Tag Archive: South Florida


Conference Predictions:

SEC:

West:

1-      LSU

2-      Alabama

3-      Arkansas

4-      Mississippi State

5-      Auburn

6-      Texas A&M

7-      Ole Miss

East:

1-      South Carolina

2-      Georgia

3-      Tennessee

4-      Florida

5-      Vanderbilt

6-      Missouri

7-      Kentucky

SEC Title Game: LSU and South Carolina: LSU is SEC Champion

Analysis: The SEC is loaded as usual, particularly the West. LSU loses Tyrann Mathieu which is unfortunate for every college football fan, but if Zach Mettenberger can establish a consistent passing game then the LSU offense is going to absolutely take off. Alabama is extremely talented as usual, but they are replacing so much on defense and at their skill positions on offense that there’s no way that they replicate their 2011 season. They are my early 2013 favorites however. Arkansas lost Bobby Petrino and their top three receivers, but unless their defense improves they won’t bump LSU or Alabama out of the top of the West. I went back and forth on South Carolina and Georgia a lot because both teams don’t have a great track record of delivering when the pressure is on. South Carolina’s defense could end up better than Georgia’s though, and even though I like Aaron Murray I have some questions about Georgia’s offense. Tennesse has talent and should be solid, but Florida’s ridiculous handling of their quarterback competition means I can’t project them any higher than 4th in the East. Vanderbilt is a bit of a dark horse with a strong core on offense and a bright coach in James Franklin, but just getting to a bowl game would be a successful season for them.

Big 10:

Legends:

1-      Michigan

2-      Michigan State

3-      Nebraska

4-      Iowa

5-      Northwestern

6-      Minnesota

Leaders:

1-      Wisconsin

2-      Ohio State

3-      Illinois

4-      Purdue

5-      Penn State

6-      Indiana

Big-10 Title Game: Wisconsin and Michigan: Wisconsin is Big-10 Champion

Analysis: If Wisconsin doesn’t come out of the Leaders division to compete for the Big-10 title again this year then Bret Bielema should just quit, because outside of Illinois there is no eligible team that has a slightly realistic chance of keeping them out of the title game. Michigan and Michigan State will be a terrific battle down to the end of the season in my opinion, and ultimately it will come down to how well Denard Robinson can deliver the ball and avoid turnovers in big games in my opinion. If he carries the Wolverine offense on his back he could be a finalist for the Heisman as well. Nebraska has some talent, but they will never be a legitimate Big-10 title contender until they get a real quarterback to replace Taylor Martinez, who is one of the worst passing quarterbacks of all the teams that don’t run an option offense.

ACC:

Atlantic:

1-      Florida State

2-      Clemson

3-      NC State

4-      Wake Forest

5-      Boston College

6-      Maryland

Coastal:

1-      Virginia Tech

2-      Georgia Tech

3-      North Carolina

4-      Miami

5-      Virginia

6-      Duke

ACC Title Game: Virginia Tech and Florida State: Virginia Tech is ACC Champion.

Analysis: Florida State is incredibly loaded, particularly on defense. Their defensive line is the best in football in my opinion, even better than LSU’s, and they return enough talent on offense to be a dark horse contender for the National Championship game. I don’t think they’ll make it because I’m not a big believer in EJ Manuel, but if he can improve enough to put up points this team could end up in the top 5 by season’s end. And yet, I have a gut feeling that this is Virginia Tech’s year and I think they will go toe to toe with Florida State in the ACC Championship game and win. I trust Logan Thomas more than Manuel in critical situations even if he is younger with less experience, and Virginia Tech returns plenty of talent on defense as well. Clemson will be nipping at Florida State’s heels as well but I don’t think Clemson’s offensive line has enough talent and experience to keep Florida State’s relentlessly deep and talented front four from terrorizing Boyd when he drops back to pass.

Big 12:

1-      West Virginia

2-      Kansas State

3-      Oklahoma

4-      Texas

5-      TCU

6-      Oklahoma State

7-      Texas Tech

8-      Baylor

9-      Kansas

10-   Iowa State

West Virginia is Big-12 Champion.

Analysis: I’m sure plenty of people will be surprised that I have West Virginia and Kansas State ranked ahead of Oklahoma and Texas, but I have plenty of faith in West Virginia’s offense to pass their way to the top of the Big-12 and if their defense improves at all they could very well win this conference. Kansas State shocked everyone last year by not only being good but by being good enough to get to the Cotton Bowl. And yet, everyone is writing them off again this year even though they return plenty of talent across their roster, and even their losses on defense aren’t irreplaceable. Collin Klein is the Tim Tebow of the Big-12 and he will keep Kansas State competitive even if it isn’t always pretty, and those writing KSU off will look foolish again this year. Oklahoma continues to be ranked in the top 5 year after year regardless of how many times they fail to live up to their talent level. Landry Jones plays a big role in that, and there aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t want leading my team more than Jones. He’s not reliable under pressure, he panics in big time situations and collapsed when his best receiver Ryan Broyles went down last season. Oklahoma has plenty of talent on defense, but that has never stopped them from failing to live up to expectations, and even though Mike Stoops is back in the fold I don’t think it will be enough to win the Big-12 or a National Championship. Texas seemed to be on the right track naming a starting quarterback, but now the competition is back on and when you have two quarterbacks you really have none. So as good as that defense is it won’t matter if they don’t have any continuity at quarterback.

Pac-12:

North:

1-      Oregon

2-      Washington

3-      Stanford

4-      California

5-      Oregon State

6-      Washington State

South:

1-      Southern Cal

2-      Utah

3-      UCLA

4-      Arizona State

5-      Arizona

6-      Colorado

Pac-12 Title Game: USC and Oregon: USC is Pac-12 Champion.

Analysis: The Pac-12 is honestly one of the worst conferences top to bottom in the country, I was shocked by how little overall depth both divisions had. The North has three, maybe four bowl game caliber teams and the South has TWO. Look at that 3-6 list, only UCLA has an chance at a bowl game out of those four teams, and ASU, Arizona and Colorado should be awful this season. Oregon and USC both have a pretty easy road to the Pac-12 title game if you ask me, though Washington and Stanford won’t be pushovers even in spite of all the talent they lost.

Big East:

1-      Cincinnati

2-      Louisville

3-      South Florida

4-      Pittsburgh

5-      Rutgers

6-      Syracuse

7-      Connecticut

8-      Temple

Cincinnati is Big East Champion.

Analysis: The Big East is probably the worst big time conference in college football and they are clinging on for dear life and relevance right now. Cincinnati is the best by default this year now that West Virginia bolted for the Big-12, and after Louisville there isn’t a lot to write home about in the Big East. There’s the potential for some bowl eligible teams, but there isn’t a legit title contender in this whole conference and whoever the winner is will likely play a better conference champion in a BCS bowl game and get the tar beat out of them like Connecticut did two years ago at the hands of Oklahoma.

 

Thanks for reading, and happy college football season to each and every one of you!

–Tom

Defense:

Defensive Line:

1. DaJohn Harris, DT, Southern Cal: DaJohn Harris was a guy that I thought was very underrated all season long and I think he opened some eyes this week. He doesn’t have elite size, strength or speed but he is well rounded and consistent. He needs to play lower at times but he can rush the passer and stop the run from the 3 tech position which is where I think he has the most NFL upside. He should be able to contribute to a rotation early in his career and could go in the 4th round range.

2. Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina Canada: Hicks may not have played like the 2nd best defensive linemen every day but I don’t think there is any question he has the upside to be one of the best players that was in St. Petersburg this week. He has all the size, power, athleticism and length that you could want in a defensive tackle and he flashed a lot of potential this week. It wasn’t always consistent, and he needs significant work on playing with leverage and he needs to develop much better technique and hand usage, but there is a lot of raw potential there. If he lands on a team with a good defensive line coach and they are patient with him he could end up being something special.

3. Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri: Hamilton was a late round pick before this week but I think he has piqued some interest through his play this week. He has great size and strength for the position and has flashed some burst off the line of scrimmage to penetrate into offensive backfields. He doesn’t offer a lot as a pass rusher at this point and will stand up out of his stance too often which limits his ability to move offensive linemen. He knows that he needs to work on that though and he has been improving in that aspect since the end of his senior season.

4. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State: Crawford was a guy that was not very well known coming into the week but he definitely impressed me when I watched him. I questioned his ability to shed blocks coming into the week but he definitely showed the ability to do that this week and also showed up bigger and stronger than I expected. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the 4-3 defensive end position, but I think he may even be able to slide inside to the 3 tech position or continue to bulk up and play the 3-4 defensive end position. His versatility will definitely help him.

5. Justin Francis, DE, Rutgers: Francis definitely looked like one of the better pass rushers at the defensive end spot this week and on top of that he had an absolute non-stop motor all week. He seemed to be the emotional leader of the West defensive line and the guys I talked to from that group mentioned him as a guy with a terrific motor. He will make hustle plays that’s for sure, I just wonder how much upside he has beyond being a rotational defensive end in the NFL.

6. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina: Robertson may not be a great pass rusher at this point but he definitely showed the ability to play strong at the point of attack and wasn’t easy to move off the ball for anyone on the East offensive line this week. He offers value as a run stopper and warrants a late round draftable grade in my opinion.

7. Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: Jean-Baptiste (or NJB as I like to all him) definitely showed his potential as a pass rusher this week as I compared him to BJ Raji after watching him in pass rush drills on Monday and Tuesday. He was dominating and he was virtually unblockable 1 on 1. The trouble came in team drills when he faced regular double teams and didn’t look great against the run (which was an issue when Baylor played Washington in the Alamo Bowl as well). He plays a little high at times despite his natural leverage because of his height, but he just isn’t as consistent of a run defender as you would like to see. He has upside and he definitely warrants a draftable grade, I’m just wondering if he will ever be more than a rotational guy.

8. Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber definitely flashed his potential as a pass rusher this week but he is too light and lean to stay at 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He will have to transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in my opinion, and while he has the ability to at least be a reserve and a special teamer there I just don’t know if he has the athleticism to drop into coverage. He’s tall and pretty lanky so he isn’t exactly built for coverage, but I’ve never seen him drop into coverage before so he is a bit of an unknown in that respect. I still think he is draftable though and he showed some of his ability this week and may cause some trouble for the lackluster group of tackles on the West squad.

9. Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis looked quite good in 1 on 1 drills this week when he was rushing the passer and definitely showed throughout the week that he has a good first step, good burst off the line of scrimmage and he has a pass rush move or two that he can use off the ball to beat you right off the snap. He wasn’t as good once he was engaged though and he struggled versus the run this week. He can definitely contribute to a rotation as a pass rusher inside, but defending the run is something he will have to try to work on in the NFL. That makes me wonder if he will get drafted or just signed as an undrafted free agent to let him earn his way onto the roster or practice squad.

10. Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath is one player that I would like to rank higher but based on the week I can’t right now. He was playing out of position this week though and isn’t built for the 4-3 defensive end position in the NFL. I don’t think he’s a good fit inside at defensive tackle either thanks to his 6’7”, 282 pound frame. I think he is definitely a 3-4 defensive end and he really didn’t get to show that this week. He’s someone that I think will go in the later portion of the draft but he takes coaching so well and has a perfect frame for that position that I think he will end up contributing to a roster and potentially ending up as a solid starter in a couple years.

