Posted on: December 11, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:49 pm
Many NFL teams needing help at linebacker will wake up Monday morning to discover that one of the few potential first round prospects is passing up his chance at the NFL to return for his senior season.
According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, Notre Dame junior inside linebacker Manti Te'o announced Sunday at the Lott IMPACT Trophy Awards that he'll be playing for Notre Dame in 2012. Brian Hamilton's article also notes that Notre Dame has confirmed the news.
Te'o was rated behind only another junior -- Boston College's Luke Kuechly -- on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings of inside linebackers potentially available for the 2012 draft. Audie Cole from North Carolina State is the highest rated senior at the position but is currently graded as a 3rd round prospect and NFLDraftScout.com's No. 87 rated player. By comparison, Te'o is rated No. 27, overall.
The 6-2, 255 pound Te'o signed with Notre Dame as one of the highest decorated prep prospects in the country. He proved an immediate difference-maker for the Irish and had steadily improved his stock throughout his career. Te'o was voted a finalist for the Butkus Award this year after leading the Irish in tackles (113), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (4.5). The junior still has the upcoming Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State December 29 to top the career-high 133 tackles he posted last year -- the highest total from a Notre Dame player since 1983 (Tony Furjanic).
Te'o certainly has the build scouts are looking for at the mike position and he has ucommon speed for his size, as well. While he's not necessarily the thumper his size would lead you to believe, Te'o locates the ball quickly and is a reliable tackler. He has the athleticism and awareness for coverage and has some natural pass rush skills, as well. As such, scouts from 4-3 and 3-4 teams, alike, were intrigued by the Notre Dame linebacker.
One team that could be particularly disappointed to see Te'o return to Notre Dame might be the Buffalo Bills. The Bills' struggles to stop the run this season is one reason I had previously projected Buffalo to select Te'o in my latest first round mock draft.
Instead it appears that Notre Dame's Brian Kelly will be the coach boasting this difference-making linebacker next season.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:20 pm
Two years ago I campaigned hard for Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to join former Michigan great Charles Woodson as the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy in the modern era.
Considering the fact that LSU sophomore cornerback and punt returner Tyronn Mathieu made plays every bit as dramatic and consistently as Woodson did for the 1997 Wolverines, he too should get strong consideration for the award. Whether it be with his interceptions, fumble recoveries or returns, Mathieu unquestionably had more "Heisman-esque" moments this season than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson and Montee Ball. Mathieu's chances at the trophy would seem even better with none of the other four finalists having an obvious edge over the others. Like Baylor's Griffin (affectionally called RG3), Mathieu even had the benefit of a spectacular nickname (Honey Badger) to aid in the hype-building that has unfortunately become so important in building a Heisman campaign.
Two critical mistakes, however, will keep Mathieu from winning the award -- an October 21 suspension for using synthetic marijuana and a controversial hit from behind against Alabama cornerback 'Dre Kirkpatrick that some labeled a cheap shot and felt deserved another suspension.
I do believe Mathieu deserves to have been among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy. His exploits on the field and in helping LSU finish the season undefeated and in position to win the BCS Championship in my opinion demanded that he be there.
However, the Heisman Trophy carries with it not only the expectation of athletic supremacy, but playing and carrying oneself with integrity, as well.
As such, for those interested, my Heisman "ballot" would read:
1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor
2. Andrew Luck, Stanford
3. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama
5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:26 pm
With the NFL Advisory Committee designed to give underclassmen an accurate idea as to their draft standing, the number of players asking for grades has shot up in recent years.
Ironically, most of the media attention focuses on the highly touted prospects who, quite frankly, would be foolish not to ask for their grades. The real news comes when talented players who have perhaps played a bit under the national radar ask for their grades, as well.
Such is the case with Wake Forest redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Givens, who according to a report from Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem Journal, has requested his grade from the committee and is seriously considering early entry into the 2012 draft.
"I don't know if I'm coming back or I'm leaving yet," Givens said Thursday. "I want to make my decision before the end of next week, and we'll see what happens."
