Tag Archive: Tyrann Mathieu


Les Miles confirmed today that dynamic LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has been dismissed from the football team “permanently” according to his press conference. According to Ben Allbright (@NFLDraftMonster) Mathieu has failed 3 drug tests at LSU, including one this past week. That is apparently what prompted this stern action from Les Miles and LSU as a whole. If it is true that he has failed 3 drug tests it is my understanding that he will not be eligible to simply transfer down to a FCS level team, play for a season, and then enter the NFL Draft. The handling of this situation from the school will be very important to keep an eye on, because if they do not level disciplinary action on him (in the form of a suspension, etc) then according to John Infante (@John_Infante) he would be eligible to use a one time transfer exception to transfer to a FCS school. So we have to wait to see what the school does, and then we will have a better idea of how this will play out.

This is certainly a stunning development, I myself am a big fan of Mathieu and have been touting him as a dynamic player since I watched him during his true freshman season two years ago. He became a well known star as a sophomore, but he tested positive for synthetic marijuana which resulted in a suspension from LSU during the season last year. That didn’t dissuade Mathieu from continuing to use marijuana and now he has been dismissed from the team. Regardless of your stance on marijuana use, there is no doubt that it is sad to see a young man with a bright future in front of him see it go off the rails because of positive drug tests. He’s still a talented player that should be drafted in the 4th round range because of his on-field ability, but if he doesn’t turn it around and stay clean at whatever school he goes to (or if he doesn’t stay out of trouble if he isn’t allowed to play anywhere at all) then NFL teams are going to be even more wary of taking a chance on him even if he is supremely talented.

I’m wishing him the best in his future endeavors, and I hope he has a chance to play at a FCS school this year, but more than that I hope he can find a way to stay clean to avoid further jeopardizing his chance at a successful NFL career.

I will update this article as more information comes out and more details of this story are confirmed. At this time, we know that Mathieu will not be back at LSU and will have to hope for a FCS transfer.

–Tom

**Update**

Reports are coming out that Tyrann Mathieu is transferring to McNeese State. I haven’t seen it confirmed by a major network like ESPN yet, but a photo came out of Mathieu allegedly from the McNeese State football facilities. I can’t say 100% that Mathieu will be at McNeese State, but that is what it looks like is going to happen. It makes sense because it is only 2 hours from LSU and only 3 hours from New Orleans where Mathieu is from. I’m glad Mathieu will be able to play this season (at least as far as we know right now) and attempt to rehabilitate his draft stock. Hopefully that goes better for Mathieu than it did for Janzen Jackson, who left after a year at McNeese State and went undrafted before signing with the Giants this offseason.

I will update this further as more information becomes available.

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Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

I obviously don’t have a vote for the Heisman trophy, but if I did this is how my ballot would look. I will start with honorable mentions but explain why they were ultimately not one of my three finalists:

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson:
Analysis: While Watkins was one of the most electrifying players in the country I think that Clemson’s late season struggles that are almost expected at this point hurt his potential candidacy. It’s hard enough for any player that doesn’t play running back or quarterback to garner significant attention for the Heisman, but being a freshman on a team that struggled just as the Heisman race started to heat up. That doesn’t mean Watkins didn’t have a fantastic season though. He totaled 78 receptions, 1,159 yards (14.86 ypc), 11 touchdowns, 31 rushing attempts, 229 yards, 0 touchdowns and 683 more yards on kick returns with a 26.27 yard average per return plus another touchdown. He had 2,083 total yards on only 137 touches and he was only a freshman (he also had 2 punt returns for 12 yards). So while I would be very surprised to see him involved in significant Heisman considerations this year I think he will get more and more as a sophomore and junior barring unforeseen circumstances.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State:
Analysis: Some people were giving Brandon Weeden a lot of love for the Heisman earlier this year but I think Justin Blackmon is the top Heisman candidate on that team. However, they have plenty of talent on that offense with Weeden and Joseph Randle helping to make that Oklahoma State offense the juggernaut it has become which hurts his Heisman considerations. However he still had an incredible season with 113 receptions, 1,336 yards (11.82 ypc) and 15 touchdowns. He would have been hard pressed to match his massively impressive 1,782 yard 20 touchdown season from a year ago, but 100+ receptions, 1,300+ yards and 15 touchdowns is more than a lot of players produce in their career and he has put up two consecutive seasons with those same numbers. Unfortunately I don’t think it will be nearly enough for him to be a Heisman finalist.

David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech:
Analysis: David Wilson has been flying under the radar quite a bit this year which is baffling because he was leading the country in rushing for a significant portion of the season and even now he is only 132 yards behind the leader Montee Ball. He was the engine that made Virginia Tech’s offense go and really helped Logan Thomas develop this year in his first as a starting quarterback. He had 1,627 yards (6.12 ypc), 9 touchdowns and 21 receptions, 126 yards and 1 TD. He had a great season, and while I personally expect him to declare for the draft, he definitely warrants a little more Heisman consideration that he has been getting. Virginia Tech’s collapse against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game certainly doesn’t help, but I think he warrants honorable mention.

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State:
Analysis: I have been a pretty outspoken critic of Boise State and TCU for the past couple of years. I felt they were overrated and wouldn’t have been in BCS Bowl consideration had they played in tougher conferences. To their credit they have proven me wrong by consistently winning when they do get to BCS Bowls, but to my credit Boise State in particular has struggled to finish their regular season undefeated the past two years despite unimpressive competition outside of a tough out of conference game to start the season. That brings me to Kellen Moore’s potential Heisman contention. Moore has had an incredible career and had another spectacular season this year despite losing his top two playmakers at wide receiver. He threw for 3,507 yards, completed 74.1% of his passes, and totaled 41 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Unfortunately for him for the second year in a row his kicker couldn’t finish a game late despite the opportunity to do so and Boise State lost a game they probably should have won. That definitely hurt his Heisman consideration, and while I don’t think he should be a finalist this year I do think it’s worth considering that he’s put Boise State in the position to go undefeated for last two years but his kicker let him down. And that hurt his chances for Heisman, fairly or unfairly.

Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal:
Analysis: Barkley would have been my 6th finalist if I could have listed 6, but he sits just outside my top five for a few reasons. First, to me the Heisman has clearly become an award that goes to the player who does the most with the least and makes his team a contender or a top team despite it. That is why Cam Newton won last year, and that is why Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck are front-runners this year. This hurts Barkley because USC has an abundance of talent on offense, specifically at wide receiver with stand-outs in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Fair or unfair, that hurts his candidacy just like other circumstances that are fair or unfair hurt the other candidates I mentioned. However, for all the Southern Cal fans that are angry about this they should consider this. Would being a Heisman finalist and potentially winning the Heisman make Barkley more or less likely to come back for his senior season? The obvious answer is that it would make him more likely to leave early, so while this probably feels like yet another slight consider the silver lining that it could help lead Barkley back to USC for his fourth season as a starter.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama:
Analysis: Trent Richardson had a great season this year, but I don’t think he is the Heisman winner. He did have a great season with 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns plus 27 receptions, 327 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving. He was definitely the engine that made Alabama’s offense go, but the unit that made Alabama’s team go was without a doubt their defense. Richardson supported them with plenty of scoring as evidenced by his touchdown production, but Alabama would not be in the National Championship game without their defense. And the fact that Richardson is a Heisman finalist proves that Alabama has recruited some very talented running backs, but Richardson’s performance could have been replicated by other players in the country in my opinion. Not by many, but I think his production could have been mimicked by other players. That hurts his Heisman candidacy ultimately in my mind.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin:
Analysis: I have had the opportunity to see Montee Ball play live in Camp Randall twice this season against Nebraska and Penn State and it has always been a pleasure. He is deserving of Heisman candidacy but I don’t think he deserves to win over the other players I have listed as my top three finalists. That isn’t to say Ball hasn’t had a fantastic season because he has. Contrary to literally every report I have seen Montee actually has 39 touchdowns, not 38. He led the country with 1,759 yards (6.4 ypc) and 32 rushing scores, plus 20 receptions, 255 yards and 6 touchdowns. Now, that totals 38 which is what everyone has been reporting from ESPN to my friends that are Badger fans. What they are all forgetting is that Montee Ball has thrown for one touchdown this year. He is 2/2 on the season for 57 yards and 1 touchdown to Russell Wilson. Why isn’t this being mentioned? He has 39 TOTAL touchdowns, not 38. This season is worth serious Heisman consideration, but the help he has had with a NFL offensive line, a great quarterback in Russell Wilson and help at receiver with Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis. He is a great player, but with all the help he has had around him I don’t think he will end up winning it. Is that fair? I don’t know, but that is how I perceive the Heisman being voted and that is why I don’t think Montee will win it.

And now the finalists…

3. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU:
Analysis: It hurts me to list Mathieu as my #1 finalist, but I don’t think he will end up winning the Heisman no matter how much I like him as a player. He is my favorite player in the entire country and I have not been shy about saying this. He’s a fantastic player, and if anyone makes the argument that Trent Richardson had the greatest impact on a top team in the country I would immediately disagree. Tyrann Mathieu has had the biggest impact of anyone on LSU’s undefeated season out of any of the players on that team. Time and time again whenever LSU’s offense struggled to score points he would force turnovers or return punts and either set them up with great field position or just take the ball into the end zone himself. There is no question in my mind that Mathieu warrants a ton of Heisman consideration, but ultimately I think his suspension and the talent around him on defense will keep him from winning it.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford:
Analysis: When you think about the “what player has done the most with the least” rule that I think is a significant factor in Heisman voting Andrew Luck has to be one of the first people that pops into your head. Yes, he has a pretty good team around him. He has a pretty good defense, a strong offensive line and running game, and three tight ends that have legitimate NFL futures. However, he only has one wide receiver that can stretch the field vertically in Chris Owusu and he missed two games with injuries and struggled to stay healthy all year. He also only had 35 receptions for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns which is hardly the definition of stretching the field. Luck and Stanford struggled to make big plays down the field simply because Luck didn’t have any legitimate downfield targets to throw to, and defenses took advantage of that which helped prevent Stanford from going undefeated. However, despite his lack of playmakers at receiver Luck still had a terrific season throwing for 3,170 yards, completing 70% of his passes, throwing for 35 touchdowns, only 9 interceptions, and adding 153 yards and 2 more touchdowns on the ground. That’s a terrific season, and I think he warrants a ton of consideration for the Heisman… but I don’t think he will be the winner.