Linebackers:

1. Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey was playing out of position this week as a 4-3 OLB but hopefully he won’t be drafted to play in that scheme. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-4 OLB. It would have been nice if he had shown the versatility to drop into coverage as a 4-3 OLB this week, but he looked best when he was doing simple drops, particularly in the flat. He didn’t look great in deeper drops and he made his plays on the ball on his shorter drops. He has potential as a pass rusher and should be able to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB well enough to eventually be a starter.

2. Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon: Kaddu consistently impressed me with his athleticism this week and should continue to do that in today’s game. He is the best 4-3 OLB here this week and he showed that every day in practice. I never got to see him in full pads though so I am interested to see how he runs with them on and I want to see him tackle more importantly.

3. Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas: Franklin is a player that I think is a bit underrated and while he may not be a stud linebacker I definitely think he is a draftable prospect that will provide value as a special teamer and a reserve before potentially being a starter. He won’t start today’s game but he will definitely get playing time. It will be interesting to see the dichotomy between Franklin and Tank Carder at inside linebacker today for the West.

4. Shawn Loiseau, ILB, Merrimack: Loiseau isn’t a guy that makes you say “wow” with his size or athletic ability but he definitely leaves you saying that thanks to his passion for the game and his leadership capability. Whether this kid is drafted or not I would be shocked if he didn’t make a NFL roster because he is willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to and he strikes me as a potential special teams ace. I’m not sure if he has starter upside, but he will definitely be on a NFL roster one way or another.

5. Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada: Marshall is the “lesser” of the two senior Nevada linebackers but I think he might be a more fundamentally sound football player than his teammate James-Michael Johnson who will play in the Senior Bowl next week. I really want to see him tackle though and I haven’t seen him in full pads all week, but he has flashed ability in the run game and in pass coverage.

6. Tank Carder, ILB, TCU: Carder made plays in pass coverage consistently this week as we all expected but I haven’t seen an ounce of physicality from him in the trenches and I don’t think he can shed blocks from offensive linemen up at the line of scrimmage. I really want to see him in full pads when he has to fill versus the run because I think that is a serious weakness in his game. I don’t think he has starter potential in the NFL and I think he will end up being a WLB in a 4-3 when all is said and done.

7. Ronnie Thornton, ILB, Southern Mississippi: Thornton isn’t the best linebacker on either Shrine Game roster but he always looked like a good tackler to me on tape and I am excited to see how he does with full pads on today. He will be a reserve and a special teamer at the next level, but I think he can make a roster doing those things.

Defensive Backs:

1. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Norman definitely had the best week of any defensive back as he regularly made plays on the ball either by intercepting them or deflecting them during all four days of practice. I like his ball skills, his size, his great closing burst and his willingness to hit people. He couldn’t lay anyone out this week, but there were two or three times that I can remember he really looked like he wanted to. I’m excited to see how he supports versus the run and how he tackles today.

2. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater didn’t have a great season this year but he had a good week of practice this week. He doesn’t have great hands but he has pretty good ball skills, fluid hips and a nice, low back-pedal. He looks like he can be a quality nickel back in the NFL and perhaps even a #2 starter at some point.

3. Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin was the second best defensive back all week for the East but he doesn’t strike me as a physical player and I really want to see how he supports the run and how he tackles. He is athletic though and showed some ball skills and closing speed this week, but I’m not sold on him having starter upside.

4. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t have a great week when he was dropping into zone coverage and he didn’t always look good in man coverage (particularly against quicker receivers) but he showed his potential as a press man corner one day this week. He looks huge for a cornerback and it’s hard to believe he is only 6’0” tall, but he warrants a draftable grade in my opinion.

5. Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State: I liked Ihenacho coming into the week and I still do but he had his issues in coverage at times this week and didn’t look very fast either. He’s a good tackler though and should be comfortable supporting the run in this game. He’s definitely draftable in my opinion, but I just wonder if he has a future as a NFL starter.

6. Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin: Henry is someone that plenty of people like but I can’t say I’m as big of a fan. He allowed a lot of big plays this year for Wisconsin and I think that is a problem that will not be easily fixed once he gets to the NFL. He’s got the athleticism and some ball skills but I just don’t think he has starter upside at safety. I could be wrong, but I just haven’t seen it and I have watched a lot of Wisconsin football the past two years.

7. Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: Young didn’t impress me early in the week but he looked better throughout the week to me. I’m not sure where his draft stock is at this point, but I think he is draftable and warrants consideration later in the draft.

8. Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy is someone I was not impressed with this week. He looks tight in the hips and is a little tall in his back-pedal, and I don’t think he has much upside outside of being a zone corner where he can close on things in front of him. He struggled in man coverage this week in my opinion and I think he’s a 4th or 5th round pick right now, maybe even a little later.

9. Rodney McLeod, CB, Virginia: McLeod was a bit of a pleasant surprise in my opinion because he showed fluid hips, good footwork and nice low back-pedal consistently this week. I’m not sure if that transitioned onto the field that well but it was definitely there in drills. He has spent time at safety but I think he has a chance to stick as a corner in the NFL.

10. Blake Gideon, S, Texas: Gideon had some of the same issues that Henry did this week as he let guys get behind him deep at times and he was scolded for it by his coaches when it did. He’s a solid player though and I think he warrants some late round consideration, but if he doesn’t get drafted I think he will be able to make a roster as an undrafted free agent.

Punters:

Bryan Anger, P, California: Anger looked great punting the ball all week whether it was with the wind or into it. He timed well on his hang time and the scouts I was sitting with pointed out regularly the sound that the ball makes when it comes off of his foot. He surprised me with his leg from day one at the West practices and he kept it up all week. He may even be draftable as a punter which isn’t exactly common, but he will definitely get a chance as an undrafted free agent if he doesn’t get drafted. He has a NFL leg.

Defensive MVP Prediction: Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: I like defensive linemen in these games but the interior defensive linemen on the East will have a tough challenge going up against Brandon Brooks, the talented guard on the West roster. NJB has flashed potential this week though and I think he is a bit of a sleeper for this award. He can penetrate and get upfield and he has looked good in 1 on 1 situations this week. He could end up with a tackle for loss or two and a sack today.

East-West Shrine Game Preview:

Offense:

Quarterbacks:

1. B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Coleman has been working on improving his footwork this week and while it hasn’t always been reflected by accurate throws you could see the progress being made from Monday through Thursday. He should be the starter at quarterback for the East, so keep an eye on him. He has the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks here, and I currently have a very draftable 4th round grade on him.

2. Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Harnish will be the first to admit that he had his ups and downs this week, but I don’t think that defines him as a prospect at all. Keep in mind, Harnish was taking snaps from under center, going through 3, 5 and 7 step drops and going through more complicated reads and progressions than he was ever asked to do at Northern Illinois. This isn’t to say that he can’t do it, not at all, but he was learning more every day of practice while he was still expected to perform well. I won’t excuse Harnish missing throws high or throwing interceptions this week, but I will say that everyone has to start somewhere and Harnish has made a lot of strides this week. As he would say, there is still a lot of work to be done, but he has the intangibles and the work ethic to continue to drill the techniques he has learned this week until he is comfortable with them. Do not bet against Chandler Harnish.

3. Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Davis may have been the most consistent QB in St. Petersburg this week, but he also had his struggles. His lack of arm strength and ball velocity on downfield throws is pretty apparent, and he had his share of bad decisions and turnovers this week as well. He’s a 6th/7th round or undrafted prospect at this point in my opinion, but I think he has a chance to get picked very late by a team that likes his intangibles.

4. Tyler Hansen, QB, Colorado: Hansen had a solid week and while he obviously has his limitations I think he helped himself a little bit this week. He’s still an undrafted guy in my eyes, but I think he will get his chance to compete for a roster spot or a spot on a practice squad as an undrafted free agent.

5. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern: Honestly, Persa can play and if he was 1-2 inches taller I think he would have a shot as an undrafted free agent. Is he the perfect quarterback? No, but he is a gamer and I wouldn’t bet against him. But his height all but assures that he will go undrafted and he will likely be asked to change positions if he attempts to stick in the NFL. I kind of hope he goes to the CFL because I think he could be a special player in that league if they will overlook his lack of height.

6. John Brantley, QB, Florida: Yes, I ranked Brantley under Persa. Brantley had a rough week and I think some of that had to do with his lack of timing with receivers, but he has mechanical issues he needs to work out and doesn’t have the ball velocity that I was personally expecting. He should go undrafted and he has a chance to make a team in camp, but I don’t think he has any more upside than being a journeyman back-up in the NFL.

Running Backs:

1. Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Poole has been consistent the entire week and has impressed me every day of practice. He has showed good vision, burst and lateral agility every day and I am really looking forward to seeing him try to run through contact today. I really like him as a great value in the 4th or 5th round, so keep an eye on him if your team needs some help at running back.

2. Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky: Rainey impressed me all week and I think he may end up being the starter for the West. I like his burst and his compact frame, and despite his size he has a draftable grade from me. I’m really looking forward to see how he runs through contact because the West never practiced with full pads this week.

3. Marc Tyler, RB, Southern Cal: Tyler was a guy that I wasn’t particularly high on coming into the week, but it’s pretty clear to me that he was nicked up during his senior season and he looked like he was healthy this week. He’s got a strong, powerful build and I am anxious to see how he runs today. He doesn’t have a ton of burst, but he looked like he had more than he did on tape this week.

4. Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland: Meggett is a guy that I have never really been a fan of. He’s got ability and he has weight room strength but I’ve never seen it translate to the field. One scout told me this week that there is a big difference between weight room strength and power. Not everyone has power, but anyone can add strength in the weight room. I believe Meggett is a guy that has weight room strength more than he has power, and it shows when he tries to run through contact.

5. Lennon Creer, RB, Louisiana Tech: I am not especially high on Creer either but he has the versatility to line up in the backfield or be split out away from the formation. It will be interesting to see if lines up outside today. I didn’t see much burst from him this week though and I’m not sure I have a draftable grade on him at this point.

6. Alfred Morris, RB, Florida Atlantic: Morris showed a little burst and some wiggle in practices for the East this week but while he caught the ball well overall I just wasn’t too impressed. I think one of his strengths is running through contact though, so he may very well have a good game running the ball today.

FB:

1. Emil Igweganu, TE/FB, Massachusetts: I wasn’t totally impressed with “Big Ig” as his teammates call him, but he has been invited to the Senior Bowl in what I would assume is a fullback capacity. He should line up there consistently today, but he has missed blocks at times this week when lined up at fullback. I imagine the position is pretty new to him, so it will be interesting to see how he does today.

Wide Receivers:

1. Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas: Wright didn’t have a perfect week, but he did get to display his great speed and his impressive route running all week. He has pretty good hands, not great, but they are fairly reliable. He had a few drops this week but he catches the ball with his hands pretty consistently instead of body catching. He looks like a quality slot receiver in the NFL, and I have a feeling his stock will be boosted once he gets to the combine and runs in the 4.3’s.

2. Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State: Wylie looked like the most consistent receiver on the West squad all week as he consistently ran good routes, created separation with his quickness and caught the ball extremely well. He was underrated coming into the week but he may have helped himself as much as any receiver at the Shrine Game. He has drawn a number of comparisons to Wes Welker this week and should have a good game today.

3. Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech: Benford has been the most consistent of all of the wide receivers this week and should be targeted fairly consistently in this game. He runs good routes and has reliable hands, though I don’t think he has a lot of shiftiness after the catch. That’s something I will be watching closely today.

4. A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Jenkins is one of the more talented receivers here and after a slow start with a number of drops at Monday’s practice he really picked it up and played well the rest of the week. He should get playing time in the slot which is where I think his upside is highest as a NFL receiver. He’s not afraid to go over the middle and while he isn’t a speed demon he does have speed and may be able to get over the top of the West’s secondary today if they aren’t careful.

