Tag Archive: Travis Benjamin


Logan Thomas will be filling Tyrod Taylor's shoes at quarterback, and I have high expectations for him. He has a ton of upside.

11. Virginia Tech- A lot of people might be surprised to see VT this high, but even though they don’t often come away victorious against the best teams they are incredibly consistent and they are definitely a program that finds a way to reload versus rebuild, and that is exactly what they will be doing in lieu of losing Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and Rashad Carmichael to the NFL draft. David Wilson is ready to be the man at RB now that Williams and Evans have departed, and the word explosive might be an understatement for him. He compiled 619 rushing yards (5 TD’s), 234 receiving yards (4 TD’s) and 584 kickoff return yards (2 TD’s) on only 150 touches! That’s over 1,300 total yards on exactly 150 touches, which is pretty impressive especially in a rotational role. He will be the man now though, and Logan Thomas looked very impressive in spring ball from what I heard, and I am excited to watch him play. He looked good to me when I saw him sling the ball a couple times last year, but this will be his first season as a starter. At a listed height and weight of 6’6”, 242 pounds plus mobility he is going to be one to watch I’m sure. VT always has a fast defense and they have a few guys ready to emerge as quality pass rushers this year. J.R. Collins (a sophomore in 2011) had 5 sacks last year and apparently looked very good this spring, and I expect him to emerge as the best pass rusher on the team. Additionally, Chris Drager has shown some ability but I’m not sure whether or not he will start as a senior. And finally, James Gayle (a sophomore in 2011) had 4 sacks in limited playing time last year and should get more snaps as a part of VT’s rotation. VT also has a talented secondary, led by Jayron Hosley, a cornerback with 1st round NFL draft potential. VT is a team to watch this year, as they should contend with Florida State, Miami and hopefully North Carolina to be the top dog in the ACC.

12. Miami- I have been saying for months that I think Miami is going to be very tough this year and now it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. They just have so much talent! It all comes down to quarterback though. I realize this might feel high, especially considering my very low opinion of Jacory Harris, but I can’t imagine that Al Golden will leave him in there too long unless he plays well. So either he plays bad for a few games, gets yanked, and Morris steps in or Harris recovers his sophomore year form and Miami immediately becomes a contender for the ACC title. But outside of QB they have a load of talent. Headlining that group are guys like Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Blake Ayles (a transfer from USC), Olivier Vernon, Marcus Forston, Adewale Ojomo, Sam Spence, Vaughn Telemaque and Ray Ray Armstrong, among others. Their defensive line is going to be incredibly scary if they can all mesh together, because I had three or four of their defensive linemen on my list of potential breakout players this year. Vernon, Forston and Ojomo alone should guarantee a good run defense and a FIERCE pass rush, so I am very excited to see how this team does this year. They have a ton of potential, I just hope they live up to it.

I have been a Kirk Cousins fan since he was splitting time with Keith Nichol as a sophomore. Now it seems everyone is realizing what kind of a QB he is. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

13. Michigan State- Michigan State is coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Crimson Tide in their bowl game and I think they will be hungry after barely missing out on the Big-10 Championship (even though they beat the eventual winner, Wisconsin, handing them their only loss before they lost to TCU in the Rose Bowl). They return a ton of talent such as Kirk Cousins at quarterback, and three quality running backs led by Edwin Baker with Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper providing quality touches when Baker is rotated out. They also have a game breaker in Keshawn Martin, a dangerous slot receiver and kick return man, plus B.J. Cunningham is returning. That means they will have two experienced receivers for Cousins to throw to. If their offensive line holds up they should have another very balanced attack that runs the ball effectively which opens up the play action pass, which makes them very tough to stop. On defense they will have a lot of talent up front as they started three sophomores and a freshman last year (headlined by Jerel Worthy and Tyler Hoover), and they have a huge sophomore William Gholston who is ready to step up for some playing time as well. They all have a lot of experience up front and they are young, and I think they will have no problem stuffing the run like they did last year and they should get after the passer as well. Their DL is the strength of their defensive unit, and it should make things easier for their LB’s (I believe they lost all three of their starting LB’s) and their defensive backs. Michigan State is definitely one of my favorites to win the Big-10, right up there with Wisconsin and Nebraska.

14. Nebraska- Nebraska has officially joined the Big-10 (which now has 12 teams) after leaving the Big-12 (which now has 11 teams… I think. Sometimes I can’t keep up). However, their playing style meshes perfectly with the Big-10 as they play great defense, they are physical and they love to run the ball. They are immediately contenders for the Big-10 title, but they aren’t as familiar with the conference as other teams are, so it’s hard for me to anoint them the front-runners for the conference title over teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State, who are both returning a lot of significant talent. Nebraska will be dangerous though, even without Roy Helu and Niles Paul on offense. They also have a good deal of talent on defense, headlined by Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonso Dennard. They will be a fun team to watch this year, especially if Taylor Martinez can figure out how to throw the ball accurately.

Kellen Moore has one last chance to lead Boise State to a National Title or elite bowl game, but it won't be as easy as in past years.