And the winner is…

1. Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor:
Analysis: Robert Griffin has had an amazing season in every sense of the word. He has taken a Baylor team that has been a perennial doormat in the Big 12 and led them to a top 15 finish in the BCS Standings with one more game to play against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. He has been terrific this season and has really opened my eyes to just how far he has come as a NFL prospect. But that’s not all he has done this year. He has passed for 3,998 yards, completed 72.4% of his passes, 36 touchdowns, only 6 interceptions, and has also rushed for 644 yards and 9 more touchdowns. He totaled 4,642 yards passing and rushing as well as 45 total touchdowns with one game still left to play. This is all in spite of his defense struggling to keep the opposing offense from putting a lot of points on the board and not having a ton of talent on offense outside of standout receiver Kendall Wright. He has receivers who can threaten teams deep, but there have been plenty of drops from guys like Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson all year. Griffin took an average team and made them significantly better with key plays, drives and a fantastic stat line. He figures to be the Heisman winner, and I think that makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed my thoughts. I’d love to hear reactions to this because I’m sure my thoughts aren’t the same as everyone else so please leave comments!

–Tom

Andrew Luck is the ultimate prize for whatever NFL team manages to lose enough to get the #1 overall pick.

1- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford– Did you expect anyone else to be #1? He’s the best QB prospect I’ve seen since I’ve been scouting and he’s a great bet to be the #1 pick in the 2012 Draft should he declare after this season (and there have been rumblings that he will).

2- Matt Barkley, QB, USC- Barkley has been on my radar since he was a true freshman at USC. I was never sold on Aaron Corp and while I thought Mitch Mustain had potential as a sleeper before his off-field issues, I always thought Barkley was the most talented QB on the roster once he got there. That has proven to be true, and he has continued to develop in a pro-style offense since emerging as the starter during his freshman year. Now in his junior year it seems there is a strong chance he will declare. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, but I think there is a small chance that he comes back to take a run at a Rose Bowl because their bowl ban will have expired. Part of me wants him to stay, but there isn’t much left for him to prove outside of leading his team to a great season with a post-season win.

3- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M- Tannehill flashed incredible upside last year leading Texas A&M to a furious finish before ultimately losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. He hasn’t had the same incredible start this season but he has still flashed potential. He doesn’t have much experience but as he continues to develop he could become a quality NFL QB. He has quality tools such as arm strength, accuracy and athleticism. Plus, he seems to be a guy with quality intangibles and leadership capability, so even if you need to develop him for a year or maybe two he has the upside physically and mentally to warrant early round consideration.

Russell Wilson might not be rated this high by other draftniks, but he's a great QB. The only serious knock on him as a prospect is his height.

4- Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin- Russell Wilson won’t be this high on many people’s rankings, but I was one of the people that was wholeheartedly convinced that he would be a spectacular quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers and I said just as much in my post that I wrote shortly after it was announced that he was going to play for them this year. I didn’t think he’d be this terrific so early, but that really speaks to his fantastic intangibles and leadership qualities. Wilson’s only knock as a prospect and as a quarterback is his lack of size, as I would estimate he is about 5’10” or maybe slightly taller. That will make his transition to the NFL more difficult, but he is a very talented quarterback. He’s got very good arm strength, has accuracy to all levels of the field, throws a very nice deep ball, can make any NFL throw, and has demonstrated quality pocket poise at times. I think he could stand to improve as a passer with pressure around him when he’s in the pocket, especially when there is pressure at his feet. However, he is very athletic and uses his athleticism to extend plays and is great at making plays outside of the pocket. He may not be an ideal quarterback for a West Coast offense that requires frequent three step drops and throws as he will struggle to find throwing lanes at times and he may have problems with passes getting batted down at the line of scrimmage. But if he is drafted to a team with an offensive coordinator who knows how to get him out on the edge and make effective use of his athleticism and ability to throw on the move he could be a very dangerous quarterback. I know I won’t be betting against him simply because I know how hard he works and how well he assimilates into a new team. He became a leader of this 2011 Wisconsin Badgers team after being an official member of the roster for two months when it takes many quarterbacks two years if they can ever even become a captain. People have really underestimated how difficult and rare it is for him to do what he has done so far this year. Without sounding like a rabid Russell Wilson fanatic, it really is nothing short of incredible, not to mention very, very rare.

5- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor- As skeptical as I was of Griffin before the season based off of the film I watched of him last year, you can’t help but be impressed by the unbelievable statistical start to the season he has had. I’m still skeptical of the offense he operates in, but it’s very clear that he has developed since the end of last season. Due to his arm strength, improving accuracy, fantastic athleticism as well as his reputation for being a very intelligent, disciplined guy as well as a film junkie NFL talent evaluators and Draftniks alike are going to be salivating considering his potential. He still has strides to make in my opinion, but he has definitely progressed since last year. I’d be a fool to try to ignore that, so even if I still need to see more of him I can at least acknowledge that.

Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden are directing two of the most explosive, high-scoring offenses in the nation.

6- Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma- Landry Jones is a talented quarterback with quality size, arm strength and accuracy. His accuracy becomes more erratic when under pressure, however, and doesn’t seem to react well to pass rushers in his face. That is concerning for a NFL draft prospect, and it is the reason I might have him lower on this list than some other people do. He’s a quality prospect, I’m just not a big fan of him personally. He’s got upside, I’m just not sure he will ever be a quality NFL starter.

7- Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State- Osweiler is a junior with only seven games of NFL experience up until this point, and he has a huge test upcoming against Oregon this Saturday. He’s got a fantastic combination of size and arm strength (reminiscent of Ryan Mallett to be perfectly honest) and his accuracy looks significantly improved over last season. He’s not very mobile, but he has a terrific arm and he’s progressing in the mental aspect of the game. He’s got a boatload of upside, and I’m personally a pretty big fan of his. I’d be surprised if he declared this year, especially since he would have a maximum of 16 games of starting experience at the end of this year, but if he did I would definitely expect him to get drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round range. But if he comes back I would be surprised if he didn’t end up in the 1st round discussion for 2013.

Geno Smith is quietly establishing himself as a quality NFL Draft prospect. He may not have had a fantastic game against LSU, but putting up 468 passing yards against that defense is definitely worth mentioning.

8- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia- Geno Smith was never someone I was particularly high on, but watching him put up 463 yards on LSU’s fantastic defense definitely opened my eyes. He was carving them up with downfield passes and showing off an impressive arm, and even though WVU was losing for most of the game he never stopped coming (even after they had been made into a one-dimensional offensive attack due to their struggling running game and the scoreboard). He wasn’t incredibly efficient as he threw 65 passes and completed only 38 of them (58.5% completion) and threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (2). One of them came on an incredible play by Tyrann Mathieu, but overall I was impressed with Smith. He looks very skinny on film, and I’d be surprised if he declared this season, but he definitely has upside in my opinion.

9- B.J. Coleman, QB, Chattanooga– Coleman definitely has upside, but he needs development. I don’t think he’s ready to step into a starting spot in his first year or two, but he’s definitely worth a mid-round pick. He has a strong arm, quality (but sometimes a bit inconsistent) accuracy, great size and some pocket poise. He just needs coaching and development, but he doesn’t have incredible upside in my opinion.

10- Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State- Weeden is a solid prospect but his age is going to make it hard for him to crack the top three rounds just because of his limited upside. How much better is he really going to get before he’s 30? He will improve with coaching, but at best he has a 5-7 year window as a starter once he gets to the NFL, and that’s assuming he sticks as a starter in the first place which as everyone knows is not guaranteed. He can stretch the field, he’s accurate and has been a key cog in one of the most explosive offenses in college football over the past two years, but his upside is limited due to his age and that makes him a mid-round guy.

11- Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State– Lindley is a guy that I identified as a player with upside that needs to improve in some areas. Right now he’s a mid-round guy with plus arm strength but inconsistent ball placement. He has upside due to his combination of solid size, quality arm strength and his athleticism but his accuracy is only above average at this point. He has struggled with ball placement as a junior and so far as a senior at times. He has a live arm so he definitely has upside, but if his accuracy doesn’t continue to develop then he won’t live up to his potential. He’s a developmental guy at this point with more upside than most mid-round QB’s.

Kellen Moore doesn't have much arm strength, but his other quality attributes make him draftable in my opinion.

12- Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State- Kellen Moore is an interesting guy because even though he is a smaller guy with very average arm strength I still think he has a shot in the NFL. I wouldn’t peg him as a starter in his first two seasons by any means, but he has quality accuracy, he’s very intelligent, he plays well in pressure situations and he’s got a vast amount of experience. He will have to transition from the spread offense that he has played in at Boise State, but because of his intangibles I don’t think that will be as big of a road block as it is for some spread QB prospects that attempt the same transition. He’s a fourth or fifth round pick in my opinion right now but he’s definitely got the upside to stick in the NFL. I’m not sure he will ever be a quality starter, but with his intelligence I think he can be a back-up QB in the NFL. I’m just not sure he has the arm strength to threaten defenses downfield and that can spell disaster at the NFL level.

13- Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State- Cousins is a guy I’ve been paying attention to since he was splitting snaps at QB with Keith Nichol as a sophomore and while he is definitely a NFL prospect I’m not as high on him as I thought I might have been. He hasn’t progressed like I was hoping he would and while he has the potential to stick in the NFL I would not bet on him being a quality NFL starter right now.

14- Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois- Harnish showed some ability when I watched him last year and while I haven’t had a chance to see him this year I definitely think he can stick in the NFL. I would like to see more consistent accuracy and ball placement from him before I would project him as a potential starter in the NFL, but I haven’t seen him play this year so I can’t speak to his progression from his junior to senior year yet.

15- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona- Foles is a prospect that you seem to either really like or completely dislike. I am personally not very high on him and I think that people putting 1st, 2nd or even 3rd round grades on him are vastly overrating him. He’s got good size and arm strength, and he’s accurate on short throws as well as medium throws at times, but the offense he plays in makes him look better than I think he really is. I’m definitely not high on him, but his size, arm strength, experience and production should get him drafted. I just don’t think it will be nearly as early as some people think.

Tyrann Mathieu is a special player and a special prospect. If he was two or three inches taller he would be getting touted just as highly as Patrick Peterson was.

Summary: Tyrann Mathieu is a sophomore cornerback on LSU. He wears #7 in honor of his mentor Patrick Peterson who left after his junior season after which he was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2011 NFL Draft. Mathieu is a playmaker in the same vein as Peterson was at LSU, and may be even more impactful. Mathieu is truly a ball-hawk, a playmaker at cornerback and as a return man, and his versatility within LSU’s defensive scheme makes him incredibly valuable. He may not be the biggest defender on the field, but there is little doubt that he has the biggest impact.

Size: Mathieu doesn’t have very good size for a cornerback as he is listed at just 5’9”, 175 pounds. I have maintained that if he was two or three inches taller he would be discussed as a potential top five pick, but his size is one of the only knocks on him as a prospect. He more than makes up for his lack of ideal size, but when you see him line up opposite a receiver you notice that he has a natural disadvantage due to his height.

Athleticism: Mathieu is a fantastic athlete. He has great straight line speed, impressive quickness and burst, he changes directions very easily, he closes very effectively and he absolutely flies around the field whenever he steps onto it. His athleticism helps mask his lack of size.

Man Coverage: Mathieu doesn’t play a vast amount of man coverage at LSU (or at least I haven’t seen him do so) because they moved him around a lot last year as a nickel corner, and this year he often plays inside on the slot guy. However, he has fluid hips, he changes directions well, he closes incredibly fast on plays in front of him, he recovers very quickly on plays behind him, and he mirrors receivers well thanks to his quick reaction time. I think he could be a great man coverage corner, I just haven’t seen a ton of evidence of it yet due to how LSU uses him.

Zone Coverage: Mathieu is lethal in zone coverage for many of the same reasons he is lethal in man coverage. He is very instinctual (my guess would be that he also watches a LOT of film) and he reads quarterbacks very well. Then, once he knows where the ball is going, he is off like a rocket closing on the ball and more times than not if it is thrown near him he makes a play on it to either break up the pass or to make an interception. He is incredibly comfortable in space and his closing speed makes him a special zone corner.

Run Support: This is one aspect of Mathieu’s game that really surprised me the first time or two that I saw him last year as a freshman. He closes on the running game the same way he closes on passes in the air and that is surprisingly rare for cornerbacks. He is very willing in run support, he loves laying down a big hit, and he’s not afraid to tackle running backs that are much larger than him. He may be one of the best run support corners in the entire country.

Mathieu is one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the country, and has an uncanny knack for producing turnovers.

Tackling: Mathieu is a very reliable tackler. He does miss tackles in open space at times, but most players do miss those on occasion. However, I would say he is a very good tackler especially for a cornerback. He is a fundamentally sound tackler and he doesn’t drop his head when he attempts tackles. This often results in missed tackles and a surprising number of players do this. On top of all that, he also packs a serious punch as a hitter. He is one of the best corners in the country when it comes to hit power and his proficiency for forcing fumbles.

Blitzing: Mathieu is an effective blitzing corner and he is very dangerous coming off the edge as a blitzing corner. He seems to be pretty good at knowing when to come late, when to show he is coming, and when to show that he’s coming and then drop back into coverage. It isn’t as much of a surprise to see him blitzing as a sophomore because he was so incredibly successful at doing so as a freshman, but he hasn’t had quite as much success blitzing off the edge thus far this year. However, I would argue that his lack of success has something to do with coaching staffs scheming to make sure he isn’t the one to create pressure and get a hit on their quarterback because of his proficiency for forcing turnovers.

Ball Skills: Mathieu’s ball skills are out of this world. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player who is more of a ball-hawk than Mathieu is. He flies to the ball constantly, he has great hands to make tough catches in traffic or on diving attempts, locates the ball very well in the air, he adjusts to the ball effectively in the air, and he will do anything to make a pass deflection or an interception. This part of his game is the part that truly sets him apart and makes him a rare, special corner.

Intangibles: I tend to believe that Mathieu has very impressive intangibles. He’s an aggressive player and he plays with great energy all the time, and I think he has fantastic instincts and I would imagine that has something to do with good study habits. However, he does have a tendency to get in people’s faces due to his intensity, and I see him “barking” at players after the play is over which will eventually get noticed and draw penalties in college and in the NFL. I think he has had a late hit or two when I have watched him as well, and that is something that he needs to make sure he doesn’t do. You love the intensity and his willingness to fight until the whistle, but late hits are cheap yards for the offense and he can’t make simple mistakes like that.

Overall: As I’m sure you can tell by reading my breakdown of Mathieu’s game, I am a huge fan of his. If I were forced to pick one favorite player in all of college football I think it would be him. He plays with a reckless abandon, he’s the definition of a playmaker and a ball-hawk, and he plays the game the right way. He is everything you could want in a corner, even if he’s two inches shorter than he ideally would be. He has top five-ten ability and if teams can look past his height they will get an absolute stud once he is draft eligible. Because that’s the amazing thing: Mathieu is still only a sophomore. He still has another year after this season to develop. I just hope that he stays healthy for the remainder of his LSU career and for his very promising NFL career. He has a ton of upside and potential, and if you haven’t seen him play I encourage you to find a way to watch a LSU game this year or next. You won’t see a talent like this very often, even in the SEC. He’s truly a special player.

Projection: Top 15 in 2013 draft. As good as Mathieu is and will be by the time he is draft eligible his size will still be a knock on him. For some players it makes sense to knock them because their lack of size will inhibit them as playmakers in the NFL. I think Mathieu is an exception to that rule. Regardless, I find it hard to imagine that he will get picked in the top five or ten overall selections even as his skills continue to develop. But if he fell out of the top 15 it would be an absolute travesty for someone as talented as he is.

Hopefully you enjoyed my first current season scouting report of the year! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Michael Brockers has great size but could carry even more weight on his frame. He has a lot of potential, but I'd like to see him develop more as a pass rusher.

Michael Brockers (Sophomore, LSU) is a beast of a defensive tackle. I don’t think he’s a very good pass rusher, but at 6’6”, 306 pounds he has the potential to be a great run defender and I think he could develop into a better pass rusher as he gains more experience. This season he has 14 total tackles (8 solo), 3.5 TFL, one sack and one interception in the first four games. I have been consistently impressed with his hand usage, his ability to shed blocks, and the sheer strength and size that he has in the trenches. The scary thing is his frame isn’t even filled out, and I think he could carry 315-320 pounds very easily given his great size. I think Brockers has a ton of potential, and he is still very young. I’m excited to see how he develops over the rest of this season and during his junior year after that. Keep an eye on him.

Bennie Logan (Sophomore, LSU) is a talented DT who usually starts with Brockers at the beginning of the game. He has pretty good size at about 6’3”, 287 pounds and he showed the ability to drive his man into the backfield. It’ll be interesting to see how he does the rest of the year, but he has 14 total tackles (6 solo), 3.0 TFL, one sack and one pass break-up through four games. He has some upside thanks to his size and continues to demonstrate pretty good hand usage. Like Brockers he hasn’t shown me the ability to consistently apply pressure on the passer, so I will be watching to see if that starts to come as he progresses.

Josh Downs (Junior, LSU) is the #3 or #4 DT in LSU’s rotation, but I think he has some sleeper potential even though he isn’t a starter. He doesn’t have the same raw upside and potential as Brockers and Anthony Johnson do, but at 6’1”, 287 he has proven to be very disruptive every time he is in the game. He won’t be any higher than a mid-round pick, especially since he doesn’t have ideal measurables, but he has the potential to get drafted late and make a roster as a rotational player. He is quick off the ball, has good hand usage, and has a squatty build that enables him to get under the pads of offensive linemen and drive them into the backfield. He has consistently beaten one on one blocks this year, and even though it doesn’t show on the stat sheet he has had a significant impact in each game, especially against Oregon. He was too quick and too strong even at his size for their offensive linemen, and was consistently in the backfield in this game. So even if he doesn’t show up as a guy who’s making plays on the stat sheet, just know that he has been consistently disruptive when he plays. Keep an eye on him as a sleeper for the 2013 Draft as a senior.

