Tag Archive: Tight End


Wisconsin Badgers Prospect Preview:

Joel Stave, QB, Sophomore- If my opinion means anything, then Joel Stave should be the starting quarterback of the Wisconsin Badgers. He has to have the inside track for the job after the way he played in the spring game, but the new Badgers Head Coach Gary Andersen likes his quarterbacks to be mobile so it’s no sure thing. However, Stave has all the size (6’5”, 219) and arm strength a Badger fan could ask for. His accuracy impressed me as well, but he has room to grow in that area (particularly on deep balls, which he is hit or miss on). On top of that, Stave essentially saved Wisconsin’s season last year by solidifying the quarterback position and giving them a semblance of a passing game, so I trust him to be an effective starter for the full length of a season if he can stay healthy. Stave completed 58.8 % of the 119 passes he threw a year ago and started 6 games. He passed for 1,104 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in those games. He may not be perfect, but if the Badgers can run the ball effectively they won’t need him to be. I’ll take him over any Badger quarterback I’ve watched since I started watching college football with the obvious exception of Russell Wilson. Now, if Stave can’t stay healthy the Badgers do have a reliable option in Curt Phillips, a 6th year senior, that they can trust to take snaps at quarterback. Still, if I have to choose between Stave and “Curt Tebow” as I took to calling him during some of his late game heroics last year I’ll take Stave and not think twice.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Sophomore- Gordon is a kid that I heard about during the spring game last year and I immediately was intrigued. A 6’1”, 206 pound kid with what I believe is sub 4.5 speed? Sign me up. Gordon was impressive last year and despite being behind both Montee Ball and James White he racked up 621 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns with an INSANE 10 yard per carry average. Not only that, but he added 151 yards and a 21.6 yard average per kick return as well. Gordon is an impressive back with the strength to run through tackles, impressive burst and enough long speed to rip off big chunks of yardage. He’s going to be the next great Wisconsin running back and I’ve been saying it since last August. I still feel the same way, and I can’t wait to watch him split the carries with James White this year.

James White, RB, Senior- White is an interesting player, because as a sophomore he really ran into the “sophomore slump” that talented freshmen run into at times. The 5’10”, 197 pound back ran for “only” 713 yards (5.06 ypc) and 6 touchdowns after rushing for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman. He got back on track as a junior, rushing for 806 yards (6.45 ypc) and 12 touchdowns despite carrying the ball less than he did as a sophomore (125 carries vs 141 carries). He’s Wisconsin’s speed back and he has legitimate sub 4.5 speed, he’s very quick, and he has surprising strength for a smaller back. Not only that, but he’s a reliable and dangerous receiver out of the backfield who figures to be featured more in this role as a senior. I like White, but I can’t quite shake that sophomore slump season from my memory despite the bounce-back year he had last year. I’m still hoping to see that absolutely dynamic freshman again, and I hope he comes back for one last hurrah this season.

Jared Abbrederis, WR, Senior- Abbrederis is a player I’ve been rooting for since he was a freshman. He’s a former walk-on who actually got playing time in one receiver sets over Nick Toon even as a freshman while Toon was a junior. He’s a high effort, high work ethic player who may not be the biggest or the fastest, but he finds a way to get the job done. He’s listed at 6’2”, 188 pounds but I think he will measure in at 6’1” or maybe even 6’0” even. He’s probably going to run in the 4.55 range for his 40 yard dash time so he’s not a burner, but he runs good routes, has good quickness and reliable hands. If he gets drafted I think it will be at the end of the draft, likely in the 6th-7th round range, but it’s entirely possible he ends up signing with a team as an undrafted free agent. Still, Abbrederis has been a reliable receiver for the Badgers since he arrived on campus and he produced 49 receptions, 837 yards and 5 touchdowns last year despite the carousel at quarterback throughout the season.

Kenzel Doe, WR/KR, Junior- Doe was flying under my radar as he only hauled in 16 receptions for 121 yards as a sophomore but I expect his role on the team to increase significantly this year. Doe is a dynamic threat in the slot and as a return man and I expect him to be utilized in a number of ways to take advantage of his speed. Doe is listed at 5’8”, 170 pounds, so he is quite undersized, but he has plenty of speed and quickness to help compensate for that. As a return man he averaged 27.9 yards per kick return and 12.4 yards per punt return, including an 82 yard touchdown against his new Head Coach’s former team Utah State. He had a very good spring game and I fully expect to see him as Wisconsin’s primary slot receiver, kick returner and hopefully punt returner as well. If Stave wins the job I think Doe will easily exceed his 16 receptions and 121 yards as a sophomore.

Jacob Pedersen, TE, Senior- Pedersen isn’t the same prospect that Lance Kendricks was at the position a couple of years ago, but Pedersen is a poor-mans Kendricks to me. He’s not the same athlete, he doesn’t have the same upside, but he is reliable in the pass game and as a run blocker. He’s not going to be a dominant in line blocker at the next level, but as an H-Back type blocker he will be just fine. At 6’4”, 237 pounds he’s not a huge guy but he has enough athleticism for me to think he’s going to get day 3 consideration. He isn’t a flashy player that does anything spectacularly well, but he is solid in all areas.

Ryan Groy, OT/OG, Senior- Groy is a player I was initially worried about sliding outside to tackle, but I think he will be able to hold up alright there as a senior. It’s tough to project how the 6’5”, 318 pounder will do on the blind side since I’ve never seen him play there, but he has enough lateral agility, good enough length and a strong enough anchor for me to think he can handle it. Originally I viewed him as only a guard, but after watching him and taking notes I think he might have a shot at playing tackle at the next level. That is all obviously projection, and I’m certainly not sold on him as a NFL left tackle, but he is carrying a day 2 grade from me into the season without a doubt. I’m excited to see what he can do, because as a guard he showed pretty good hand placement, a good anchor, and was smooth getting to the second level. He doesn’t strike me as a mauler in the run game, and is at his best when he can double team a defender, seal him off, cut him, or combo block and get to the second level. He’s not a great puller, but he looked solid when asked to do it. I think he’s going to be a good ZBS fit at the next level, and could potentially be a very good right tackle in a scheme that uses a lot of those concepts. I can’t wait to see what he can do outside at tackle this year.

Rob Havenstein, OT, Junior- Havenstein was a bit of a problem area for Wisconsin’s line last year but I see potential when I watch him. The most surprising thing about the 6’8”, 342 pound lineman was how quick he was out of his stance as a pass blocker. He gets good depth, is often the first one out of his stance, and doesn’t look like he will struggle with speed off the edge if he can improve his technique over the next two seasons. He has the length, he has the size, he just needs to work on some of his mechanical issues. He ends up on the ground a lot as a result of poor hand placement and I’m not sure if he’s a natural knee bender at this point. He’s obviously huge and is effective when he blocks down on defensive tackles and can wash them out thanks to his size and strength, but he’s not great at getting to the second level. He showed some ability to recover in pass protection which was encouraging, but I’m going to be watching him closely next year to see how he does when he is tested by quality pass rushers.

Kyle Costigan, OG, Junior- It’s official- the Kyle Costigan bandwagon starts behind me. I am driving it and there’s no one that can convince me otherwise. I LOVE this kid’s game. He’s listed at 6’4”, 313 pounds but he moves like he weighs 280. He is such a smooth puller, he is a text book combo blocker, he gets to the 2nd level easily, and he is a very good cut blocker. Not only that, but in the Ohio State game he absolutely held his own in 1 on 1 situations with Johnathan Hankins which is no easy task. He was only a sophomore, but he was awfully impressive to me in the games I watched. He looks like a potential 1st round draft pick if he continues to improve and get stronger. Look out for him.

Dan Voltz, C, Freshman- Voltz is a player I obviously haven’t watched any of yet but the coaches seem to be high on him and he’s being pegged as a potential future 1st rounder following in the steps of Peter Konz (2nd rounder) and Travis Frederick (1st rounder, even if everyone hated the pick). He’s listed at 6’4”, 301 pounds and is supposed to be very smart based on what I’ve read about him. It’s going to be tough to pick up where Frederick left off from a football IQ standpoint but I’m excited to see what he can do as the only underclassman starting on Wisconsin’s offensive line at what some consider the most critical position.

Ethan Hemer, DE/DT, Senior- Hemer is a player I’m excited to watch this year because I think the 3-4 scheme that the Badgers are installing as their new base defense will play to his strong suits. He’s listed at 6’6”, 296 pounds so he is essentially the prototype 3-4 defensive end. Last year he managed 24 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL and 3 pass defections in his first year as a starter. I expect him to be more disruptive this year and I think 3-4 teams are going to be intrigued by him as a possible day 3 selection.

Beau Allen, DT, Senior- Allen is the key cog in Wisconsin’s defense this year because if he can hold up versus double teams in the middle and free up Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong to play clean versus the run then the Badgers will be a much better defense in 2013. Allen certainly has the size to do it as he is listed at 6’3”, 335 and is one of the key players returning on defense. He managed 37 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 TFL and 2 pass break-ups as a junior and while I think that his statistics might not be the same as a year ago at the end of the season he may have an even bigger impact. He’s going to see a lot of double teams this year and if he can hold up at the point of attack he’s going to be very attractive to a lot of 3-4 teams at the next level.

Brendan Kelly, DE/OLB, Senior- Kelly is a player I’m really rooting for because he has been through so much during his time with the Badgers. He sustained a serious groin injury as a freshman but attempted to play through it before realizing that he had torn four muscles off of his pelvis, and missed the final conference game the Badgers played that season. When he attempted to come back during fall camp the next year he aggravated the injury, leading to additional surgery and time on the sidelines. He had three total surgeries on his groin and he missed time with a hand injury as well. He stayed healthy (as far as I know) last season and the 6’6”, 258 pounder managed 28 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 TFL and 2 pass break-ups on the year. I’m not sure he’s going to be considered before the end of day 3, but the fact that he even has the chance to be drafted after all the injuries he has sustained is impressive. I’m really hoping he has a break-out year this year rotating with Tyler Dippel at outside linebacker.