15. Boise State- I have Boise State lower then some people do, but I have my reasons. First, they start out their season with a tough game against Georgia. Georgia may not be a powerhouse, but they are consistently competitive and even without a lot of RB help they still have a good quarterback in Aaron Murray, the best TE in the country in Orson Charles, and like all good SEC teams do they recruit well and have some nice incoming talent. With Boise State losing some of their best weapons on offense (Titus Young and Austin Pettis in particular) along with their offensive coordinator (who went to Texas) it isn’t unrealistic to expect them to be in a dog fight (pun intended) with Georgia in week one. But major props to Boise State for scheduling a legitimate out of conference opponent, because most teams don’t have the cojones to do that, especially teams from non-AQ conferences that are out of the title and elite bowl game race with just one loss. If they can get past Georgia, though, they have a shot to make it to the title game if they win out. But every year there is a scare or two, even for teams with as much experience as Boise, but Boise has the talent and they have done this enough times with Kellen Moore at the helm that I think they have a good shot at ending the season with one or no losses. I can’t wait to see the game against Georgia, I really have no idea what way that will go.

Thanks for reading my third installment of the top 25! The top 10 will be unveiled over the next two days, so check in soon!

–Tom

Jenkins has a lot of potential and athletic ability so I am excited to see how he progresses as a sophomore.

Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida:

Measurables: 6’1”, 223 pounds, #43

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 76 tackles (41 solo), 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 pass break up

Analysis: Jenkins was one of the most productive freshman linebackers in the country last year as he managed 75+ tackles, 4.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks. I expect him to improve on those statistics as a sophomore, and I think he is on the fast track to leaving as a junior if he continues to improve and get bigger and stronger. I am very much looking forward to seeing how much he improves as a sophomore because he has a lot of upside.

Robinson really impressed me when I saw him get limited playing time behind Dent last year, and I think he will emerge as a consistnt playmaker this year.

Christian Robinson, LB, Georgia:

Measurables: 6’2”, 226 pounds, #45

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 45 tackles (27 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks

Analysis: Robinson should be one of the starting ILB’s in Georgia’s 3-4 defense this year. He will be replacing Akeem Dent and I think he has the instincts and tackling ability to do so. He strikes me as a potentially impressive linebacker and I think he has the mentality to be a very good player for Georgia. He’s fearless and I watched him dive over an offensive lineman’s cut block to tackle a running back. It was pretty epic, so I expect him to be an impact player the next two years for Georgia.

Banks has rare size for a cornerback and if he shows ability in man coverage he will be a hot commodity when he leaves for the draft.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State:

Measurables: 6’2”, 180 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 54 tackles (34 solo), 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 3 INTs, 7 pass break ups, 1 FF

Analysis: Banks showed me some ability to turn and run and an ability to locate the ball in the air and make a play on it when I was watching him. He had 3 INT’s and 7 pass break ups last year which is pretty good for a sophomore corner. His size is going to be very intriguing, especially for a corner, but if he has good hips and speed then he’s going to shoot up draft boards. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays this year as a junior, I think he has a lot of potential.

Buchanan has a lot of potential because of his size and speed so I am looking for a serious bump in production as a junior.

Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois:

Measurables: 6’6”, 225 pounds, #99

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 40 tackles (18 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 pass break ups

Analysis: Buchanan has great size and speed off the edge and I think he has a bunch of potential. He might not have filled out his frame yet but I think that if he can get stronger and continue to develop he could easily hit 8 sacks this season. I am very interested to see how he plays this year because I think he has a high ceiling based off of what I saw of him as a sophomore. He was reportedly arrested for underage consumption of alcohol and for driving under the influence last September, so it will be interesting to see if he learned from that incident or if he struggles with off field issues in the future. Hopefully he stays out of trouble from here on out.

Tress Way is definitely going to get drafted if he maintains his impressive production as a punter before he leaves.

Tress Way, P, Oklahoma:

Measurables: 6’1”, 200 pounds, #36

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 73 punts, 3,212 yards (44 yard average), 70 kick offs, 4,400 yards (62.99 average), 9 touchbacks

Analysis: I know having a punter on this list might seem strange, but Tress Way is a pretty insane punter. Every time I see him punt it’s a great punt, so I am interested to see if he can have an even better year than last year punting. Plus he has a very strong leg for kick offs, so once he enters the draft he is going to be a draftable prospect because of his ability to impact games punting and kicking off.

Fleming (pictured as #14) seems to have impressive ball skills and I’m excited to see him play as a Senior.

Jamell Fleming, DB, Oklahoma:

Measurables: 5’11”, 191 pounds, #32

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 71 tackles (49 solo), 8.5 TFL, 5 INT (1 TD), 1.0 sacks, 14 pass break ups

Analysis: Fleming impressed me when I was watching Oklahoma’s defense this season and I checked out his stat line and it was also impressive. 70+ tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5 INT’s with a touchdown plus 14 pass break ups? That’s very impressive production for a defensive back. I am looking forward to seeing where he lines up this year (probably corner) and if he continues to play well there he could be a top 100 pick without a doubt, especially if he turns and runs well. It’s pretty evident he has good ball skills by his 14 pass break ups and 5 INT’s. I’m excited to see him play this year.

Benjamin might not be the biggest receiver, but I love his potential as a slot receiver. I’d just like to see him improve his hands.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami:

Measurables: 5’10”, 176 pounds, #3

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 43 receptions, 743 yards, 3 TD’s. 3 rushes, 44 yards. PR: 23 returns, 106 yards, 1 TD.

