Tag:Big East
Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Pitt loses 3 for season, including RB Graham

The Pittsburgh Panthers got back into the Big East race with an impressive win over Connecticut Wednesday night, but in doing so they lost three players for the season, including junior running back Ray Graham, the conference's leading rusher.

Graham went down to an injury to his right leg on Pittsburgh's opening drive. On Thursday, head coach Todd Graham (no relation) informed the media that Graham's injury was indeed season-ending.

Graham, a 5-09, 195 pound junior had been enjoying yet another spectacular season. Overshadowed the past two seasons by Dion Lewis (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), Graham had nonetheless rushed for a combined 1,273 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns. 

This season Graham was leading the Big East with an average of 134 rushing yards per game. Through eight games this season (including Connecticut) Graham had rushed for a career high 958 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He also caught a career high 30 passes for 200 yards. 

Prior to the injury Graham was considered a potential early entry into the 2012 draft. NFLDraftScout.com had Graham rated as the No. 8 running back and 95th rated player, overall.   

Graham could still elect to leave school early and pursue his NFL dream, though the seriousness of his injury may keep him from working out for pro scouts until after the April draft. As such, it would appear likely at this time that Graham would elect to have the corrective surgery, rehabilitate and return to Pittsburgh to play next season.

While Graham is certainly the most well-known of the trio of Pittsburgh players injured Wednesday night, the Panthers also will be hurt with the loss of junior wide receiver Cameron Sadler (broken sternum) and freshman offensive lineman Matt Rotheram (fractured ankle), each of whose injuries will end their seasons prematurely.   

Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Pitt, South Florida prospects flash NFL skills

Last night provided fans and scouts alike with an interesting Big East showdown between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the South Florida Bulls. For many fans, the fact that Pitt easily beat up on the No. 16 rated Bulls was the main story line. For those of us watching the game with an eye towards several of these prospects playing for NFL teams in the future, the final score (Pittsburgh won 44-17) was just a side note.

The star of the game was Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham, who rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the rout. Pitt's big, physical offensive line certainly aided in the production from the 5-09, 195 pound junior tailback, but Graham's vision and agility helped turn several 3-4 yard carries into 10-15 yard scampers. Most importantly, it was clear that the Pitt coaching staff trusted Graham as the game went into the second half. Though the final score argues otherwise, this was a close game early. Pitt went into halftime ahead only 20-17. Considering the success of recent Pitt running backs LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis -- each of whom left school early -- it is wise to keep Graham in mind when considering the underclassmen at this position who may test the NFL waters.

One of reasons why Graham found the running easy was due to the play of Panther offensive guard Lucas Nix. The 6-5, 310 pounder is rated NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 offensive guard for the 2012 draft and demonstrated why throughout this contest, routinely blasting holes in the front line and showing the agility to block at the second level, as well.

On the defensive side of the ball, Panthers' pass rusher Brandon Lindsey enjoyed a solid, but unspectacular game. He was credited with four tackles, including a sack in the third quarter, but didn't show the explosivness I expected from a prospect I'd just included as part of my newest mock draft. Lindsey was often a beat late off the ball and relied mostly on his speed outside to cross the face of the tackle on his way to the quarterback. I'd like to see improved hand play and a quicker inside spin to compliment his outside rush.

On the South Florida side, I was intrigued by the play of senior cornerback Quenton Washington. The 5-10, 195 pounder has been reported to boast legitimate 4.3 speed. Though I would have estimated him at 4.45 based on last night's game, Washington did show an impressive burst to close, knocking away two passes that otherwise would have been caught. He also posted two tackles, including a tackle for loss. I would have liked to have seen Washington turn his second PBU into an interception, however, as he read the play, broke on it quickly and was in position to snatch the Tino Sunseri pass and perhaps take it back for a touchdown. Instead, the ball dropped to the ground in what was a microcosm of the opportunity South Florida lost in this nationally televised contest.

NFLDraftScout.com does not rank Washington as a draftable commodity at this time (he's ranked 52nd currently), but with his athleticism, he's certainly one I am keeping my eye on as a potential riser as the draft nears.



Posted on: January 26, 2011 1:05 am
 

Senior Bowl adds DT McClain, WR Sanders

Due to injuries to Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea and Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmond Gates, Terrell McClain and Jock Sanders were given a late invitation from the Senior Bowl, respectively.

The Senior Bowl organizers must be having a hard time locating prospects as late additions. McClain and Sanders are exciting enough athletes to perform well in Mobile, but their colleges make them geographically odd choices, as McClain -- from South Florida -- is expected to play for the North team and Sanders - from West Virginia - for the South. Sanders will join his former Mountaineer teammate Noel Devine on the South squad.

