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Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL. 

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks. 

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here. 

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Jeff Brantley, Florida:  Brantley was an extremely highly touted prospect when he signed with Florida, but his career has been marked by inconsistency and injury. His size (6-3, 220) and arm talent are enough that the Senior Bowl is rumored to be considering Bradley. A strong performance on the road against a talented South Carolina defense could make the decision an easy one. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by CBS.

WR Marvin McNutt, Iowa:  Overshadowed by Derrell Johnson Koulianos for much of his career, McNutt has emerged as one of the country's most feared receivers. Big (6-2, 215), physical and a better athlete than most think, McNutt has been difficult to stop this season, catching 57 passes for 959 yards and nine scores. McNutt will have his hands full against the conference's elite defense in Michigan State. This game begins at noon ET and will be broadcast by ESPN2.

DL Billy Winn, Boise State: At 6-3, 300 Winn has the size and athleticism to intrigue scouts working for three and four man fronts, alike. Unfortunately, he's battled with inconsistency throughout his career. Viewed as a potential first round pick heading into the season, Winn's stock has already slipped to the second round on many boards and is even lower on others. With TCU the best opponent he'll face the rest of the regular season, Winn could go a long way towards steadying his stock with a strong game.  This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by Versus. 

DE Nick Perry, Southern Cal: A better athlete than football player early in his career, Perry is starting to iron out some of the wrinkles to his game. The 6-3, 250 pounder beat potential 2012 first round pick Jonathan Martin (Stanford) with speed on multiple occasions to pressure Andrew Luck and currently has 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks this season. Like Winn, Perry is a player that intrigues scouts from both defensive schemes. The Washington Huskies featured an underrated left tackle in Senio Kelemete, a potential top 100 choice in his own right, so this should make for a very interesting individual battle that could impact which team wins the game. This game begins at 3:45 pm ET and will be televised by FX. 

TE Coby Fleener, Stanford: Chip Kelly has built the University of Oregon into an annual Rose Bowl contender largely based on scheme. The Ducks aren't churning out NFL prospects with the regularity one might expect considering the fact that Kelly is 30-5, including 23-1 in conference since he took the head coaching job. The one position in which Oregon has consistently produced NFL caliber prospects, however, is in the secondary. With Andrew Luck's best big play wideout Chris Owusu sidelined with a concussion, the pressure will be on Coby Fleener and the rest of Luck's targets to get open against the Ducks' athletic defensive backs. The Ducks won't have their best one -- as junior cornerback Cliff Harris remains suspended -- but Oregon still boasts a physical safety in John Boyett and athleticism -- abeit young athleticism -- at cornerback to challenge this Stanford offense. Fleener will never get Luck's hype, but he's even been overshadowed by multiple members of Stanford's offensive line. It's a shame. He's been NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior tight end since September and is earning top 50 grades from scouts. This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by ABC.


Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Wilson dazzles, fumbles, dazzles again vs. GTech

Virginia Tech junior running back David Wilson is among the nation's more explosive runners. At 5-10, 205 pounds Wilson has reportedly been timed in the 4.3s. The speed, elusiveness and determination that made Wilson NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 rated running back for the 2012 draft was on display Thursday night against Georgia Tech as he rushed for a career high 177 yards. Thursday's effort was Wilson's seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing game. 

With such an impressive track record, Georgia Tech knew heading into the key ACC showdown knowing precisely who they had to focus on to stop the Virginia Tech offense. Early in the game, the Yellow Jackets looked up to the task, repeatedly beating the Hokies' offensive line with quick penetration to corral Wilson at or behind the line of scrimmage.   

Wilson was often able to make the first defender miss Thursday evening due to his impressive lateral agility and explosiveness. When given a lane, Wilson burst through the line of scrimmage quickly, gaining yardage in chunks. Like most speedsters, Wilson prefers to cut towards the sidelines, but he demonstrated the toughness and vision to cut back into the middle, as well.

Unfortunately, Wilson also proved that he has plenty to work on in perfecting his craft, not the least of which was poor ball handling technique that led to a fumble in the mid-third quarter. 

Wilson had the ball punched out with the Hokies driving into the redzone. The play was the eighth in a series that began on their own 12-yard line and ended with nothing to show for it at the Georgia Tech 16. The Yellow Jackets recovered and scored, taking their last lead before the Hokies pulled away in the final stanza.      

Wilson nearly had the ball ripped away earlier in the quarter, but a quick snap by Virginia Tech on the next play didn't give head coach Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech much time to view the replay.

In each case, Wilson simply allowed the ball to get too far away from his body.    