5. B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Cunningham is a guy that plenty of people are high on but I’m not as big of a fan. He has size and solid speed and burst, but his hands are inconsistent and I wonder how much separation he will be able to create in the NFL. He showed the ability to catch the ball with his hands outside of his frame this week, but he also had drops like I was expecting. I personally just think he’s inconsistent, and that tempers some of his upside in my eyes.

6. Tyler Shoemaker, WR, Boise State: Shoemaker isn’t the biggest or the fastest but he ran good routes all week, came back to the ball consistently out of his breaks to help his quarterback, and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass all week. He doesn’t have an abundance of upside because he’s not a freak athlete and he is pretty polished, but he has reliable hands and runs good routes. He won’t be a guy that people are crazy about when he gets drafted in the 4th or 5th round range, but when he gets to camp he will impress coaches and media alike.

7. Darius Hanks, WR, Alabama: Hanks was a late addition to the Shrine Game but I like him as a prospect. He’s not an elite talent and he lacks size but he showed the ability to create separation with his route running and he caught the ball fairly well this week. I think he’s a bit underrated now that I think his hands have improved over the course of this season, so I may have him ranked higher than most would out of the 14 receivers here.

8. Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State: Moss didn’t impress me early in the week and he looked like he was a 4.55-4.6 40 yard dash guy, but he grew on me a bit over the course of the week. He has a NFL sized frame and uses it fairly well to shield defenders from the ball to make the catch. His hands looked reliable this week and while I don’t think he will be a high draft pick by any means I think he has some upside. He could go in the 6th-7th round range or possibly be signed as an undrafted free agent.

9. Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas: Childs is a guy that I like but I am not sure how healthy his knee is right now. He still hasn’t come back to his old self yet and while he is a good route runner he looked slow out of his breaks, which I concluded had something to do with the knee. He has good hands and NFL height but teams will worry about that knee until he proves it is 100%.

10. Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Lewis is a guy that was pretty under the radar all week. He doesn’t have great size or great speed but he is solid in all areas and caught the ball well this week. He consistently looked the ball into his hands and I don’t recall seeing many drops from him in all four practices. He’s a late round guy and a possible UDFA, but he can stick on a roster in my opinion.

11. Thomas Mayo, WR, Cal PA: Mayo came into the week with some hype but to be honest I didn’t think he lived up to it. I understand that he is raw as a route runner but I had people telling me he would run in the 4.4’s and even the 4.3’s during the week and I just don’t see it. I’ll admit it if I’m wrong, but even if he does run in the 4.4’s it just doesn’t look like it with the pads on. If he can improve his route running and start to play faster it would help his stock, but he does have pretty reliable hands even if he has the occasional issue with concentration.

12. LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: After Monday and even Tuesday’s practice I never thought I would be writing this, but I have to give credit where credit is due and I have always said I can admit when I’m wrong. LaRon Byrd improved every day of practice after looking absolutely terrible on Monday. I can’t recall a dropped pass from Byrd in either of the last two practices, which really says it all. He looked more comfortable playing the ball in the air, he high pointed it at times, caught it with his hands, and even created some separation. I still don’t think it’s very likely that he got drafted, but he really rebounded after a slow start this week and could very well end up with a touchdown today thanks to his prowess in the red zone he showed later in the week.

13. Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan: Hemingway had a solid week and got better as the week progressed until he hurt his hamstring. He may miss the game today which is unfortunate, but I think he was a late round/undrafted prospect coming into the week and not much has changed. He has some ability, but he looks slow on tape to me. The combine will be important for him so hopefully he is 100% for that.

14. Kevin Hardy, WR, Citadel: Hardy got a little hype from people on day one as he was able to demonstrate his speed and quickness but his hands were consistently the worst of all the receivers here in my opinion. Not only did he body catch more than any other receiver in St. Petersburg but when he did try to catch with his hands he dropped a lot of passes. He did catch some and he flashed the ability to make a play on passes away from his frame and above his head, but his hands are a problem right now. If he can improve them and catch the ball better his stock could shoot up, and he seems like a guy that might get a shot because of his athleticism. If he gets his chance and he works hard to improve his hands then he could surprise some people, but the only way he will make a contribution at receiver in the NFL is if he improves his hands.

Tight Ends:

1. Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan: Koger is the top tight end prospect here and I think he has the highest ceiling as well. He was very underutilized at Michigan in the passing game but he seemed to be the tight end that was able to block well and catch passes well this week.

2. Chase Ford, TE, Miami: Ford has the size and range you want from a tight end and he showed he has pretty solid hands this week, but he has a long ways to go as a blocker and his height (6’6”) hurts him when he attempts to get leverage in the running game.

3. Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: Rodriguez isn’t flashy and I think he can make a roster but he doesn’t have the size and speed that teams love at tight end these days. He strikes me as a “glue guy” though and that’s what makes me think he will end up making a team whether he is drafted or not.

Offensive Line:

1. Brandon Brooks, OG, Miami Ohio: Brooks has been the best offensive lineman all week in my opinion. He’s got NFL size, athleticism and strength and he has demonstrated all of that consistently this week. DaJohn Harris told me that he thinks Brooks is the only offensive lineman on the West roster who hasn’t lost a 1 on 1 this week and I think he may be right.

2. Jeremiah Warren, OG, South Florida: Warren didn’t impress me too much early in practice but as the week went on he impressed me more and more. I probably have him ranked higher than most people, but he consistently looked good to me as I continued to watch him. He’s not a great puller, or at least it doesn’t look like it to me, but he has been reliable all week and should be a starter today.

3. Rishaw Johnson, OG, Cal PA: Rishaw Johnson has NFL size and strength for a guard, that’s for sure. He looks heavy footed to me though but he has some athleticism. I love his initial punch and his strength as a lineman, I just wonder if his character concerns will deflate his stock. Interviews will be very important for him, but he definitely warrants a draftable grade.

4. Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State: Saulsberry is the best center here in my opinion and was thought of as underrated coming into the week. He’s probably not so underrated anymore, and definitely warrants a draftable grade as a NFL pivot.

5. Desmond Wynn, OG, Rutgers: I liked what I saw from Wynn a lot this week. He’s got a nastiness and a toughness to him that I really like and he’s got NFL size, length and strength. He plays high though and that limits his potential but if he can improve his pad level and play with better leverage he absolutely has what it takes to be a starting offensive guard in the NFL.

6. Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: Dennis is another player that I like and that I have a draftable grade on but I think most everyone agrees he needs to work on his leverage and his hand placement which are both inconsistent at this point. He has starting guard potential though and I think he could get drafted in the later portion of the draft and end up starting after a couple years of coaching and development.

7. Al Netter, OG, Northwestern: Netter is a guy that I thought would be much better inside at guard in the next level before the season even started, and while he may be able to play at RT I like what he has been able to do at guard this week. I definitely have a draftable grade on him as a guard and I think he could end up starting down the line much like Wynn and Dennis. He’s got the size and length for the position and he improved throughout the week at this new position for him which is always good to see.

8. Jeff Adams, OT, Columbia: Adams looked like the best OT in St. Petersburg this week. I wish that meant more than it does because overall the offensive tackles here were quite awful. Adams looked consistently solid this week though and while he may not get drafted I think he has a shot to make a roster.

9. Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado: Miller came into the week with some hype that he might be able to kick outside to offensive tackle and stick there but that did not happen at all. It started when his arms measured in at 33 inches in length (not ideal for an offensive tackle) and he continued to struggle with leverage and with bull rushes throughout the week. He could have moved up into 3rd round consideration with a good week this week but I think he will be pushed down to the 5th or 6th round at best considering his poor showing. There have been 6’6” guards in the NFL in the past but they were all bigger and much stronger in the lower body than Miller is. I don’t think he has starting potential in the NFL and he definitely hurt his stock this week.

10. Matt Reynolds, OG, BYU: Reynolds is a guy that I have not been high on for well over a year and that hasn’t changed one bit. He still bends at the waist, he still struggles with bull rushes and overall was not impressive in 1 on 1’s or in team drills to me this week. He looks like an undrafted free agent to me.

Kickers:

Blair Walsh, K, Georgia: All week long Walsh was kicking field goals from about the 38 yard line on the sideline through the field goal posts. It’s a horrendous angle but he was knocking them through anyways, and that isn’t a regular 48 yard field goal! He’s definitely got a NFL leg, the only concern is can he make clutch kicks and what happened this past season when he missed more field goals in one year than he had previously missed in three entire years at Georgia.

My Pick For Offensive MVP: Tauren Poole, RB, Tennesse: Poole should get the ball a fair amount and he looked like the best running back at the Shrine Game all week to me. I expect him to lead the East in rushing, score a touchdown and help them ultimately win the game.

Thanks for reading! The defensive preview will be up shortly.

–Tom

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

B.J. Coleman (Chattanooga) remains the top QB in St. Petersburg this week, though he isn’t perfect. His footwork is still developing but he has thrown the ball pretty well all week. He has had accuracy issues, I don’t see a lot of anticipation throws from him, and there are a few balls every day that wobble a bit off of his hand. He has upside and I think he could end up in round 4. Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) had an up and down day today. He threw a couple interceptions today and doesn’t always look comfortable in the face of pressure (which has forced some mistakes from him). He threw the ball better when he had a clean pocket though, but he just doesn’t have the arm to stretch the field sideline to sideline. I still think he can stick on a roster, but he is a fringe draft prospect.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) continued to look like the best back in St. Petersburg again today. He was complimented by the coaches a few times today, showed impressive burst, vision and lateral agility. I can’t wait to see how he runs through contact on Saturday. Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic) showed some burst as well, continued to catch the ball well out of the backfield, and looks thick. It will be interesting to see how he runs through contact on Saturday.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continued his strong week catching the ball well, creating separation as a route runner, and proving to be a reliable receiver. He had a couple nice routes that created separation downfield but quarterbacks didn’t see him open. He should get drafted. One guy I have been critical of all week, LaRon Byrd (Miami) looked like a different receiver today. He ran better routes and I don’t think I saw him drop a pass all practice. He looks vastly better than he did on Monday, so take that for what it’s worth. Kevin Hardy (Citadel) continues to be inconsistent catching the ball, and was working with coaches on his route running from what I could see. His coach told him a couple times that the game would be won with his head, not with his speed. Again, take that for what it’s worth.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continued to catch the ball well today, but I don’t think he offers much as a blocker. He’s got impressive size and length for a tight end along with some athleticism, so he has range as a receiver. His hands are solid and he has definitely helped himself this week, but I don’t think he has a ton of upside. Evan Rodriguez (Temple) looked solid today as he has all week and made a couple nice catches. He’s not a flashy guy, but he’s reliable. Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts) has gotten an invite to the Senior Bowl which surprised me, but I have a feeling it will be as a fullback, not as a tight end. He missed a couple blocks the last couple days when I was watching him though, so we will see how he does.

Offensive Line:

Bradley Sowell (Mississippi) has impressive size but he has short arms (32 ½ inches) and while he has a solid first step and can create a bit of push off the line of scrimmage he leans quite a bit and hasn’t looked good in 1 on 1’s this week. He looks like an undrafted free agent at this point. Lamar Holmes (Southern Mississippi) also looks like an undrafted free agent this point, and didn’t get a lot of positive comments from the coaches this week. At 6’5”, 320 pounds with 35 ¼ inch arms he has the size and arm length to project to tackle, but the ability just hasn’t been there.

Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA) continues to look powerful with his initial punch and he showed some ability to sustain today. He had a few good match-ups with Akiem Hicks today in team drills and he won them for the most part when I was watching. He’s definitely got starter potential, but like I have said before he has character issues that have to be looked into before teams will be comfortable taking him in the 4th or 5th round range.

I’m not sure if I have this 100% right, but it sounded like the offensive line coach was talking to Quentin Saulsberry (Mississippi State) when he said “I hope you’re ready to play the whole game” during practice today. Not exactly a positive comment for Tyler Horn of Miami, but it definitely reaffirms Saulsberry’s solid week of practice if I am correct. Again, take it for what it’s worth because I can’t be sure.

Defensive Line:

Matt Conrath (Virginia) had a good day of practice today. He got his hands up into passing lanes consistently today (and may have been doing this all week) and batted at least two passes down today. One of them was batted up into the air and he came down with it for an interception. He doesn’t have much burst off the line or enough edge speed to play 4-3 DE in the NFL, but I think he looks like a great prospect to play at 3-4 DE. He seems to take coaching well as he has improved as the week has gone on and at 6’7”, 281 pounds he definitely has the size and solid length (33 3/8 inch arms) to project to that position. He won’t go early, but he seems like a guy who could go in the later portion of the draft in the 5th or 6th round, stick on a roster, and continue to work and improve over the next couple years until he ends up being a significant contributor on the defensive line for a 3-4 team.

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) has had a good week this week. He isn’t a top guy obviously, but I think he has a chance to stick as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He’s lean and needs to add weight, but he has some edge speed and burst. He doesn’t have much in the way of pass rush moves and he doesn’t have the natural power from his lower body to bull rush yet, but I think he has some upside.

Linebackers:

Shawn Losieu (Merrimack) looked pretty good today. He’s not a freak athlete and he likely doesn’t have starter upside, but I like his intangibles and leadership capability and he flows to the ball well. He even showed the ability to stack and shed at the line of scrimmage today which was good to see. I’m not sure he will get drafted, but I would wager that he will make a roster. Brandon Lindsey (Pittsburgh) had an interception in coverage today and while he doesn’t look fluid in coverage and doesn’t always get great depth in his drops he should be alright as a 3-4 OLB when he is asked to drop into coverage. For those of you who don’t remember, Justin Houston came out of Georgia last year and I didn’t think there was any way he could play 3-4 OLB because of his struggles in coverage. He had 46 solo tackles and 5.5 sacks this year. So even if Lindsey struggles some in coverage, don’t assume he won’t be able to survive in a 3-4 scheme. Finally, Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) continues to show quality instincts but his athleticism limits his range sideline to sideline and he doesn’t have great speed.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) continues to be the star here and he looked pretty good today. I don’t think he had any interceptions that I know of (therefore marking the first day of practice this week that he hasn’t had one) but he looked good in coverage and may just have played his way into the top-100 of this upcoming draft. Jerrell Young (South Florida) looked solid in coverage today even though he got burned a time or two early this week in 1 on 1’s. I’m interested to see how he looks in coverage on Saturday as he will likely be over the top. But he looked comfortable in zone today. I’m not sure how good R.J. Blanton (Notre Dame) is in zone coverage, but he looks very big for a corner. I will be interested to see how he does in man coverage and in zone on Saturday, but he looked most comfortable in press-man coverage this week.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) continued to pace the group, but accuracy was still an issue for him today. I like his intangibles and he is supposed to be a film junkie, so I think that with coaching and patient development he could be a starter in two years. He’s got the arm and the tools, he just needs time. Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi), on the other hand, doesn’t have Coleman’s tools as I have pointed out since my preview and he didn’t have a very good day today. He threw a couple interceptions, missed high at times, and was generally unimpressive. He’s a solid guy but when he’s not accurate as he wasn’t today, especially early in practice, his value plummets. He can stick on a roster and possibly be a Chase Daniel type where he develops in one system and eventually becomes the primary back-up, but I think that’s his ceiling. John Brantley (Florida) continues to have some issues, but he looked more comfortable today and showed the ability to climb the pocket (when it was there) and made a couple nice throws today. He’s a project though and I imagine he will be an undrafted guy that gets a chance to make a roster in camp.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) paced this group for the third day in a row as expected. He continues to show good burst, vision and has run through what contact has been allowed through the first three days of practice. I like him a lot and he is my prediction for offensive MVP in the game on Saturday. I bet a scout one dollar that he would be the MVP, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Poole strikes me as a complete back, and I think he will be a steal in the 4th or 5th round. Davin Meggett (Maryland) had a solid day but he still goes East-West more than I would like, and I want to see how he handles contact on Saturday. If he can run through tackles and pick up the tough yards it will help his stock, because from what I’ve seen of him he hasn’t done that.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continues to play well and while he hasn’t dominated like he did on the first day of practice he has been consistently good all week. He can create separation, runs good routes and has caught the ball well overall. He’s definitely helped himself this week. He looks like a 4.5 guy to me, but we will see what he ends up running. Thomas Mayo (Cal PA) came into the week with a lot of hype and to be honest I have been a little underwhelmed. I like what he brings to the table as far as his hands and his ball skills, but his route running needs work and I don’t think he has the speed and burst to create consistent separation in the NFL. He looks like a 4.55+ guy to me. He has shown the ability to make catches in traffic though, so I think he has a chance as an undrafted free agent. I’d be a little surprised if he was drafted based on what I have seen so far this week.

Kevin Hardy (Citadel) has good speed and can make good cuts but his hands are very inconsistent. He flashed a nice catch above his head with his hands today, but he body catches consistently and has had issues with drops every day this week. He’s an athletic kid, but his hands limit his upside. B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) has also had a relatively inconsistent week and I think he will end up a 4th or 5th round pick when all is said and done. He will run in the 4.55 range in my opinion and while he has pretty good short range quickness to create a little separation that way you can tell he doesn’t have great speed when he is running longer routes. He just doesn’t have that extra gear. He’s caught the ball better since the first day but his hands are inconsistent in my opinion. LaRon Byrd (Miami) has looked better the last couple days and has made some catches, but it would be hard to look any worse than he did on the first day when he could barely judge the ball in the air and had a number of drops. He will go undrafted and might get a look in camp because of his size and pedigree at the U, but he won’t make a 53 unless there is a lot of hidden talent that he just hasn’t felt like showing scouts this week. I could see him going to the UFL.

A.J. Jenkins (Illinois) has caught the ball much better the last two days which has been nice to see. He’s caught scouts eyes the last couple days especially now that he’s hanging onto the ball, and I still like him as a slot guy in the 4th round range. He could be a nice pick-up for some team there.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continues to have a strong week and while I don’t think he is much of a blocker he has shown value as a red zone receiver and as a guy who has just enough athleticism to threaten down the seam. He’s just such a big target at 6’6” with 33 inch arms. His hands have above average, and he has helped himself this week as much as any of the tight ends. Evan Rodriguez (Temple) didn’t really stick out to me much today, but he did look better than Emil Igwenagu (Massachusetts) who missed a couple blocks when he was lined up at fullback today.

Offensive Line:

The offensive tackles at the Shrine Game overall are not impressive to me at all. Jeff Adams (Columbia) continues to look the best to me for the East, and while he isn’t great I think he has a shot as a back-up RT in the NFL. At 6’6”, 306 with 34 3/8 inch arms he has tools that scouts can work with. His feet looked better today to me, which has been an issue at times, and he mirrored well in 1 on 1’s. He’s not great, but he’s draftable in my opinion. That’s more than I can say for the other tackles on the East squad.

The strength of the East offensive line continues to be the offensive guards. Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA) has raw power and a very explosive initial punch, but I think he struggles to sustain in pass protection and looks heavy footed. He’s big and strong so he has potential, but I think he struggles a bit against speed and his character concerns hurt him. Derek Dennis (Temple) had a solid day and still looks like a guy that will end up as a solid starting guard down the line in his career. He played a bit too high today and has struggled with hand placement this week as he lets his right hand get outside the numbers too often. Desmond Wynn (Rutgers) looks like a possible starting guard to me as well. He’s a 5th round guy right now in my eyes, but he has the size and strength to stick on a roster. He plays too high at times though and that has been his issue all week. If you can correct that I think as he continues to get coached up he could find your way into the starting lineup.

Jeremiah Warren (South Florida) had a good day today, his second in a row. I like what I saw from him today and while he doesn’t look like he’s athletic enough to succeed as a puller he drew compliments from scouts today. He does a good job of redirecting, looks strong and when he had good hand placement he could win a 1 on 1 match-up with anyone today. His hand placement could be improved though and he had some trouble moving Travian Robertson off the ball in the run game. I like him though, and I am going to have to go back and do more film study on him.

Defensive Line:

Nick-Jean Baptiste (Baylor) has lost some of the momentum he had in earlier practices. His motor is still there and that is good to see, but his active hands, burst off the snap and size only get him so far. I don’t think he’s going to be an impact pass rusher at the next level, and looks like a guy who could be good in a defensive line rotation at this point. He has helped himself in my eyes though, as he definitely showed some ability to win 1 on 1 match-ups this week. Akiem Hicks (Regina, Canada) continues to show his upside but he is raw and needs patient development. I definitely think he is draftable though. You can’t coach size and power and he has that, just needs refinement from a technique and leverage standpoint.

Micanor Regis (Miami) and Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) have had solid weeks, but both are late round guys at this point. They both have their upside and have flashed in 1 on 1 drills, but Wilber is too light and struggles versus the run against bigger defensive tackles. Regis can beat you with his speed and athleticism off the ball though, and Wilber showed solid moves to beat offensive tackles with today. He uses the same move(s) over and over though, so he is limited in that aspect.

Travian Robertson (South Carolina) looked solid again today. I don’t think he’s much of a pass rusher but he is strong and can play the run effectively. He’s hard to move off the ball 1 on 1 and I think he can contribute to a rotation in some way. He’s a late round pick, maybe 6th round, but I think he can make a team.

Linebackers:

The linebacker group as a whole at the Shrine Game is weak this year, but Brandon Lindsey and Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) are guys that keep sticking out. Lindsey is playing out of position obviously and his upside is at 3-4 outside linebacker, but he has shown some ability in coverage. 4-3 teams should avoid him because he isn’t a good fit at 4-3 DE or at OLB, but he should get grades in the 4th round range from 3-4 teams. Shawn Losieu (Merrimack) isn’t an overly impressive kid, but he’s a high effort guy and I have a feeling he will end up making a squad as an undrafted free agent. He strikes me as a guy who will be a valuable special teamer during his career even if he never works his way into the starting lineup.

Josh Linam (Central Florida) had an interception on a bad throw from Austin Davis today, but overall I don’t have draftable grades on him, Najee Goode (West Virginia), Steve Erzinger (Army) or Nick Sukay from Penn State.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) set the curve for the defensive backs again today. I only saw two of his interceptions, but I heard that he ended up with three. He continues to show good ball skills and athleticism. He showboated quite a bit today which you’d think he wouldn’t need to do since he should be up to 6 interceptions on the week by my count, but the scouts I was around weren’t too impressed by that. They were impressed by his closing speed and his athletic ability though, and he has definitely helped himself as much as anyone at the Shrine Game this week. Micah Pellerin (Hampton) had a couple nice plays today as well, but he doesn’t look very physical and I am interested to see how he supports the run and tackles in the game. From what I’m hearing about him from scouts I’m not expecting much from him as a tackler. R.J. Blanton (Notre Dame) had his best day so far as he looked good in press-man coverage. His size and solid arm length help him in those situations, and he showed his value there. He has struggled in off-man this week, but when he can get physical he has value.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman (Chattanooga) looked pretty good as usual. His accuracy is still not where I would like it to be, but he continues to look like the best quarterback at the Shrine Game. He threw well on the move today from what I saw but still seems to be working on his footwork. He drives the ball well though, and just needs coaching and I think his accuracy will improve. He was less erratic today, so hopefully he continues to improve over the course of the week. I haven’t seen him make very good reads so far this week either and he should have thrown a pick today, but he has the intangibles and is reportedly a huge film junkie so I don’t think that will be an issue down the line. He’s a developmental guy with impressive intangibles from what I have been able to find out about him, but he will need time once he gets to the NFL. Give him a couple years though and I think he can be a starter.

Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) looked better today, but I think playing next to Brantley helps that a bit. I’d say that Davis is probably the third best quarterback here behind Coleman and Chandler Harnish, but that’s my personal opinion. Davis is a late round guy in my eyes and I don’t think that will change much this week. He’s got intangibles and a solid arm so I think he has the potential to stick somewhere as a back-up. I don’t think he has much starter upside at all, which means he’s a 6th/7th round guy or maybe an undrafted free agent. His ball velocity is noticeably less than Coleman’s and he doesn’t have great size or athleticism. He’s solid in many areas but spectacular in none, but you know what you are getting with him. There just isn’t that much upside to his game though.

John Brantley (Florida) is probably going to go undrafted to be honest. He has more upside than Davis because he’s not a finished product and isn’t as polished, but his mechanics are a pretty obvious issue. Like Davis he projects to be a back-up in the NFL but unlike Davis he isn’t ready to stick as a #3 right away and compete for a roster spot. The future doesn’t look too bright for Brantley and even if he continues to improve during the week I don’t see it helping his stock much. He’s been kind of an afterthought with the scouts I have been around, though he did look a little more comfortable today.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole (Tennessee) continues to impress and I still think he’s the best back here. He’s not going to walk into the NFL and start as a couple scouts have pointed out for the past two days, but I do think he can contribute immediately. He’s not going to rip off huge chunks of yardage and make the big highlight runs, but I think he will be a reliable back in the NFL. He strikes me as a nice 4th or 5th round pick-up that will make the team and contribute more than people expected coming in. He’s my early favorite for the Offensive MVP of the game on Saturday.

Davin Meggett from Maryland and Alfred Morris from Florida Atlantic haven’t impressed me much. Meggett has shown some ability to make cuts as has Morris, but I think the game will be important to evaluate both of them. Meggett is a quality physical specimen that should be better than he actually is at running through contact, and Morris is more of a physical type runner than a quick/burst type of runner. Both have late round/UDFA grades from me right now, but I’ll see how they look the rest of the week.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech) continues to look good as a route runner and he continued to create separation again today. He had a couple drops early in practice but overall he had a good day and has probably had the strongest start to the week of any receiver here outside of Devon Wylie. He’s got good hands and he can catch passes outside of his frame which I really like, but I don’t think he’s going to be much of a yards after catch guy at the next level. But if he can create separation and catch the ball consistently like he has so far this week he should be able to get drafted and make a roster.

Unlike yesterday A.J. Jenkins (Illinois) looked much better today catching the ball. He didn’t look like himself to me yesterday as a route runner or as a pass catcher, but today he looked more comfortable and caught the ball much better which was good to see. One scout that was near me was very high on him, thought he was the fastest guy of the group of East WR’s. I’m not sure I agree with that because I think Hardy could run faster than him, but Jenkins does have some speed and pretty good hands. I have been high on him for a long time, so it was good to see him bounce back strong.

I didn’t see too much from receivers other than that, though Lance Lewis (East Carolina) and Thomas Mayo (Cal PA) did continue to demonstrate pretty good hands. Lewis looks like a pretty good athlete and I like him as a 5th/6th round sleeper at receiver. Mayo still looked slow to me today and is clearly very raw as a route runner, but he has pretty reliable hands.

Kevin Hardy (Citadel) and LaRon Byrd (Miami) continue to disappoint. Hardy can at least run and get open but his hands are as inconsistent as any receiver at the Shrine Game. He body catches often when he does make the reception, but more often than any receiver here he has dropped passes. Jenkins seemed to give him a run for his money on the first day, but he definitely has the most drops of anyone that I have seen so far. One other guy I anticipated having hands issues was B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) and he has shown his inconsistency so far as he has struggled to catch the ball consistently. He had a better day today from what I saw as he was generating more separation and catching the ball cleanly. There are times when he looks like he could be a quality NFL receiver when he catches the ball cleanly, but more than anything I think Cunningham is inconsistent. He should get drafted in the 4th-6th round range but I’m not sure he will ever be a NFL starter.

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford (Miami) continues to impress which definitely took me by surprise. He continues to show pretty good hands and he made a very nice catch off of a tipped ball. At 6’6” with 33 inch arms he presents a big target for quarterbacks to throw to. He may be playing himself into the NFL Draft this week, he even impressed as a blocker at times today. He seems to have taken over the top TE spot for the East as the scouts around me weren’t very taken with Evan Rodriguez (Temple) today. He’s a smaller guy at 6’1.5”, 242 pounds with only 31 5/8 inch arms, so length can be an issue at times. He looked pretty good when he was lined up at fullback today and could be a FB/H-Back type prospect in the NFL. Not sure if he’s built to consistently line up as a NFL tight end, and may not have the speed to threaten down the seam if he is split out, but he is solid.

Offensive Line:

Derek Dennis (Temple) and Desmond Wynn (Rutgers) continue to impress me, though again it was largely in 1 on 1 drills. Both had their ups and downs today and neither are perfect prospects, but I think they can both be solid NFL starters given coaching and development. Dennis seemed to struggle with speed off the ball at times as Micanor Regis was able to beat him off the ball due to his burst and athleticism off the line (plus a nice swim move). However, he did a pretty good job against Jean-Baptiste, a guy who has been very tough to block 1 on 1 this week. Desmond Wynn still plays a bit high and his technique isn’t very well refined but he has good size and when he matched up well with Akiem Hicks today. None of the offensive tackles are very impressive in my book, though I think Jeff Adams (Columbia) has the best chance to be drafted of any of the East tackles. He doesn’t have good feet and will have to try to stick as a tackle on the right side in the NFL, but he showed some push in the run game and looked better in pass protection that the other tackles. You can tell he has long arms as he was able to use them to his advantage to slow defensive ends down in 1 on 1 drills. Joe Long (Wayne State) has the size and length to engulf smaller rushers like Jabaree Tuani at times, but he leans a lot and doesn’t have good balance in my opinion.

Quentin Saulsberry (Mississippi State) continued to have a solid week of practice. He’s not a stud and he doesn’t do great when matched up 1 on 1 with a defensive tackle like Jean-Baptiste, but I think he has the potential to be a solid starting center in the NFL. He won’t be able to drive block defensive tackles which can be so valuable in a center, but he can be a reliable player for you. I still am not very high on Rishaw Johnson (Cal PA), though he does have NFL size and can get a quality push in the running game. He has some character question marks which could scare some teams off, but he has upside.

Defensive Line:

Nick Jean-Baptiste (Baylor) and Akiem Hicks (Regina, Canada) both continued to impress me at defensive tackle today. NJB drew double teams constantly in team drills and continued to prove very difficult to block in 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t always dominate his man and he ended up on the ground a time or two, but he definitely looks like a high effort guy that has demonstrated a quality motor so far this week. He has very active hands plus he is powerful. He didn’t stand up to double teams quite as well as I would have liked today, but he did a pretty good job. Hicks continues to struggle to play with good leverage as he stands up and gets too high after he comes out of his stance. If he can be coached to play with better pad level to avoid giving up leverage he could be quite a talent. He looks strong in his lower body and has plenty of power there. He’s raw and needs development but there is undoubtedly potential there.

I liked what I saw from Travian Robertson (South Carolina) today as well. He looked good in 1 on 1 drills and in team drills. He seems fundamentally sound and played with good leverage consistently. This was particularly evident when he and Hicks would go one after another in 1 on 1 drills. Micanor Regis (Miami) also showed some ability since he has burst off the snap and can beat you with an initial move if you aren’t ready for him. He’s not much more than a rotational guy in the NFL and is a fringe draft prospect at this point.

Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest) and Matt Conrath (Virginia) didn’t have very good days today. Wilber, as I expected, didn’t hold up very well in the run game thanks to his thin lower body and light frame. He also struggled to win match-ups 1 on 1 in drills as his moves looked slow. Conrath also looked slow off the edge but that’s not surprising. He needs to bulk up and play 3-4 defensive end.

Linebackers:

Brandon Lindsey (Pittsbugh) and Max Gruder (Pittsburgh) both looked good to me today. Lindsey is showing some ability to drop into coverage which is impressive for a guy who has played a lot of defensive end in the past two seasons. Gruder continues to play instinctual football and while he isn’t that strong he is fundamentally sound and reliable. He will get drafted and play special teams and work his way up as a reserve. Lindsey’s value is really as a pass rusher, but I don’t think there’s much question he has it in him to play there now that he has shown he can drop into coverage. He’s helped himself this week even if he hasn’t made a lot of splash plays.

Shawn Loiseau (Merrimack College) looked good today as well. He seems to be the leader of the defense which speaks to quality intangibles and he seems to be pretty athletic. I don’t have a draftable grade on him yet, but if he has a strong rest of the week he could draw some attention as a UDFA.

Defensive Backs:

Josh Norman (Coastal Carolina) continues to impress, and he even remembered his own helmet today! He continues to display quality ball skills, impressive closing speed and he was ready to lay a couple people out today. He closed like a heat-seeking missile a couple times, so look for him to hit someone HARD on Saturday. Micah Pellerin (Hampton) and Norman were the two names scouts seemed to think were the best defensive backs on the East roster. I tend to agree, though I’m not as high on Pellerin as some. He’s athletic though, so he has some upside. He’s a fluid athlete who looks good in drills but haven’t been as impressed with him in coverage. None of the other corners impressed me much today, and I think it’s clear Norman has separated himself a bit from the pack.

Matt Daniels (Duke) continued to struggle in man coverage today though he did have a nice hit on Chase Ford after he made a nice catch over the middle. Problem was, they weren’t supposed to be hitting. Jerrell Young (South Florida) looked good in drills and seems to be athletic, but he got burned on day one in coverage and I didn’t see him much today. I’ll be keeping an eye on him.

East Roster Notes:

Quarterbacks:

BJ Coleman, QB, Chattanooga: Coleman was far and away the best quarterback on the East roster and was in my opinion the best quarterback of both practices. He measured in at 6’3”, 234 pounds and had huge 10 ¼ inch hands (this was apparent when I shook his hand when I chatted with him after practice, he has a very strong handshake). His arm strength was apparent from the first throw he made and his passes cut right through the wind. His mechanics looked good as he has a compact, over the top delivery. The ball really shoots off of his hand and he has a quick release. He threw a couple nice deep balls today and demonstrated quality play fakes which I like to see. His accuracy was a bit erratic at times so he has room to improve from an accuracy perspective, but he easily has the best arm in St. Petersburg. He did have a couple wobbly throws during practice and that is something I noticed when I watched film of him, so that’s something I will be keeping a close eye on. I’ll have an interview with BJ up later in the week, so look out for that!