An MRI performed Tuesday showed that Paea had a partially torn lateral meniscus. Gates' injury was fortunately less serious. He pulled a hamstring. Both, however, will not be able to participate in the Senior, necessitating the moves.

What the 6-2, 305 pound McClain lacks in statistics (24 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks) he made up for in recognition from his Big East foes, earning all-conference honors as an active, penetrating defensive tackle.

Like his teammate Devine, Sanders is smaller than scouts would like (5-07, 180), but he's dynamic and has proven both consistent and durable. He caught 69 passes for 728 yards and four touchdowns in 2010 and leaves WVU as the program's all-time leading receiver with 206 catches. He tied the WVU record in playing in 51 career games.


Posted on: January 8, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: January 8, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Last game for Pitt/UK Jrs Baldwin, Lewis, Cobb?

Though the BBVA Compass Bowl may not rival the Cotton or Sugar Bowl in terms of notoriety, there are certainly some future NFL prospects to keep an eye on this morning.

There is plenty of senior talent to watch. Pitt boasts the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in pass rusher Jabaal Sheard and one of the better offensive linemen that no one seems to be talking about in left tackle Jason Pinkston. Kentucky's talent is largely on the offensive side of the football. Senior running back Derrick Locke is a 5-08, 190 dynamo capable of beating teams with his speed and elusiveness as a runner and receiver.

For both teams, however, the greater talent lies with their underclassmen -- the top three of which are reportedly strongly considering making today's bowl game their final collegiate contest.

Pitt WR Jon Baldwin told NFLDraftScout.com's Chris Steuber weeks ago that he was going to go pro . Though he's since retracted his statement, scouts fully expect the 6-5, 230 pound athletic phenom to indeed leave Pitt early for a chance at the NFL. Baldwin hasn't been as spectacular this season (52 catches for 810 yards and 5 TDs) as he was in a breakout 2009 campaign (57-1,111-8) but much of this has to do with the Panthers incorporating a new quarterback (Tino Sunseri) who was unable to develop the same rapport with the playmaking Baldwin as Bill Stull did a year ago.

The more surprising news out of Pitt is that redshirt sophomore Dion Lewis is also considering leaving early. On the one hand, it is difficult to fault Lewis - or any running back, for that matter - for wanting to get paid as soon as possible for the wear and tear they'll absorb running the football, but Lewis, like Baldwin, is coming off a disappointing season.

The 5-08, 195 pound Lewis earned All-American honors as a redshirt freshman in 2009, rushing for an eye-popping 1,799 yards and 17 TDs. This year, however, he found the sledding much tougher, rushing for "only" 956 yards and 12 touchdowns through the regular season. Lewis should be able to run all over a Wildcat defense that ranks 79th in the country, giving up 170.31 yards a game, however, extending his strong finish to the year.

The most exciting prospect to watch in this game is clearly Kentucky wideout Randall Cobb, perhaps the most versatile player in the country. He leads the SEC with 2,192 all-purpose yards and has scored touchdowns in nearly every form imaginable this year -- as a runner, receiver, passer and returner. The 5-11, 190 pound Cobb's versatility is reminiscent of the Jets' Brad Smith and the Steelers' Antwaan Randle El. Should Cobb elect to come out this season, he'd likely get a bit lost in the shuffle of all the prototypical 6-3, 210 pound wideouts likely to be available, but if he slipped into the late second or third round, could prove a huge steal.

As spectacular as Cobb is, however, he faces a tough opponent in this Pittsburgh defense. Former head coach Dave Wannstedt and former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett (serving as interim head coach in this game) have done a great job defensively with this team. The Panthers ranked 9th in the nation in total defense this season.

This game begins at 12:00 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN.

As always, for the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is N FLDraftScout.com.
 

Posted on: November 15, 2010 8:18 pm
 

Romeus out for season with torn ACL

In his first game back after undergoing surgery to repair a disk in his spinal column, Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus tore the ACL in his right knee.

His 2010 season is over. Due to the fact that he redshirted in 2006, his collegiate career may be over, as well.

A 6-5, 265 pound senior defensive end, entered the year among the highest touted defensive ends in the country. It isn't difficult to see why. Despite having only played one year of high school football, Romeus earned all-conference honors each of his three starting seasons with the Panthers, averaging 45 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during that time. Romeus earned the 2009 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year with 42 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception despite often being double-teamed.

Romeus was clearly not himself in Pittsburgh's season-opener against Utah and had surgery on his lower back a week later. He triumphantly returned to the field last week against Connecticut and suffered the injury while rushing the passer.

The full extent of his new injury was only released today.

Romeus is expected to consult with several other doctors to gain other opinions before making a decision as to when he'll undergo surgery to repair the torn ligament.

Romeus may elect to try and get a rare sixth year of eligibility and return to Pittsburgh next season. There is precedence for the NCAA granting a sixth season due to medical hardships.