Chris Borland, ILB, Senior- It’s hard to believe Borland is finally a senior, but it’s happened. It feels to me like he’s been at Wisconsin forever, but now the “short not small” 5’11”, 242 pound linebacker is getting ready to graduate and attempt a jump to the NFL. Borland’s size is going to hurt him in the eyes of evaluators but he’s strong, moves well and is a very good tackler. He has exceeded 100 tackles the last two years, including 104 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL and 6 pass break-ups as a junior. Borland doesn’t excel at shedding blocks and can be engulfed by bigger players at times, but he has a good motor and plays the run well. He’s a good blitzer as well, but I don’t completely trust him in pass coverage. I don’t think he’s a liability there, but I think he still has room to improve that part of his game. He’s not going to be a fit for every defensive scheme in the NFL, and many will doubt that he even has starter upside. I’ve seen him play too much to say he doesn’t, but I don’t think he’s going to be given a starting gig. He’s going to have to make the team as a likely day 3 selection and claw his way to playing time. I think he can do it though, and hopefully I’ll be able to see him show his skills at an All-Star game this winter.

Ethan Armstrong, ILB, Senior- I’m not very familiar with Armstrong’s game as last season was his first as a starter, but the undersized 6’2”, 216 pound linebacker started all 14 games last season and managed 93 tackles, 2 TFL, 4 pass break-ups and an interception. I don’t think he’s the same prospect that Borland is and isn’t nearly as filled out considering he is listed as 3 inches taller than him yet he reportedly weighs 26 pounds less. If he can fill out his frame he might have a NFL future, but there’s no way he can last in the NFL weighing under 220 pounds.

Dezman Southward, FS, Senior- Southward is the only returning starter in Wisconsin’s secondary but from all I’ve read about him he has really taken to his new leadership role as the veteran among the DB’s. The most surprising thing to me about Southward was that he only picked up football as a senior in high school (he previously played basketball) and didn’t even play safety. He has had to start from scratch as far as learning the game and as a fifth year senior he has only been playing the game for 6 years. The 6’2”, 213 pound safety is obviously a good athlete and he is being touted as a potential star this year. In his first season as a starter Southward totaled 69 tackles, 8 TFL, 4 pass break-ups and 1 interception from his free safety position. This year he will be expected to be even better in coverage and help Wisconsin create more turnovers.

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Iowa Hawkeyes Prospect Preview:

Mark Weisman, RB, Junior- Weisman is a 6’0”, 236 pound power back that helped save Iowa’s rushing attack last season. He walked on as a fullback after deciding to leave the Air Force and attend Iowa (playing for Iowa was “his dream”) and after injuries to two running backs against Northern Iowa Weisman was the next man up and he never looked back. He rushed 159 times for 815 yards and 8 touchdowns and added 15 receptions for 90 yards and another score as a receiver. Weisman won’t be confused for a speed back, but he seems to have pretty good vision, surprising quickness for someone who is supposed to be a fullback, and he runs hard with good pad level. It’s not surprising to see him run through tackles or run defenders over altogether when you watch him run. He figures to be “the guy” for Iowa this year, and it’s a pretty awesome story. Whether he will show the athleticism and skill set to be a NFL running back is another thing, but I am looking forward to seeing him run the ball and help stabilize the Iowa running game this season.

Kevonte Martin-Manley, WR, Junior- Most people would have assumed that Keenan Davis led the Hawkeyes in all statistical categories last season but in reality Martin-Manley (KMM) led the team in receptions (52), tied Davis for the lead in receiving yards (571) and led the team with 2 touchdowns. Obviously those aren’t earth shattering numbers, but the 6’0”, 205 pound receiver showed some promise as a possible slot receiver last year. He’s still only a junior, so I am looking forward to seeing if he can be “the guy” at wide receiver for the Hawkeyes this year. They still haven’t settled on a starting quarterback yet, so there’s a good chance KMM will have to deal with uneven quarterback play for another year if not two. Also, keep an eye on Jordan Cotton as a wide receiver and return man.

CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Senior- I have been waiting for Fiedorowicz to break out for the past two years and while I’m not sure it will happen this year I don’t think it will be because he lacks talent. The 6’7”, 265 pound tight end has had to deal with some pretty bad quarterback play the last couple of years and it doesn’t figure to get much better now that they are going to have a first time starter this year. Say what you will about James Vandenberg, but he threw every pass for Iowa last season. The Hawkeyes will be lucky to have that same kind of consistency this year in my opinion. That spells trouble for Fiedorowicz who, while being an excellent blocker, only totaled 45 receptions for 433 yards and 1 touchdown last year. He’s one of the most talented tight ends in the country, but it doesn’t show on the stat sheet because he doesn’t have anyone to get him the ball. Fiedorowicz is essentially an extension of the offensive line as a blocker which is a great asset for a team who runs a traditional pro style offense like Iowa, and it will make him appealing to teams like the Steelers in the NFL. For a full scouting report on Fiedorowicz read Matt Mochal’s write-up on him and follow him on Twitter @itsasabotage.

Brandon Scherff, OT, Junior- Scherff is coming off of a broken leg but he was 100% in the spring so he should be fine for the 2013 season. He’s not the same athlete that Van Sloten is but he is stronger and better in the run game. He’s shown an effective cut block and seems comfortable with zone and man concepts which is good, and he also has shown he can drive block a bit and generate push off the ball at times. He looks less comfortable in his pass sets though and looked slow off the ball against NIU, though that may have just been because Alan Baxter was flying off the edge so quick. But he did look late off the ball a number of times and wasn’t getting great depth in his initial drop or his kick slide in general, and it led to him being off balance at times. I think Scherff is more of a RT in the NFL, and I honestly think Van Sloten might be a better traditional fit at LT than Scherff is given his athleticism and some of his issues generating push in 1 on 1 situations. Scherff is the better run blocker, but I’ll give Van Sloten the edge in pass pro. Scherff’s main goal has to be to stay healthy, and it’s clear his presence was missed in the running game after his injury. If he stays healthy the run game should be fine, but I still have questions about him in pass protection.

Brett Van Sloten, OT, Senior- The first thing I noticed about Van Sloten (or BVS) is that he is an impressive athlete and I speculated that he had to be a former TE. Turns out he was, he played tight end and defensive end in high school. He is listed at 6’7”, 300 pounds and he moves like a defensive end. BVS needs to improve his anchor and get stronger in the lower half, but boy does he have potential thanks to that athletic ability. Seems to have pretty good length, needs to play with a bit better pad level, but his movement skills are awfully impressive for a 6’7” tackle. I’m not sure I saw him get speed rushed effectively once against Penn State, and while he doesn’t have much buzz around him right now I think he’s a nice sleeper prospect at the offensive tackle position. He’s not projected to get drafted now, but if he’s as athletic as he looks to me then I think he will creep up boards over the course of the year. If he can improve his anchor and work on his pad level a little bit I think that will help him even more.

Austin Blythe, Sophomore- Blythe is listed at 6’3”, 300 pounds but he looks smaller than that to me, likely 6’2” or so. He also seems to have short arms which concerns me, but he has a pretty stocky build. He started 9 games at right guard last year as a redshirt freshman and was a 1st team freshman All-American. He held his own for a freshman, but he has some room for improvement. He seems to lack lateral quickness and really struggled against players that were athletic enough to beat him with quickness and upfield speed. Jordan Hill gave him a lot of trouble, and it had to do with his quickness and burst. He is an effective combo blocker and he can get to the second level effectively, but he struggled at times in pass protection and giving up interior pressure frequently leads to disaster on pass plays. Blythe is moving inside to center this year so it will be interesting to see if he is stronger and more adept at handling quicker pass rushers. I think he is smart enough to handle the pivot and some of his issues at guard may not be as obvious at center. Only time will tell, but Iowa needs to elevate their interior line play if they are going to have any success as an offense. That starts with Blythe.

Dominic Alvis, DE, Senior- Alvis is a returning starter who is listed at 6’4”, 265 pounds. He’s kind of your typical Iowa defensive lineman who is a high effort, technically sound player that doesn’t have an abundance of athletic ability or upside. I think his best bet is to bulk up and attempt to stick as a 3-4 defensive end because he doesn’t have the quickness or edge speed to consistently win as a 4-3 edge rusher at the next level. He seems to use his hands effectively but he is regularly late off the ball and he doesn’t have the quick-twitch athleticism to compensate for it. He seems to have a good feel for getting his hands up to try to impact passing lanes, but he’s not going to offer much as a pass rusher in a 4-3 alignment.

Carl Davis, DT, Junior- Carl Davis is my guy. Last year I was watching Iowa’s defense and while they didn’t have much talent outside of Micah Hyde #71 stuck out to me consistently. Davis is listed at 6’5”, 315 pounds and is a surprisingly good athlete for such a large man. He was flashing a lot of upside but he was a raw sophomore that needed to work on his pad level, improve his technique and get more playing time. He is projected to be a starter this fall and that might have something to do with him dominating in the spring. While he struggled against the undersized James Ferentz in practice last year, this year Davis is the one doing the dominating thanks to supposedly better pad level. This will be his first year as a starter and he only had 14 tackles and 1.5 TFL last year, but expect a BIG statistical uptick in 2013. Even if he doesn’t total a lot of sacks or tackles for loss you can bet his impact will be felt on Iowa’s defense. He’s likely going to draw consistent double teams which could free up other players to make plays, particularly Iowa’s three senior linebackers. I’m a big Davis fan and if the rumors about his improved pad level are true we could all be in for a treat whenever we watch Iowa play.

James Morris, MLB, Senior- Morris is the middle linebacker for the Hawkeyes and he was 2nd on their team in tackles last year with 113 as well as 1.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 4 pass break-ups and 1 interception. Contrary to all of those pass break-ups I don’t think the 6’2”, 240 pound linebacker excels in coverage. He isn’t a great athlete and as a result he doesn’t have great range, and he takes some false steps when asked to drop in coverage. He isn’t bad passing defenders off in zone and gets solid depth, but he’s not going to be a playmaker in coverage in the NFL in my opinion. He seems to be a smart player but doesn’t shed blocks well and gets caught up in the trash too much for my liking versus the run. This was particularly obvious against Michigan State this year, and Le’Veon Bell benefited greatly from it. Morris is a reliable tackler and he’s got a good motor, but I just don’t see a starting NFL linebacker based off of what I’ve seen from him so far. He’s got another year to prove me wrong, but I’m not high on him right now.

Anthony Hitchens, OLB, Senior- Hitchens is the Iowa linebacker I am least familiar with but he led the Hawkeyes in tackles with 124 last year, adding 1 sack and 4.5 tackles for loss. He is listed at 6’1”, 233 pounds and I believe last year was his first as a starter. I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table as a senior and a second year starter, but right now I’m not overly intrigued by him. Still, his production last year meant I needed to try to do my due diligence on him.