Anthony Johnson (Freshman, LSU) is a potential stud DT. He’s a freshman this year but he is already 6’3”, 310 pounds and he was rumored to run a 4.8 40 yard dash. That is absolutely insane if it is even relatively close to being true. He has four total tackles (2 solo), 2.5 TFL and one sack. He showed the ability to be disruptive and to penetrate, and seemed to have pretty strong hands and at least solid hand usage given his relatively limited experience. Some around the LSU program have said he could be the next Glenn Dorsey which is obviously an incredible compliment given his productivity during his time at LSU, so he is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on. All signs point to him having incredible potential, and it seems he has a relatively good chance of living up to it.

Kendrick Adams (Senior, LSU) has some upside as a defensive end, but I haven’t been very impressed with him from a pass rushing standpoint. He only has three career sacks (he has already matched his production as a junior from last season with 1.5 sacks in four games) and he has 2.5 TFL’s thus far this year. He has good size for a defensive end, listed at 6’5”, 260 pounds, but I don’t think he has very good burst off the line of scrimmage and I don’t think he has very good edge speed. He’s pretty solid against the run though, and I think he is a fundamentally sound player. It will be interesting to see if he progresses from a pass rush standpoint throughout the season, but as of right now I think he is a contributing factor to why LSU doesn’t apply a lot of pressure with their front four.

Besides having an awesome name, Mingo has tremendous upside as a pass rusher due to his athleticism, speed, motor and long arms.

Barkevious Mingo (Sophomore, LSU) is a freak athlete for a defensive end. He allegedly runs a 4.5 forty yard dash despite being listed at 6’5”, 240 pounds. He looks very skinny on film, but he’s extremely athletic. He has great burst off the line of scrimmage and has a lot of edge speed. He’s too skinny to absorb contact and continue to get the edge, but if he gets stronger and fills out his frame I think he could develop into a very dangerous pass rusher. Right now he is a one dimensional speed rusher, but he has so much athletic ability and such a good motor that I think as he continues to develop and mature as a defender that he could become something very special. I just hope he gets quality coaching to improve his hand usage and pass rush moves over the next two years.

Lavar Edwards (Junior, LSU) is a defensive end that usually plays opposite Kendrick Adams. He has solid edge speed and plays the run pretty effectively as well, but also has a quality motor. He pursues very well from the backside and never seems to give up on a play. He also appears to be a good tackler and a solid run defender. I’m not sure how much upside he has, but his motor and hustle stuck out to me.

Ryan Baker (Senior, LSU) is an undersized linebacker prospect that warrants late round consideration in my opinion. He’s a reliable tackler when he can play downhill, and has solid instincts, but I was very unimpressed with his motor and that really bothered me when I noticed that. As a linebacker his job is to read, react and if the play is away from him he has to pursue and clean up the play from the backside should it be necessary. But far too often he would just stop running and stand there, not even jog in the direction of the play, and wait for his teammates to clean up the mess. On a defense as talented and fast as LSU’s it’s not very obvious, but I’ve seen it multiple times including in this Oregon game. He has some upside because he’s a good tackler, but he’s not a well-rounded linebacker in my opinion and his lack of size and hustle concern me.

Morris Claiborne (Junior, LSU) has been incredibly impressive this year. He is the #1 corner on what may be the best secondary in the entire country, and he played very well against Oregon as well as the other games I saw him in. He is a better tackler than I expected him to be, but he also looked very comfortable in man and zone coverage. He showed very fluid hips, the ability to turn and run effectively, good closing speed, and impressive ball skills. He supports the run better than I expected him to, and while I have seen him miss a few tackles I still think he is an above-average/solid tackler, which is more than you can say for a lot of corners. Add in his size at 6’0”, 185 pounds, his speed and burst as well as his versatility to return kick-offs and interceptions effectively and with good vision and you’ve got a heck of a NFL Draft prospect. He’s not under the radar anymore, but keep an eye on him anyway.

Tyrann Mathieu is my favorite player in college football because he is the definition of a playmaker and he goes all-out on every play. He truly plays football the way it is meant to be played, and it is truly a treat to watch him play every time I watch LSU.

Tyrann Mathieu (Sophomore, LSU) is without a doubt my favorite player in the entirety of college football. When you see him walk onto the field as a nickel corner (when they play Simon on the outside to let Mathieu’s versatility shine) you don’t expect him to be the best player on the field, but so many times he is. In all my years of watching football I have rarely seen anyone with the kind of ball-hawking ability that Mathieu has. He is always around the ball, he has fantastic instincts, he’s extremely fast with a great burst, he is fearless, he’s a great tackler, he is very effective in run support, he’s a great blitzer off the edge, he packs a pop as a hitter and simply has an unexplainable knack for forcing turnovers, whether they be fumbles (like when he tackled Kenjon Barner on a punt return, forced a fumble, recovered it and scored a touchdown after a short return) or interceptions. He has fantastic ball skills and he reads the eyes of quarterbacks very effectively. I think he has top ten talent and the only knock you can possibly have on him is his lack of size. He’s listed at 5’9”, 175 pounds which means he may be about 5’8”, but if he was two or three inches taller playing the way he was he would be getting mentioned as a possible top five pick much like his mentor Patrick Peterson was (and I think Mathieu is a better playmaker). Mathieu also returns punts and while he will try to do too much at times, he’s also very elusive and makes a lot of guys miss when he has a chance to get into space. I will have a scouting report up on Mathieu soon, but as one of the people who has been driving the Mathieu bandwagon since last season when he was only a freshman I would like to encourage everyone to hop on board, because this kid is the definition of special.

Tharold Simon (Sophomore, LSU) is a very intriguing corner because he just has so much length. He is listed at 6’3”, 187 pounds but doesn’t seem to have stiff hips nor does he seem to have much trouble turning and running with receivers. On top of that, he has very long arms which he uses effectively in pass coverage (4 pass break-ups in his first four games as well as an interception and 24 tackles, 20 of which are solo). He also packs a pop as a hitter and seems to be an effective tackler. When he did get beat in the Oregon game he laid a great hit on the receiver as he attempted to bring the ball in and separated the ball from the receiver. His size may make people consider transitioning him to safety at some point, but if he has the footwork, the hips and the fluidity in his transitions to stick at corner it would be advisable to leave him there. His height, length and athleticism will make him an absolute pain in the ass to throw against as he develops, especially if you match him up with a big possession receiver.

Brandon Taylor (Senior, LSU) has some potential as a safety, but I have noticed that he’s been having some problems tackling that I have noticed. He doesn’t break down effectively, and he often gets “juked” by running backs and receivers. He’s not an awful tackler, but I definitely noticed a number of instances where he blew tackles. I haven’t been able to grade him much in coverage because of ESPN’s camera angles, so that will have to wait.

Brad Wing (Freshman, LSU) is a punter, and I know it’s weird to feature a punter in a NFL Draft post, but I think this kid is going to be a very good one. I thought this after the Oregon game as well, but against West Virginia he had an unreal game pinning the Mountaineers back inside the five yard line three times and inside the 10 yard line four times that I can remember off of the top of my head. Obviously that was a great game for him, but I think he has a bright future as a punter and is definitely a guy to keep an eye on when it comes to Ray Guy candidates in the future (the Ray Guy award is given to the top punter in the country).

Michael Clay (Junior) is an undersized linebacker on Oregon. He’s listed at 5’11”, 225 pounds but I thought he looked like he was 235 or 240 on film. Maybe that’s just me, but he looks big for his size. He seems to be an effective tackler, but the play that stuck out the most to me was when he absolutely lit up #80, a receiver on LSU, on a drag route on 3rd down. He hit him so hard he completely dislodged the football as it got there, forcing an incompletion. He’s one to watch because he seemed to be a quality run defender and he obviously can lay the boom in pass coverage, so it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop.

Anthony Gildon is not a well-known corner (Cliff Harris gets much more attention), but he impressed me a few times against LSU and I think he is a sleeper that warrants mentioning.

Anthony Gildon (Senior) is a cornerback on Oregon that impressed me quite a bit in this game. I had never seen him play before, but he was effective in coverage against LSU’s big, fast receivers. He has never gotten an abundance of playing time from what I can tell, but he has good size for a corner at 6’1”, 185 pounds and looked like he had fluid hips, good footwork and he seemed to run well with receivers downfield. He located the ball in the air pretty consistently, and had two big pass break-ups on deep balls when LSU was clearly targeting him as they expected him to be the weak-link of the secondary. There was one more play where he was credited with making a play on the ball but in reality he didn’t turn his head around and could have been called for a penalty in my opinion. I think he has upside though, so I’m going to keep tabs on him. I could see him getting invited to the East-West Shrine Game and becoming a mid-late round pick at this point. We’ll see what happens, but my initial impression of him was definitely positive.

Hopefully you enjoyed my notes on some of the defensive prospects that participated in the LSU-Oregon game. Obviously I don’t have any notes on Cliff Harris because he was suspended for this game, but I’m sure I will be able to give my thoughts on him later this year. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

NCAA Top 25 Picks Post

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

Week Four NCAA Picks Post:

Oklahoma over Missouri

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

Oklahoma by 17

LSU over West Virginia

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

LSU by 16

Alabama over Arkansas

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

Alabama by 13

Boise State over Tulsa

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

Boise State by 21

Wisconsin over South Dakota

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

Wisconsin by 21

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State

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

Texas A&M by 6

Nebraska over Wyoming

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

Nebraska by 28

Oregon over Arizona

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

Oregon by 14

Clemson over Florida State (Upset)

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

Clemson by 7

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

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

South Carolina by 10

Virginia Tech over Marshall

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

Virginia Tech by 17

Florida over Kentucky

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

Florida by 14

Baylor over Rice

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

Baylor by 21

South Florida over UTEP

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

South Florida by 17

TCU over Portland State

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

TCU by 17

Michigan over San Diego State

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

Michigan by 17

USC over Arizona State

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

USC by 10

Illinois over Western Michigan

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

North Carolina over Georgia Tech (Upset)

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

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

–Tom

– LSU-Mississippi State:

Breakdown:

This game will be a game pitting strength versus strength, as Mississippi State’s run game will be facing a very tough LSU run defense. They are fast enough to take away a speed rushing attack like Oregon, but they are big enough and strong enough to match-up relatively effectively with a more powerful attack like Mississippi State’s. This match-up will be important, but because LSU will be so worried about stopping the run it may be just as critical for Chris Relf to demonstrate the ability to threaten the defense with the pass, especially downfield in the 10-15+ yard range. If they can’t do that, I think that Mississippi State will struggle to run the ball consistently throughout the game.