Analysis: Benjamin was a guy that I thought might break out last year but Hankerson drew most of the attention. I think Benjamin has a lot of potential as a slot receiver in the NFL and I think he’s going to surpass all of the stats he had last year with 50+ receptions, 800+ yards, 5+ TD’s and potentially more effectiveness as a punt returner. He doesn’t have impressive size but he is fast and I think he has pretty reliable hands. I think he has a lot of explosiveness and if Stephen Morris can spread the ball around amongst all of his talent (LaRon Byrd, Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson…) then Benjamin could have a very big year. I worry a bit about him body catching so I will be looking to see how well he catches the ball away from his body with his hands this year.

Jefferson was quite impressive as a freshman, but his offseason arrest is a bit concerning.

Tony Jefferson, DB, Oklahoma:

Measurables: 5’11”, 198 pounds, #1

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 65 tackles (44 solo), 7.0 TFL, 2 INT (1 TD), 1 FR, 2.0 sacks, 7 pass break ups

Analysis: Jefferson had an impressive freshman year and I imagine he will be opposite Jamell Fleming at corner. I will definitely be tuning in to see how he progresses as a sophomore. If he has another year like he did as a freshman he could be on the fast track to leaving as a junior for the NFL draft. However, he was arrested on interference with the official process of Kenny Stills being arrested for suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence. These charges don’t seem particularly serious to me, but hopefully it doesn’t become a pattern.

Wilber has a very intriguing combination of size and athletic ability. If he can get stronger then he could produce 10 sacks next year.

Kyle Wilber, DE, Wake Forest:

Measurables: 6’5”, 235 pounds, #97

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 65 tackles (33 solo), 14.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 4 pass break ups, 3 FF’s, 1 kick/punt blocked

Analysis: Wilber strikes me as a major sleeper because he has great size, has already showed the ability to be productive, plus he has impressive speed off the edge from what I have seen. He just needs to get stronger to fill out his frame. I don’t know a ton about his game yet, but he showed up whenever I was watching Wake Forest’s defense, so I have high expectations for him as a senior. He could very well hit 15.0 TFL and 10.0 sacks next year, he has that upside.


Okoro has an intriguing combination of size, athletic ability and ball skills.

Kenny Okoro, CB, Wake Forest:

Measurables: 6’0”, 195 pounds, #6

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 39 tackles (32 solo), 1.0 TFL, 2 INT, 5 pass break ups

Analysis: Okoro impressed me almost as much as Wilber did when I watched Wake Forest. I think he is probably the best corner they’ve had since Alphonso Smith. He has good size for a corner as well and seems to have good ball skills. I am very much looking forward to see how he progresses as a junior. I want to see how he does in man coverage because if he plays man well then he will be in serious demand because he has good size for a corner and seems to have reliable hands. I don’t know how well he supports the run, but if he has a good year this year he might consider leaving for the NFL Draft after this season.

Elliot has a lot of speed off the edge and I think he should be a very effective pass rusher when he cracks the starting line-up.

Tevin Elliot, DE/LB, Baylor:

Measurables: 6’2”, 245 pounds, #18

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 36 tackles (24), 9.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 2 pass break ups, 2 FF’s

Analysis: Tevin Elliot was a freshman last year and in a rotational role he managed 9.0 TFL and 5.0 sacks. He has a lot of speed off the edge and while he doesn’t have ideal size I think he is going to be a fierce 4-3 RE or 3-4 OLB prospect in two years. I think with more consistent playing time he will improve on all of these stats because with his edge speed he has the potential to get 8.0 sacks a year.

Adams has a ton of potential and I love him as a slot receiver, but he is kind of a hot head and he body catches too much for my liking.

Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas:

Measurables: 5’11”, 190 pounds, #3

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 50 receptions, 813 yards, 6 TD’s. 6 rushes, 32 yards. 16 PR, 249 yards (15.56 avg) 1 TD

Analysis: I think that Adams is going to have another very good year this year, but I think he has the potential to break 1,000 yards because I think he will be one of the go-to guys on Arkansas. He has a ton of potential as he has solid size, he plays hard and he is very dangerous after the catch. He body-catches more than I would like to see though, and he also tends to be a hot-head which can get him in trouble and draw unnecessary penalties. So he is a bit of a risky player, but I love how he plays the game and if he can improve his hands to catch passes away from his body then he could be an extremely dangerous slot receiver in the NFL.

I don’t think Wilson will have any problems stepping in to replace Mallett at QB next year.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas:

Measurables: 6’3”, 215 pounds, #8

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 34/51, 66.7% comp, 453 yards, 4 TD’s/3 INT’s

Analysis: I think Wilson is going to surprise everyone that is expecting Arkansas to have a drop-off at quarterback with Mallett leaving. Wilson came in after Mallett got hurt against Auburn and almost won that game. Obviously his inexperience plagued him as he made a couple of costly turnovers, but that’s bound to happen in your first meaningful playing time when you aren’t expected to be the starter (plus they were playing from behind). However, he has good arm strength, accuracy and solid size. I expect him to take over the starting job and have an incredible year because he is stepping into an ideal situation with Knile Davis, a very dynamic running back, returning for his junior season, plus he will have three seniors and a junior to throw the ball to in Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Cobi Hamilton. That’s a plethora of weapons to spread the ball around to, so I think that Arkansas’ offense could be just as potent as it was last year, if not more potent. Wilson will have everything to do with that.