Listed at 6-0, 195 by the Demon Deacons, Givens earned All-ACC honors in 2011 catching 74 passes for a school-record 1,276 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Givens does not possess the imposing size of some of the other top-rated underclassmen receivers, but does bring terrific straight-line speed and playmaking ability.
He's led Wake Forest in all-purpose yardage each of his three seasons of action and as such is no sleeper for those in ACC country.
Wake Forest relatively meager contributions to the NFL, however, has likely contributed in keeping Givens out of the spotlight. Should Givens elect to leave school early, he'd only be the second Wake Forest underclassmen to do so. The other was inside linebacker Jon Abbate who left after the 2006 season but wasn't drafted at all in 2007. Abbate signed with the Houston Texans as a fullback following the 2007 draft but did not make the club and hasn't played a down in the NFL.
Collins quotes Givens and Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe throughout the article, drawing some interesting distinctions between Abbate and the receiver.
"He's a real-deal guy, there's no question about it," Grobe said. "And Jon Abbate was a real good player. There was no doubt Jon could play. But Jon just wasn't very tall.
"In Chris' case, you know they would probably want him to be a little taller, I'm sure, if the truth is known. They would probably want him to be a little bit more physical as a blocker and did some things without the ball in his hands than he does.
"But he does some really good things — good speed, good routes, good work ethic, catches the ball good. He's got the real, real good foot speed.
"He's a good player. He's a really good player."
Givens is a good player. He's currently ranked 11th among NFLDraftScout.com's class of 2013 receivers and could rise up the board once scouts are able to put a stopwatch to him.
Whether that opportunity comes in the next couple of months or before the 2013 draft, of course, remains to be seen.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:14 am
Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil is "set to return" for his senior season according to a source close to the situation.
Kalil, 6-6 and 295 pounds, just finished his second season as the Trojans' starting left tackle. He earned First Team All Pac-12 honors and is currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 3 overall prospect in the country. Though his older brother, Ryan, returned for his senior campaign at USC prior to the center being drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft by the Carolina Panthers, most expected Matt to leave early.
A high-ranking NFL scout confirmed that he'd also heard Kalil was "definitely leaning towards returning" and that the decision surprised he and his scouting peers, as well.
"If he does indeed return, it would be a bit surprising. He's the top offensive tackle in the country. The senior class [at offensive tackle] is a weak group. At worst, he'd be looking at a top ten pick. That fact alone would send most guys into the draft."
Kalil's remarkable combination of size and athleticism had kept the Dallas Cowboys' 2011 first round pick Tyron Smith playing on the right side during his career with the Trojans. That didn't keep Jerry Jones and his staff from selecting Smith with the No. 9 overall pick. Smith, incidentally, has performed well this season as the Cowboys' starting right tackle.
Kalil has long been projected to enter the 2012 draft. Chad Reuter and I have each projected him as a potential top five pick in our current first round mock drafts.
Should Kalil return, it could set off of chain reaction pushing other talented USC underclassmen -- including quarterback Matt Barkley -- to shun the NFL and return for their senior seasons. The Trojans' bowl ban ends this year. Considering the talent this team has potentially coming back, a return to national title contention would appear possible.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:17 am
Many underclassmen considering the jump to the pros claim they will return to school unless the NFL Advisory Committee gives them a first round grade.
Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist who leads the nation with 32 touchdowns and 1,759 rushing yards this season, isn't guaranteeing he'll hold the same standard.
The AFCA All-American running back was asked by Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel what could he hoped to hear back from scouts.
"Obviously I'd love to hear first round," Ball said. "I'd love to hear even late second. But third or four I'd most likely stay."
That sounds like a back looking to parlay his monstrous junior season into NFL dollars.
The 5-11, 212 pound Ball is clearly helped by a Wisconsin offensive line that may be the best in college football. He's clearly a talented runner, but it is telling that Wisconsin's backup, true sophomore James White, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and rushed for 683 yards and six touchdowns, himself.