On the offensive side of the ball for LSU, running the ball will be key as well, but the deciding factor of the game may reside on Jarrett Lee’s ability to stretch the field, move the ball through the air, and keep running lanes open for Spencer Ware and the rest of LSU’s rushing attack. If they can run the ball effectively play action will be a key weapon for Lee and the rest of the offense, but if the burden falls on Lee to loosen up running lanes with downfield passing then LSU could struggle. Lee is an accurate passer but doesn’t have a rocket arm and I would compare him to Matt Flynn, a very successful former LSU Tiger quarterback. If Lee steps up and can carry the offense (this would be significantly easier if his receivers caught passes once they hit them in the hands) then LSU should be fine either way, but if Lee isn’t up to the challenge then LSU could be in trouble in their conference opener.

Key Players- LSU:

Jarrett Lee will be making his third start of the season and he has looked solid thus far, though his statistics have been hurt by some dropped passes in their opening games. This will be my second opportunity to watch him, the first being in the opening week against Oregon. I will be interested to see how he plays and how he has progressed since the opening weekend of the season. I think he has potential, and while he won’t be a first round pick by any means, I do think he warrants mid-late round consideration. He would fit into a West Coast offense very nicely, perhaps similar to Colt McCoy in Cleveland.

I’m a big fan of Tyrann Mathieu, and watching him play is always a treat. I think he has first round potential and I’ve thought that since he was playing at an All-American level early on in his freshman year last year. He is very good in coverage, he blitzes extremely well, he’s a great tackler, and he has a great knack for forcing fumbles and just being around the ball. He is the definition of a ball-hawk. I would be surprised if he didn’t force a turnover in this game.

Spencer Ware will be an important component of this game. He has had a relatively slow start to the season relative to his great cap to his freshman year with a 10 carry, 102 yard performance against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but I think he will get stronger as the season goes on. He’s definitely a power back as he is relatively compact at 5’11”, 225 pounds and he shows it. I like his running style and I think he will be a key cog in LSU’s offense because if the run game is slowed or ineffective Jarrett Lee won’t be able to utilize play action effectively and the offense may become one dimensional. Considering Lee’s relatively limited amount of starting experience I don’t think that is a path LSU should go down in their conference opener, especially on a national stage. But I think a lot of people underestimate what Lee brings to the table, and I think he is ready to step up should the running game not pace the offense in this game.

Deangelo Peterson, the tight end on LSU, is another key guy to watch. His stat line may not blow you away (5 receptions, 71 yards and 1 TD in 2 games so far) but he has great size at 6’4″, 235 pounds and he is very athletic. I imagine as Lee becomes more comfortable in the starting role that Peterson will become one of his frequent targets, and I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for them to split him out in the slot. He is a very dangerous red zone threat, and because of his size he is an easy target for Lee to throw to. I predict that he will have a touchdown in this game, and I hope that his skills will be on full display tonight.

Morris Claiborne is going to be an interesting guy to watch in this game because if Mississippi State has any success throwing the ball it will probably be going after someone other than him. He is replacing Patrick Peterson as “the” corner on LSU’s defense, and he’s got the size and athletic ability to do it. He had 6 pass break-ups and 5 INT’s last year when defenses targeted him instead of throwing at Peterson consistently, but now this year teams will certainly be avoiding him if they can help it. I don’t know if they will match him up against Mississippi State’s perceived best receiver (I’m a fan of Chris Smith), or if they will just let him attempt to shut down one side of the field, but if Relf decides to test him he had better make sure it’s a good ball because if he makes a mistake Claiborne knows how to make him pay.

Sleeper: Barkevious Mingo, on top of having an absolutely fantastic name, has a boatload of potential as a defensive end. He’s only a sophomore and he is about 6’5”, 240 pounds, but as a freshman last year he had 35 total tackles (18 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 6 pass break-ups, which is pretty great for a freshman at a position that generally has a long development period. He is very athletic and has chased down some pretty athletic running backs in his day, and seems to have a very good motor as evidenced by his backside pursuit. I’m excited to see how he will do against a Mississippi State offensive line that likes to run the ball, but is missing their best pass protector from a year ago in Derek Sherrod. Mingo could have a big game, though he is pretty raw, but I am excited about his potential so I want to see how he does.

Key Players- Mississippi State:

Chris Relf is a guy who is better known for his running than his passing, but his size definitely helps him in both aspects. He stands at 6’4”, 245 pounds and could probably convert to RB or FB at the next level, but I haven’t watched him enough to specifically project him to any one position yet. I don’t think he will be a QB at the next level, but he has shown some signs of improvement since last season. He threw for 1,776 yards in 13 games (an average of only 136.6 yards per game), completing 59% of his passes (128/217, a low number of passes attempted) for 12 TD’s and 6 INT’s. He was an efficient QB, but he wasn’t throwing the ball very much. This year it seems to be a bit different having already attempted 54 passes in just two games (33/55 for a 61.1% completion) for 397 yards, 3 touchdowns and only one interception. LSU will be a big test for him one week after he had a solid but relatively unspectacular game with 195 yards (60.6% completion with a 5.9 YPA, well below his average from last season) and 1 touchdown and interception against Auburn. LSU has a very tough defense that frequently creates turnovers, so ball security and making smart decisions will be critical for him in this game. I have to say that if Relf ends up throwing 25+ or even 30+ times in this game I think Mississippi State will lose. That will mean their running game is being slowed by LSU’s tough front seven, and the onus will be placed on Relf to move the ball through the air to open up running lanes. Against Memphis (obviously a totally different class of opponent) he threw 21 times, was very efficient and they won easily. Against Auburn in a close game (final score of 41-34) he threw 33 times, was less efficient with one interception and only a 5.9 YPA (which is in stark contrast to his 2010 season average of 8.2 and his 9.6 YPA against Memphis). To drill this point home a bit, when Relf threw 25 times or more last year Mississippi lost both games which accounted for two of their four losses on the season. The other losses were against LSU when he threw the ball only 8 times for 35 yards and 2 interceptions and against Alabama when he threw the ball 16 times for 70 yards and an interception. In the two other losses he threw the ball 25 times or more and lost in a close game (17-14 to Auburn and 38-31 to Arkansas, though he had a good game against them). So that is a trend of three losses in a row when Relf throws the ball 25 times or more, and it will be interesting to see if he is forced to surpass that number of attempts against LSU’s defense.

Vick Ballard is the other key cog to Mississippi State’s offense that focuses intently on the running game. Ballard had a fantastic season last year rushing 187 times for 981 yards (a 5.25 ypc average) and 20 touchdowns. This year, as a senior, he already has 301 yards rushing on just 31 attempts (an astounding 9.71 ypc) and 4 touchdowns. His success tonight against LSU’s tough run defense will set the tone for the game, and if he can find running room and grind out tough yards and first downs then it will make life significantly easier for Relf and the rest of Mississippi State’s passing attack. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with a game with about 20 attempts, 75-80 yards and maybe a score though, because yards are hard to come by against LSU’s defense.

Chris Smith is a receiver on Mississippi State that I came away impressed with after watching him against Michigan last year. He had a relatively mediocre statistical year last year with only 24 receptions, 264 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore, but I like his size and his hands impressed me last year as well as his route running. Keep in mind, his 24 receptions were about 11.1% of Relf’s total completions last year, so even though it is a low total and not overly impressive, he still accounted for 11% of Relf’s total completions and almost 15% (14.86%) of Relf’s total passing yards. So while it might not be obvious, he was a target for Mississippi State last year in the passing game. He only has two catches for 11 yards so far this year, so I am really hoping he finds a way to step up and make some plays in this game. I love players that find a way to make plays in critical games like this, especially on big stages, and I am hoping that Smith will find a way to do that tonight even against a talented LSU secondary.

Jonathan Banks is a cornerback that I came away very impressed with last year when I was actually watching the Bulldogs to get a look at Derek Sherrod. He has been very reliable and consistent for the Bulldogs ever since his freshman year. Now a junior, Banks already has an interception and two pass break-ups this year, bringing his career total to 8 interceptions (7 in his previous two seasons) and 12 pass break-ups. He is a very tall, skinny corner as he stands at a listed height and weight of 6’2”, 185 pounds. I mentioned him in a previous post listing potential break-out players for this 2011 season, and mentioned that I am going to be watching him to evaluate his hips, namely his ability to flip his hips in coverage, his ability to click and close on passes in front of him, and his ability to recover if and when he makes a mistake. He has already demonstrated his ability to use his size to his advantage, and he has shown the ability to turn and run with receivers downfield. I just want to see how well he transitions, because it’s pretty obvious when you watch him play that he can locate the ball in the air and make a play on it. He has impressive ball skills, and his size really helps him defend 50/50 balls even against very tall wide receivers. LSU has some big guys like they always do, so look for Banks to mirror them and take away some of Lee’s bigger, more physical targets.