Wright has definite potential as a slot receiver and I think he will have a great senior season with Wilson at QB.

Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas:

Measurables: 5’10”, 180 pounds, #4

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 42 receptions, 788 yards, 5 TD’s.

Analysis: Jarius Wright is going to be a part of one of the best group of college receivers in my recent memory next year with Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton. They are all very experienced, they all have the ability to stretch defenses vertically and they all have ability after the catch. Wright should be a slot receiver with Joe Adams, and I look for him to improve on his numbers from a year ago because I think Tyler Wilson will be slinging the ball around a lot this year.

I think Cobi Hamilton has the upside to be one of the best receivers in the SEC.

Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas:

Measurables: 6’3”, 209, #11

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 32 catches, 630 yards, 6 TD’s.

Analysis: I have been high on Cobi Hamilton since I saw him play as a freshman and nothing he did as a sophomore could have dissuaded me from thinking this way. He has impressive size, he has great leaping ability, he attacks the ball in the air, and he has a knack for big plays. I am very excited to see how he progresses as a junior with Tyler Wilson throwing him the ball. If he gets the ball enough he could very well leave for the NFL draft and join the rest of Arkansas’ receivers in this receiver class. I think it would be great if he came back for Wilson’s senior season because I think they could be one of the best QB-WR tandems in the country, but obviously that is looking a bit too far forward. Hamilton has the potential to be one of the best WR’s in the SEC, he just needs opportunities to prove it.

Malik Jackson has a lot of potential and I think his senior season may be the year he puts it all together.

Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee:

Measurables: 6’5”, 265 pounds, #97

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 48 tackles (29 solo), 11.0 TFL, 5.0 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 4 pass break ups

Analysis: Jackson transferred from USC to Tennessee after their problems with the NCAA and he hasn’t done a ton thus far but he showed some definite potential as a junior with 11.0 TFL and 5.0 sacks. He has great size and he is an impressive athlete though I haven’t been able to properly assess his burst and edge speed yet. However, I am looking for a pretty big boost in production as a senior and I am definitely going to be checking in to see how he does this year.

Janzen Jackson is an incredible player and he may be the best safety in the country.

Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee:

Measurables: 6’0”, 187 pounds, #15

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 69 tackles (40 solo), 4.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 5 INT’s, 6 pass break ups

Analysis: Janzen Jackson may be the best DB in the SEC right now and that is saying a hell of a lot because the SEC has as much talent in the secondary as I have ever seen right now. Jackson is incredibly athletic and I think he is going to have an insane junior season and leave for the draft. He is one of my favorite players in the country right now even though he definitely had off-field issues as a freshman when Kiffin was still around. He had the chance to learn from Eric Berry so it will be interesting to see how he does this year with all the focus on him. I imagine teams will be throwing away from him, but he will probably still get his numbers like Berry did because he is one of the best, if not the best, safeties in the entire country.

Bray is one of the best young NFL quarterbacks in the country and the best part is he runs a pro-style so he will be easier to project to the NFL.

Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee:

Measurables: 6’5”, 210 pounds, #8

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 125/224, 55.8% comp, 1,849, 18 TD’s/10 INT’s

Analysis: Bray really impressed me last year when he stepped in as a true freshman and rallied Tennessee’s season as it seemed to be circling the drain and led them to a bowl game. It was an epic game against UNC and while it was controversial I was still very impressed with how Bray handled himself and how he played. He seems to be very poised and he has a strong arm, good accuracy and impressive size. I am very excited to see how he progresses over the next two years because I think he could be one of the best quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft class if he continues to develop and work hard to improve. I am very high on him.

Hunter is one of my favorite young wide receivers in the country and I think he is going to step up in a big way for Tennessee this year.


Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee:

Measurables: 6’4”, 183 pounds, #87

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 16 receptions, 415 yards, 7 TD’s

Analysis: Hunter is a guy that I have been high on since his freshman year and I am looking for him to absolutely blow up this year. Tennessee’s top two receivers both graduated this year and now it will be up to him to step up to help them replace him. He has impressive size, leaping ability and I really like his hands. I am excited to see how he deveopls this season.

Martin has a lot of speed and playmaking ability and he should have an increased role in Michigan State’s offense this year.

Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State:

Measurables: 5’11”, 185 pounds, #82

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 32 receptions, 394 yards, 1 TD. 18 rushes, 157 yards (8.72 ypc). 16 PR, 228 yards (14.25 avg), 1 TD

Analysis: Martin should be targeted a lot more as a senior now that Mark Dell graduated and he has great speed and quickness which should allow him to get over the top of defenses. I think he has the potential to get 50+ catches, 750+ yards and 5 TD’s, plus still have an impact on the running game and as a punt returner. He brings a lot of value and I am excited to see how he steps up to replace Dell and how explosive he is this year.

Thanks for reading!! There is more to come!

–Tom

Here are my notes from the Miami-Pittsburgh game. Hopefully you guys find them interesting.