Christian Kirksey, OLB, Senior- Kirksey is my favorite linebacker on the Hawkeyes and is one of their better defensive prospects overall in my opinion. I think he is the best athlete of the three senior ‘backers and it shows in coverage. First of all, despite being listed at 6’2”, 235 pounds he looks like a safety on the field which is both a good and a bad thing for a linebacker. I haven’t seen him shed blocks particularly effectively, but he gives good effort in the run game and attacks which I like to see. He’s got better range than Morris and looks more comfortable dropping into zone coverage to me. I’m not sure if he is going to be a starting linebacker in the NFL, but I think he has a better skill set to do it than Morris or Hitchens. We will see if I’m right over the course of the year, but right now Kirksey is my top linebacker on the Hawkeyes.

Illinois Fighting Illini Prospect Preview

Nathan Scheehaase, QB, Senior- Scheelhaase feels like he has been at Illinois forever to me (and he has, this is his 5th and final year with the team) and while he showed some potential as a freshman he has largely been unimpressive in the years since. That may have something to do with changing offensive coordinators every year (we saw what that did to Alex Smith, after all) but blaming his unimpressive accuracy and relatively poor decision making on the constant change at offensive coordinator doesn’t add up to me. Still, it looks like the 6’3”, 200 pound senior will be the starter over Riley O’Toole (who threw four, yes FOUR, interceptions in the spring game) in spite of throwing for just 1,361 yards on 246 attempts (60.6% completion) with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (usually you hope for the direct opposite ratio). He doesn’t have a very strong arm, he’s not accurate, he doesn’t protect the football, and he doesn’t have a lot of poise in the pocket. Sounds like the next Andrew Luck right? I don’t think Scheelhaase will have a great senior year, but I’ve never been a big fan and I will be very surprised if he is drafted whether it is at quarterback or wide receiver.

Wes Lunt, QB, Sophomore- I really wish Lunt could start this year but unfortunately we will all have to wait a year. I was a fan of Lunt at Oklahoma State and was rooting for him to win the starting job despite being a true freshman. He had an up and down freshman year, but upon realizing that he wouldn’t be the starter he elected to transfer. He’s still young, and he will have a year to learn Cubit’s system before he has to play, and I think he has some upside. He’s more of a pocket passer which theoretically fits Cubit’s system better, and I think he has much better arm strength than Scheelhaase. So I for one am excited to see if he can win the starting job over O’Toole (god I hope so) so I can see what he brings to the table for two or three years as the starter.

Donovonn Young, RB, Junior- I have been on the Donovonn Young bandwagon since he was a freshman and I’m not hopping off now. The offensive line was underwhelming last year (despite my fandom of Hugh Thornton) and Young only got 131 carries which he turned into 571 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those obviously aren’t eye popping numbers, but he also led the team in receptions with 38 and added 172 receiving yards and another touchdown through the air. He’s a complete back and at 6’0”, 220 he is a load to bring down in the open field. I’d say he has about 4.5 speed, some quickness, reliable hands out of the backfield, and he runs hard which I like to see. I don’t think he’s on Rashard Mendenhall’s level yet, but I still believe he has similar upside. If the Illini can solidify their offensive line I think Young could surprise a lot of people, he’s a talented back.

Justin Hardee, WR, Sophomore- The Illini have two senior wide receivers in Spencer Harris and Ryan Lankford, but neither one jumped off the screen to me when I watched Illinois during the season or in the spring game. The kid who DID jump off the screen was then freshman, now sophomore Justin Hardee. Hardee is listed at 6’1”, 190 pounds and I’m not sure how fast he is, but boy does he have good hands. He was snagging passes outside of his frame like it was nothing in the spring game and actually went over 100 yards in the game despite O’Toole’s ineptitude. Hardee is buried on the depth chart behind more experienced players like Lankford, Harris, and Martize Barr, but I think Hardee has more upside than all of them. He had 17 receptions for 192 yards last year as a true freshman, but I’m hoping he gets more playing time because I seriously think he might have the best hands on the team.

Jon Davis, TE, Junior- Jon Davis is an interesting case because while he showed a lot of promise as a freshman his production dropped from 22 receptions, 187 yards and 1 touchdown as a freshman to just 9 receptions, 88 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore. In fact, he had 12 more attempts RUSHING than he did receptions which I could hardly believe. He’s clearly an impressive athlete as he managed 102 yards and 1 touchdown on his 21 attempts, but I think all Illinois fans want to see him become more of a focus in the passing game as a junior and a senior. He’s got a lot of upside, but the 6’3”, 240 pound H-Back just hasn’t lived up to it yet. Hopefully he takes a big step forward as a junior, but until the quarterback play is elevated it’s going to be hard for him to put up significant numbers.

Alex Hill, C, Junior- Hill is a favorite of alioneye.com and I have to say I’m intrigued with him as well. He’s listed at 6’3”, 325 pounds and I love that size in a Center. He doesn’t have much previous experience having only started 3 games in his first two seasons, but he played in 11 games last year including one start at left guard. It sounds like the Illini haven’t had the luxury of developing their young linemen and instead have essentially been playing them before they were likely ready which explains some of their poor offensive line play last year. I’m still skeptical that their offensive line will be much better this year, but they return three starters (though Simon Cvijanovic will be moving to left tackle full time) and Hill is replacing Graham Pocic at center. Since Hill doesn’t have a lot of starting experience I’m not very familiar with his game, but he’s definitely one of the guys I’ll be keeping an eye on up front.

Simon Cvijanovic, OT, Junior- Cvijanovic caught my eye both because of his last name and because he has 15 career starts (13 at right tackle, just two at left tackle) but he will be the starting left tackle for the Illini this year. Cvijanovic is listed at 6’5”, 295 pounds and has shown me some upside as a wall-off blocker, but I’m interested to see more of him from a pass protection perspective at left tackle. He doesn’t look overly comfortable in his kick slide on the left side, though he does seem to have pretty good lateral agility. He’s still a relative unknown to me but he’s one of Illinois’ top returning linemen so he’s definitely on my watch list.

Houston Bates, DE, Junior- Bates is a linebacker who has been converted to defensive end so his speed and athleticism isn’t the question mark. He’s listed at 6’3”, 240 pounds so he will need to gain some weight if he’s going to hold up at defensive end in the Big-10. However, if there’s one player who I think could provide some boost to Illinois’ pass rush this year I think it is Bates. I don’t have any tape to base that on since he’s moving to a new position this year, but I’m excited to see what he can produce from a pass rush perspective.

Jonathan Brown, OLB, Senior- Brown is the top senior or junior prospect on the Illini in my opinion. I’ve been watching him since he was a sophomore and while he had a great sophomore year he hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations for him. Some of that has to do with injuries, but if he can stay healthy I think he can recreate his sophomore season where he had 108 tackles and 18.5 TFL. He was a force that year, but injuries robbed him of 3 games and 5 starts as a junior. The 6’1”, 235 pound linebacker still managed 59 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL and 1 pass break-up as a junior though. Brown may not be the biggest linebacker but he is a good athlete, a reliable tackler, and he has a high football IQ. He struggles when asked to shed blocks and can get caught up in trash at times, but I think he projects pretty well to a weak-side linebacker role at the next level. He has day 2 upside, but he needs to stay healthy and show what he can do all year to help revive his stock a bit.

Mason Monheim, MLB, Sophomore- Monheim had a great freshman year and honestly watching him I wouldn’t have guessed that he was a true freshman. He had some trouble trying to spy Braxton Miller in the Ohio State game, but that’s not an easy task for anyone, much less a true freshman, to accomplish. He’s another relatively undersized linebacker who is listed at 6’1”, 230 pounds and he led the team with 86 tackles last year. He also added 1.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 pass break-up and an interception. He seems to have similar instincts as Jonathan Brown and also struggles to shed blocks much like Brown does. He has room to grow though, so he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Indiana Hoosiers Prospect Preview:

Nate Sudfeld, QB, Sophomore/Tre Roberson, Sophomore/Cameron Coffman, Junior- I had to lump all three of these guys into one preview because the starting position still hasn’t been decided yet. I haven’t watched Tre Roberson play in any games, but he is the more athletic of the three QB’s and started off the season strong statistically before breaking his leg. He’s good to go now, but I’m not sure he’s going to get his starting job back. While I haven’t seen him play much, I have to say I am not a fan of Cameron Coffman. He doesn’t have a very strong arm, he doesn’t offer the same athleticism that Roberson does, and I don’t think he has the same pocket passer upside that Sudfeld does. Personally, Sudfeld is the guy I want starting for Indiana. He showed me something against Ohio State and while he wasn’t making a wide array of difficult NFL throws he did show some gumption, the moment wasn’t too big for him as they were trying to come back, and he even made an impromptu flip pass to Stephen Houston as he was getting tackled that ended up being his second touchdown in the late portion of the 4th quarter. Personally, I prefer Sudfeld and his 6’5”, 234 pound frame and while he wasn’t perfect he forced a LOT less passes than Coffman did against Ohio State (Coffman could have easily had 3 or 4 interceptions in that game) and I think with Kevin Wilson’s tutelage he can develop into a quality passer. We’ll see who wins the job, but I personally think it will be between Sudfeld and Roberson.

Stephen Houston, RB, Senior- I like Houston, he’s listed at 6’0”, 225 but he has some speed, sub 4.6 for sure, and surprising quickness. He’s shown he can run effectively, he’s caught the ball (when he can get his hands on it Coffman) and I think he’s an underrated back for the 2014 class. Is he a star? No, but he can play. He ran for 749 yards (4.7 ypc), 12 touchdowns and added 37 receptions for 381 yards and 4 touchdowns. He may not be a burner, but I think he’s a reliable back that should get more attention this year thanks to Indiana’s potential to be a high scoring offense. They might put up a lot of yardage through the air, but Houston is the RB that will help keep the offense balanced this upcoming year.

Tevin Coleman, RB/KR, Sophomore- Coleman is a back-up running back but he is also the primary kick return man for Indiana. Last year the 6’1”, 209 pound back rushed for 225 yards and 1 touchdown and added 566 return yards (23.6 yard average) including 1 touchdown. He looks like a possible sub 4.5 guy to me when I watch him, and while he won’t be the starting back this year I think he has the inside track to that position as a junior. In the meantime he will continue to be a big play waiting to happen in the kick return game.

Cody Latimer, WR, Junior- I am a Cody Latimer fan. He has shown that he is a good hands catcher, I like his 6’3”, 215 frame and he looks like a solid route runner. He also adjusts to the ball well in the air and can catch passes that are behind him. He led the team with 805 receiving yards on 51 receptions, adding 6 touchdowns. He’s only a junior this year, but if Indiana settles on one quality passer I think Latimer is in line for a 1,000 yard, 10 touchdown season. He’s flying under the radar, but he’s going to be a draftable kid by the time he’s done at Indiana.

