougald, FS- McDougald is the Jayhawks’ leading returning tackler, producing 89 tackles (68 solo), 4 TFL, 1 sack, 5 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble as a junior last season. He is another position convert, previously playing wide receiver before transitioning to strong safety during the season as a sophomore and starting 2 games. He started all 12 games last year and even returned 2 punts for an average of 11 per return. The 6’2”, 214 pounder has a unique skill set thanks to his ability to contribute as a receiver early on in his career (he has 52 career receptions for 558 yards and 1 touchdown, so he can catch) and he is a reliable tackler and has shown the ability to make plays in coverage. He’s underrated, and I really think he has a chance to get drafted. If Kansas’ front 7 can improve their back end could make some plays this year, headlined by McDougald.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom

Here are some notes from last season’s Vanderbilt-Northwestern game. This post will largely focus on Vanderbilt’s prospects that I took a look at, and Part II will focus on the Northwestern prospects plus a sleeper prospect from a very small conference (hint, he is a wide receiver). Enjoy and look out for Part II later this week after I watch the rest of the film for Northwestern’s prospects!

Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt– Heyward seems to be a very fundamentally sound player. He has a smooth backpedal as far as I can tell, he changes directions fluidly and has good footwork when chopping feet to close on plays in front of him. He locates the ball well in the air and has good ball skills. He has good speed and fluid hips to turn and run with receivers and he has good size to match up with receivers on the outside. He also closes well on plays in front of him and seems to have a good burst. He is a good tackler when he wants to be, but he does not support the run aggressively and overwhelmingly prefers to avoid blocks rather than attack and shed them. He does not set the edge very well but he is a reliable last line of defense and actually flashes some pop as a hitter. I am hoping to see more aggressiveness in run support as a senior, but overall he is a good cover corner who is fundamentally sound even if he isn’t flashy. He is going to move up boards if he has another good year this year I can tell you that much.

Chris Marve, ILB, Vanderbilt- I’m a big fan of Marve but he doesn’t shed blocks well and doesn’t have elite athleticism either. However, he is a very good tackler, has impressive instincts and flows to the ball very well. He also demonstrates some ability in coverage. He is always near the ball and shows demonstrates good instincts. He has an impressive feel for the game that makes up for his lack of elite athleticism. He flashes some pop as a hitter but is a very fundamentally sound tackler who rarely arm tackles based on the film that I watched of him. He isn’t great in coverage because of his lack of ideal straight line speed, but he gets reasonably good depth in his drops and looks comfortable in space. He also shows some burst to close as a blitzer and seems to time his rushes well, and clearly understands his assignments when blitzing (whether to make sure to contain the QB or go for the sack, etc.). He is also assignment conscious as a run and pass defender. I’m not sure what kind of intangibles he possesses, but being such a reliable starter at a young age indicates some level of intangibles. Whether he is a team leader or captain or not I am not sure. I would be a bit surprised if he wasn’t a captain this upcoming season. Plus he will only be a junior in 2011 so he definitely has upside. He will be a NFL linebacker, I guarantee it.

Eddie Foster, CB, Vanderbilt- Foster is only going to be a junior in 2011 so he definitely has some upside. I want to see him improve his tackling and his transitions (chopping his feet when he makes a break on the ball or flipping his hips to turn and run with a receiver) could use a bit of work. He’s only 5’10”, 175 pounds so he is pretty small, but depending on his speed he could definitely be a NFL corner. He is relatively unknown at this point and was targeted relatively frequently because he is playing opposite Casey Hayward. He demonstrated some intriguing ball skills and is more aggressive in run defense than Hayward is despite his lack of ideal size. He also works harder to attack and shed blocks which I like to see. He looks pretty fast to me which is critical to his potential as a NFL corner because at his size (listed at 5’10”, potentially 5’9”) he will need to have athleticism on his side to make it to the next level. I look forward to seeing how he progresses next season as a junior.

Sean Richardson, Safety, Vanderbilt- Richardson will be a junior safety in 2011 but he is not on the same level as guys like Casey Hayward or Eddie Foster, fellow teammates in Vandy’s secondary. Richardson is a good tackler and he supports the run well, showing good closing speed and recognition in this part of the game. However, he is a huge liability in coverage, either man or zone, and gave up two touchdowns on his own (one in zone, one in man) against Northwestern. He just doesn’t have the same instincts or ability in coverage that he does versus the run. Because he is such a liability his NFL ceiling is a back-up and special teams player, I can’t really fathom him being a starter given his issues in coverage.