The ball security issue would appear to be one that is correctable through coaching. What makes Wilson unique is that he possesses the natural explosiveness that no amount of coaching can provide.        
Posted on: November 8, 2011 6:27 pm
 

NFLPA to offer new all-star game open to juniors

According to an official press release, the NFL Players Association has teamed with AstroTurf to present a new collegiate all-star game.

The AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will take place at the Home Depot Center on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. The game is scheduled for January 21 -- the same week as the East-West Shrine Game, which used to be held in San Francisco, but now takes place in St. Petersburg, Florida and a week prior to the Senior Bowl. As with most all-star games, players will be brought in the previous Sunday for a full week of practice (and evaluation from scouts) prior to the game, itself.

Tickets (beginning at $15) are already being sold at TicketMaster.com and at HomeDepotCenter.com.

Like the East-West Shrine Game, the AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will rely on the big names of some ex-NFL coaches to help stir up interest. The two teams in this contest will be led by former NFL head coaches Dick Vermeil and Tom Flores.

Perhaps most interesting about the game is that unlike the East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and similar all-star events, the AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will consider underclassmen for their 100 roster spots.

“Our mission is to provide these young men with an unforgettable all-star game experience but just as importantly with invaluable information for their transition out of college,” Clark Gaines, NFLPA Assistant Executive Director, was quoted as saying in the press release. “The NFLPA is a player’s primary resource for information on the business of football, and we will educate these players on how to succeed in the NFL and in their post-football careers.”

Most NFL scouts declined to comment on the new game. One, however, was intrigued by the idea that underclassmen might be involved.

"That's surprising [that underclassmen may be invited to participate], but it definitely is a way to be different from the Senior Bowl and the East-West," the scout, requesting anonymity, wrote in a text.

"Depending on who they're able to get play in the game, I'm sure scouts will be there to see it."

The scout is quite correct in that. The simple inclusion of underclassmen does make this game potentially unique and one to watch. As more details emerge, I'll post them here.

For now, if you'd like more information about the game you can follow the game organizers on Twitter and Facebook at: twitter.com/NFLPABowl and facebook.com/NFLPACollegiateBowl.
Posted on: November 7, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 3:43 pm
 

Stanford may not have deep threat Owusu vs Oregon

Andrew Luck and the No. 3 rated Stanford Cardinal may not have big play wide receiver Chris Owusu in Saturday's showdown with No. 7 ranked Oregon.

Owusu was taken off the field by ambulance during the second quarter of Stanford's 38-13 victory over Oregon State November 5. Owusu absorbed a helmet to helmet hit by OSU defensive back Jordan Power Poyer and lay prone for several minutes before being loaded onto a stretcher and placed into the ambulance. He did show that he had feelings in his extremities by raising his hand for a thumbs-up as he was loaded into the ambulance. Owusu diagnosed with a concussion -- his third in the past 13 months.   

Though his numbers are rather pedestrian this season (35 receptions for 376 yards and two touchdowns), Owusu is the fastest of Stanford's wideouts and the talented receiver/returner was given a middle round grade by some scouts heading into this season. He is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 23 rated wide receiver.

Though Owusu had only scored two touchdowns via Luck passes this season, he served an important role in Stanford's offense as the deep threat that kept safeties honest. Without him, Oregon's safeties may be able to place greater focus on slowing down the Cardinal's powerful rushing attack and Stanford's talented tight ends. 

Considering that Oregon boasts the most athletic secondary Luck has faced all season long, the timing couldn't be much worse for the presumptive No. 1 overall pick and his teammates' chances at remaining undefeated.

For Owusu, the recurring concussions will certainly pose a mighty red flag to NFL teams. Though he was characterized as "fine" by his father (reached by Tom FitzGerald, a staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle), no timetable has been announced by Stanford as to when Owusu will be able to return to the field.
Posted on: November 5, 2011 8:15 pm
 

Broyles suffers season-ending ACL tear

Oklahoma senior receiver Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the third quarter of the Sooners' 41-25 victory over Texas A&M, Saturday.

Broyles was helped to the locker room after being initially attended to on the sideline by the school medical staff. Doctors performed ligament tests. Shortly thereafter Broyles was caught by television cameras crying.

On the play Broyles was injured, he jumped high in an attempt to catch a pass from Sooner quarterback Landry Jones and came down very hard and awkwardly on his left leg

The 5-10, 188 pound Broyles is the NCAA's career leading receiver with 347 grabs for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns. A Biletnikof finalist last season, he turned down a chance to be a potentially high pick in last April's draft to help Oklahoma win a BCS Championship.

Broyles had already caught 266 passes for 3,429 yards and 35 touchdowns heading into this season. With his extensive playing time, scouts knew his game, so the All-American wasn't likely to improve his draft stock much. Broyles has good overall athleticism and is reliable route-runner and generally sure-handed receiver. His ceiling was limited as he lacks elite size and speed.