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Mississippi: Davis was probably the second best quarterback on the East today. He doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Coleman or John Brantley, but he still made some impressive throws over the middle and had a nice deep ball one play after Coleman’s beautiful deep ball early in practice. You couldn’t tell the difference between who threw the ball if you only saw the ball, which is a plus for Davis. Davis’ height will make it hard to boost his stock since he measured in at just over 6’1”, 218 pounds. He isn’t the most physically impressive quarterback, but a couple times after a play I saw him pull a receiver aside and talk with him. That definitely impressed me, and it gave me a sense for the intangible qualities I’ve heard he has. It’ll be interesting to see how he does the rest of the week, but he’s never going to throw great passes from the far hash to the opposite sideline, he just doesn’t have that kind of arm strength. I’m not sure he has upside as a starter like Coleman does, but I do think he has the potential to stick on a roster and develop as a back-up.

John Brantley, QB, Florida: Brantley definitely has a strong arm but from the first throw he made you could see the hitch in his throwing motion. His mechanics definitely need work because his throwing motion dips down which elongates it. He has the arm strength to mask it a bit, but his mechanical flaws were obvious when he was alternating snaps with BJ Coleman early in practice. His arm strength was apparent, but his accuracy was inconsistent. Here’s hoping he picks it up the rest of the week because he left something to be desired today.

Running Backs:

Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee: Poole is the top running back in St. Petersburg in my opinion. It’s not easy to evaluate running backs when everyone is in shells and no one can tackle, but Poole displayed quality burst to hit the hole today. Obviously it will be easier to see more when they have pads on the rest of the week, so I will definitely have my eyes on Poole tomorrow. He may not go higher than round 4 or so but I think he can contribute to a NFL team as a rookie at running back. I’ll have an interview with Tauren later this week as well, so keep an eye out for that.

Wide Receivers:

Tim Benford, WR, Tennessee Tech: Benford was the best receiver on the East roster today without question in my opinion. I was consistently impressed with him and three different scouts I talked to liked what they saw from him as well. He created very consistent separation, was regularly targeted and had only one drop near the end of practice. Otherwise he was catching everything with his hands whether it was inside or outside of his frame. He seemed to be running crisp routes and showed some physicality and toughness which I liked. He absolutely ran over Jerrell Young on one play when Young got in his way on his route, and after he beat another defender for a catch in traffic he bumped him as he finished the rep. I really like this kid and I can’t wait to see how he looks the rest of the week. I will have an interview with Tim later this week as well.

Thomas Mayo, WR, California (PA): Mayo has been getting some hype as a small-school receiver and he definitely lived up to some of it today. He displayed impressive hands as he made a couple nice snags outside of his frame today. One scout I talked to said that when he worked him out he thought he had some concentration issues that led to drops, but that didn’t look like an issue today. It’s something I will be looking for the rest of the week though. I thought he looked a bit slow when he was running his routes though and he does need coaching up with his route running, but I think he has more straight line speed than quickness and burst. It will be interesting to see if that hypothesis holds up this week, but I did like some of what I saw from Mayo today.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois: Jenkins is a guy that I have been high on for a long time and I even had him on my list of potential break-out players before the season started. He had a good season like I expected, but he did not have a good day today. He had way too many drops, at least four if I remember correctly, and while he showed the ability to create separation and to beat guys deep he didn’t finish the play with a reception. That really disappointed me, and I’m hoping that since he was a relatively late addition to the game that he just had an off day. I have high expectations for him the rest of the week, but today was not a good start for him at all.

Lance Lewis, WR, East Carolina: Lewis didn’t stick out to me much today, but on a couple plays he did demonstrate solid athleticism and hands. He looked passes into his hands well, but early on in practice he seemed a little bit nervous. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, but regardless I expect him to be more involved in the next three days of practice than he seemed to be today. He’s got draftable ability despite measuring in smaller than his previously listed 6’3” height.

B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: Cunningham started off the practice great today making catches on passes outside of his frame and looking like a polished receiver ready for the next level. But as practice progressed and he started going up against defenders he struggled to separate from some of the athletic defensive backs and showcased his inconsistent hands by dropping a number of passes. I was frankly surprised how well he was catching the ball early on in practice because I always questioned his hands when I watched film of him. He definitely lived up to that billing though, but it’s tough to figure out if his hands aren’t that good, if he has concentration issues or if it’s a mixture of both. I’ll keep track of it the rest of the week and post my thoughts on it.

Kevin Hardy, WR, Citadel: Hardy definitely has some athleticism and he showed quality speed and burst when he was running routes. His hands were inconsistent as well and definitely dropped some passes early on in practice. This same thing happened with Perry Baker last year and he recovered well and had a great rest of the week, so hopefully Hardy can do the same.

LaRon Byrd, WR, Miami: This may be one of the last times I give Byrd much mention in my notes because as expected I don’t think he will be drafted. He looked slow today, showed little to no burst or suddenness in his route running, and had as many dropped passes as anyone if not the most of any receiver all day. He’s an undrafted guy for sure and I’m not sure he will even get practice squad looks.

Tight Ends:

Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: Rodriguez looked like the best tight end on the East roster today. He showed good burst and speed to threaten down the seam and absolutely burned Jerrell Young down the seam as he used good suddenness in his route to catch him flat footed and literally fly right by him. Young recovered though and managed to get up and deflect the pass which was lucky for him because Rodriguez was 5+ yards away from him down the field. Regardless, Rodriguez impressed me today and I will definitely be paying more attention to him as a blocker the rest of the week.

Chase Ford, TE, Miami: I did not have a lot of praise for Ford in my preview for this game but I have to admit he looked pretty good today. He isn’t a great in-line blocker and that showed today, but he made a number of nice catches outside of his frame and showed quality hands. I don’t know that he will be able to threaten much down the seam, but he made a couple nice catches in traffic today which helps him. He’s still an undrafted guy in my book, but he helped himself today.

Offensive Line:

Derek Dennis, OG, Temple: Dennis may have been the most impressive offensive lineman today in my opinion. I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the offensive line today, but every time I watched him he played with good pad level, bent at the knees, showed good hand placement and balance. I didn’t see him match up with Nick Jean-Baptiste at all, but that is a match-up I can’t WAIT to watch the rest of the week.

Desmond Wynn, OT, Rutgers: Wynn was listed as an OG by the Shrine Game roster but I think he has a chance to stick as a RT or as a guard. He measured in at 6’5”, 305 pounds today with 34 inch arms and 10 inch hands. He definitely started the day out right at the weigh in and continued his strong day in practice. Wynn was one of the only guys I saw slow down Akiem Hicks today and if he can work on his pad level a bit I think he has a future as a starter on the offensive line.

Rishaw Johnson, OG, California (PA): Johnson was getting some hype coming into the day but I wasn’t very impressed, particularly in the run game. He did a better job in 1 on 1’s in pass protection, but looked slow and heavy footed in the run game.

I didn’t get many notes on the offensive tackles today, but overall I was not impressed with them as a group. They did a good job in 1 on 1’s against guys like Julian Miller and Jabaree Tuani, but struggled against guys like Kyle Wilber and Micanor Regis. I don’t think this OT class is particularly strong, but it was only the first day. I’ll definitely have more notes on the offensive line the rest of the week.

Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State: Saulsberry doesn’t look like a dominant center but he looks like a well-rounded player who looked good in 1 on 1’s. This may just have been because his teammate Tyler Horn looked completely overmatched and didn’t look draftable today, particularly in 1 on 1’s. I’m excited to see him the rest of the week.

Defensive Line:

Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT, Baylor: All I can say is WOW. NJB as he will be referred to in the rest of my notes was fantastic in 1 on 1’s today. I didn’t pay attention to him in the team drills, but believe me I will be the rest of the week. I had concerns about him holding up versus the run and those concerns have not yet been dissuaded, but NJB looked like BJ Raji in 1 on 1’s. He is a shorter defensive tackle as he measured in at just under 6’2”, 335 pounds much like Raji is and his frame reminds me of Raji’s as well. That’s not to say NJB will end up in the top 10, but the comparison popped into my head today when I was watching him. He showed good burst off the snap, very active, strong and powerful hands and was essentially unblockable. Even when an offensive lineman was in good position and mirrored him he continued fighting thanks to an impressive motor (at least in this drill) and usually ended up winning the drill. I was very impressed and he looked like the #1 DT on either roster based on what I saw from him today. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table the rest of the week, but I hope he does this well in team drills particularly versus the run.

Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina (Canada): Like NJB I mostly saw Hicks in 1 on 1’s but he impressed me there as well. He was solid off the ball, showed active hands and quality bend and hip flexibility which was very nice to see. I was told to watch out for him this week and I definitely see some of what I was told to watch for. He’s got a ways to go as far as technique but the effort seemed to be there. While his hands were active they weren’t always effective and his pad level was inconsistent. When he got his pads low though he showed an effective bull rush which was definitely encouraging. He needs coaching, but the kid has upside without a doubt. He definitely won the weigh-in if that counts for anything since he measured in at 6’4.5”, 324 pounds with 35 1/8 inch arms and 10 1/8 inch hands.

Matt Conrath, DE, Virginia: Conrath predictably looked slow off the edge today and gave credence to the people who have been projecting him inside to defensive tackle. But he measured in at 6’7”, 281 pounds so I don’t think that is his best position despite what others might think. I think he should continue to bulk up and get stronger and attempt to play 3-4 defensive end where his edge speed wouldn’t be as much of an issue and his height and frame would be a huge plus. He has upside but it isn’t as a 4-3 defensive end which is where he is playing this week. That’s unfortunate for him, but hopefully he can demonstrate his value despite playing out of position today.

Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest: Wilber looks just as skinny in person as he does in film and his legs in particular looked very lean which is concerning, but he looked like a natural in 1 on 1’s. He demonstrated quality hand usage and looked smooth using his hands and pass rush moves to beat seemingly overmatched offensive tackles. He won’t hold up well in the run game because of his lack of size and strength, but he is a possible OLB convert thanks to some of his pass rush potential. He didn’t have a big year rushing the passer like I thought he might, but I am really excited to see what he does the rest of the week.

Micanor Regis, DT, Miami: Regis had a couple nice plays today and looked solid in 1 on 1’s. He had a couple impressive bull rushes where he decimated the offensive lineman he was going up against but he was also swallowed up at times. He’s got upside and I think he has some draftable ability so I will be watching him the rest of the week, but I don’t think he helped himself too much today.

Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia: Miller didn’t impress me much today and looked unspectacular in 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t create much push and didn’t show much edge speed either. He is either a versatile player or a ‘tweener, and right now it looks more like the latter unfortunately.

Linebackers:

Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh: Lindsey started his full-time transition to linebacker today and from what I saw it went pretty well. I am very interested to see how he does in coverage the rest of the week but the little I saw of him today was positive. It’s not easy to transition from a down lineman to outside linebacker so I expect some significant growing pains at some point, but I expect he will demonstrate his upside at some point as well.

Max Gruder, LB, Pittsburgh: A couple of scouts sitting around me had good things to say about Gruder today and they were talking about the positive experience they had watching him when they traveled to Pitt’s campus on a scouting trip this year. That doesn’t surprise me one bit because while Gruder isn’t a physical freak he is very fundamentally sound. He’s easy to like for that reason, so while he may not have much starter upside I do have a draftable grade on him because I think he would be very valuable on special teams and as a reserve.

Cornerbacks:

Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina: Everyone was talking about Norman today as a result of his two interceptions. Not too many people mentioned that on the play he collected his 2nd interception on he made significant contact with the receiver as he was running his route and enabled him to recover and track the deep ball and come down with the interception. Not exactly perfect coverage, but he did display quality ball skills all practice thanks to his two interceptions plus a couple of nice pass deflections. He definitely impressed me as I had never seen him before but he consistently stuck out in one on one drills. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on him this week.

Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton: Pellerin impressed me today as well though I didn’t see him very much. He definitely seemed to give B.J. Cunningham fits when he matched up against him, but he showed quality athleticism, closing speed and seemed to be a pretty fluid athlete. Combine that with measuring in at just over 6’0” this morning and he had a good day.

R.J. Blanton, CB, Notre Dame: Blanton didn’t stick out to me too much today but he did seem to have a pretty good feel in coverage. This isn’t a great barometer, but on one play he was covering LaRon Byrd and he almost seemed to run Byrd’s route better than he did. That probably has something to do with Byrd having no suddenness as a route runner, but it was still impressive to see from Blanton.

Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina: As I pointed out in my preview, Brown’s upside is as a zone corner and he showed that today as he closed well on plays in front of him. He turns and runs pretty well though he does have a bit of tightness in his hips. I’m not very high on him and I don’t think he has a lot to offer as a man coverage corner, but he has a chance to prove me wrong this week.

Justin Bethel, CB, Presbyterian: Bethel was a bit of a confusing prospect for me today because he showed some ability to close on plays in front of him but his backpedal needs serious work. There were times he wasn’t even pedaling in 1 on 1’s which was a bit surprising to see. He’s a small school guy who probably got away with some sloppy technique against a lower level of competition, but that won’t work very well here. If he tries that against the talented group of West receivers on Saturday he will get abused.

Safeties:

Matt Daniels, SS, Duke: Daniels has some ability but he didn’t look very good in man coverage today. He got burned a couple times and one time he got burned so bad that when he reached out to try to grab and hold the receiver as he ran his route he couldn’t even reach the guy. I expect that he will have better days than he did today, but today wasn’t a great day for him.

Jerrell Young, S, South Florida: I mentioned him a few times in earlier notes I had on offensive players and that means there weren’t a lot of positive plays that I saw from Young today. He got caught flat-footed in coverage a couple times and got burned as a result of it.

Christian Thompson, S, South Carolina State: I didn’t take a lot of notes on Thompson but he didn’t measure in very well this morning. He was just over 6’0”, 213 pounds and only had 31 5/8 inch arms and small 8 ¼ inch hands. He also looked leggy in his backpedal and didn’t click and close very effectively when I was watching him early on in drills. Overall this group of safeties did not impress me, the corners looked much better today.

NCAA Week 5 Top 25 Picks

South Florida over Pittsburgh

BJ Daniels should have a good game and Pittsburgh struggles with close games. The trouble is, this one might not end up being that close.

South Florida by 13

Texas A&M over Arkansas

Ryan Tannehill had a pretty good game last week in a loss to Oklahoma State, and the Aggies will be looking to rebound against Arkansas just a week after they were thoroughly dominated by Alabama. Both teams really need a win here, but I think Arkansas’ defense will prove problematic against the Aggies.

Texas A&M by 6

Michigan over Minnesota (Potential blow-out)

Denard Robinson should have a big game running and possibly a big game passing against the Gophers who are trying to turn the program around under Jerry Kill. The trouble is the head coach has had trouble with seizures, and there is no way it hasn’t had an impact on his players. Minnesota is simply overmatched in this game, and I see Michigan blowing them out.

Michigan by 24

Illinois over Northwestern

Illinois is a solid team but so is Northwestern. I expect Illinois to win, but don’t sleep on Northwestern. They are well coached and have some talent, plus they never go away. If the Illini let them hang around they could make a late push.

Illinois by 7

LSU over Kentucky (Potential blow-out)

LSU is hitting on all cylinders right now and Kentucky is going to be borderline powerless to stop them. Their defense is the best in the country and their running attack is extremely tough to slow down, much less stop. I see LSU winning in blow-out.

LSU by 24

Boise State over Nevada

Boise State lost this game to Nevada last year in dramatic fashion, but I don’t see Nevada pulling off two in a row. They should be overmatched, and Kellen Moore and company won’t be merciful after what Nevada did to their title hopes last season.

Boise State by 21

Georgia Tech over NC State

Georgia Tech’s running game is absolutely gashing anyone who gets in their way, even my beloved Tar Heels last week, and NC State’s defense isn’t on the same level as North Carolina’s. I expect them to run the ball early and often and control the clock in this game, and I think Georgia Tech should win pretty comfortably.

Georgia Tech by 17

West Virginia over Bowling Green

West Virginia is coming off of a rough loss against LSU, but Geno Smith looked poised and impressive staring into the teeth of the best defense in the nation and actually carved them up to an extent by throwing for 463 yards on 38 of 65 passing (58.5% completion) and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Was it a great game? No, but it was quite good for a developing quarterback against a fantastic defense. WVU should rebound easily against Bowling Green now that they know what their offense is truly capable of.

West Virginia by 28

Baylor over Kansas State

Robert Griffin III has been absolutely amazing this year. Through three games he has completed 70 of 82 pass attempts while throwing for 962 yards (11.73 yards per attempt, an insane number), 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Last season he threw 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 13 games, an impressive statistical season. He is on pace to throw for well over 40 touchdowns at this current pace. It’s hard to imagine him continuing to play this way especially since he is averaging only four incompletions per GAME, but if he keeps playing comparably well to how he has started the season the Baylor Bears will be tough for anyone to beat. I don’t anticipate Kansas State being the team to cool Griffin off, so the Bears should win easily.

Baylor by 21

Auburn over South Carolina (upset)

I think South Carolina is pretty overrated and I think Auburn has a chance to pull off the upset here. Gene Chizik and his Auburn Tigers have a flair for the dramatic and they are tough to beat when you let them hang around. They always seem to make the big play late in the game to keep themselves alive, and they are well coached when it comes to playing from behind late in the game. I love Marcus Lattimore, but I don’t think Steve Spurrier has much faith in Stephen Garcia and I’m not sold on South Carolina’s defense. The game is in South Carolina, but I think Auburn has a great chance to pull off this upset. It will be interesting to see if they manage to do so.

Auburn by 3

TCU over SMU

I think SMU has a small chance of pulling off an upset here, but TCU is the better team overall. It will be interesting to see which way this game goes, but if SMU gets their offense going they could be tough to keep up with. Their running back Zach Line has 463 yards and 11 touchdowns in only four games, and their top receiver Darius Johnson has 27 catches, 398 yards and two scores already. I think TCU will win, but I don’t think it will be as easy as some people might think.

TCU by 7

Clemson over Virginia Tech

This was a really tough game for me to pick. I picked Clemson to upset Florida State last week, but Virginia Tech is extremely tough at home and the Tigers have to cool off EVENTUALLY right? Perhaps, but I don’t think it will be this week. I am high on Virginia Tech’s defense though and I think they have a chance to slow down Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the rest of Clemson’s high flying offense in this game. However, what might define the game is how well Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech’s offense is able to play. Thomas has been solid thus far with 761 yards on 60 of 105 passing (57.1% completion) but he has thrown as many touchdowns (4) as interceptions. Clemson is on fire right now, so it will be interesting to see how this game plays out.

Clemson by 7

Texas over Iowa State

The Longhorns lost this game last year and I think they will make sure they show up to this one. Iowa State isn’t a push-over this year, but I think the Longhorns will be too much for them.

Texas by 14

Oklahoma over Ball State

Oklahoma still has a legitimate argument to be the #1 team in the country, so I don’t think they will have too much trouble with Ball State.

Oklahoma by 28

Alabama over Florida

This is going to be a fantastic game. I think Alabama and Florida have the 2nd and 3rd best defenses in the country only to LSU, so this is going to be a defensive slug fest if I had to guess. I picked Alabama because I trust their offense more thanks to Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy on the ground. This should be a great, close game though.

Alabama by 10

Wisconsin over Nebraska

This game is going to be fantastic. I have been waiting for this game ever since I heard that Russell Wilson might sign with the Badgers. Wisconsin’s run defense might be problematic against Nebraska, but I think Wisconsin’s offense is more than potent enough to put up points on the Cornhuskers. It should be a great game that is close right until the end, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I do expect Russell Wilson to give the Badgers the push they need to win this game. A year ago I couldn’t have picked Wisconsin, but with Wilson at the helm I expect them to win.

Wisconsin by 7

Stanford over UCLA

Stanford is just too talented and well coached to be slowed down by UCLA.

Stanford by 21

Arizona State over Oregon State

Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is a player that I am really warming up to, and I expect that he and the Sun Devils won’t have a lot of trouble with the win-less Oregon State Beavers.

Arizona State by 17

I was 16-3 last week, so let’s see how I do this week! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the games!

–Tom

NCAA Top 25 Picks Post

Here is a post where I make some picks for the games the top 25 teams are playing for the week. I’ll try to do this every week, but I might not always have time. I’ll track them to see how well (or poorly) I do over the course of the season. Enjoy!

Week Four NCAA Picks Post:

Oklahoma over Missouri

Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense and defense are both very good, and Missouri didn’t prove they could win against Arizona State, losing 37-30 in OT. James Franklin will probably struggle to carve up the Oklahoma defense like he did the ASU secondary, and I wonder just how much pressure their defense will be able to apply to Landry Jones. Jones will make poor throws when he has pressure in his face, so that will be the key to hanging in on this game. The problem is, I don’t think Missouri’s secondary can hold up consistently if the Tigers are forced to blitz to create pressure.

Oklahoma by 17

LSU over West Virginia

Analysis: LSU’s defense is the best in the country as far as I’m concerned. They were tested right off the bat against Oregon and stood very tall. I’ve never seen a defensive tackle rotation like theirs in all my years of watching football. I believe that they have four starting caliber defensive tackles, and they arguably have three starting caliber cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon. Claiborne is a junior and Mathieu and Simon are both sophomores, but they might be the best trio of cornerbacks in the country. LSU’s run defense and pass defense are both very good and their defense is very fast, and I think they are going to cause a lot of problems for Geno Smith and his offensive counterparts. On defense, West Virginia will have to pressure Jarrett Lee, but also stop LSU from establishing the running game because they love to run play action after establishing the run (and they’re quite good at it). Without the play action fake LSU struggles to threaten downfield due to Lee’s lack of arm strength. However, I think WVU will struggle to take away the run game, end up loading the box, and therefore allowing Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Deagnelo Peterson to get behind the secondary.

LSU by 16

Alabama over Arkansas

This one was tough for me to call. Alabama probably has the #2 defense in the country behind LSU (at least as far as I’m concerned, but it’s definitely close) and they have a quarterback with limited experience as well in AJ McCarron. Luckily, they have two talented running backs to take the pressure off of him in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Marquis Maze has stepped up as I thought he would and has 15 receptions, 186 yards and 1 TD in the first three contests. I think Alabama will be able to move the ball on offense against Arkansas’ defense, but I think that Alabama will be able to slow down the Razorbacks offensive attack. I love their WR’s, led by Cobi Hamilton as of now (13 receptions, a team leading 252 yards, 19.4 average per catch and 1 TD) and Tyler Wilson has stepped in to fill the void left by Ryan Mallett like I thought he would. However, Alabama’s defense is vastly better than Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy (the three teams he has faced this year) and much better than Auburn’s defense that struggled mightily to stop big, physically gifted receivers every time they matched up against them. Arkansas won’t get shut out by any means, but Alabama is going to be Tyler Wilson’s first real taste of what it’s like to play against a SEC caliber defense, and I don’t think he’s going to enjoy it.