Brandon Barden, TE, Vanderbilt- I think Barden is a huge sleeper this year because he was a popular target for anyone playing quarterback at Vanderbilt last year and clearly has upside as a receiver thanks to his good combination of size, athletic ability and impressive hands. I had no idea who he was until I watched Vanderbilt play and saw him make some tough catches, and I think he will really rise over the course of his senior year in 2011. I can’t wait to see if he starts to move up draft boards this season.

Thanks for reading my notes on Vanderbilt’s prospects! Northwestern’s prospects will soon follow along with my surprise small school prospect to watch out for! Keep an eye out!

–Tom

Quarterbacks:

Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware:

Devlin had a pretty off practice today. In one on one’s he threw high on probably five or six throws, and this is without pressure since it’s just a one on one match-up for the corner. He struggled with ball placement and though his throws had pretty good zip he was letting them get away from him a bit. He flashed impressive ball placement a couple times, including a nice throw on a slant to Toliver. He showed some good anticipation, zip and accuracy on the throw by hitting Toliver in the hole in the zone on the slant. However, he seemed to be checking down faster than I’d like and on a couple plays he missed an open receiver (Perry Baker twice) so I am wondering about his ability to read defenses a little bit. He has pretty good size and arm strength, but his accuracy was not there today.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech:

Taylor had a pretty off practice as well. He overthrew a couple receivers and didn’t have very good ball placement either. He has the arm strength, I am just waiting for him to start placing his throws better. I know he can do it, but he hasn’t shown it yet this week. I talked to him today about an interview and he seemed open to it, hopefully I will be able to get that done in the next couple days.

Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy:

Didn’t see him throw much today, but when I did his passes were usually off target. He struggled making reads today as well, more obviously than Devlin and Taylor did in my opinion. I’m pretty convinced that he is going to be a wildcat QB only at the next level. He will have to convert to RB.

Halfbacks:

Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse:

Carter looks fast, he has good feet from what I can tell and though I didn’t pay much attention to him today specifically he looks good. He continues to show pretty soft hands.

Graig Cooper, RB, Miami:

He got stuffed a couple times in the run game, once by Marvin Austin, but I’m not sure they are good reflections of his vision or his quickness. He has pretty good hands, I believe he caught a pass out of the flat today.

Evan Royster, RB, Penn State:

Royster didn’t impress me much again today, there was a throw to him in the flat that he only got his left hand on from Devlin, wasn’t placed very well. Still doesn’t look very quick or fast to me.

Wide Receivers:

Perry Baker, WR, Fairmont State:

This kid blew me away at the beginning of practice today. Yesterday he was dropping easy passes without a defender guarding him and today he was making snags away from his body after creating some separation in one on one drills. He didn’t look quite as fast with pads on, but he still moves well. He needs work on his route running, but he definitely has the suddenness, the speed and the burst to be an effective route runner, just has to work at it. His hands look totally different than they did yesterday, he had to be nervous at the beginning of practice. He showed some route running ability by getting separation on Van Dyke and running a nice curl on Justin Rogers (who has looked great) and running it so well that Rogers lost his footing and fell down as Baker made his break. He made a body catch later in the practice, so his hands aren’t amazing, nor is his route running, but he looks much better today than he did at the start of yesterday’s practice. He looked like a different player almost. I’ll be looking for more consistency later in the week, hopefully I will be able to talk to him and get an interview.

Lester Jean, WR, FAU:

Jean had a much better practice today as well. He doesn’t run very good routes, but he has some suddenness and he absolutely shook Van Dyke on one route and got a lot of separation. He showed much better hands and caught the ball well away from his body and even dug out a low throw for a nice catch. He struggles with his footwork when running routes though, and it limits his ability to create separation. I’m not sure how much quickness he will ever have coming in and out of breaks, but he does have good speed and looked fast in pads today. He also showed some ability to adjust to the ball when it is in the air, which is good. With his size, speed and potentially good hands he presents some value to be sure. He looked much better today than he did yesterday. He and Baker had great practices.

Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU:

Toliver is my favorite WR here and he had an up and down practice, but is definitely still the best WR here in my opinion. He has very reliable hands though he dropped two passes that I saw today and both of them involved contact. On one play he ran a good slant route and caught the ball but as he caught it Josh Thomas, a corner from Buffalo, laid a big hit on him and jarred the ball loose. Later he ran another slant and shied away from contact that he knew was coming a bit and didn’t make a play on the ball, though it was not very well thrown. It’s pretty apparent that he doesn’t like contact and is more of a finesse receiver, so I don’t think he will want to go over the middle a lot in the NFL. However, his hands are the best of the receivers here in my opinion and he showed some good route running today. He absolutely burned Mario Butler on one long play but it was over thrown. He looks like a solid 3rd or 4th rounder to me for sure.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Mount Union:

Shorts started out slow today and actually lost his footing a few times at the beginning and one more time later in the practice. He was tentative in his breaks after the initial footing problems and you could tell he was taking his breaks a bit slower to make sure he didn’t fall down so he didn’t waste the rep. He adjusts pretty well to the ball, but his hands are inconsistent in my opinion. He drops some catchable balls and also brings some in. He looks like a 5th/6th round guy to me right now.

Terrence Turner, WR, Indiana:

Turner seems to be the worst wide receiver on the East squad. He has struggled to create separation, he doesn’t have very good speed and his hands are inconsistent. He’s had a tough couple of days.

Tight Ends:

Charles Gantt, TE, Michigan State:

I didn’t see much of Gantt today but he seems to have solid hands. I want to see him blocking more because I have heard a lot of good things about him as a blocker.

Offensive Linemen:

David Arkin, OG, Missouri State:

Arkin had an up and down day. A couple times he had effective blocks on Marvin Austin but Austin also beat him on a couple run plays, though he looked good in pass protection against him. Arkin struggled against Martin Parker, the DT from Richmond. This is going to be a really interesting match-up to watch because they have had some good battles already in the first two days. Arkin got beat by a nice swim move by Parker and then Parker bull rushed Arkin into the pocket again. Arkin definitely has some ability though, he just needs to play with more consistent leverage.

Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson:

I haven’t been very impressed with Hairston. He is huge but he doesn’t look like he has good feet and he got away with a hold, a pretty blatant one where he was just tugging with one arm on the DE’s jersey as he ran around him to try to pursue from the backside on a running play up the middle. He looks like a late round pick to me so far.

Defensive Linemen:

Martin Parker, DT, Richmond:

Parker had a pretty good day when I saw him today. He beat Arkin twice with swim moves and bull-rushed him into the pocket effectively on another play. He has a pretty wide body and he has natural leverage because of his size, he seems to be strong as well. In a system that likes defensive tackles to penetrate and get upfield he definitely has some value.

Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina:

Austin had a solid practice, but it wasn’t dominating. He shows signs of his great ability but he drew a lot of doubles today. He fought hard against them but when you are doubled there’s not a lot you can do. He also struggled a bit to get off blocks from Arkin in pass protection, but did a bit better versus the run. He holds his ground well versus one on one blocks for the most part, and shows some violent hands to shed at times. His hand usage could be more consistent in my opinion.

Linebackers:

Greg Lloyd, ILB, Connecticut:

Greg looked good today, he played well. He fills well versus the run and a couple times he read the play in literally half a second and then moved well in pursuit. He plays well downhill and I think he could be a perfect fit as an ILB in a 3-4 defense. I am not sure how comfortable he is in coverage, as he looks a bit tentative at times. I’ll be watching him in that aspect this week. But I think he’s a perfect fit in a 3-4.

Akeem Dent, ILB, Georgia:

I really like Dent and he continues to fill well versus the run and put himself in position to make tackles in the running game. Like Greg I think he is a perfect fit in a 3-4 defense at ILB, and I am not sure how good he is in coverage. I try to watch him but there is a lot going on, so it’s hard to do at times. However, I am very high on Dent. He is a tackling machine.

Brian Rolle, OLB, Ohio State:

Rolle is an agile player and he looked very comfortable in coverage to me today, especially in zone. He is still very undersized though, and that hurts him against the run.

Defensive Backs:

Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond:

Rogers looks like the best corner on the East to me. He has a great motor, pretty good closing speed and he makes plays on the ball and has had a bunch of pass deflections in the first two days of practice. He’s a smaller guy but I love his effort and his ball skills. I don’t know how he is at tackling yet since they haven’t been tackling practices. He has had good coverage for the most part, but Baker did break his ankles on one curl route. However, he stuck with Baker on a streak route stride for stride. He has had a great couple days of practice.