Broyles is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 6 rated receiver and 50th prospect, overall.

Including the first three quarters against Texas A&M (two catches for 87 yards), Broyles had caught 81 passes for 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He redshirted in 2007 and, considering his 44 career starts, isn't likely to be given a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA for an injury sustained this late in the season.

On the play Broyles was injured, he jumped high in an attempt to catch a pass from Sooner quarterback Landry Jones and came down very hard and awkwardly on his left leg

The injury, unfortunately, could prove disastrous for his draft stock. The normal timetable for surgery to repair an ACL tear is at least six months. The 2012 NFL Draft is just few weeks more away than that.

Even worse for Broyles, assuming a few of the top-rated underclassmen leave school early, wide receiver will be among the strongest position groups for the 2012 draft. As such, an injured star -- even one with Broyles' jaw-dropping production -- could slip into the third day of the draft... or worse.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 4:13 pm
 

Five Prospects I'll Be Scouting Closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL. 

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks. 

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here. 

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M:  I've stubbornly kept Tannehill among my Top 32 prospects because he possesses all of the physical characteristics I look for in a developmental quarterback -- namely size, arm strength, accuracy, mobility and toughness. Though few of the Aggies' second-half collapses this season can be directly attributed to poor play from Tannehill, the fact that he is the quarterback -- and presumably the leader -- of a team that has gone through such rough stretches is concerning. Last year Tannehill enjoyed a bit of a breakout performance against the Sooners. The Aggies certainly won't catch the Sooners napping this time around. If Tannehill can demonstrate the mental toughness to go into Norman and beat the Sooners, he'll exorcise plenty of the demons haunting his game this season. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by ABC. 

CB Quenton Washington, South Florida:
 I typically highlight Top 100 prospects in this Prospects to Watch post, but I've seen enough of Washington to view him as a sleeper who could surprise at the next level. Washington has been hampered by a knee injury this season, but has demonstrated the speed and burst to the ball that every team is looking for. He'll have his toughest challenge of the season this week against Rutgers' junior Mohammed Sanu, one of the elite wideouts in the country. This is the type of contest that Washington will have to perform well in if he is to have any chance at improving his stock during the regular season. This game begins at 7 pm ET and will be broadcast by ESPN3.

WR Joe Adams, Arkansas: NFLDraftScout.com currently ranks Adams as a 5th-6th round pick, but this is largely based off of preseason tape in which Greg Childs appeared to be the Razorbacks' elite wideout. With Childs nursing a sore knee throughout much of this season, Adams has emerged as the team's playmaker. At 5-11, 190 pounds, some have compared Adams to former Florida Gator standout Percy Harvin due to each player's extraordinary agility and 4.3 speed. Adams will have a tough test Saturday against a talented South Carolina secondary. Should his strong senior campaign continue, he could be looking at a Top 100 pick -- or perhaps even significantly higher than that... This game begins at 7:15 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN. 

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA: NFL teams are looking at the second consecutive weak senior crop of tight ends, which could convince a few underclassmen to consider leaving early. One of them who might is Bruins' junior Fauria, the nephew of former NFL tight end Christian Fauria. Like his uncle, Joseph is an athletic pass-catcher. He also possesses rare size (6-8, 252). I expect most of the television hype to focus on ASU's talented underclassmen, but don't forget about Fauria. The last time the Bruins featured a tight end with this combination of size and receiving skills, the Jaguars made Marcedes Lewis a first round pick.  This game begins at 7:30 pm ET and will be televised by Versus. 

CB 'Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama: Simply put, this is the biggest regular season game in recent memory. As such, there has been more analysis of this game than some BCS Championship showdowns of the past. While there are plenty of prospects to focus on in this contest, I believe the ultimate winner of the this game will come down to which star performs better in one key matchup -- Alabama cornerback 'Dre Kirkpatrick againt LSU wideout Rueben Randle. The Tigers will likely struggle to run the ball on Alabama, considering their size and experience up front and the hostile environment. The one area in which LSU might be able to hurt the Crimson Tide is with a big play in the passing game. Kirkpatrick has a great deal of talent, but can get caught peeking in the backfield. If he has the game I think he can, Alabama rolls. This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by CBS.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 8:35 am
 

Despite average stats Temple RB Pierce stands out

Temple lost a key game in the race for the MAC East crown Wednesday night to the Ohio, but even in the defeat the nationally televised contest gave fans (and scouts) a rare opportunity to see Owls' junior running back Bernard Pierce.

Pierce, listed at 6-1, 218 pounds, entered the contest ranked 11th in the country in rushing yards per game (118.8) and tied for first with 18 rushing touchdowns (with Wisconsin's Montee Ball).