Kofi Hughes, WR, Senior- Hughes didn’t catch my eye quite as consistently as Latimer did, but he did have a fantastic catch on an underthrown deep ball against Ohio State. Like Latimer I think he adjusts well to the ball in the air, and he went up and got it over the corner. He’s listed at 6’2”, 215 pounds and produced 43 receptions, 639 yards and 3 touchdowns as a junior. Right now I think Hughes is a possible day 3 pick, but he needs to show improved route running and have a big year to help that happen. I think Indiana’s offense has the potential to be a high octane unit, and Hughes could really benefit from that.

Shane Wynn, WR, Junior- Wynn is the big play/YAC guy on Indiana’s offense. He may not have the best hands, and he’s undersized, but the 5’7”, 167 pound receiver has rumored 4.4 speed and great quickness/shiftiness to make guys miss. He absolutely EMBARRASSED Ryan Shazier in the open field with a lethal spin move, and he made a reception on a routine in route and took it the distance with his speed. His size is going to be the primary knock on him as a prospect, but NFL teams value speed and playmaking over all else at the end of the day and Wynn is a playmaker. If he can continue to eliminate drops and improve his route running his stock will move up. He’s definitely going to spend a lot of time on the field in the slot, so keep an eye on him.

Ted Bolser, TE, Senior- I like Bolser. He’s a reliable receiver and a solid blocker, not spectacular but solid. He is listed at 6’6”, 254 pounds and he moves pretty well. I don’t think he’s going to be an elite TE threat, but I think he’s draftable. He catches the ball well with his hands away from his body, but he’s not a big YAC threat from what I’ve seen. In my opinion he can make a roster, especially if he continues to improve as a blocker (already solid in that area). He did have one bad drop against Ohio State, and twice when he was tackled and heading out of bounds he fumbled the ball (very strange to see that happen twice in one game), but overall I like him. I don’t think he’s going to be a top 100 guy, but if he improves on his 41 receptions, 445 yards and 3 touchdowns as a junior you never know.

Jason Spriggs, OT, Sophomore- The first thing you notice about Spriggs is his huge frame. He’s listed at 6’7”, 280 pounds and it shows. He needs to get stronger and he really struggled with power of John Simon and Noah Spence because of his lack of strength. Spriggs has the length and athleticism to be a very good left tackle prospect, but he needs significant work on his initial drop step and his kick slide. He needs to work on keeping his pads down and get stronger in his lower half to generate more push in the run game, but he clearly moves well for his size and gets to the second level easily. But at this point defenders can shed his blocks too easily as he lacks strength in his initial punch/overall game. He’s still so young that the growth potential is there, and in two years he could be a top offensive tackle prospect. He certainly flashes upside as both a pass and run blocker, and he honestly remains me of Lane Johnson both in how he plays and how much weight he needs to gain to fill out his frame. I don’t think he’s going to run as well as Johnson did, but he’s a similar athlete in my opinion. But there were times against Ohio State that he got beat off the edge by John Simon, and a guy with his athletic ability shouldn’t be getting beat off the edge by a relatively limited athlete like Simon. There are times he just doesn’t gain any depth with his kick slide and it forces him into recovery mode too early. Combine that with his lack of strength and anchor and it puts him on skates more than I would like to see. He was protected in a quick passing offense last year so he didn’t give up an abundance of sacks, but he definitely had his struggles with the superior strength and technique of Simon and Spence against Ohio State. He’s got a lot of upside though, so I’m excited to see if he’s gotten stronger and improved technique wise as a sophomore.

Peyton Eckert, OT, Junior- I watched him and so far I’m not blown away by him based off of what I’ve seen. I don’t think he’s as good of an athlete as Spriggs, but he has some of the same issues. He needs to get stronger, work on his hands, and he struggles to sustain blocks at times. I want to see him finish blocks more and be more tenacious, there are times he throttles down a bit. He has 18 career starts, and he was still a sophomore last year, so I want to see if he can grow into his 6’6”, 295 pound frame and improve his technique much like Spriggs needs to.

Dan Feeney, OG, Sophomore- Feeney caught my eye because he has some nastiness to his game which I like. He’s listed at 6’4”, 305 pounds and started all 12 games as a true freshman last year. However, Michael Bennett’s quickness and hand usage gave him some trouble against Ohio State. He’s got ability, but needs some work. You can tell he was a freshman when you watch him, so it will be interesting to see how he and the rest of Indiana’s offensive line look now that they are more battle tested.

Bernard Taylor, OG, Junior- Taylor is a short, squatty player who looks like he has relatively short arms, but I like him. He was able to block Hankins 1 on 1 in pass pro at times, generated some push in the run game and finished blocks effectively. He has a pretty good anchor and plays with good natural leverage because he’s 6’2” 303 pounds, and does a good job using his strong lower half to his advantage. I haven’t seen enough of him for a full report, but he’s my #2 OL on Indiana behind Spriggs. He already has 16 career starts but missed the last 6 games of the season due to injury last year.

Antonio Marshall, CB, Senior- Marshall doesn’t look to have blazing speed and he did get burned by Devin Smith when he was locked up man to man for a touchdown when I watched him against Ohio State, but I think he’s a solid corner that may get UDFA looks with a solid senior year. He’s listed at 5’11”, 195 pounds, he closes well on plays in front of him, he’s a reliable tackler, and he has decent ball skills. He didn’t turn his head to look at a couple deep balls which I didn’t like to see, but he was in Smith’s hip pocket on a couple other deep throws from Braxton Miller.

Greg Heban, SS, Senior- Heban may be the best returning player on Indiana’s defense and he returns for his senior season as the leading tackler with 91 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 8 pass break-ups (tied for team lead) and 3 interceptions (led the team). From what I have seen of him he’s a reliable tackler, he seems to be pretty smart, and he’s a good athlete at least relative to Indiana’s defense. He’s not great in coverage contrary to what his stat line might indicate, but he’s not bad enough that I don’t think he has a shot at making a team in the NFL. He has good ball skills, but he wastes steps at times and doesn’t react as quickly as I would like. I like some of his game though, so I’m interested to see if he can boost his stock with a solid senior season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Prospect Preview:

Philip Nelson, QB, Sophomore- Nelson returns as the incumbent starter after a solid but unspectacular freshman year. The Gophers struggled to find consistency of any kind at quarterback between MarQueis Gray, Max Shortell and Nelson. Nelson finished the season with the most yardage but the lowest completion percentage of any of the three quarterbacks who threw a pass for the Gophers in 2013, but according to the guys at thedailygopher.com Nelson has looked accurate and displayed improved decision making this spring. That’s a good sign for the Gophers because they need the 6’2”, 215 pound quarterback to complete passes at a higher clip than his 49.3% rate of 2012. He took his lumps last season, but I expect Nelson to be a solid starter for the Gophers despite his age. If he can stay healthy I think he will prove to be an effective QB, albeit one that needs seasoning and development. Based on what I’ve seen from Nelson he doesn’t have the strongest arm, and as far as the NFL is concerned it is probably no better than average at this point. However, he does have pretty reliable accuracy and touch, he can extend plays with his legs (as well as pick up yardage with them) and make throws on the move outside the pocket. Only time will tell if Nelson has the arm strength to make the jump to the next level, but I think he has enough to be a successful college quarterback.

Donnell Kirkwood, RB, Junior- Last year I was completely on board the James Gillum hype train after I watched what I could of him from junior college and all the reports were that he would likely be “the guy” for the Gophers at running back in 2012. In case you were wondering if you can take everything you see or hear in the spring and summer at face value, you can’t. Gillum had 27 carries for 73 yards and 1 touchdown in 2012 despite the hype train and Donnell Kirkwood emerged as a much more effective back. Kirkwood averaged 4.2 yards per carry behind an offensive line that was constantly changing as a result of injuries. He really came on the scene in my eyes against Northwestern (a game that I attended) where he was consistently running with fantastic pad level. He was regularly gaining tough yardage with his leg drive and making Northwestern’s defense fight to even get him to the ground. Kirkwood is a compact running back listed at 5’10”, 223 pounds and he runs with purpose. His pad level is impressive, he gains good yardage after initial contact thanks to his strong lower body, and he has surprising quickness for his size. The downside is that he was barely utilized at all in the passing game last year, and I haven’t evaluated him as a pass protector yet either. I want to see him utilized more out of the backfield as a receiver and I’m intrigued by his potential as a pass protector thanks to his attitude running the ball as well as his size and strength. I’m definitely a big Kirkwood fan and I’m anticipating a 1,000 yard, 10+ touchdown season from him if he stays healthy.

Mike Henry, FB, Senior- Mike Henry is a little-known player because he rarely touches the ball on the Gophers offense, but he offers value as a blocker which is why I felt he warranted mention here. The NFL seems to be utilizing fullbacks less and less, but versatile players that are willing to block are universally valued in NFL circles and I think Henry has a chance to show he fits that bill. He likely won’t get drafted, but if he can demonstrate his blocking prowess as well as show something as a runner or a receiver he could have a chance to stick somewhere.

Derrick Engel, WR, Senior- Derrick Engel enters 2013 as the leading returning receiver for the Gophers, though that isn’t saying much. He totaled 18 receptions and 375 yards last year, including an impressive 20.8 yards per reception. The 6’2”, 187 pound receiver only produced one touchdown though, but that figures to improve if Phillip Nelson can stabilize the Gophers’ quarterback play. From what I have seen of Engel he doesn’t have elite speed (though he had a listed 40 time of 4.4 at 170 pounds coming out of high school), nor does he have spectacular hands, but he seems to be a reliable receiver that Nelson will be able to count on. Whether that gets him a look as an undrafted free agent or not remains to be seen.

Jamel Harbison, WR, Freshman- Harbison redshirted last year and hasn’t had the healthiest of starts to his career as a Gopher but he was healthy enough to go in the spring game and he impressed me. He seems to run crisp routes, adjusts well to less than perfect throws and showed some wiggle after the catch. He’s listed at 5’11”, 199 and will likely get a lot of time in the slot this year. According to thedailygopher.com coaches have been saying he was the most talented receiver on the roster since he was a true freshman last year, but we will see what he can do if he stays healthy all season. He was quoted as saying that the knee was not a problem at all after the spring game and that he had no problems cutting en route to catching 5 balls for 52 yards and 1 touchdown in the game, so hopefully he continues to be effective for the Gophers all season long.