Jacory Harris does not look good tonight. He has made some nice throws and completed some passes, but he threw a bad interception when trying to take a deep shot to Benjamin and the ball had a lot of air under it and was thrown to the inside and underthrown instead of to his outside shoulder and over the top, so it got intercepted. Not a good play. He has forced a few throws into coverage, he is throwing off his back foot at times, and he is taking hits occasionally. I am not impressed with him at all thus far. All of his passes, even his routine completions, continue to hang in the air too long. His passes just have too much touch on them. Jacory is playing a bit better in the 2nd half, but he has been disappointing overall in my opinion, but that is because I don’t like some of his fundamental habits.

Berry has looked good thus far, they need to stay with him during the duration of a drive. They go away from him a lot even when he is getting effective yardage. He has gotten good yardage when they run with him. No gain on this run by Berry, Sheard made a nice play moving down the line here.

Travis Benjamin continues to look dangerous, especially as a return man. He had a punt return touchdown called back because of a block in the back, which wasn’t even necessary as he was already half-way by him and wouldn’t have gotten tackled by the player who got blocked. It will be interesting to see if he breaks another big play in this game. He had a nice over the shoulder catch on the sideline earlier in the game too that I must not have seen but I just saw it on replay. Couldn’t tell if he caught it with his hands or not but I couldn’t tell since I only saw it once. Benjamin is beating Pitt up on this drive, already 2 catches in the first 3 minutes of the 2nd half. He is creating a lot of separation. He has 5 catches for 86 yards thus far. Benjamin just punched in a touchdown. He made a nice catch with blanket coverage from Gary for the first time today and he made a nice catch in the end zone for his 8th catch and now has 95 yards I believe.

LaRon Byrd has made some nice grabs today. He is catching the ball with his hands, and he is creating enough separation that even as he waits for the ball to get there from Harris. He made a great catch where he had to extend as far as he could and he fell down after getting his hands on it. I like what I see from him as a possession receiver, he has reliable hands.

Orlando Franklin is getting beat off the edge regularly by Brandon Lindsey #35, the replacement for Greg Romeus tonight. He looks very bad against the speed rush. I think he is a guard on the next level.

Olivier Vernon is very fast off the edge. He has a nice motor too, and he is coming so fast off the edge they are chipping and doubling him with the TE, but he has flashed the football IQ to go inside when he recognizes the double and he just keeps coming until he gets to the QB. I liked what I saw from him last year against Wisconsin and I am definitely keeping an eye on him this year. Vernon is flashing some serious ability, he split a double team nicely and got in Sanseri’s face as he delivered a short throw to Baldwin, but on the next play he got upfield on a speed rush and spun back into the offensive tackle. Vernon just made a great play versus the run. Beat two players and wrapped up the back for a TFL. Very nice block shedding and penetration upfield.

Sam Spence has made some nice plays today, though I haven’t heard much from him in the 2nd quarter. Great job of keeping contain on the reverse, he played the blocker perfectly and was a key cog in forcing an 18 yard loss. Spence with the sack on this play, looks like he may have come free on this play but he still got a sack, nice play by Spence.

Alan Bailey was involved in a play earlier but since then he hasn’t done anything that I have seen. I am not sold on him and this isn’t changing my mind. Bailey is so slow off the line, he is so bad at shedding blocks and on this particular play when Vernon blew up the run he got blocked so far down field he was out of the camera shot with a last shove by the offensive lineman by the time he quit on the play. What a pathetic level of effort and he got driven right downfield by the Pitt double team. Shameful.

Brandon Harris made a solid stop against the run. I haven’t seen him at all tonight because Miami has been stacking the box so the run game has been very ineffective. He missed a tackle on Graham but he didn’t have a good angle to get to him as he was outside and he was in the slot, ran a quick in and he did his best to close but couldn’t get there.

Sanseri, Pitt’s new QB, has looked awful tonight. He hasn’t been able to challenge downfield and he has looked uncomfortable from the start. He has missed some routine throws and he has panicked regularly in the pocket and missed throws he should make while scrambling. He has very little pocket poise.

Graham, the back-up RB I believe, has sparked Pitt’s offense here. He ran a quick in and Graham caught the ball, Harris couldn’t get him from behind as he reached for his ankles, and broke a tackle very nicely and converted a 2nd and 28 pretty much by himself. He is very quick and covers a lot of ground quickly. He has looked good running the ball as well, he is a quicker back. Graham is shifty and just makes guys miss, but he has a lot to work on in pass protection. He let a linebacker who came a little late come unblocked and he nailed Sanseri and had he had a little more time he could have hit Baldwin deep for a touchdown, even still Baldwin almost made a nice catch on the sideline on a poorly thrown ball.

I haven’t seen anything out of Jonathan Baldwin yet. Sanseri isn’t pushing the ball downfield so far in this game, so it makes sense that he hasn’t been involved thus far. He had some separation on one attempted pass downfield but it was a very bad throw. I’ll try to see how he gets off the line as the game goes on and see if he gets any separation. Baldwin had his first catch for 6 yards with about 7 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. He has barely been involved in this game. Baldwin just got two catches in a row from Bostick, one on about an 8 yard curl with some contact as the ball came in, so pretty nice job to haul it in, and another over the middle for a nice chunk of yards and another first down. Let’s see if he can get a little more involved at the end of this game. Baldwin is very, very good at making adjustments to bring passes in. He nearly made an amazing catch, but barely got his finger tips on the ball even after his great adjustment near the sideline, he got his fingers on it and then caught it in after a short bobble but he was already out of bounds. What a catch that would have been. Bostick is targeting Baldwin for sure, he has thrown to him 4 times in one drive. Baldwin didn’t see the ball lobbed up to him from Bostick and it got intercepted easily since he didn’t even make a play on it. Hard to believe he didn’t expected the ball to come his way in that situation, but still it’s hard to be super hard on him since he never saw the ball in the air. I really would have liked to see him make a play on that jump ball though.