Slowing Pierce was clearly the focus of the Ohio Bobcats' game plan Wednesday night and they were largely successful, limiting Pierce to "just" 84 yards on 22 carries. Pierce did breakaway for a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter that tied the game at 21-21, but the Bobcats eventually pulled away, taking the lead for good with 1:41 remaining in the game on a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Tettleton to Donte Foster.

Pierce was actually overshadowed for much of the contest by a strong performance from Ohio's running back, senior Donte Harden, who rushed for 184 yards and caught two passes for another 75 yards in the game.

Harden, a senior, entered the game with only two touchdowns on the season and barely a blip on scouts' radar,  but showed burst through the hole and enough speed to break away from the Temple defense. He broke free on a 33-yard run on Ohio's first drive and followed that up with a 25 yard touchdown reception down the left sideline on a perfectly executed wheel-route after play-action. His most impressive play came in the third quarter when he raced up the middle, deftly slipping past defenders and pulled away for an 81-yard touchdown that gave Ohio a 21-14 lead.

Scouts on hand and watching the telecast, however, had mostly tuned in to see Pierce. Despite likely being limited with a hamstring injury that has nagged him this season (and unfortunately, the past, as well), Pierce demonstrated the combination of power, elusiveness and speed to warrant all of the attention. 

A standout since first stepping foot onto the field for the Owls, Pierce broke several freshman records in 2009 rushing for 1,361 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards six times. Hamstring and ankle injuries limited Pierce's 2010 season to just five starts (in ten games) but he still finished with 728 yards and led the team with 11 touchdowns (10 rushing, one receiving).

Against an Ohio defense that hasn't allowed a rusher to eclipse the century mark all season, Pierce showed good quickness to the hole and nice lateral agility to elude in tight quarters for a big back. Pierce runs a bit high, but keeps his legs churning on contact to break free from arm tackles. Perhaps his greatest assets appeared to be his vision and burst. Pierce had to work for his yards Wednesday night as Ohio defenders consistently met him at the point of attack, but the junior back showed the ability to bounce plays outside and beat the defense to the edge. Pierce has not been a featured target in Temple's limited passing game, so there are questions about his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He did step up in pass protection, however, showing the willingness and form to take on blitzing linebackers.

I'd personally rank Alabama's Trent Richardson, Washington's Chris Polk and Virginia Tech's David Wilson ahead of him as potential 2012 running back prospects. Miami redshirt sophomore Lamar Miller, should he elect to leave with two seasons of eligibility remaining, would also rank ahead of Pierce on my board. Pierce, however, due to his blend of size, speed and production throughout his career, would certainly compete with any other back in the country (including all of the seniors) as a potential second round pick.

Pierce is currently ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the 10th best running back potentially available for the 2012 draft.

Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Phil Simms not alone in calling Luck overrated

Former Super Bowl MVP and CBS' analyst Phil Simms made waves yesterday with his proclamation that Andrew Luck was being "hype[d] a little too much" and that he didn't see "big time NFL throws" from the Stanford redshirt junior quarterback.

By ranking Luck as the top prospect I've seen in 12 years of scouting, obviously I disagree.

Simms isn't the only one who has concerns about Luck, however.

During the Stanford-Southern Cal game I spent about 45 minutes talking to a high level scout who also had reservations about the Stanford quarterback.

The scout began the conversation about Luck by asking my assessment of Luck's arm strength. I told him that I did not believe that arm strength was Luck's greatest asset, but that having scouted Luck in person and off of video I believed him to have plenty of zip on the ball to make every NFL throw. I also pointed out that Luck's anticipation and accuracy -- arguably his two best features -- more than made up for a lack of a howitzer for a right arm.

The scout agreed that Luck's anticipation and accuracy "were what make him special" but used April's No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton as a comparison to drive a point home about how much Luck has been over-hyped thus far.

"I'm not so sure that after scouting each of these guys closely that some scouts wouldn't favor Newton over Luck," the scout said. "Newton is so much more of a physical specimen. He's bigger, stronger, faster and has a gun. Luck, for all of the things he does have, doesn't have an arm like that. I think the perception is that Carolina would have taken Luck in a heart beat over Newton. Maybe they would have. But I think it would be a closer call than most people think based on the hype."

Newton's instant and continued success in the NFL has taken many of us by surprise, so I asked the scout if perhaps this fact wasn't clouding his comments. He chuckled and acknowledged the quality work that the Carolina Panthers (specifically offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) had done in adapting his offense to tailor to Newton's strengths, but also pointed out that "talent is talent and when you've got a lot of it, a little coaching can go a long way."

"The reality is, Luck is a pretty special talent, but he's not Superman. I don't know that anyone could be as good as the hype he's getting right now." 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com