Mario Butler, CB, Georgia Tech:

Butler has not impressed me thus far. He got worked a couple times today in coverage though on a couple bad throws he managed to make a play on the ball for a deflection. He has just underwhelmed me thus far, he doesn’t seem like a mid-round pick to me right now.

Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo:

Thomas had a solid practice today. He laid a couple big hits on people, both of them jarring passes incomplete when they would have normally been catches. He definitely packs some punch as a hitter. I’m not sure how well he locates the ball in the air, but I’ll be watching him more later this week.

Demarcus Van Dyke, CB, Miami:

Van Dyke has struggled a lot the past couple days. He got worked on a few routes today and gave up pretty easy separation to the receivers he was defending and didn’t seem to have much ability to make up ground or close to make a play on the ball. He has definitely been the worst corner for the East.

Jonathan Nelson, S, Oklahoma:

I didn’t see much of Nelson today but he did intercept a pass off of Pat Devlin during practice. Devlin threw the ball late and was staring his receiver down and Nelson read his eyes well, got in front of it and made a nice interception look pretty easy.

Hopefully you enjoyed these notes, thanks for reading! Look out for more posts the rest of the week!

–Tom

I took some notes on the game and I also just had some overall reactions to some players that I paid attention to in the game. Obviously I can’t project them accurately after watching them live one time, but I have a feeling for some of the players that participated in this game as prospects so I thought I would post some notes on them. Hopefully you all find them interesting!

Taylor started off strong but struggled when he was forced to pick apart zone coverage.

Tyrod Taylor showing nice zip on his throws and making good, quick decisions on the first drive. He threw an absolutely beautiful pass to the sideline and Jarrett Boykin high pointed it and made a great catch on the sideline. He showed great hands and ability to make a catch in traffic here. I really like Boykin as a NFL receiver.

Taylor in shotgun, they brought pressure and Tyrod got out of trouble and extended the play. He’s not really one to stay in the pocket in the face of pressure which makes him hard to project to the NFL.

Tyrod has good arm strength and zip on his throws, even when on the run.Tyrod has spent a lot of time scrambling in this game. I like seeing him extending plays and drives with his feet but I wanted to see him stay in the pocket and go through his progressions more.

Tyrod really cooled off when GT started dropping 7 or 8 into coverage with a spy on him. He was forced to make quick reads and deliver the ball fast but he would hold the ball too long and turn it into a broken play by scrambling. There were a few plays where he literally had ALL day to throw but he did not look effective trying to beat GT’s zone coverage at all. It’s good that he can extend plays, but he has shown a strong tendency to hold onto the ball too long instead of delivering it in rhythm.

Williams looked like his pre-injury self at times in this game, but I wonder if he will declare because of his "down" year as a result of injury.

Ryan Williams showed flashes of his former self tonight. He looked a little big to me on TV, I’d be interested to see if he is at his normal playing weight. Maybe that is just me. He looked quick through and showed some nice vision and good quickness/burst. I want to see him run inside more but obviously I haven’t seen much of him this year because of his hamstring. From what I remember he looked like a very effective inside runner to me.

Darren Evans looked solid, but didn’t look like anything special. He is a hard runner but I’d be surprised if he clocked in at anything under a 4.5 in the 40. He didn’t have a great rushing average but he got what yards he could and he didn’t go down on the first hit. He struggled on the goal line but that was because of the penetration GT’s defensive line was getting, that is on the offensive line. That hurt his average as well. He looks like a mid-round pick to me right now, but that was definitely based off of limited viewing of him.

David Wilson definitely looked good to me. He looks like he has a lot of potential as a 3rd down back in the NFL. I’d like to see him catch more passes out of the backfield, but obviously this was a limited viewing of him. But as he gains more experience I really think he could be a valuable commodity when he comes out. He is so dangerous as a return-man, plus he runs the ball effectively… if he develops into a dangerous receiver out of the backfield then he would be potentially as dangerous as C.J. Spiller. He had a huge impact on the game with his rushing touchdown and his ultimately game winning kick off return for a score.

Boykin is the best of the trio of Virginia Tech receivers in my estimation. He has good hands and can make tough catches in traffic.