Alabama by 13

Boise State over Tulsa

This really isn’t a hard pick in my opinion. Boise State’s defensive line is fierce and I expect Billy Winn and company to be in GJ Kinne’s face for the majority of this game. Boise State’s offense is still clicking thanks to Kellen Moore, so I expect this to be a relatively easy win. Kinne has a chance to show talent evaluators what he can do though, as his team is clearly overmatched.

Boise State by 21

Wisconsin over South Dakota

This shouldn’t be much of a contest either, as Wisconsin’s offense has the potential to be one of the best in the Big 10 if it isn’t already the best. Their running game and play action game will be way too much for South Dakota to handle, and hopefully they have continued to work on their run defense. If they don’t have it tuned up soon they will have a lot of trouble stopping Nebraska.

Wisconsin by 21

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State

This one was very tough for me to call as well. This could very easily go either way considering it is a rare battle between the #7 and #8 teams in the country. Oklahoma State’s offense is a juggernaut still led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but Weeden has thrown 6 interceptions already this season, so that is a concerning stat for OSU fans. However, Joseph Randle has stepped up to replace Kendall Hunter very nicely, running for 378 yards and 7 TD’s on only 62 carries (6.1 average). Ryan Tannehill is a dangerous quarterback though, and he’s got a number of weapons to work with. I’m not sure which defense is better than the other, but I do think that Texas A&M will miss Von Miller rushing the passer in this game. However, Oklahoma State’s defense is traditionally their weakness, so that is why I had to go with Texas A&M. I will be at an away game during this contest and I am very angry that I will miss it. It should be a great game. But I had to give A&M the slight edge.

Texas A&M by 6

Nebraska over Wyoming

Not a very tough call on this one. Nebraska should win this game easily even if Taylor Martinez doesn’t dazzle as a passer.

Nebraska by 28

Oregon over Arizona

This one wasn’t as easy for me to pick as I thought it might be. Oregon has a pretty good defense, but Arizona can move the football pretty well. I’m still confident in Oregon, but Nick Foles has a habit of surprising people when they sleep on him. I don’t think Oregon will take him for granted though especially after losing a tough one to LSU in Cowboys Stadium, and that’s why I think they will end up with a big Pac-12 win here.

Oregon by 14

Clemson over Florida State (Upset)

Clemson is absolutely on fire right now, and this is the worst time for Florida State to be playing them. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but Clemson’s offense is firing on all cylinders and Florida State didn’t get consistent pressure on Landry Jones last week. Clemson’s offensive line isn’t nearly the equivalent of Oklahoma’s, but they have enough weapons on offense to at least make this a plausible upset. I don’t think Clemson has the defense to keep them in the game if they can’t score, so unless their defense steps up and slows FSU down they are going to make me look foolish for this pick.

Clemson by 7

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

This isn’t as easy of a pick as I thought it would be, especially since South Carolina is in a state of flux and Vanderbilt is undefeated for the first time in recent memory after three weeks. I don’t think Vanderbilt will be able to hold off South Carolina, but stranger things have happened. If it was ever going to happen, I think it would happen now. Steve Spurrier doesn’t seem to have much faith in Stephen Garcia and even though they have one of the best backs in the country in Marcus Lattimore you just never know what will happen in the SEC. I don’t expect Vanderbilt to pull it off, but this is one I would watch as a POSSIBLE upset.

South Carolina by 10

Virginia Tech over Marshall

Analysis: This shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Virginia Tech, but it should be a good tune-up game for Logan Thomas. I think he has tons of upside, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops throughout the season.

Virginia Tech by 17

Florida over Kentucky

Analysis: Kentucky isn’t a terrible team, but Florida’s defense is vastly better than I expected it to be even without Janoris Jenkins. Chris Rainey really impressed me last week and if he can stay healthy I think he could really improve his draft stock. I’m pretty high on Jonathan Bostic, Jaye Howard and Dominique Easley on their defense, so I’m excited to see them play against Kentucky again. I don’t anticipate the Gators having a lot of trouble in this game.

Florida by 14

Baylor over Rice

Analysis: Robert Griffin has been absolutely LETHAL this year. He’s 41/49 for 624 yards (83.7% completion), 12.74 yards per attempts and he has 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. On top of that, he has 116 yards rushing. Kendall Wright has been huge for Baylor with 20 receptions (14 more than the next receiver), 312 yards (184 yards more than the next receiver) and 3 TD’s. I don’t think Rice has much of a chance to slow Griffin down. The first time he might slow down in my estimation would be October 15th against A&M once they get into the real meat of their schedule. I haven’t been able to watch much of him, but it will be interesting to go back and watch him play to see if he has corrected any of the things I said he needed to work on in my preseason scouting report.

Baylor by 21

South Florida over UTEP

Analysis: South Florida is having one of their best seasons in recent memory, at least to start the season, and BJ Daniels seems to be maturing rather nicely. As long as he continues to develop the sky is the limit for USF, and I don’t think UTEP will have much of a chance to slow them down this week.

South Florida by 17

TCU over Portland State

Analysis: TCU lost a tough one against Baylor in week one, but they seemed to have bounced back in recent weeks. Portland State shouldn’t pose much of a threat, even with an inexperienced quarterback still getting a feel for the starting role.

TCU by 17

Michigan over San Diego State

Analysis: Brady Hoke welcomes his former team into the Big House as the Head Coach of the Wolverines this week as pretty heavy favorites. Denard Robinson isn’t my favorite quarterback but he is incredibly fast and I’m not sure SDSU has the speed to keep up with him in this game. Junior Hemingway has really stepped up this year (even though he looks like a TE rumbling downfield sometimes on go routes). It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan does in this game, but I would be pretty surprised if they botched this game after clawing their way into the top 25.

Michigan by 17

USC over Arizona State

Analysis: Before the game against Illinois last week I might have picked Arizona State in this one, but Brock Osweiler is still developing and even though the Sun Devils had a huge win against Missouri a couple weeks ago I don’t think they are ready to knock off USC. USC has a big chip on its shoulder because of the bowl ban that was placed on them, and I think they will approach this game with something to prove even though they are favored.

USC by 10

Illinois over Western Michigan

Analysis: This shouldn’t be a challenging game for Illinois. Western Michigan isn’t a bad program, but I don’t think they have the firepower to stick with Illinois on either side of the ball. They just fought their way into the top 25, so I don’t think they’ll get upset after just earning their #24 ranking.

North Carolina over Georgia Tech (Upset)

Analysis: I have to admit that I am a UNC fan, so that may have had something to do with this pick (which really isn’t much of an upset, though technically it is). I think UNC’s offense can score on Georgia Tech’s defense, and I think UNC’s defense is fast enough and disciplined enough to slow down Georgia Tech’s option offense that absolutely dominated Kansas last week. Georgia Tech is flying high, but UNC usually plays them pretty well and they are talented enough to pull this off. I really wish I could see this game, but I will be traveling and working while it goes on.

Those are my picks for this week. Hopefully you enjoy them and I look forward to seeing some good football this week. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here’s a quick breakdown of a view games that I think will be interesting over the next few days. Part two will be coming soon, but I didn’t want it to be too long of a post considering they are just previews for the games. This covers Thursday, Friday and some of Saturday. Saturday through Monday will be covered in Part Two. Obviously there aren’t a lot of competitive match-ups in week one of the season since most teams are essentially buying wins to start off the season instead of scheduling potentially challening out of conference opponents, but that’s out of my control. So enjoy some of the match-ups that might just end up being interesting!

Thursday:

-Wisconsin-UNLV:

There are plenty of prospects to look at in this game. Russell Wilson (QB), Montee Ball and James White (RB), Nick Toon (WR), Ricky Wagner (LT), Kevin Zeitler (OG), Peter Konz (OC), Louis Nzegwu (DE), Antonio Fenelus (CB), Aaron Henry (FS) and their former nickel corner Devin Smith. On the UNLV side they have a young QB in Caleb Herring who will be trying to improve on an average season as a freshman where he saw action in 8 games but didn’t do anything spectacular. He has an ok running game and a solid receiver in Phillip Payne who has 127 career receptions coming into his senior year as well as 1,786 total receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He should be the main target for Herring in this game, and I imagine Fenelus will be up to the challenge of defending him. That could be the most intriguing match-up in the game outside of Wilson playing his first game on the Badgers, which certainly will get lots of media attention throughout the season as he becomes acclimated to the team, the coaching staff and obviously his teammates on offense. I’m excited to see how they all do in this game, but Ricky Wagner is the best prospect in this game in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how he holds up as a starter at Left Tackle. I have high expectations for him.

Friday:

-TCU-Baylor:

This is an intriguing matchup at the QB position with Casey Pachall replacing Andy Dalton at QB and with Robert Griffin III returning as the starter for Baylor. TCU is overrated as the #14 overall team in my opinion, but they are returning a strong defense led by Tank Carder who terrorized Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. I also think Stansly Maponga has some upside as a defensive end for TCU. Griffin is very athletically talented, but needs significant improvement with his mechanics and accuracy to be a serious or even dominant threat at QB. It will be interesting to see what Pachall has to offer, but Ed Wesley and a strong stable of RB’s are returning to help support him while he adjusts to the starting role. Kendall Wright is going to get a lot of looks from Griffin especially because of the loss of Josh Gordon, a receiver who had legitimate 1st round ability. TCU is obviously the favorite in this one, but Baylor has enough firepower to potentially hang around with them.

Saturday:

-Northwestern-Boston College:

This game could go either way, and has a couple intriguing prospects at QB. The superior prospect is obviously Dan Persa, the QB for Northwestern. He should give the Wildcats a serious boost on offense, and they’ve got a lot of talent on that offense for him to utilize. Boston College has a younger QB in Chase Rettig who should be a sophomore this year. He showed some ability as a freshman last year, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with the Northwestern defense. Montel Harris should help keep some pressure off of him even if he is an average NFL prospect. I think Northwestern is the favorite, but Boston College has a legitimate shot in this one.

-Notre Dame-South Florida:

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite in this game but I don’t buy the hype of them being a potential top 15 team. South Florida doesn’t have a great shot at winning this game but they have a QB in B.J. Daniels who can be very streaky, and can be dangerous when he’s hot thanks to his strong arm and legitimate athleticism so he can threaten with his legs as well as his arm. I’m not sold on Notre Dame’s defense at this point, but their offense shouldn’t have much trouble scoring on South Florida’s defense. Dayne Crist will be starting a game for the first time in a very long time so expect some significant rust, but they’ll make it easy for him to get into a rhythm, especially with Michael Floyd still intact.

-BYU-Ole Miss:

I actually think this could be an interesting game. I know nothing about either QB that Ole Miss was considering starting (except that the original starter Randall Mackey was arrested for disorderly conduct after a fight at a bar) so now Barry Brunetti is starting. I know a significant bit more about Jake Heaps, BYU’s QB, and I am excited to see how he progresses. He was incredibly impressive for a true freshman QB last year, and was quite impressive in their bowl win to cap off their season last year. This will be a huge test for him going against a SEC caliber defense, but I think he might be up to it. Ole Miss will rely a lot on Brandon Bolden, their quality RB, who put up 976 rushing yards (14 TD’s and 6.0 ypc) plus 344 receiving yards and 3 more TD’s on 32 receptions. It’ll be interesting to see how well they move the ball because I have no expectations for their QB. They have some talent on defense, but it will be interesting to see how they match up with BYU. Cody Hoffman, BYU’s very large WR, might create some match-up problems because of his size.

It’ll be interesting to see how these match-ups play out, but regardless I am excited to see some college football finally. Enjoy it, I know I will!

–Tom