Devin Crawford-Tufts, WR, Junior- Crawford-Tufts was a guy I previewed last year and he still hasn’t lived up to some of the hype he has gotten during his time with the Gophers. On paper he has the size (6’2”, 193) and the speed to be a legitimate contributor at receiver, but as a sophomore he only managed 16 receptions, 189 yards and 1 touchdown which was against Texas Tech in their bowl game. The potential is all there, it’s just a question of whether the lightbulb comes on for him or not. He’s usually a solid bet for a big play, but he and the Gophers’ quarterbacks just haven’t quite connected on them yet.

Drew Goodger, TE, Junior- Goodger returns for his junior year as the top tight end and the 6’5”, 265 pounder intrigues me as an every down prospect at the next level. I haven’t seen enough of him as a receiver (though I guess no one has, really. He only caught 13 balls for 155 yards and 3 TD’s last year) but he has definite upside as a blocker. There will be more footage to go over now that he’s the starter, but I am looking forward to seeing him as a blocker and as a receiver.

Ed Olson, OT, Senior- Olson is the returning starter with the most experience having started 27 games at left tackle for the Gophers. He is listed at 6’7”, 309 pounds and plays with an aggressive mean streak, but most importantly just needs to stay healthy. He has been a starter since Day 1 of his freshman year, but he missed 4 starts due to injury as a freshman, 2 starts due to injury in 2011, and 4 starts in 2012. He has never played and started an entire full season despite entering his fourth season as a starter, so staying healthy for a full year would benefit his draft stock significantly. I think he has the size and length to remain at tackle, but whether he will play at left or right at the next level remains up in the air. He needs to stay healthy and play more consistent, and if he does those things he could be the first Gopher offensive lineman drafted since Greg Eslinger (round 6) and Mark Setterstrom (round 7) were drafted in 2006.

Josh Campion, OT, Sophomore- Campion is a player I am less familiar with than some of these guys, but the guys at thedailygopher.com thought he might be one of the better prospects on the team, so I did my due diligence on him. He’s listed at 6’5”, 326 pounds and started all 13 games at right tackle last year despite being a redshirt freshman. I haven’t scouted him yet, but he’s definitely a player I’m going to keep my eye on when I watch the Gophers this season.

Zac Epping, OG/C, Junior- Epping is the most talented lineman the Gophers have in my opinion and despite being asked to move between both guard spots as well as center as a sophomore he played at a high level at all three. He should be locked into the left guard spot all year as long as he stays healthy, but showing the flexibility to play center will only make him more appealing to NFL teams. He is listed at 6’2”, 321 pounds and is going to be high on my list of interior linemen to watch this upcoming year.

Brian Bobek, C, Junior- Bobek is a transfer from Ohio State that is projected to start at Center for the Gophers this season. If he can solidify the position it will mean the Gophers will have a strong left side of Olson, Epping and Bobek at the pivot. Bobek is listed at 6’2”, 282 pounds but even though he was highly touted out of high school he missed most of the spring practices “due to illness” according to the Gophers. We’ll see if he wins the job outright in fall camp, but he’s probably got the inside track on Jon Christenson, the 6’4”, 306 pound guard/center who started 6 games last year for the Gophers.

Thieren Cockran, DE, Sophomore- Cockran has the highest upside of any of the Gophers’ defensive ends in my opinion. He is listed at 6’6”, 245, has a basketball background and a 6’9” wingspan to boot. According to his high school head coach he consistently timed in the 4.5-4.6 range in high school and even though he only had 1 sack last year I think he is ready to step up and help take some pressure off of Ra’Shede Hageman now that D.L. Wilhite has graduated. Cockran doesn’t have an abundance of experience, but he’s got the speed and length to be a dangerous pass rusher.

Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Senior- Hageman is without a doubt the Gophers’ top defensive prospect. He is a freak athlete listed at 6’6”, 311 pounds with incredible athleticism for his size. I think he has the potential to be a stud defensive end in a 3-4, but he is a very intriguing 4-3 defensive tackle as well. Either way, NFL teams are taking notice and if he can build on his impressive redshirt junior season from a year ago he could end up in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Last year Hageman totaled 35 tackles, 6 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and 2 pass break-ups despite still learning the position. He still needs to learn how to play with better pad level because at 6’6” he tends to play too tall at times. Not only that, but he stands up too much out of his stance for my liking. He’s still raw, but I’d like to see him fire out of his stance and not stand up quite as much. He also is raw when it comes to shedding blocks and actively using his hands, but I believe that he can learn and improve that with time. What he does have is great size, length, raw power and he really flashes an impressive bull rush despite his issues with pad level. He hasn’t made a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage as a defensive tackle versus the run and I think that’s because he’s not a penetrator type, and that makes me think his ceiling might be highest at the defensive end position in a 3-4. He shows a consistently good motor which I really like, he is a pretty reliable tackler, and if his work ethic is as good as I think it is I think the sky is the limit for him. Don’t be surprised when he ends up in the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Derrick Wells, CB, Junior- Wells is a former safety turned corner who has the difficult task of playing the “boundary corner” in the Gophers defense. That means he will likely be left on an island 1 on 1 often over the course of the season, so the 6’0”, 206 pound corner will likely be tested during his junior season. Last year Wells totaled 74 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 10 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions. He will be playing a new position this year, but I was impressed with his ball skills when I watched him. NFL teams have been targeting bigger, stronger corners recently and I think Wells fits that bill. I’m excited to see what he can do as a full time starter at corner.

Eric Murray, CB, Sophomore- Murray hasn’t locked down the spot opposite Wells yet, but Phil Steele projected him to be the starter and I have read good things about him during spring practice. The 6’0”, 194 pound corner is a smooth athlete with good hips according to thedailygopher.com and while I can’t claim to have seen him play as a freshman he certainly seems to have upside if he got some first team reps during the spring. It remains to be seen if he will lock down a spot, but I’m intrigued.

Brock Vereen, FS, Senior- Vereen is a solid but not spectacular safety who may not be projected to be drafted right now but has a chance to improve his stock with a strong senior season. He’s listed at 6’0”, 202 pounds and had 64 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 9 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions as a junior in 2012. He is considered one of the leaders of the defense and has experience playing man to man coverage as well as dropping into zone thanks to his time spent at corner earlier in his career. He’s a likely undrafted free agent, but I think he has a chance to sneak up draft boards and give himself a chance to make a team this year.

Boise State-Washington Prospect Preview:

Boise State:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corey Robinson, QB, Troy:*

Overall: Robinson impressed me, though he only attempted 11 passes, and for the most part he had a clean pocket as a result of good protection and made easy throws. He was accurate and threw a beautiful deep ball vs 1 on 1 coverage, but I didn’t see him come off his primary read regularly. Obviously I need to see more of him, and he’s just a junior, but I think he has a NFL future. He’s impressed me since he was a freshman at Troy, and has been overlooked because of his height his entire football career. He can play, and I hope he’s alright as it looked like he may have sustained a concussion.

Quanterus Smith, DE, WKU:

Overall: I came in excited to watch Smith against Troy but despite flashing a bit of hand usage to keep his blocker off balance he didn’t do anything as a pass rusher despite entering the game with 6.5 sacks on the season (including one against DJ Fluker). He has some edge speed, flashes of hand usage, and seems to have a solid motor, but that didn’t translate into production against Troy. Had Robinson not been knocked out just before halftime I have plenty of confidence that Troy would have beaten WKU, and Smith’s inability to beat Troy’s RT like he stole something played a big role in that.

Jack Doyle, TE, WKU:

Overall: Doyle impressed me. He’s not a 1st round prospect by any means, but as a mid-late round prospect I think he has some value. This was the first time I’d watched him, so it’s impossible for me to put a round grade on him given that, but he has the size at 6’6”, 252 pounds, looks pretty athletic, gave good effort as a blocker and caught all the passes I saw thrown to him (even though they were mostly underneath). He needs technique work as a blocker, but he showed that he can be a wall-off type even if he didn’t get much push or sustain consistently against defensive ends in the run game. He’s a solid prospect, so keep an eye on him.

Mitchell Henry, TE, WKU:**

Overall: If Doyle was solid and consistent, Henry was eye-catching and intriguing. At first I thought he was a wide receiver, but he’s a 6’4”, 245 pound tight end who is an interesting joker tight end prospect. He is an athletic kid with some burst to him, he releases off the line of scrimmage well, looks smooth when running his routes, seems to have good hands and showed that he can make tough catches in traffic a few times last night. I’m definitely a fan, and since he is only a sophomore he should have two years as the starter barring unforeseen circumstances after Doyle graduates.

Antonio Andrews, RB, WKU:*

Overall: Andrews finished with 26 carries for 113 yards (4.6 ypc) and 1 reception for 14 yards, but he easily could have had a couple touchdowns receiving as he beat linebackers with his route running in man coverage at least two or three times and was horribly overthrown by his quarterback Jakes (who is not nearly draftable despite being born one day after me on February 28th, 1990). He impressed me as a route runner and as a runner despite fumbling the ball twice. He is a bigger back at 6’0”, 211 pounds but has legitimate athleticism and shiftiness to him which I liked. Both of his fumbles, from what I could see, were forced by defenders getting their helmets on the ball and dislodging it. There’s not a ton you can do about that, but the little that he could have done (cover the ball with two hands when contact was imminent) didn’t happen, and that is on him. What bothered me more was even later in the game, despite fumbling twice in the first half, still was running towards and through contact with one arm on the ball and on one play I thought he was definitely going to get stripped from behind. I like Andrews, but he needs to work on ball security. He’s only a junior and I would be surprised if he declared after this season, but it’s his first year as a starter and he has had a great start to the season after stepping up to replace Bobby Rainey after he left for the NFL. I like him, but he has room to improve.

Andrew Jackson, MLB, WKU:*

Overall: Jackson was a very pleasant surprise for me because I love instinctual middle linebackers that can deliver a big hit. It’s one reason I really liked Curtis Lofton, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes coming out, and it’s why I like Jackson. He’s listed at 6’1”, 265 pounds but he looked like he could stand to lose 10-15 pounds and perhaps help himself move even better than he does. He looked like a pretty good athlete despite potentially carrying extra weight, and he is a tackling machine. He had 17 TFL last season during his first year as a starter while he also had 100+ tackles (40-45 solos if I remember correctly) and already has at least 7.5 TFL thus far as a junior. I think he may need to improve his conditioning, because I think he was taken out for a few plays on one of Troy’s longer drives, but that comes back to the weight issue. If he drops that and improves his conditioning LOOK OUT. He’s a nice middle linebacker and I definitely enjoyed watching him against Troy.