He also may elect to simply enter the draft. In this case, Romeus' final stock won't be determined until NFL doctors get a chance to review his knee at the Combine and in the medical re-check that occurs in the final weeks prior to the draft.
Posted on: November 9, 2010 6:07 pm
 

Pitt DE Greg Romeus near return to field

NFL scouts may finally get their chance to see Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus healthy this season.

The reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year has been out of the lineup since playing in the season opener against Utah on September 2nd. Back pain made Romeus a shadow of his former self in that contest. He underwent surgery to repair a disk in his lower back approximately two weeks later.  

Though Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt informed the media that Romeus has been medically cleared to play, the former NFL head coach isn't likely to rush Romeus back onto the field -- especially with the Panthers' next game so soon. Pitt travels to play Connecticut on Thursday.

With only one game played in the past 11 months, Romeus won't be in true football shape and the Panthers are fortunate to have had Jabaal Sheard and junior Brandon Lindsey step up in their play since Romeus was sidelined.

Sheard leads the Big East with nine sacks and Lindsey is right behind him with eight -- the same number Romeus had in 2009.

When healthy, Romeus has proven himself to be one of the top defensive ends in the country. At 6-5, 268 pounds he has the prototypical height, length and strength that teams are looking for and is capable of contributing early in his pro career as a true three-down right end. Romeus' return to health is especially important due to the fact that he remains a relatively raw prospect. Romeus only played one season of football in high school.

Following the Connecticut game, the Panthers have three more regular season games this season. At 5-3, including 3-0 in the Big East thus far, the Panthers are only one win away from guaranteeing a bowl berth. The only undefeated team in the Big East, Pitt is the favorite to win the conference and play in a BCS game.

With as many as five more games left to scout Romeus this season, NFL teams should have ample opportunity to determine if he is back to full strength and worthy of high round consideration.




Posted on: September 16, 2010 5:59 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 9:12 pm
 

NC State ILB Nate Irving one to watch tonight

There are several noteworthy senior prospects who will be on the field tonight when Cincinnati travels to North Carolina State.

Senior Bearcats' pass catchers Armon Binns and Ben Guidugli will certainly get a great deal of the attention, but it will be a player on the other side of the line of scrimmage that I -- and many NFL scouts -- will be keying in on.

North Carolina State inside linebacker Nate Irving appeared to be on the fast track to stardom in 2008. Despite missing a handful of games due to a nagging leg injury, Irving earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors with 84 tackles and a school-record (for linebackers) four interceptions. 

A horrific car accident, however, robbed Irving of his 2009 season and he's struggled so far this year in his quest to regain his all-star status. 

Through the first two games, in fact, Irving has only three tackles. Those stops came last week against Central Florida, as Irving was surprisingly held without a tackle in the season opener against Western Carolina. 

When healthy, Irving, 6-1, 235 pounds, has demonstrated a legitimate NFL combination of speed, explosive hitting ability and range in coverage. 

The defending Big East champion Bearcats are not the explosive offense this year they were last -- considering the loss of quarterback Tony Pike and wideout Mardy Gilyard -- but they still spread the field well, as evidenced by the 40 points they put up last week against Indiana State. 

It will be interesting to see how Irving does in this contest. Scouts and those close to the NC State program are certainly pulling for him. The injuries he suffered in the accident (collapsed lung, compound fracture in his leg, broken rib, separated shoulder) were enough to end the career for most players. Irving not only has come back, he's doing it while explaining his progress in a weekly journal for NC State's Technician Online.

If he is to re-emerge as a legitimate pro prospect, however, Irving will need strong performances in high profile games just like the one tonight.  

Count me among those rooting for him...

The game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.


Posted on: August 25, 2010 12:35 pm
 

Locker feature, Pac-10 Preview links

My fellow analysts Chad Reuter and Chris Steuber have already posted articles previewing the top ten players for some of the BCS conferences, as well as feature stories on individual players among those conferences he felt deserved more attention.

For example, Chad's story on Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi is currently the headlining story on NFLDraftScout.com. Chris' story on Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson was previously the top story.

Chad ranks the top ten senior prospects of the Big East right here.

I wrote the SEC preview and a feature on Mississippi defensive tackle Jerrell Powe a few weeks ago. With our scheduling our Top 10 and feature stories to coincide with CBS' College Football schedule, I've been off for a few days and have the chance to amp up my work here on the blog, do some radio work and start up a Twitter account .

Today, however, my preview of the Top 10 Senior Prospects of the Pac-10 went up. So, too, did my feature article on Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

I only mention each of them here as the articles are not currently being featured on NFLDraftScout.com (where you'd normally find my/our work), but as part of CBS' College Football pages.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com