Jarrett Boykin looked good to me. He can make tough catches in traffic, he has huge strong, reliable hands and he is Taylor’s most reliable target in my opinion. I really like him as a NFL prospect, but he doesn’t look like much more than a #2 WR in my opinion. He has a lot of talent though and as he improves his route running I think he will develop into a reliable NFL target. Guys with his combination of size, hands and ability to make catches in traffic when high-pointing the ball are valuable.

Antoine Hopkins, #56 at DT for Virginia Tech, impressed me last night. He made a few stops right at the line of scrimmage, and coming into the game he had 20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 pass break-up and 1 QB hurry. He was definitely having a strong game in the middle, and he looks like a nice NT prospect to me and he is only a sophomore. I need to see more of him obviously, but he is definitely on my radar. He is a squatty player at 6’1”, 302 pounds but he had a good game last night to be sure.

Rashad Carmichael had a solid game. I didn’t see how well he supported the run against the triple option, but when he was challenged in coverage he gave up a 43 yard completion and then made the game clinching interception later on that same drive. Every corner is going to give up some catches, even some big ones, but I like to see corners that can make a mistake and move on from it and not let one mistake lead to another and another. He was out of position on the play when he made his interception but he closed on the ball quickly and showed an impressive burst to close and he turned his head around just in time to make the interception. He is having a strong statistical season, but I really think he could be a great corner in a primarily zone scheme. I haven’t seen him enough in man coverage to evaluate him well, but he strikes me as a very dangerous corner in zone because of his ball skills and because of how well he closes on the ball.

Hosley has a lot of talent and he is a dangerous punt returner.

Jayron Hosley looked good to me as well. He is only a sophomore but he has a lot of talent. He is having a good season statistically but really he has had one incredible game against NC State in which he had 3 INT’s and 4 passes deflected. He is a talented player though, and I liked what I saw from him as a returner. He is really quick and he can make a lot of guys miss once he gets a block or two. He has to be more consistent in coverage because he likes to gamble from what I can tell, so that means he will give up big plays but also make them. I am excited to continue to watch him mature because he has 1st round talent without a doubt.

I liked what I saw from senior safety Davon Morgan, #2 on Virginia Tech. He looks much bigger on TV than he is listed as he is listed at 6’0”, 196 pounds. I would have guessed that he was 6’3” the way he looked on TV. He is having a productive season from a tackling standpoint, but he made a nice play on the ball in the game last night to make a game-changing interception. I think at worst he will be a solid special teams player in the NFL, but I haven’t seen enough of him to know how reliable of a tackler he is and to see how he is in coverage. Georgia Tech is not a good team to evaluate DB’s against.

Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech’s best receiver, did not really impress me much last night. He seems to be more of a finesse player than Demaryius Thomas was, but he did not make a catch in traffic last night that hit him in the hands and that was disappointing. He was also hurt on the play, and I’m not sure he returned for more than a few snaps the rest of the game. I would have liked to see more toughness than that, but I definitely want to see more from him before I will be sold on him.

I don't know how well Anthony Allen will transition to the NFL because I question his vision as a runner.

Anthony Allen had a productive game, but Georgia Tech’s triple option offense makes it hard for me (and a lot of other people) to evaluate their running backs. Allen is filling in for Jonathan Dwyer this year, and he is doing a good job of it, but the position does not seem to require the vision that a typical running back would need since the quarterback is the player who has to read his keys and decide whether to hand the ball off or keep it. If Allen gets the ball he just runs to the hole and gets what yardage he can, he doesn’t have to have great or even good vision to be effective. He has ability, but I’m not sure he can effectively translate to a pro-style offense at running back. Dwyer has not made an impact on the Steelers at all this season, and after falling to the 6th round I don’t think Allen will be facing a very favorable panel of suitors when the draft finally rolls around. Dwyer has not transitioned well to the NFL, so there isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that Allen will.

Nesbitt will have a tough transition to the NFL, but I think he has the size, athleticism and vision to transition to RB in the NFL at some point.