Xavius Boyd, OLB, WKU:*

Overall: Boyd is another talented junior linebacker on WKU. I didn’t see him as much as Jackson, but he filled downhill well and made a couple nice plays on the goal line to help force Troy to attempt a fake field goal despite having the ball inside the 10, getting a pass interference penalty, and then still getting stopped three more times. It was an impressive stand, and Boyd definitely contributed to it.

From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!

Today I am previewing Florida State, and my god are they talented. This preview took me hours longer than I expected it to only because of the sheer vastness of talent that Jimbo Fisher and Florida State have assembled. It’s almost unbelievable, and there’s no way to cover it all in one post. I, however, took my best shot at it here. On offense the ‘Noles return 8 starters including quarterback EJ Manuel who was good but not great in his first full season as a starter last year. That obviously had a lot to do with the massive number of injuries that FSU’s offense sustained last year, especially along the offensive line, but Manuel has plenty of room to improve before I will grade him as even a 2nd round pick. Luckily, the FSU running game should be much improved this season thanks in part to true sophomore Devonta Freeman, and Manuel has plenty of receiving threats to throw the ball to. Rashad Greene is my favorite, but Rodney Smith, Christian Green and Nick O’Leary should all be reliable, consistent targets this season. The question for me is the offensive line, where they have some talent and depth but not an abundance of starting experience. They aren’t a reliable unit and they lost their top two tackles from a year ago, Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders. Stepping up to replace them is going to be critical, especially since Manuel has a tendency to hang onto the ball longer than he should.

The defense, however, should carry this team to at least 10 wins this season. With a unit this talented anything else would be a disappointment. It’s not completely inconceivable that Florida State could have 3 top 40 picks just at defensive end, and they also have the top recruit in the country Mario Edwards entering the fold at the defensive end spot. They have everything from a potential 1st round pick in Timmy Jernigan at defensive tackle, to a top 100 prospect nose tackle in Anthony “Amp” McCloud, to an underrated 3 tech in Everett Dawkins. They also have a pair of reliable middle linebackers and a stud outside linebacker in Christian Jones. Top that off with a pair of probable 1st round picks in Xavier Rhodes and Lamarcus Joyner in the secondary and you have to wonder how anyone plans on getting into field goal range against this defense, much less scoring touchdowns. This defense is going to be incredible, and if the offensive line steps up and EJ Manuel starts to live up to his potential this team could be downright scary. I’m not confident in the offensive line or in EJ, however, and that means I still think Virginia Tech is going to come through as the ACC Champion. With that, here is my prospect preview of Florida State’s insanely talented roster:

P.S. I have to give a huge shout-out to TomahawkNation.com because they were a fantastic resource for this piece and they do an absolutely unbelievable job covering Florida State and football in general over there. Give them a read whether you like Florida State or not.

EJ Manuel, QB- Manuel is returning for his second full season as a starter with 17 career starts over his Seminole career. He’s listed at 6’5”, 238 pounds and definitely passes the eye test, and his strong arm is noticeable right away. Not only that, but he is very athletic for his size which helped him rush for 141 yards and 4 touchdowns last year in addition to passing for 2,666 yards (65.3% completion), 18 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. One would assume he would improve on those numbers this year, particularly with some intriguing talent returning at receiver and running back, but I will be looking to see how his accuracy develops in addition to his pocket poise and ability to read defenses. He’s definitely got potential, but at this point he’s a lot closer to a 3rd round prospect than a 1st rounder in my opinion. I don’t think he processes information quickly enough to be a top college quarterback and eventual quality NFL starter, and unless his head catches up with his arm and his body he’s going to be a physically gifted quarterback who never put it together from the mental aspect of the game. Until he proves that his football IQ has improved and that he can read defenses well I’m not going to grade him in the top 64 picks.

Devonta Freeman, RB**- Freeman is only a true sophomore but he led the Seminoles in rushing last season, overtaking the oft-injured Jermaine Thomas. He rushed just 120 times but gained 579 yards (4.8 ypc) and 8 touchdowns as a freshman. I think he’s poised for a huge break-out season this year, as he is healthy and ready to rumble. He is listed at 5’8”, 200 pounds and honestly his running style and tools reminds me of Trent Richardson. I know that’s extremely high praise, but I can’t help but think of Richardson when I watch him run. He is not afraid to lower his pads and initiate contact with defenders, he churns his legs very well to get tough yards, he falls forward consistently, he has plenty of speed to rip off big chunks of yardage, he is shifty and can make defenders miss, and he has flashed the ability to catch passes well out of the backfield despite only having 15 receptions for 94 yards last season. I’m a big Freeman fan, and I hope he gets way more than 120 carries this season because this kid is special.

Rashad Greene, WR**- I may be a huge fan of Devonta Freeman but I am just as big a fan of Rashad Greene. He was mind-blowingly good as a true freshman last year as he led FSU in receptions (38), receiving yards (596) and touchdowns (7) all while having a 15.7 yards per reception average. He has fantastic hands, adjusts so well to the ball and just has a knack for making critical catches when his team needs him to. He can still improve as a route runner, but he is already pretty respectable in that department for such a young player. His body control and concentration is exceptional, and I think the 6’0”, 175 pound receiver is already one of the best in the ACC. He showed that consistently last year, and he has all the speed, burst and ball skills you could ever want in a wide receiver. Much like Freeman, this kid is SPECIAL.

Rodney Smith, WR- Smith is returning for his senior year with 20 career starts, including 12 last year during which he totaled 36 receptions, 561 yards and 4 touchdowns. At 6’6”, 219 pounds Smith is a huge target and has tons of potential as a red-zone threat. He came to FSU as a very raw player that needed to grow into his frame, and now that he is listed at 219 pounds he seems to have done so. He doesn’t have explosive speed but he is a long strider with build-up speed that can sneak behind defenses if they don’t keep an eye on him. Because of his height he has plenty of potential to come down with jump balls, and has good hands so he is able to win some of those match-ups. He’s not a top 100 pick at this point, but he has worked hard to fill out his frame, improve his route running and learn to shield defenders from the ball with his 6’6” frame. 6’6” receivers with good hands are exceedingly rare, and it seems that Smith fits that bill. If he can continue to show improvement, particularly in his route running, he will catch plenty of eyes as a senior. This senior receiver class is significantly worse than the 2012 draft class, so if Smith has a great season he could really vault himself up draft boards.

Christian Green, WR**- Green is another explosive receiver that Manuel will have to find a way to get the ball to on a regular basis. Green is listed at 6’2”, 206 and has fantastic raw athleticism and tons of speed, and as a redshirt freshman last season he had 26 receptions, 450 yards but no touchdowns. His speed presents a lot of potential headaches for defenses, but his route running needs considerable work so he is able to be bottled up by quality cornerbacks. If his route running improves he could be a huge difference maker in 2012 though, particularly if Manuel starts to read defenses better and quicker.

Nick O’Leary, TE**- O’Leary is just a true sophomore but he flashed some serious potential as a freshman last season en route to a 12 catch, 164 yard, 1 touchdown season as a true freshman. He may not have had eye-popping numbers, but the 6’4”, 240 pound tight end is ready to break out this year. He has good hands, runs good routes and is probably the best tight end FSU has had on its roster in years. I’m not sure how good of a blocker he is, but as a receiver he is likely to be targeted much more frequently than he was last season and should start to garner a lot of national attention soon. He’s a very good tight end prospect, so keep an eye on him.

Bjoern Werner, DE*- Werner is one of the top defensive ends in the country and could be a part of one of the best pass rushing draft classes in recent memory. Werner is listed at 6’4”, 272 pounds and in 13 starts last season he had 37 tackles, 4 TFL, 7 sacks, 8 pass break-ups, 1 interception, 1 fumble forced and 1 fumble that he returned 25 yards for a touchdown. Werner is the top prospect on FSU’s loaded roster which says a lot about him. He is only a true junior and yet he has played in every game over his first two years with the Seminoles. He has tons of potential thanks to his fantastic strength, work ethic and motor. He made huge strides as a sophomore despite it being his fourth year of football and he may be saving his best for last as a junior. He is still raw and is just scratching the surface of his potential, and I think he has the makings of a top 10 pick come April. Defensive ends with Werner’s skill set are exceedingly rare, and combining that with a fierce work ethic and motor often ends in good or great NFL careers. That is what I anticipate from Werner, and I dare you to ignore him when you watch Florida State’s defense this year. It’s nearly impossible.

Brandon Jenkins, DE- Jenkins is certainly the more well-known pass rusher on Florida State’s defense, but Werner is the superior prospect thanks to his size and strength. Jenkins has worked hard to add muscle to his frame, as he is currently listed at 6’3”, 260 pounds and was only about 240 when he broke out as a true sophomore. His stats may have slipped last season as he “only” had 41 tackles, 4 TFL, 8 sacks and 1 pass break-up, but that was largely due to an increase in attention from opposing offenses in the way of double teams and screens to his side of the field. The attention offenses gave to Jenkins certainly played a role in Werner’s break-out, but both are potential 1st round picks in their own right. Having that much talent at defensive end plus Tank Carradine, who would start on 95% of college football’s defensive lines but comes off the bench at Florida State, makes Florida State’s defensive line incredibly fierce even without considering the talent they have at defensive tackle. It will be interesting to see if Jenkins is actually playing at 260, my guess it he is in the 250-255 range. He might be able to get away with that at right end in the NFL, especially if he holds up against the run better as he showed the ability to do last year, but the best use of all of his athleticism might be at 3-4 outside linebacker. Regardless, he has all the burst, explosion and athletic ability you could ever want in a pass rusher, and with an 8-10 sack season this year he will likely go in the top 32 selections in April.

Tank Carradine, DE- Carradine is the odd man out on Florida State’s depth chart but he undoubtedly has a NFL future. Carradine is listed at 6’5”, 264 pounds and is extremely strong and projects very well to the strong side end in a 4-3 defense in my opinion. Last year was his first with the Seminoles and many didn’t expect him to contribute a lot but he shocked them all. He finished with 38 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and 5.5 sacks after committing to FSU out of junior college. Carradine doesn’t have the elite burst off the snap and doesn’t have Jenkins’ edge speed but he closes like a missile and his strength is on the same level as Werner’s. He was extremely impressive for a player new to the program last year and should be even better this year. I don’t think FSU will have 3 first round picks at defensive end, but if Carradine surprises people again and has a great season despite the team trying to divide limited snaps between three stud defensive ends then it wouldn’t be completely outlandish even in a draft class with so much pass rushing talent. I really like what Carradine brings to the table and I can’t wait to see how he does this year even if he isn’t starting for FSU.