Ball is a gliding runner perfectly suited to Wisconsin's offense. He can be quick to the hole and can exploit any crease in the defense, but also demonstrates the patience and vision to take advantage of cutback lanes. He's an alert and capable receiver out of the backfield. What Ball isn't is a powerful back in the mold of former Wisconsin standouts Ron Dayne and John Clay, though he does finish his runs with good forward lean and by keeping his legs churning upon contact. While not a powerhouse, make no mistake, Ball is an NFL-caliber back with quick acceleration, very good lateral agility to elude and enough top-end speed to gain yardage in chunks. His speed or potential lack thereof is one of the concerns scouts have about Ball, however. He's been estimated as a mid 4.5 runner, which is the primary reason why NFLDraftScout.com currently grades him as a 3rd round value.
Should NFL scouts feel similarly, it sounds like Ball will be playing for an NFL team, rather than the Badgers, next season.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:49 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:50 pm
Stanford junior quarterback Andrew Luck said he's "absolutely" prepared to go to the NFL after the Cardinal finish their season in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State on Jan. 2.
"I think I'm going to hopefully play professional football if a team will have me," Luck told ESPN on Monday night, per NFL.com.
That might be the understatement of the year.
Projected as the top prospect available in the 2012 draft by NFLDraftScout.com since the end of last April's draft, Luck is one of five finalists for the Heisman Trophy to be announced Saturday.
Luck likely would have been the top overall pick last year, but returned to Stanford for his redshirt junior season to pursue his architectural design degree and believed it was understood he'd go to the NFL after this season.
"I thought it was pretty formal or understood when I came back for my final year, so I have no clue if I'll make a formal announcement or not," Luck said.
Many NFL scouts have touted Luck as the best quarterback prospect entering the NFL in the past two decades. And he could well end up in Indianapolis, where the 0-12 Colts have been without injured Peyton Manning all season.
The Vikings and Rams are the next closest teams to the top pick, but each have two wins with four games to play.
"It will work itself out," Peyton's father, Archie Manning, told Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson of CBS' Eye on Football Tuesday afternoon when asked about the Colts' quarterback situation.
Luck has thrown for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:42 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:51 pm
Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle Marcus Forston declaring for the NFL Draft didn't cause big ripples. The surprise was that wide receiver Tommy Streeter decided to join him and sign with agent Drew Rosenhaus, according to CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:09 pm
Considering that he earned consensus All-American honors as a return specialist and cornerback as a sophomore, many expected the 2011 season to be the last one in Autzen for Cliff Harris.
As it turns out, it will be Harris' last season as a member of the Oregon Ducks. But he isn't leaving the way most expected.
The University of Oregon announced Monday that Harris has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. The full release is below.
Harris' off-field behavior is every bit as disconcerting as his on-field talents are exciting. Harris has a long history of run-ins with the police. He was cited for speeding and driving a car with a suspended license in July, which led to Kelly suspending him for the team's opening game against LSU. He was then suspended October 24 after his second run-in with local authorities and has missed the Ducks' final five games as a result.
The repeated mistakes are sure to force college and/or pro teams to question whether they can trust Harris.
Considering his talent, Harris isn't without options. As North Alabama proved last year in accepting a transfer from former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins (released by the Gators due to citations involving marijuana), there are always programs willing to gamble on star power.
Should Harris enter the draft, scouts will certainly do their homework on him as he's unquestionably among the elite cover corners in the nation. In 27 career games, Harris recorded eight interceptions. He led the Pac-10 with six interceptions last season and led the entire country with 23 passes broken up. Of his six interceptions in 2010, three of them were against NFLDraftScout.com's top two rated quarterbacks, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Southern California's Matt Barkley.
Harris is currently listed as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 13 rated cornerback for the 2012 draft and a middle round value. He entered the year ranked No. 2 at the position and viewed as a possible first round pick.
As promised, here is the full release from the University of Oregon regarding Harris' release:
University of Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris has been dismissed from the Ducks’ football program for a violation of team rules, according to the Ducks’ Head Coach Chip Kelly Monday.