Josh Nesbitt is an interesting prospect. He absolutely will not be playing QB on the next level, but today one of my good friends asked me if I thought he might be able to play running back. And honestly, I think he has the potential to do so. It would require a good deal of patience on someone’s part, and he might have to take part in a couple of mini-camps and training camps before he finally got a roster spot, but he has good size at 6’1”, 217 pounds and he packs some punch as a runner. He has good vision and he reads keys well or else Georgia Tech’s offense would not be nearly as effective as it is with him at Quarterback. The transition will be a big one, but as a late round pick I definitely think he will get some consideration. He has the size, the athleticism and the vision to contribute at running back in the NFL, so the only question will be how well or quickly he can transition to the pro-style offenses in the NFL.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed the notes, thanks for reading!

–Tom

This is my analysis of Matt Ryan’s Week 1 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played poorly in this game as evidenced by his statistics: 27/44, 252 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 61.4% and a QB rating of 67.6. But there is definitely more to his performance than just his stat line, so when I re-watched this game and took twelve single spaced pages of notes on it I paid particular attention to Matt Ryan and how he played. Here is what I found:

”]Ryan had a poor performance in this game. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was when I watched it live, but he still had a pretty bad game considering everything that happened. The interception he threw to Polamalu was an incredible play on Polamalu’s part because of the instincts, closing speed and just overall uncanny ability to pick the pass off and get his feet inbounds, but it wasn’t an impossible play to make. Ryan had been throwing that same ball to Roddy all game long, he probably threw it at least 10 times or more over the course of the game. The Steelers’ corners started to key on it and had blanket coverage on a number of them as the game went on, but finally Polamalu tried to jump one and he came away with a great interception. That is on Mularkey for calling such a predictable game, but it is also on Ryan for staring Roddy down on that route and for throwing to him on that same deep curl over and over for the entire game. Plus Ryan doesn’t have the arm strength to throw a deep curl to the sideline like that, so his passes hang in the air a bit which gives the defender more time to close on the ball and make a play on it. Hence why Pittsburgh’s corners and defensive backs were in Roddy’s hip pocket all game regardless of how crisp he was going in and out of his break.

He had a number of bad throws in this game (I counted about seven in this game), some of which were due to bad footwork (I counted about five or so instances of this, meaning an off balance throw, throw off his back foot, etc.) and some just due to him getting flustered in the pocket and panicking. There were a few instances where he had time to throw and just missed his target, which will happen. However, we really need to stop making the deep curl and deep out such a critical route in our offense. Ryan can throw it and complete it, but if we keep doing it over and over like we did in this game teams will key on it and have some easy interceptions because of how long the ball stays in the air. He has to time the throw perfectly, throw an accurate ball and put it on the right shoulder for Roddy or anyone else to have a good chance at catching it, otherwise the defensive back will be able to knock it away if they close on it well or if they are expecting it. Mularkey really needs to work to Ryan’s strengths which involve beating blitzes, quick throws, throws over the middle and throws that require more touch and accuracy rather than pure arm strength like throws to the sideline require. We can’t scrap them from our offense entirely obviously, but there’s no reason we should be blatantly playing to one of his greatest weaknesses on such a regular basis.

Ryan threw the ball 44 times in this game. That number is much higher than I would prefer, especially when our running game was as ineffective as it was.

Ryan had a number of good throws in this game, I counted about seven good throws, five very good throws and fourteen solid throws overall. As you can tell, we threw the ball way more in this game than I think we would ordinarily want to. Our running game was just not effective for the majority of the game, but I will touch on that more when I break down how Turner, Snelling, Norwood and the offensive line did. However, Ryan and Roddy had a lot of pressure put on them to perform well and Ryan did a very good job of coming up with big 3rd down conversions in this game. He started out playing poorly on 3rd down at the beginning of the game which coincided with him looking very uncomfortable with his offensive line. He showed a number of examples of poor pocket poise at the beginning of the game as well as some bad footwork and bad decisions that occurred when he panicked in the face of pressure. That is definitely not something I expected to see out of Ryan so I made sure to see how he looked in those situations as the game progressed. As the game continued he definitely settled down and played better, made better decisions and showed a lot more poise. However, he was getting away with those deep curl throws to Roddy and Roddy made some very nice catches with defenders blanketed all over him which had to help Ryan’s confidence. So after he threw that interception to Polamalu his confidence took a huge hit and he resorted to his earlier antics a bit during the drive in overtime, but still looked better late than he did early in the game.