Timmy Jernigan, DT**- Jernigan has the most upside of any of the defensive tackles in my opinion, and he showed a lot of it as a true freshman. The 6’3”, 301 pound defensive tackle accounted for 30 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. That’s an amazing year for a freshman defensive tackle, and it’s really raised expectations for him as a sophomore. This is a talented defensive line though, one of the two best in the country along with LSU in my opinion, and that means there won’t be an abundance of tackles for loss and sacks just floating around. Jernigan will still earn his keep though thanks to his fantastic blend of quickness, athleticism and strength. It was noted that one of his weaknesses is that he can be put on skates by a pair of quality offensive linemen double teaming him, but if that’s one of the only issues you can find with the game of a true freshman defensive tackle then you have stumbled on to a future top 10 pick in the making in my opinion. He’s got incredible upside and as long as he continues to work and progress he should end up as a top 15 pick one day.

Anthony McCloud, DT- McCloud is essentially the antithesis of Jernigan. He’s listed at 6’2”, 312 pounds and while he doesn’t have Jernigan’s freakish athleticism he does a fantastic job plugging up the middle of the field from the nose tackle position. He is squatty, strong and incredibly hard to move off the ball even with a double team. He may not offer the pass rush or backfield disruption of a player like Jernigan, but considering how trendy the 3-4 defense has become in the NFL space-eaters like Jernigan that simply occupy blockers and clog the A gaps in the middle of the defense are still incredibly valuable. He’s assignment reliable, he doesn’t get moved off the ball and he’s a team player. That sounds like he a top 100 lock in the NFL draft to me, especially if he continues to impress versus the run as a senior.

Everett Dawkins, DT- Dawkins flies under the radar on Florida State because he is literally surrounded with NFL talent in every direction. Jenkins, Werner, Carradine and Jernigan were all in the limelight last season, and Dawkins just went about his business on his way to a ho-hum 25 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 sack, 3 pass break-up, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble season. For most starting defensive tackles this would be a “meh” season, and statistically perhaps it is. But when your top three defensive ends combine for 20.5 sacks there just aren’t a ton of sacks to go around for your defensive tackles (FSU had “just” 6.5 between Dawkins, McCloud and Jernigan). Dawkins is listed at 6’2”, 301 pounds and is reliable against the run and the pass. He’s tough to move in the run game, he has great burst and acceleration and I think his statistics mask how much NFL ability he has. He’s playing on an incredibly talented defensive line which will make some teams wonder how good he really is, but he’s a top 100 pick without a doubt in my mind and should prove as much during the season and hopefully at the Senior Bowl.

Vince Williams, MLB- Williams is the starting MLB heading into the season despite some significant opposition from Telvin Smith, a 6’3”, 210 pound junior. Williams had a good season last year as he totaled 54 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 pass break-ups, and 1 interception. Williams is a good run defender but there are questions about how good he is versus the pass. I don’t know that much about him to be honest, but he played a key role in the FSU run defense being as good as it was (opponents averaged just 2.3 yards per carry against the ‘Noles, and only Wake Forest and Miami averaged over 3 yards per carry against them last season). He’s a reliable tackler and he may not be a freak athlete, but he knows his responsibilities and he sticks to them. He’s probably not going to be a high draft pick, but there are certainly worse middle linebackers starting around the ACC and the country.

Telvin Smith, MLB*- Smith attempted to challenge and overtake Williams, but he wasn’t able to do so from what I understand. He’s listed at 6’3”, 210 pounds and from what I understand he is the better coverage linebacker and makes more flashy plays than Williams does. That was partially evidenced by his stat-line as he totaled 42 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 pass break-ups, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble as a sophomore. He probably has more upside than Williams, but for now Williams is the starter even if Smith is still rotated in. He will almost certainly be the starter as a senior in 2013.

Christian Jones, OLB*- Jones is a stud outside linebacker, there’s no other way to say it. He may not be quite where you want to be as far as the mental aspect of the game is concerned, but he has all the size and athletic ability you could ever want in an outside linebacker. He’s listed at 6’4”, 237 pounds and has the speed and change of direction to cover any tight end and even slot receivers at times. He’s a ferocious hitter and while his stats may not jump off the page (56 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 pass break-ups) he absolutely has 1st round upside and the 2012 season may be the year he really starts to reach it. He’s a freak athlete and could even consider bulking up and playing 3-4 outside linebacker if he wanted to. He’s that caliber of athlete.

Xavier Rhodes, CB*- Rhodes really caught my eye as a redshirt freshman and he did it again last year when I was watching FSU against Notre Dame and he was doing a good job 1 on 1 against Michael Floyd who went #13 overall in the NFL Draft this past year to the Arizona Cardinals. Rhodes has fantastic size for a corner and is listed at 6’2”, 209 pounds, has the speed to turn and run with most any receiver, and has very long arms which help him at the line of scrimmage as well as in coverage when he tries to make plays on the ball. He’s got a ton of ability, impressive instincts and great ball skills and even though he didn’t have a great season last year (according to Tomahawk Nation there were rumors of attitude and work ethic problems with Rhodes after his terrific freshman year, which is a bit of a red flag) he still had 43 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 4 pass break-ups and 1 interception. That was a bit of a disappointment after he had 4 interceptions as a freshman, but now that he is back for his junior season and his third year as a starter (he returns with 25 career starts) he has a chance to get back to freshman form and show evaluators the potential top 15 pick we all saw two years ago.

Lamarcus Joyner, SS*- I am a BIG Joyner fan. He may be undersized for the safety position at 5’8”, 193 pounds but he is a fantastic player. He has fantastic instincts which is probably my favorite part of his game, but the fact that he has incredible range, legitimate 4.4 speed, long arms, great ball skills and closes like a heat-seeking missile sure doesn’t hurt either. Did I mention he packs a whallop as a hitter, averaged 30.5 yards per kick return and is one of the emotional leaders of the defense? Oh, and had 54 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 3 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions as a sophomore? He is my #1 draft eligible safety and it’s not even close. He is a 1st round lock if he continues to play anything like he did last season even in spite of his height. If he holds up from a durability stand-point the only knock close-minded analysts will be able to find on him is his lack of height. Joyner is the caliber of player that USC fans and the national media tried to hype Taylor Mays up to be except that Joyner is vastly better despite being about 5-6 inches shorter. Give me Joyner in my secondary literally any day of the week, he is the rare safety that makes the entire rest of the defense better because of his range and playmaking ability, and that’s why I would pick him in the top 20 (maybe even higher, though I want to see him as a second year starter before I go that far) without a second thought.

Dustin Hopkins, K- Hopkins rounds out this absolutely insane list of NFL Draft prospects and hopefuls. He is a good kicker who hasn’t been automatic or completely clutch, but he has reliable. He was 1st team all ACC last year as he made all 44 of his extra point attempts and made 22 of his 27 field goals with a long of 53 (though he was 1/3 from 50+). He drives the ball very well on kick-offs and certainly contributes to Florida State having as good of a kick-off coverage team as they do. I’m not sure if he will be drafted, but he could very well end up in the 5th-7th round conversation.

From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!

Today I am previewing the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavaliers made it to a bowl game last season but lost to Auburn 43-24. This year the Cavaliers are hoping to build on their 8-5 season in 2011, and Head Coach Mike London seems to be doing a good job. He took his 4-8 team in 2010 and helped mold it into an 8 win team just a year later, and now in 2012 they have a shot at a similar win total. They return their starting quarterback from a year ago in Michael Rocco and he has fresh competition at quarterback now that Alabama transfer Phillip Sims has been added to the fold. Rocco has the hold on the starting job for now, but Sims is a superior talent because of his athleticism and arm strength. Rocco won the job because of his command of the offense, but as Sims catches up to him in that regard it will be hard for London to keep a player with Sims’ talent off the field in my opinion. The competition in the 2013 spring should be a very good one, but for now Rocco will be the quarterback. The Cavaliers return two talented running backs in Perry Jones and Kevin Parks, and their offensive line returns three starters that I believe have NFL futures. The Cavaliers don’t have much experience at wide receiver, but returning receiving leader Tim Smith is poised for a break-out season, as is Darius Jennings, a true sophomore wide receiver with plenty of speed. The Cavaliers should have a pretty reliable offense this year, particularly if Rocco continues to improve and some of his relative unknown receiving options step up.

Strangely, the question marks surround the defense more than the offense. The defensive line has some talent headlined by captain Will Hill and defensive end Bill Schautz, and captains Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds anchor the linebackers. I wonder how much of a pass rush this defensive line will generate, and that makes me even more concerned about the Cavaliers’ secondary. They are starting a lot of inexperienced players, and return only one starter to that unit. They have potential, but their lack of in-game experience is likely going to rear its ugly head in the form of big plays this season, and that is going to hurt the Cavaliers in their quest to win an ACC Championship. I think UVA will go to a bowl game again, but I don’t think they will be able to unseat Virginia Tech for a trip to the ACC title game. With that, take a look at Virginia’s prospects to keep an eye on:

Michael Rocco, QB*- Rocco is a 6’3”, 225 pound junior who enters this season with 13 career starts that all came as a sophomore. He looked like the obvious choice to be the starting QB, but then Phillip Sims transferred to Virginia from Alabama after losing the starting job to AJ McCarron again. Rocco isn’t a great athlete but he was solid as a starter last year, passing for 2,671 yards (60.7% completion), 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Sims does, though he probably has above average arm strength if I had to approximate, but it’s not ideal. I want to see him improve as a decision maker this year, which could very well happen given how often he is praised for his football IQ and intangibles. He’s tough and he’s an effective leader even if he isn’t a big “rah-rah” guy, and that could be what helps him keep his job more than anything else. It will be interesting to see how he does this season, because keeping a hold on his starting job will require improving on the field and some mental toughness off of it. Sims isn’t going to go away, and he will be nipping at his heels all season in all likelihood. Rocco should be named the starter even if he isn’t as physically gifted because he knows the offense so well and Sims is still playing catch-up in that regard.