Bostick has come into the game late in the 4th quarter and he has hit three quick completions in a row, two to Baldwin, and they are moving now. Already inside the 40 of Miami which Sanseri managed only once. Now 4 completions in a row and another first down. Bostick moved the team down, even though Miami was backing off, and just threw an INT as he just threw up a prayer since the center rolled the ball back to the QB and he tried to give someone a chance to make a play. He led a nice drive though, I would consider playing him next week. He wasn’t afraid to challenge downfield, though he really had nothing to lose. I was definitely more impressed with Bostick than Sanseri. Another lob up to Baldwin but he didn’t see the ball in the air apparently so it was just a gimme interception for Van Dyke. Too bad, would have liked to see Baldwin go up for the ball and make a play.

Brandon Lindsey, #35 on Pittsburgh is Romeus’ replacement because of his injury. He has looked good tonight. He is beating Franklin off the edge regularly and Miami is so concerned about it (even though he isn’t a regular starter) that they are chipping him to try to help Franklin out. It will be interesting to see how he looks in the second half and if he gets to Harris at all. I hope he does, I like the way he plays.

Jabal Sheard, #97, just got a sack on Jacory Harris, nice sack and he beat #61 like he stole something on this play. He has made a couple nice plays tonight, but overall I haven’t noticed him a heck of a lot. I have been looking out for #35 though, so I definitely can’t say Sheard hasn’t been active. He strikes me as a solid DE prospect, but definitely not a 1st or 2nd rounder at this point. Sheard made a nice move to shed a block and get into the backfield but he slid right off of Berry on this play and he broke it for a big run. It would have been a great TFL by Sheard but he botched the tackle, I don’t think he hit him low enough.

#26 Ricky Gary has looked awful tonight. He is a senior corner on Pittsburgh and he has been getting beat on deep comeback routes often, he got beat deep for a TD by Leonard Hankerson and has generally been beaten in coverage all game. I wonder if he has given up 8 or more receptions tonight, I think he may have. He has just been giving up separation all night, I don’t know if it is because he is slow to close or if he doesn’t have a good backpedal, but he doesn’t have good size to play in the NFL and he has been getting worked tonight, so I don’t think he has much NFL ability.

#18 Holley had an absolutely dirty interception. The ball was way underthrown by Harris, but he went up for the ball with Benjamin and it was over Benjamin’s head, Holley hit it with his hand and knocked it towards himself and as he fell to the ground he brought it in for the interception. It was an awesome play, but I haven’t noticed him otherwise. I don’t think he has given up too many catches, #26 has been victimized a few times from what I have noticed. He looked like he may have been out of position/late on that touchdown to Hankerson since I believe he was over the top on that throw.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you found some of it interesting!

–Tom

First of all, I apologize profusely for the huge gap between this post and my last post, which was close to three weeks ago. My computer had a bunch of viruses on it and apparently the hard drive was about to break (which Geek Squad said was probably caused by bumping or dropping it, woops!) so I got it fixed, it took about a week, and I now have Windows 7 instead of Vista and I just installed Microsoft Office 2007 about an hour ago before I finished writing this up (since I couldn’t read any of my notes before that because I didn’t have Microsoft Word on my laptop. It was a pretty serious issue. I also couldn’t watch tape all that time!) Anyways, between my laptop breaking and not having Microsoft Office I had a long unintentional break between my posts, so thank you for bearing with me and occasionally checking my blog out to see if I had gotten my act together and written anything! Here, at long last, is my post about the Wisconsin-Miami Champs Bowl game from last season!

Harris is talented both as a runner and as a passer, but he needs to learn to put more zip on his throws if he is going to legitimize himself as a NFL prospect.

When you watch Miami games Jacory Harris is a guy you just have to take notes on. He’s a very talented guy, he’s a good quarterback and he’s a threat to run, and those players are always intriguing and they always warrant a lot of discussion and projection, especially if they mature throughout their careers, learn to make better decisions, read defenses, and generally just become more efficient. An efficient QB who can run when all else fails and pick up quality yards is scary, which is why Mike Vick was the #1 overall pick in 2001. Little did we all know that you can’t just learn to throw accurately, make good decisions and read defenses from the pocket once you get to the NFL, but he was picked that high because if he became as good at throwing as he was at running he would have been one of the best players in the NFL. Anyways, Harris warrants discussion for a number of reasons. He has pretty good accuracy, and does a respectable job of reading defenses for a young quarterback and showed the ability to recognize a blitz and find his hot read quickly to avoid a sack and to pick up quality yards. That’s good to see.