Nickoe Whitley is a safety that I noticed around the same time I noticed Banks last year. He demonstrated impressive ball skills when I watched him last year and seemed to be a pretty good tackler which is evidenced by his 34 solo tackles (52 total). He also had 1.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 3 INT’s and 1 forced fumble last year. He already has an INT this year as well as one pass break up (plus a pretty impressive 6 solo tackles out of 7 total). It will be interesting to see if he is tested deep much as Jarrett Lee doesn’t have a very strong arm. I could see him playing up in the box more, so it will be interesting to see if he lets anyone get behind him in this game.

Sleeper: My sleeper for the Bulldogs is Jameon Lewis, a freshman receiver. He already has 5 receptions, 116 yards and 1 TD as well as 2 rushes for 29 yards and 1 TD. In addition, he returns kicks and punts as well though his success has been limited in that aspect so far. He is a smaller guy listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds, though packing 185 pounds onto that small of a frame is actually pretty impressive (has a similar build to Jerrel Jernigan, the WR from Troy who actually was very well built for a small receiver). The Bulldogs have shown that they like to get the ball in his hands any way they can, whether it is throwing it to him, handing it off or letting him return kicks and punts, so look for at least one big play from him in this game.

I apologize for the length of this post. It started out shorter but I got really in depth. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and it got you excited for this SEC matchup tonight. Enjoy!

–Tom

This post was so long even after I split up the break-out players and the potential sleepers that I had to split it up again. So here is part one, and I’ll post part two later today. Enjoy!

Vernon has as much upside as any DE in the country in my opinion, and I can't wait to see how his junior season turns out.

Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami:

Measurables: 6’4”, 250 pounds, #35

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 39 tackles (25 solo), 10.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks

Analysis: Vernon is an explosive athlete. He has a great combination of size and athletic ability. He has an impressive burst off the line, very impressive strength and he flashes the ability to stand up at the point of attack against the run. He showed some explosive ability last year as a pass rusher and I think he has the potential to get 10 sacks this year as a starting RE on the Hurricanes. He has a very high ceiling and I can’t wait to see how he produces as a junior this year.

Mathieu was incredibly impressive to me as a freshman and I think he will be a game-changing defensive back whether he is at corner or safety.

Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU:

Measurables: 5’9”, 180 pounds, #14

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 57 tackles (34 solo), 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT’s, 5 FF’s, 2 FR’s, 7 pass break ups.

Analysis: Mathieu made himself known every single time I watched LSU last year. Seeing a defensive back impact games like this, especially as a freshman, is something that I have rarely (if ever) seen. He’s got great instincts, a lot of athletic ability and he was incredibly productive. I honestly don’t see him lasting past his junior season. He may be undersized, but I think he can be a great corner or safety for LSU. Hell, he may already be.

Kendricks really caught my attention when I was scouting Cameron Jordan and I think he will be on a lot of NFL Draft radars by the end of his Senior year.

Mychal Kendricks, OLB, California:

Measurables: 6’0”, 241 pounds, #30

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 65 tackles (39 solo), 14.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 1 INT

Analysis: Kendricks was very productive as a junior as he flashed a lot of potential. He showed good speed off the edge, good bend/flexibility and also good instincts. I think he has the potential to match or exceed the production he had as a junior. He might not have elite height for the 3-4 OLB position but too many people get wrapped up in the height of players at times, and I think it would be a grave mistake to underestimate Kendricks because he isn’t 6’3″. He has a lot of ability and I expect him to demonstrate that all season.

Allen has as much upside as any receiver in the Pac-10 and it won't be long before he is considered one of the best receivers in the country.

Keenan Allen, WR, California:

Measurables: 6’3”, 195 pounds, #21

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 47 receptions, 496 yards, 5 TD’s. 18 attempts, 136 yards, 1 TD. 18 KR, 406 yards (22.56 avg)

Analysis: Allen really impressed me when I watched tape of him and I think he is going to be the next superstar receiver in the Pac-10. He has good size, impressive speed, very reliable hands and even as a freshman he was one of Cal’s go-to-guys on offense. I think he will break out even more as a true sophomore, and if he has a good sophomore year I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he left after his junior year.

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

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia:

Measurables: 6’0”, 185 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 48 tackles (34 solo), 3.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 6 INT’s, 4 pass break ups. 13 PR, 84 yards (6.46 avg)

Analysis: Minnifield impressed me in the limited time I was able to watch him play. He has pretty solid stats for a corner along with good size and seemingly good hips and speed. He seems to have good ball skills and I think that makes him an intriguing candidate to watch. I don’t think a lot of people know him, but I readily expect him to become more popular as the season progresses. If he turns and runs well with receivers and plays good man coverage (which I have the impression that he does) then he will be a hot commodity come draft day due to his size and ball skills. He has top 50 pick potential at corner in my opinion, and I think a lot of people will be tuning in to watch Virginia just to see him play.


Jenkins has a lot of upside and his game reminds me of Mike Williams, the former Syracuse WR.

A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois:

Measurables: 6’0”, 185 pounds, #8

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 56 receptions, 746 yards, 7 TD’s

Analysis: Jenkins impressed me when I was watching him because he is a fluid athlete with good speed, good hands and he seems to run pretty good routes. He creates good separation and was easily the go-to guy in Illinois’ passing game. Now that he won’t be dealing with a raw freshman quarterback I think Jenkins has the chance to hit 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and 8-10 touchdowns as a senior. He may not be as tall and I don’t know what he runs in the 40 yard dash, but his playing style reminds me of Mike Williams, the controversial former Syracuse receiver. I was very high on Williams, so I am excited to see if Jenkins lives up to this comparison.

Nick Perry has a ton of upside and from what I am hearing it sounds like he is ready to live up to all of his potential this year.

Nick Perry, DE, Southern Cal:

Measurables: 6’3”, 250 pounds, #8

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 25 tackles (15 solo), 7.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 2 FF’s, 1 FR and 3 pass break ups

Analysis: I thought Perry might break out as a sophomore but he didn’t end up doing that as he was still a rotational end. This year is the year for him to break out though, and I honestly think he has 8-10 sack potential this year. He is very fast off the ball, has a lot of athleticism and he has good size and strength. I am excited to see if he lives up to some of the potential that he has this year. He has apparently looked great in spring ball, so I am looking forward to a great year from him.

Robert Woods is probably the most impressive freshman receiver I've ever seen, and I am extremely excited to see how he progresses.

Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal:

Measurables: 6’1”, 185 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 64 receptions, 786 yards, 6 TD’s. 7 attempts, 56 yards (8.0 ypc). 38 KR, 971 yards (25.55 avg), 1 TD

Analysis: Woods is one of the most gifted freshmen WR’s I have ever seen. He runs great routes, he has very reliable hands, he makes great catches in traffic, he is dangerous after the catch, and he is a very reliable return man. You can’t really say enough about the things he was doing last year, and I honestly hope USC’s bowl game ban is lifted for this year just so I can see this kid for an extra game. That’s how good he is. He has a ton of potential and I think he is going to be the next superstar receiver at USC.

Gordon is a big, physical receiver with deceptive deep speed and good hands. He has a lot of upside.

Josh Gordon, WR, Baylor:

Measurables: 6’3”, 220 pounds, #12

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 42 receptions, 714 yards, 7 TD’s. 3 KR, 74 yards (24.67 avg)

Analysis: Gordon is a big possession receiver. He is a long strider so he has deceptive deep speed, but I’d be surprised if he ran much faster than a 4.5 in the 40. He has reliable hands and makes catches well away from his body and was pretty productive as a junior. With Griffin III healthy for a second year in a row I think Gordon will have much better chemistry with him, so 60+ catches, 900+ yards and 8-10 TD’s is definitely a realistic expectation for his junior season.

Wright is definitely the big play guy for Baylor and he projects very nicely to the slot in the NFL.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor:

Measurables: 5’10”, 190 pounds, #1

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 78 receptions, 952 yards, 7 TD’s. 8 rushes, 53 yards (6.63 avg).

Analysis: Wright is the big play guy on Baylor and I think he projects nicely as a slot receiver in the NFL. He has less than ideal size for the position but he impressive speed, probably 4.45 if not a bit faster, and he has very reliable hands and catches the ball well in traffic. He is tougher than his size would indicate too, and I think he has a great shot at being picked in the top 75-90 picks if he has another good senior season. 80 catches, 1,000 yards and 8 TD’s is definitely a realistic expectation.

Shackelford was everywhere when I was watching Ole Miss and I like his instincts and quality tackling a whole lot.

D.T. Shackelford, LB, Mississippi:

Measurables: 6’1”, 235 pounds, #42

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 48 tackles (27 solo), 9.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR

Analysis: Shackelford seems to have impressive instincts and he fills run versus the run. I like his potential and upside and if he is healthy when the season starts I expect him to surpass all of the numbers he put up as a sophomore last season. That is a bit of a question mark, but hopefully he will be healthy because I think he has a lot of potential. He might be the best linebacker that Ole Miss has had since Patrick Willis. Hopefully I’m not anointing him or hyping him up too much, but that is what I thought when I was watching him last year.


Devin Taylor has Julius Peppers upside, that is how impressive he was to me when I saw him last year.

Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina:

Measurables: 6’7”, 249 pounds, #98

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 46 tackles (33 solo), 13.0 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 1 INT (1 TD), 1 FR, 8 Pass break ups

Analysis: Devin Taylor has incredible potential and he actually reminds me of Julius Peppers. His combination of size, athleticism and his ability to impact games from the defensive end position is rare, and he did this all as a sophomore in the SEC. I think he has the potential to get 55 tackles, 15+ TFL and 10+ sacks, plus a consistent number of pass break ups and forced fumbles as a junior. If he has a season anything like what he had as a sophomore I expect him to be long gone for the NFL because he has such great size, speed and length that he will be an ideal 4-3 DE in the NFL. This kid has the potential to be a top five pick in the NFL with a good season next year, he is that good. I just want to see how well he bends and how good his hand usage is, but the size and athletic ability is all there.

I think Nickoe Whitley has ball-hawk written all over him, and I can't wait to see how he progresses.

Nickoe Whitley, S, Mississippi State:

Measurables: 6’0”, 200 pounds, #31

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 52 tackles (34 solo), 1.5 TFL, 3 INTs, 1.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 1 FF

Analysis: Whitley has a lot of potential because as a freshman in the SEC he managed 50+ tackles, 3 INT’s, 3 pass break-ups and a forced fumble. That’s not easy to come by in such a talented conference, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does as a sophomore. I see no reason why he shouldn’t improve on all of the numbers he put up as a freshman.

Marcus Forston has a lot of disruptive potential and I think he will have a great season on a talented Miami defense.

Marcus Forston, DT, Miami:

Measurables: 6’3”, 305 pounds, #99

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 37 tackles (16 solo), 12.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks

Analysis: I was honestly surprised to see Forston’s stat line when I looked at it because I expected it to be more filled out than it was. That’s not a knock on him, I am only saying that whenever I watched Miami he was a disruptive force at DT, and I didn’t feel that the stats did that justice despite his impressive 12.0 TFL’s as a sophomore. I expect more of that as a junior as I think he could very well get 50 tackles, 15 TFL’s and 5+ sacks as a junior. He will be on an incredibly talented Miami team, but the front seven he will be playing on is going to be incredibly talented so I would be surprised if he didn’t improve on these statistics unless they go down just because there are only so many TFL’s and sacks to go around.


Ojomo could be a dominant force at LE for Miami this year especially considering the talent on that defensive line.

Adewale Ojomo, DE, Miami:

Measurables: 6’4”, 260 pounds, #97

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 38 tackles (21 solo), 7.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 pass break up

Analysis: Ojomo is not very well known on Miami’s defensive line but he clearly demonstrated the potential he has given his 7.5 TFL and 5.0 sacks as a junior. I don’t know for sure, but I would be surprised if he wasn’t starting opposite Olivier Vernon on Miami’s defensive line with Marcus Robinson rotating in. Ojomo seemed to have good edge speed and he has perfect 4-3 DE size, and if he gets off the ball well and has good edge speed he’s going to be a hot commodity if he maintains or improves on his junior year production. He should do that if he gets a starting job.

Armstrong has a great combination of size and athletic ability and he should continue to be a play-maker in Miami's secondary.

Ray-Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami:

Measurables: 6’4”, 220 pounds, #26

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 79 tackles (44 solo), 4.5 TFL, 3 INT (1 TD), 3 pass break ups

Analysis: Armstrong is a physical freak for the safety position at 6’4”, 220 pounds and he was productive as a sophomore with almost 80 tackles and some plays on the ball with 3 INT’s and 3 pass break ups. I am really looking forward to how he does as a junior and I think his numbers could go way up considering the amount of talent that will be around him on defense, especially in the front four and seven. This Miami defense has so much talent that I am high on that I think they could be one of the best defenses in the country next year. They have a ton of talent along the front seven and they have two very talented defensive backs with Telemaque and Armstrong. If they can get a solid performance from Stephen Morris and replace the three corners they lost to graduation and the draft then they could run away with the ACC.

I have been high on Boykin for a year now and he really stepped up last year. I think he has another great year left in him.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Virginia Tech:

Measurables: 6’2”, 215 pounds, #81

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 53 receptions, 847 yards, 6 TD’s

Analysis: I have been high on Boykin since last June and I identified him as the #1 WR on Virginia Tech before his Junior season and he proved me right by becoming one of the go-to guys on the offense. His production speaks for itself, but he has very reliable hands and rarely drops passes even in traffic. He hasn’t turned the corner on making the huge, crucial catch when his team needs it most yet, but he has shown the ability to make catches under pressure. I think he definitely has a NFL future even if he doesn’t have elite size, speed or hands. He is a well-rounded receiver and I see him being a nice mid-round selection in the NFL draft with another good senior season.

Davis has a lot of upside and he has looked great in Spring Ball from what I have heard, so watch out for him.


Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech:

Measurables: 6’4”, 229 pounds, #7

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 19 receptions, 239 yards, 2 TD’s. 1 rush, 12 yards.

Analysis: I thought Davis was a TE he was so big but he is a WR and he moves well for his size. He gets behind coverage surprisingly well and was a couple overthrown passes from Tyrod Taylor from having 25 catches and well over 300 yards and a couple more touchdowns last year. I have heard he looked great in the spring game though I haven’t seen it myself, and I think he could really blow up this year.

Collins flashed some potential last year also and he has been fantastic in Spring Ball from what I have heard, I am very excited to see what he can do with more playing time.

J.R. Collins, DE, Virginia Tech:

Measurables: 6’2”, 254 pounds, #42

Year in 2011: Sophomore

Stats: 25 tackles (12 solo), 6.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks

Analysis: Collins is another guy that I think could blow up this year, especially on a defensive line that doesn’t have a lot of returning starters. He was disruptive in a rotational role last season as you can see from his 6.5 TFL and 5.0 sacks, but he was very disruptive in the spring game with two sacks in that game, not to mention a couple of sacks and 4 TFL in a scrimmage before that from what I am told. I think he has the potential to blow up this year with more consistent playing time, and his performance in spring ball did nothing to dissuade me from thinking this.

Bradham has definite upside and I can't wait to get a better look at him during his Senior season.

Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State:

Measurables: 6’2”, 241 pounds, #13

Year in 2011: Senior

Stats: 97 tackles (53 solo), 5.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 5 pass break ups, 1 kick/punt blocked

Analysis: Bradham was very productive as a junior for Florida State but I think he can do even better than that as a Senior. 100 tackles, 8 TFL and 5 sacks is a realistic expectation for him. I want to see how good he is in coverage though, because it was pretty apparent that he can defend the run, but I want to assess his instincts as a run defender and in coverage to see how good of a NFL prospect he is. However, I definitely think he could blow up as a senior and improve his stock.


Rambo really packs a punch as a hitter and I think he can be an enforcer for Georgia, I just wish he had better hands.

Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia:

Measurables: 6’0”, 211 pounds, #18

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 82 tackles (58 solo), 5.0 TFL, 3 INTs (1 TD), 3 pass break ups

Analysis: Rambo was impressive as a sophomore but I really think he could blow up as a junior because he has good size, speed and he hits like a freight train. He really laid some people out as a sophomore, and while he does that a bit too much (going for the big hit instead of wrapping up) he still is a pretty good tackler and run defender. I want to see more from him in coverage, as I am not sold on him in coverage and his ball skills are lacking despite his 3 INT’s and pass break-ups. He could have had one or more interceptions if his hands were better just in the games I saw.

Orson Charles may very well be my favorite TE in the country right now, I can't wait to see him progress with a more seasoned Aaron Murray this year.

Orson Charles, TE, Georgia:

Measurables: 6’3”, 240 pounds, #7

Year in 2011: Junior

Stats: 26 receptions, 422 yards, 2 TD’s

Analysis: I am an absolutely huge fan of Orson Charles. I think he is going to double all of his statistics from last season. If he has anything less than 50+ catches, 700+ yards and 6+ touchdowns then I would be absolutely shocked. He is going to be one of Murray’s go-to guys as the Bulldogs seek to replace A.J. Green’s unreal production but Charles is definitely up to the challenge. He has good size, he has impressive speed to stretch the field form the TE position, not to mention very reliable hands and great chemistry with Murray. I think if Charles has a good enough year this year he could leave as a junior, but I think there is a pretty good chance he returns for another year with Murray as a junior when they could make a strong run at a National Title if they return enough starters. Regardless, I expect Charles to blow his sophomore year numbers out of the water this year, he is extremely talented and may very well be my favorite tight end in the country.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed part one of my preview! There is a lot more to come!

–Tom

Cotton Bowl Notes:

Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU- Jefferson had a pretty good game overall. I’m still not very impressed with him as a passer, but he had some nice throws in this game. He has good arm strength and he has good zip on his throws, but his accuracy tends to be very inconsistent. That showed at times in this game, but overall I would say he played pretty well as a passer. He still made some bad decisions throwing, but they only passed about 20 times (or called 20 pass plays, I haven’t seen the stat sheet yet) so every bad decision he makes is more significant because of the limited chances he had to make a bad throw. He did have a few nice, NFL throws though. Usually they were to Terrance Toliver, one of my favorite underrated prospects in the draft this year. Jefferson also showcased his mobility and though I knew he could pick up yards with his legs very effectively he looked really fast tonight, like in the 4.5-4.6 range. His play is usually the deciding factor in whether LSU wins or loses and his good play against Texas A&M was the main catalyst in their victory in my opinion. He did have a few bad throws though, one of which became a highlight reel interception for #5 in Texas A&M’s secondary, but there is still hope for him to develop into at least a solid passer as a senior. Will that happen? I wouldn’t bet $20 on it, but there is definitely room for progression and he looked better in this game than in the previous games I had seen of him this season.

Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU- Ridley really impressed me in this game. He looked very fast relative to his 4.55 listed 40 time, he looked explosive in and out of his cuts, he was decisive as a runner and ran hard and finished his runs which I like.  He seems to have solid vision, though I don’t think he necessarily has the speed to get the edge. He looks much better running between the tackles than he does on toss plays. A couple times on stretch plays I thought he had a cut-back lane to get North and South faster for a solid gain but instead he ran patiently behind his blockers or tried to bounce it further and got tackled for no gain or a loss. If he had cut it back then I might have thought more of his vision, but he had some nice lanes to run through in this game. I’d like to see him more involved in the passing game next year, and in blitz pick-up, but those are both things that can be developed more at the next level. Especially the pass blocking aspect. I think Ridley can be a productive NFL runner, but at this point he is probably a 4th round pick or so because he doesn’t have elite speed, he isn’t very involved in their passing game as a receiver or as a blocker, and I think he only has solid vision. There are plenty of examples of rookies or young running backs getting drafted in the middle of the draft, late in the draft or not even at all coming in and having quality careers or at least a couple big seasons. I think Ridley is a guy that people could sleep on as a draft prospect but then have that kind of a season or career because he strikes me as a quality runner.

Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU- Toliver is a guy that every time I watch I just come away impressed. Every single time. He is a skinny receiver but he is tall and is a long strider so he has deceptive deep speed but he has reliable hands and catches the ball well away from his frame which makes him Jefferson’s favorite target. In this game he definitely impressed me because when I stopped watching with about 4 minutes left in the game after Texas A&M threw the game clinching interception Toliver had 5 catches for over 100 yards and three touchdowns even though LSU only threw the ball 15 or so times. And like he always seems to whenever I watch him he showed up regularly on 3rd down with those catches. I swear the majority of his catches are either touchdowns or 3rd down conversions. You can just sense they are going to throw him the ball in those situations when they really need a play and he comes through many more times than not. I think Toliver is a really underrated receiver and I’m really high on him. I’d love to see him on the Falcons, but he probably isn’t a significant upgrade over Jenkins and he isn’t a speed demon who can help stretch the field to take some pressure off of Roddy. But I hope he has a good offseason and that he doesn’t go to a Falcons division rival because I really like him as a prospect. He is going to be at the East/West Shrine game so hopefully he has a good week there. If I had to guess I would say he will.

Spencer Ware, RB, LSU- I had never seen Ware play before but he really impressed me as a runner and as a receiver. I don’t know what his measurements are yet but he ran effectively and also caught the ball pretty effectively for a running back. He has a lot of speed and even though he appears to be relatively undersized he runs really hard. On the first play that I saw him touch the ball he broke a run out, shrugged off one tackle, stiff armed another would-be tackler away from him and ran through another tackle before finally being taken down along the sideline after a huge run. I watched that play and just said “Wow…” it was that impressive of a run. He kept showing up as the game continued too, so I will definitely be doing my due diligence on him. But watch out for him because he had a really good game.

Tyrann Mathieu, FS, LSU- Mathieu was absolutely everywhere in this game. I could not believe my eyes and ears when I heard he was a TRUE freshman and saw the graphic pop up listing that he was a true freshman who was listed at only 5’9”. It blew my mind. First of all, he does look small but he runs really well and clearly has a lot of speed, both in long and short distances. He has great burst and acceleration and he looked like a seasoned veteran out there at times. He made some truly incredible plays. My two favorites occurred in each half. The one in the first half involved him blitzing off the edge against the RT. He shot off the line and the RT was in position to slow him down a bit even though he obviously had enough speed to get the edge, but Mathieu dipped his shoulder and got the edge like he was a seasoned defensive end executing a speed rush. That shoulder dip in addition to his size led him to fly right around/under the tackle’s shoulder after which he absolutely lit up Tannehill for a sack and a forced fumble. It was an absolutely terrific play. He showed up a number of other times with tackles, etc. but he saved his best play for last when he was in coverage and Texas A&M was attempting a late comeback down two touchdowns. Tannehill dropped back to pass and threw to his receiver underneath but Mathieu saw it coming. He closed on it, dove and fully extended to make a fantastic catch with his hands right in front of the intended receiver for the game clinching interception. I could barely believe my eyes, it was one of the best interceptions I have seen all year without a doubt. All I have to say is if you don’t know who this kid is you will soon. He may not be big, but he plays big and makes huge plays and he’s only a TRUE freshman. I can’t wait to see how he develops over the next two years. Watch out for him, he’s going to be a really good one.

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU- I was not particularly impressed with Peterson in this game. I didn’t see him a lot, but when I did it was because Jeff Fuller was catching a pass against him on a curl route on the sideline. Again, I didn’t pay specific attention to him in this game but almost every time I saw him Fuller was catching a pass in front of him, a number of them for first downs. So as a result I did not get a very good impression of him in this game.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M- I have to start this paragraph off by saying that I like Tannehill infinitely more as a prospect than I liked Jerrod Johnson. Did he have his struggles in this game? Sure. But you have to remember that this is his 6th game as a starter. Johnson was making dumber decisions than he was and he was a senior with much more starting experience, hence the change. It speaks volumes about Tannehill that he was able to take over and finish the season with five wins and only one loss in his six games as a starter, including victories against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. I may have to watch those games just to see him play after seeing this. Texas A&M does run a pro style offense though so that will help him as a prospect and he throws a nice ball. He has good zip on his throws and I think he has a NFL arm from that aspect. He had pretty good ball placement overall, but this is just based off of watching him live so obviously I will have to go back over the game and check that out. He also has vastly better footwork on his drops and when he passes the ball than Johnson which was as refreshing as anything to see. He looked like a pro-style QB when he dropped back, it was great to see. He had some bad decisions in this game but both of his interceptions were pretty rare plays. The first one occurred on a pretty big miscommunication with #7 who ran a curl when Tannehill threw a fade or something and the corner just kept running and got a free interception. The second interception came when Texas A&M had become completely one dimensional and Tannehill threw the ball a bit behind his receiver and Mathieu capitalized on it by making a fantastic interception. As far as two interception games go those are pretty good ways to end up with turnovers from a decision making aspect. Overall I was impressed with Tannehill though. He still has developing to do and I really look forward to watching him play next year, but he has solid size, good arm strength, pretty good accuracy based off of what I saw in this game, good footwork, pretty impressive mobility and a little pocket poise. I couldn’t believe that a guy who hadn’t started all season or ever at Texas A&M could step in and lead that five game winning streak to finish the season the way they did, but I do now. He has NFL talent in my opinion, and clearly he has some pretty impressive intangibles if he was able to step in and immediately make his team better like he did. Clearly I liked what I saw, even though he may have struggled a bit statistically and his team lost, but I am very much looking forward to seeing him play and develop as a QB next year. Keep an eye on him obviously.

Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M- I thought he looked good against a very good LSU defense. I am not very familiar with him or his offensive line, but he had a 100 yard rushing game even though they trailed for most of the game after the 1st quarter. He looked pretty quick, like he had solid size and pretty good leg drive as well. I didn’t pay close attention to him because I was trying to learn everything I could about Tannehill since I had never seen him play before, but overall Gray impressed me. I look forward to watching him play with Tannehill again next year, and with Fuller leaving he should be one of the key cogs in their offense.

Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M- Fuller had a pretty good game, though it wasn’t one of his best. I didn’t see how well he blocked in the running game which is something I will have to evaluate, but he caught a number of passes against Patrick Peterson which kind of surprised me. I think Peterson might have been saying he was pushing off a bit, which also wouldn’t surprise me, but I was definitely taken aback by the amount of separation Fuller was creating against someone so athletically gifted as Peterson. He had a solid game though and caught a number of first downs on curls, etc. I didn’t pay too close attention to see how well he caught the ball with his hands though, so that will be something I look into more closely when I re-watch this game and others that he played in. He has good size, probably slower than 4.5 speed if I had to estimate, and I’m not sure how much quickness/burst he has to get in and out of his breaks as a route runner, but he had a very productive year and is really effective in the red zone.

Uzoma Nwachukwu, WR, Texas A&M- Nwachukwu has an awesome name and he had a pretty solid game too. He caught a touchdown on a half-back pass and had a few other nice catches. Again, I don’t recall how well he caught the ball with his hands or whether he let it get into his pads, which is one of the easiest way to guarantee dropping passes in the NFL. He looked like he had 4.48-4.5 speed though and since he is only a junior I imagine he will be back next year looking to replace Fuller as the go-to guy on offense. I look forward to seeing how well he adjusts to that role because he had a pretty good year as the complementary guy. It is a whole different mindset being the #1 target though, so it will be interesting to see how he handles that. Tannehill should make it easier on him than Johnson did on Fuller at times.

Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- Von Miller is a polarizing guy in my opinion. Some people love him because of his speed and quickness off the edge and because of his great production as a pass rusher. Others can’t stand him as a prospect because they think he is too small to hold up against the run, among other things. I haven’t watched enough of him to come to a conclusion on him yet but my initial impression is that I like him as a prospect. I don’t think he will be a 10-15 sack guy like he has been in college, but I think he has the potential to be a quality pass rusher in the NFL. He has impressive speed off the edge and a couple times he showed really nice quickness and burst to beat his man inside when he opened his hips too early. That was something I had never seen him do before, but that may just have been because I haven’t seen him play very much. I think he will end up going in the first round, but I thought he had a solid game based off of how much I saw him.

Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M- I didn’t see him much in this game, but he warrants mention for his sick one handed interception that he made in the first half off of Jordan Jefferson. It will be on Sportscenter, it was a great catch. Other than that I didn’t see much of him.

 

Sorry about the lateness of this post. I thought they might be worth looking through, especially since Ridley has decided to leave early for the draft. He could be a steal for someone in the mid-rounds…

Thanks for reading!

–Tom