Ryan definitely had a mixed bag as far as good decisions and bad decisions as well as good/very good throws and bad throws. Again, we threw the ball way more than I would normally like (44 times, which is way too high for a run-first team like us) and we were completely ineffective running the ball (25 attempts, 58 yards and only 2.3 yards per carry). We couldn’t run the ball well so we got into 2nd and 3rd and long situations far too often, and Ryan had to throw us into field goal position to get us any points what-so-ever. We had no balance and eventually we just became entirely too predictable and mistakes were made like Ryan’s interception late in the 4th quarter. Because I am writing this after the fourth game of the season I have the benefit of looking for trends, and I found some that were similar to those I identified three years ago when he came out of Boston College. When he was at Boston College he regularly had to throw the ball a lot to keep the team in games and often when he did that he would turn the ball over more often than when the team had a semblance of a running game. In the two games that we have had no running game (against Pittsburgh and San Francisco we had a combined 156 rushing yards on 54 attempts for a pathetic 2.88 yards per carry average) Ryan threw the ball 44 and 43 times, respectively. In those two games he threw three interceptions versus only one touchdown, had an average of just under six yards per attempt versus over seven yards per attempt in the two games against Arizona and New Orleans, and an average QB rating of about 67 against Pitt and San Francisco versus about 112 against Arizona and New Orleans. In this case I truly believe the stats speak for themselves: When Ryan has to carry the offense by throwing the ball 35 or 40+ times in a game, we struggle and he struggles as well. The only times we will have to do that is when we get behind early in the game or when our run game sputters, which is what happened against Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

The disparity in Ryan's stats when he throws the ball more than 40 times versus 35 times or less is staggering.

Now, I haven’t re-watched the past three games yet so I can’t accurately describe how Ryan played in each of them, but I can tell you right now that the dominant running game we had against Arizona and New Orleans played a significant role in Ryan being vastly more effective and efficient. He is very good off of play-action, especially when we don’t roll him out to the sideline and we just let him make his progressions naturally. However, when the running game isn’t effective and he has to do a lot of straight three and five step drops to try to throw the team into the game he is going to turn the ball over more. That is just who he is as a player. He doesn’t have the rocket arm strength or arm to put the team on his back like Peyton Manning and throw for 400 yards and pull out a win in my opinion, which I now realize means that I don’t think he will be one of the best QB’s in the NFL for his entire career. That is a bit disappointing considering the incredible hype he had after his great rookie season, but he is definitely a good enough QB to put together a crucial game-winning drive when we need it most. I know that because he has done that regularly during his first two and a quarter seasons on the Falcons. That means we can win a Superbowl with him if we surround him with enough talent along our offensive line to consistently run the ball and if we give him enough weapons to keep the defense off balance by spreading the ball around. We don’t have those pieces in place yet so it will be interesting to see how we go about acquiring those pieces to allow Ryan to flourish. Because if we surround him with that talent I absolutely believe he will.

Overall I think Ryan had a below average game, but it was not nearly as horrible as I thought it was watching it live. The Polamalu interception was so late that it made everything seem so much worse than it was. Our offensive line really made it hard on Ryan, but he made quality throws to convert for first downs on at least eleven or twelve 2nd and 3rd downs with seven or eight yards needed to pick up a first down. Many of them were on 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10. That had a lot to do with our ineffective running game obviously, but Ryan still stepped up to the challenge and did the best he could. He definitely missed some open targets in this game because he got too locked in on Roddy, and I saw probably three or four instances when he could have made a routine or solid throw and picked up a nice gain or a significant chunk of yardage. That will happen, but Ryan is usually much better about going through his progressions than he was in this game. It was a poor effort on his part, and that was reflected in his stats, but there was plenty of silver lining to be found in this game in the form of his number of good, accurate throws, his poise in the pocket getting consistently better throughout the course of the game, and his regular conversions in long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. It will be interesting to break down the rest of the Falcons games this year to see how Ryan progresses as the season goes on during my careful film study of each game.

Look out for more in-depth Falcons analysis! Go Falcons!!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed this piece. I will have a number of other Falcons-focused reviews coming throughout the course of the season as I get around to re-watching each of the games, taking a lot of notes on each play, and then analyzing the information I gather and summarizing it for everyone to read. I’d like to do this for more teams than just the Falcons, but I think it makes sense to start with the Falcons and perhaps try analyzing a critical game for another team every once in a while. I’m sure I will have a Vikings and Packers game analysis at one point during the season since I see them play so often and I am so familiar with their rosters.

Thanks again!

–Tom