However, Harris really seemed to struggle in this game. He does not strike me as a tough quarterback at all, and at times he would run timidly and does not seem at all willing to take a hit even if it means picking up the first down. I know you don’t want your quarterback running around initializing contact, but when he’s scrambling and he can either run out of bounds two yards short of the first down marker or put his head down and get as many yards as possible, I want my QB to put his head down and go for it, not run out of bounds with his tail between his legs. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I feel about it. Harris seems to prefer jogging out of bounds, and I don’t really like to see that. He also seemed bothered by the cold, but that wasn’t just a problem for him, the whole Miami team was huddled around the heaters and it was only 50 or 55 degrees outside. The Wisconsin players all had short sleeves on, mostly because in the Winter it gets real cold up north, so 50+ is t-shirt weather to those of us from Minnesota and Wisconsin. So between his timid running style and the fact that he seemed to be bothered by the “cold” I was not very happy with how Harris did in this game from a toughness aspect. He did take some shots and he popped right back up from all of them, but that just confused me more because you’d think that if he could absorb the hits he was taking when he was dropping back to pass that he could “suck it up” (so to speak) and run harder when he does scramble.

Harris never got comfortable against Wisconsin. Whether it was his ankle injury, the regular pressure from Wisconsin or the "cold" weather, he never settled in and got into a rhythm.

One thing that is a little alarming about Harris’ game is the amount of touch and air he puts under the majority of his throws. He throws an accurate ball and does great when touch is required, but sometimes you need to throw the ball with some zip and he does not seem to understand when that is necessary. He floats a LOT of passes, whether he is on the run, whether he has his feet set in the pocket, or whether he is throwing into a quickly closing window over the middle. I don’t know if that is something he will ever be able to stop doing since he has probably been getting away with it for his entire playing career, but if it is indeed correctable then he should already be working on it as we speak. Hopefully he shows me some progression in this area because it is really concerning how much air and touch he has on the majority of his passes.

Harris also never really looked comfortable in this game. He had his moments when he completed a few passes in a row, but Wisconsin got enough pressure on him (which, along with his injured ankle, had to contribute to him never getting into a rhythm) to keep him from ever getting into a groove and it definitely showed. He didn’t go through his progressions as well as I would have liked, he stared down his receivers regularly, he didn’t do a good job of buying time in the pocket without scrambling outside of the tackle box, and he looked sloppy throwing on the run when he couldn’t set his feet. He needs to do a better job of keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage even when rolling to his left. That is when you will see right-handed QB’s get a little less accurate if they don’t keep their shoulders square. In my experience it is because their throwing motion will be slightly elongated and their mechanics will therefore be different, meaning the throw won’t be as accurate and won’t have as much zip on it as it would have regularly had if he had set his feet or kept his shoulders square while rolling out.

Overall, Harris has a lot of talent and ability, but he has to work harder on the little things, the fundamentals, if he is going to take big enough strides to be considered a potential NFL starter and an early NFL Draft pick. Right now I’d grade him as a 4th or 5th round selection because of his potential and ability. That alone warrants some consideration in the mid-rounds and if he can be coached up well then he could be well worth the investment. However, he does not look like a NFL starter to me yet. Of course it is very early to be predicting how he will do in the NFL and where he will be drafted because he is going to be a Junior in his second season as the full-time starter, so I realize I am jumping the gun with this. I just feel obligated to state where I think he is as far as his progression as a QB, and in my opinion he is still rather raw and needs developing. Hopefully he stays through his Senior season so he can get as much experience as possible before moving on to the NFL. I have to say, I am intrigued by some of his ability and I really hope he works on putting more zip and less touch on some of his passes this year. Hopefully he takes some significant strides in his second season as a starter.

If Cooper can come back from his serious knee injury healthy then he could still be an impact player in the NFL.

One other player I knew I had to take notes on was Graig Cooper, who was a junior running back for the ‘Canes at the time. As soon as you see him touch the ball you can tell that this kid is fast. He flies around the field, has great acceleration and great burst to hit holes, seams, anything. He definitely has potential as a game-changing running back in the NFL. The tragic part about this was that he suffered a very serious knee injury in this game in the 2nd half on a rather run of the mill kick-off return. In fact, if he hadn’t suffered the injury he could have potentially scored on the play, though that is purely my own speculation. I don’t have much of an update on his rehab obviously, but I read that he has not yet been cleared to begin running as of early April. Hopefully he has made progress since then, but the fact remains that this was a very serious injury, and I would be pretty surprised if he was 100% during his senior season, which is disappointing for him and for his fans (of which I was one) because I was really rooting for him last year. It’s a shame this had to happen to him at such a critical time in his career.

In any event, I still managed to get some notes on him from this game before his injury, and though it would be particularly impressive if he came back to pre-injury form I think he will still have value even if he isn’t just as explosive as he was before he got hurt. He seems to have pretty good vision, and on one particular play that I remember JJ Watt did not stay at home and collapsed to where the run was supposed to go, but Cooper got the ball and immediately cut to the outside to where Watt would normally be and got a nice gain on the play. If he plays next year (which I really hope he will, even if it isn’t a significant amount) I will be interested to see how much of his great quickness and explosiveness he regains as he gets closer and closer to 100%. Hopefully he comes back as strong as can be expected, and I will be carefully monitoring his progress as more information becomes available. I’ll keep you all posted naturally.