Phillip Sims, QB**- Sims is the talented but often overlooked quarterback that is likely to back Rocco up this season. Sims was AJ McCarron’s back-up at Alabama and could never overtake him to win the job, and transferred to Virginia hoping to unseat Rocco and start here. That seems unlikely even though he gained a medical hardship waiver enabling him to play right away. That meant he was in a stiff competition for playing time with the entrenched starting quarterback without having a firm grasp of the offense. Sims doesn’t have the playbook mastered yet, and even though it is similar to the offense he ran at Alabama it will take him time to master the terminology that Rocco is already fluent in. Sims likely won’t unseat Rocco for the starting job now, but down the line once they are both more comfortable Sims could have a chance to do so. Sims is listed at 6’2”, 217 pounds and I believe he is only a redshirt sophomore. That means that even if Rocco holds him off until he graduates Sims should have a season to start as a senior unless Rocco leaves early or he manages to overtake him before he graduates. It should be an intriguing developing story because Sims has a lot of natural talent, he’s just not as advanced as Rocco is in the mental aspect of the game, particularly as it pertains to UVA’s offense.

Perry Jones, RB- Jones is returning for his senior year with the Cavaliers having started 24 games in his career. He’s listed at 5’8”, 185 pounds but is pretty filled out considering his small frame. He is everywhere on Virginia’s offense, rushing 184 times for 915 yards and 5 touchdowns (5.0 ypc) and catching 38 passes for 506 yards and 3 touchdowns as a junior. Jones may be a smaller back but he runs hard and with authority, doesn’t back down from contact, and has plenty of shiftiness and quickness as a runner. He doesn’t have gamebreaking straight line speed, and he may not have the frame to take a consistent pounding as a feature back at the next level, but his ability to run the ball effectively as well as catch the ball out of the backfield should result in him being drafted in the 5th-6th round range if not higher next April.

Kevin Parks, RB**- Parks may only be a sophomore but he’s got plenty of upside and will likely be the feature back after Jones graduates. He’s a shorter back like Jones as he is listed at 5’8”, but he weighs just shy of 200 pounds, and is listed at 195. That’s a lot of muscle to pack onto that short frame, and he almost reminds me of Doug Martin in that respect (aka, the Muscle Hampster). Predictably Parks runs hard, can’t be taken down by arm tackles, has some burst to hit the hole and has good leg drive. He isn’t on Jones’ level as a receiver out of the backfield, catching just 11 passes for 82 yards and 1 touchdown as a freshman, but I would be surprised if he didn’t improve in that regard. He’s got a lot of ability and despite playing second fiddle to Jones last year he rushed for 709 yards and 9 touchdowns (4.7 ypc). He may not be the starter yet, but he’s going to get plenty of touches this year and will almost certainly be the go-to guy at running back in 2013.

Tim Smith, WR*- Smith is the top returning receiver coming back for the Cavaliers and is primed and ready for a break-out season if he can stay healthy. He lost the 2010 season to injury when he had to have reconstructive ankle surgery, and despite not being 100% last season from being “nicked up” he was far and away the best deep threat the Cavaliers had on their roster. He caught 33 balls for 565 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 17.1 yards per reception. He’s listed at 6’0”, 185 pounds and has plenty of speed to threaten teams vertically and has a 4.4 speed in the 40 yard dash. His sophomore season was just the beginning of his production and he is ready to make even more big plays this season. He has assumed a significant leadership role with the wide receivers because he is the most experienced of the entire lot, and has been pushing and motivating them all to get better. He is committed to improving and his goal is to get 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season even though only two Virginia receivers have eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving since 1990. He was actually high school teammates with Phillip Sims which provides an interesting dynamic for the quarterback competition that I imagine will be ongoing. Smith works hard, watches a lot of film and has become a leader all of which I love to hear. Now he just has to stay healthy and he should break out this season.

Darius Jennings, WR**- Jennings is a 5’11”, 165 pound receiver who is entering his true sophomore season but he has explosive speed much like Smith does. He had 20 receptions for 238 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore, but his biggest game came against Miami when he caught two screen passes but turned them into 78 combined yards and his only touchdown of the season. He’s dangerous in the open field and was utilized as the team’s primary kick returner last year, totaling a 20 yard average on his 30 runbacks. He seems poised to step up as well, and has reportedly been learning a lot from the leader of the receivers Tim Smith. He isn’t very big like Smith and he has plenty of speed and burst, so look out for them to turn a lot of short receptions into big gains thanks to their ability to generate yards after the catch.

Colter Phillips, TE- Phillips has 26 career starts but despite that he has never been much of a receiving threat, and he only had 3 receptions for 15 yards as a junior. He looked like he was ready to step up as a sophomore though, as he caught 18 receptions for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns. It remains to be seen how much of a role he will play in the passing attack this season, but hopefully he will be more involved. He is listed at 6’6”, 245 pounds and has the athletic ability and hands to be a productive tight end, he just needs to stay on the field.

Oday Aboushi, OT- Aboushi is the top draft prospect on Virginia’s roster right now and he has a legitimate shot at being a 1st round pick if he continues to improve as a senior. He enters his senior season with 25 career starts (20 coming at left tackle) and has prototypical left tackle size at 6’6”, 310 pounds and has the athleticism to stick at the position in the NFL. He is a hard worker and continues to improve, but he isn’t a very good run blocker at this point. That won’t deter teams from drafting him if he shows he can be a quality starting left tackle at the next level, but if teams are wishy washy about him sticking there or moving back to right tackle then his less impressive run blocking will drag his overall grade down. It will be interesting to see how he does as a senior because he is one of the top senior offensive tackles in the country.

Morgan Moses, OT*- Moses is a mountain of a man who enters his junior season with 20 career starts including 19 at Right Tackle (the other at right guard). He seems like a prototypical right tackle in the NFL to me, and is listed at 6’6”, 335 pounds and after reportedly weighing 350 pounds last season. He has surprisingly good feet and I think he can stay on the outside at the next level based on what I’ve seen so far. I’m not quite convinced he can be a left tackle in the NFL though. However, after Aboushi graduates if Moses doesn’t declare early he will likely slide over to left tackle as a senior like he did while Aboushi missed spring practice this season. Moses is very talented and has a lot of potential and is a potential 1st round pick in his own right, and forms one of the best offensive tackle combos in the entire country.

Luke Bowanko, OG*- Bowanko is returning for his second full season as a starter after starting all 13 games at right guard as a sophomore. He’s listed at 6’6”, 295 pounds and figures to get even bigger as he continues to fill out his frame. Bowanko has impressive speed and movement skills for an offensive lineman and reportedly ran a 4.8 40 yard dash when he was a junior in high school. Not only is he skilled on the football field but he works hard in the classroom and chose Virginia largely because of academics. He seems like a great kid and he’s an easy guy to root for, and I’m excited to see how he plays this year. This offensive line returns three starters and all three have NFL futures. Bowanko might be under the radar right now, but he won’t stay that way for long.

Bill Schautz, DE- Schautz is a high effort defensive end who has some injury question marks. He broke his leg in two places last season against Florida State and spent the entire offseason rehabbing to try to come back for the season. He is supposedly 100% now, and that is a tribute to his impressive work ethic and determination. He’s a senior now and if he can stay healthy for the entire season he could easily surpass his last season totals of 28 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks and 2 pass break-ups. He’s got a great motor and always plays with great intensity, and has reportedly taken the top recruit in the state of Virginia, Eli Harold, under his wing. The two are roommates and if Harold, who has been timed at 4.46 in the 40 yard dash, begins to emulate Schautz’ work ethic and motor the sky will be the limit for him. There’s no word on whether Harold will play this season or not, but even if he doesn’t the lessons he will learn from Schautz will be valuable. He’s a key cog on the Cavaliers defense and while he might not be more than a late rounder or undrafted free agent at this point his leadership and work ethic will prove valuable if he does get a shot at the NFL.

Will Hill, DT- Hill is returning for his senior year with the Cavaliers and the defensive tackle has been named a team captain for the 2012 season. He is listed at 6’4”, 280 pounds and despite only having 1 career start he returns as a starting defensive tackle and a leader at that. Last season he had 36 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble. I think he is ready to surpass all of those totals as a senior. He’s a bit undersized and could stand to add some more weight to fill out his frame, but he’s flying way under the radar since he has so little starting and playing experience beyond last season. He’s flashed some hand usage thus far in his career, but if he can continue to improve his hand usage and get more violent to shed blocks quicker and more decisively he would make more impact plays. He’s got a good motor and work ethic, so I think he’s capable of those improvements. If he can step up it would really help Virginia’s defense as a whole, both in run defense and in pass defense.

Steve Greer, MLB- Greer might be the top prospect on Virginia’s defense. He is listed at 6’2”, 225 pounds and he led the team in tackles last season with 103 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks and 4 pass break-ups. He has 24 career starts as he started as a freshman and as a junior, but lost his starting job as a sophomore despite playing in every game. He’s going to be the starter in the middle again this year, and figures to be one of the leaders of the defense along with Will Hill and Bill Schautz and was named a team captain for the 2012 season. He’s a tough player that doesn’t have great range though, and even though he’s a good tackler he is relatively unproven in coverage. He has some work to do to get drafted, but he’s got the attitude and work ethic to make a NFL roster even if he doesn’t get drafted.

LaRoy Reynolds, OLB- Reynolds was the second leading tackler on the Cavaliers last season with 88 tackles, 8 TFL and 1 pass break-up as a junior. He’s listed at 6’2”, 230 pounds and has been named a captain for the 2012 season. He’s not quite as fundamentally sound as Greer is as a tackler, but he has more explosiveness as a hitter and is no stranger to aggressive take-downs. He’s a little more physically imposing despite their similar measurables, but he tackles high more than I would like which can lead to missed tackles if it isn’t corrected. He contributes on special teams as well which should help him make a NFL roster even if he doesn’t get drafted.

Demetrious Nicholson, CB**- Nicholson started 13 games last year as a true freshman and is the only returning starter in the secondary for the Cavaliers which is going to be a serious concern for their defense this season. The pressure is squarely on the front 7 to make things as easy as possible for the secondary as they start not one, not two, not three but FOUR sophomores including three true sophomores in their defensive backfield. Nicholson is easily the most proven commodity having started last season as a true freshman as he earned 2nd team freshman All-American honors as he totaled 60 tackles, 2 TFL, 8 pass deflections and 2 interceptions. He is the only defender returning with an interception in 2011 and is going to be under intense pressure. Even if he steps up and plays well teams will just avoid him and challenge the other unproven members of the Cavalier secondary. Nicholson is listed at 5’11” but only weighs 165 pounds, so durability may be a concern for him until he can fill out his frame, but he has plenty of talent.

From now until the season starts I will be previewing the prospects from Big-12, ACC and Big East teams for the upcoming season. My colleague at NFL Draft Monsters Justin Higdon (follow him on Twitter @afc2nfc) will be covering the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 and you will be able to read those posts on NFL Draft Monsters. Check them all out to get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft by identifying the prospects you need to learn about!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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