Hankerson made this incredible one-handed grab late in the game. I know he has reliable hands, but if he can show this kind of concentration even on routine catches he will be an early NFL Draft pick.

Harris’ primary receivers on the ‘Canes are Leonard Hankerson, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin, which is a pretty nice trio of receiving targets. I didn’t get a lot of notes on them in this game, though I have been impressed with each of them at different times when I have seen them. Frankly, Harris didn’t give them a lot of catchable balls in this game so it was hard to find times to take notes on them, but when I saw them catch passes they all impressed me. Hankerson had a great one-handed catch late in the game and made another catch or two with his hands which was nice to see. Byrd, as far as I can tell from my notes, didn’t make a catch without catching the ball away from his body which was great to see. And Benjamin has always been good for big chunks of yardage and a lot of separation, and he nearly pulled off a terrific 3rd down catch along the sidelines on Miami’s last ditch attempt after they recovered an onside kick. I am excited to see how all three progress this season, and I think that if Harris continues to improve and if Miami’s offensive line holds up they could have a very explosive offense on their hands. I am excited to see them all play.

Orlando Franklin, Miami’s left tackle in this game, is going to receive mixed reviews from me. I heard rather frequently last year that he looked good filling in for Jason Fox, Miami’s very reliable left tackle who got hurt during his senior season before he left for the NFL. However, he looks more like a left guard to me than a left tackle, though he will have ample opportunity to prove me wrong during his senior campaign. He doesn’t look very quick out of his stance, and he seemed to struggle with Schofield and Watt versus the pass and Watt gave him some trouble with his quickness off the ball versus the run as well. Overall, he just didn’t seem athletic enough to handle Schofield, Watt or Chris Borland, a linebacker who will occasionally play with his hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs. I don’t know if he was quite prepared to play left tackle last season, so hopefully he will look more comfortable on the outside as a senior when he is preparing to play the position. I will definitely be paying attention to him this year.

Bailey has a lot of potential and natural athletic ability, but I am not a believer yet. He needs to get stronger versus the run and improve his hand usage before I buy him as a potential 1st round pick.

On the defensive side of the ball Miami naturally has some talented players, but Allen Bailey is definitely one of the more highly touted players on the roster. He has drawn comparisons to Justin Tuck because of his versatility to play defensive tackle and defensive end, though I think he mainly played defensive end in this game. However, I can’t say I was entirely impressed with him in this game. He had a sack where he got a nice bull-rush on Josh Oglesby, shed his block and wrapped Tolzien up for a sack, but he was also blocked effectively in the run game by Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks and Oglesby multiple times. That was particularly alarming because a DE/DT ‘tweener should be strong enough with good enough hand usage to man-handle 95% of TE blocks. I can understand getting blocked effectively by Graham a time or two because he has a good reputation as a run blocker (even if I think he gets away with holding rather regularly). But he got blocked effectively by Graham multiple times one on one, by Kendricks multiple times, and got blocked one on one effectively by Josh Oglesby versus the run. That was pretty shocking, and it really made me question him as a prospect. Sure, he can get after the passer, but if he can’t defend the run or shed blocks in the trenches then his value as a prospect will be significantly lower to me. He’s getting a lot of positive pub right now, but I am definitely not a believer in Bailey as of today. He has another year to show me what he can do, but he needs to show me a lot more ability versus the run for me to think he will be the quality player everyone else seems to think he will be.

One player I saw flash some impressive ability was Olivier Vernon, a freshman defensive end on Miami. He didn’t get a lot of playing time as a freshman, but he absolutely tossed Gabe Carimi like a rag-doll on a run play and got a great TFL. He didn’t make any other plays as good as this one in the game that I noticed, but he sure did flash some ability on this play. I have high hopes for him in his career, and I think that he will show some substantial growth as a sophomore. I am very interested in seeing him play this season, he is definitely a sleeper for the DE position. Hopefully he breaks out and makes me look smart!

Harris has 1st round ability, and he is one of my favorite draft elligible corners this year. (Photo/Jeffrey M. Boan)

Finally, one player that I am a big fan of on Miami’s defense is their corner Brandon Harris. He was only a sophomore last season but he managed 15 pass deflections and two interceptions on the year. I watched the Miami-FSU game early in the year and I immediately noticed him. He just makes big plays whenever I watch him. There was one particular play against Wisconsin when Harris got beaten, I believe it was by Garrett Graham underneath, and he turned upfield and I thought it was a certain touchdown. But Harris didn’t give up on the play and he came up behind Graham and as he began to wrap him up he punched the ball out just before he crossed the goal line. Miami recovered the ball in the end zone for a touch-back and Miami stayed in the game, all because Harris didn’t give up on this play and forced the fumble. I think he is going to end up declaring after his junior season and he is going to be a high draft pick if he plays well this year in my opinion. He is definitely one of my favorite draft-eligible corners, even if he doesn’t support the run as well as I might like. Definitely keep an eye out for Harris next season, I think he is going to break out even more than he did last year.

That just about concludes the notes I have for the Miami Hurricanes. Check out my blog post below for my write-ups on the Wisconsin players I took enough notes on to get a feel for their ability as a player. Hopefully you enjoy this post and my other posts to come. Thanks for reading!

–Tom