Tag:Cal
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:21 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 1:58 pm
 

QB, WRs emerge at Monday's North Sr Bowl practice

MOBILE, Ala. -- Making a strong first impression at the Senior Bowl can send a player's stock skyrocketing and boost his rookie contract by millions of dollars.

Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and California wide receiver Marvin Jones can't start writing checks just yet but if they continue the sparkling efforts turned in Monday during the North Team practices they could prove to be two of the big winners from this year's Senior Bowl.

Cousins out-shined Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore by attacking all levels of a talented North defense. His experience in a pro-style offense was obvious as he made quick decisions, showed accuracy short, middle and deep and thread the needle through tight spaces. Whereas his teammates struggled to find a rhythm with their new receiving corps, Cousins was hitting on all cylinders, spreading the ball all over the field and hitting his backs, tight ends and receivers on a variety of routes.

Like Cousins, Jones entered the Senior Bowl with significantly less hype that others at his position. Jones, who measured in at a shade under 6-2 and 200 pounds during the morning weigh-ins, was quick off the snap, showed burst out of his breaks to gain separation and the speed to slip past cornerbacks for big plays. He caught everything thrown his way, showing the hand strength to gather in passes thrown slightly off-target as well as the vision to track deep balls over his shoulder.

Jones wasn't the only wideout to make eye-popping plays on the day, though he was the most consistent.

A few uncharacteristic drops from Appalachian State's Brian Quick late in Monday's practice dampened an otherwise strong initial showing from the FCS All-American. Quick, who measured in at a chiseled 6-3 (and a 1/2) and 222 pounds Monday morning was the early star among receivers. Though not sudden off the line of scrimmage, his long-strides help him to quickly eat up the cushion and he showed terrific hand-eye coordination making several impressive catches out of some poor throws. Quick, in fact, arguably made the catch of the day when he snatched a quick out thrown high and wide by Moore. Quick used every bit of his height and long arms to pull the ball down while dragging both feet in bounds to secure the catch.

It took some strong catches from Jones, Quick and a few other North receivers to get Moore on track. The Boise State All-American appeared every bit as un-athletic as scouts feared when he measured in at a touch under 6-0 (5'11 and 3/4) and 191 pounds during the weigh-in. Worse, concerns about his arm strength appeared to be legitimate when he struggled connecting with his receivers on simple quick outs to open practice. As practice went on, however, Moore seemed to settle in and the accuracy and touch he demonstrated in throwing a staggering 142 touchdowns against just 28 interceptions during his record-breaking career with the Broncos were again on display. Moore is especially effective throwing down the seam, showing excellent touch to settle passes in over the linebacker and in front of the safety to slot receivers and tight ends.

Russell Wilson clearly has the arm strength to make NFL throws but was surprisingly tentative in his first Senior Bowl practice. Too often he stood flat-footed in the pocket and surveyed the field looking for easy completions. He attacked holes when he saw them, rifling in passes through tight coverage but also stared down his receivers on occasion and was nearly picked off a few times.

Of the North's receivers, Ohio State's Devier Posey provided the biggest challenge to a talented defensive backfield that included Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard, graded by some scouts entering the year among the nation's elite senior prospects at any position. Posey's speed allowed him to slip past Dennard as well as Iowa State's Leonard Johnson and Boston College's Donnie Fletcher but too often Posey simply dropped the ball when his quarterbacks didn't place it perfectly. Posey struggled adjusting to passes slightly behind and had a couple of big play opportunities simply bounce to the ground because he allowed passes to get into his pads rather than catching the ball with his hands.

The concern was the exact opposite for his Big Ten rival Marvin McNutt from the Iowa Hawkeyes. McNutt has excellent size (6'2 1/2, 212 pounds), strength, hands and route-running to be a possession receiver in the NFL  but didn't show much in terms of elusiveness or the speed to turn short and intermediate passes into big plays. He is a savvy route-runner, however, who was consistently open despite aggressive coverage from defensive backs.

It wasn't a standout practice for any of the North's defensive backs. Dennard showed his characteristic physicality in challenging big and small receivers, alike, but also proved vulnerable to double-moves, getting beaten over the top by Jones and McNutt, alike.

Oklahoma's Jamell Fleming and Cal Poly's Asa Jackson had their moments, each demonstrating a quick, low backpedal and good burst back to the ball.

Scouts will want to see improvement from Fletcher and Penn State's D'Anton Lynn. Each struggled to keep up with the North's receivers, showing average change of direction and speed. Fletcher was turned around on several occasions early in practice before the North's quarterbacks and receivers turned their attention to Lynn. The former Nittany Lion was victimized by Cousins and Wilson often as practice wore, perhaps an indication of their comfort with his limited playing speed and awareness after having played against him in the Big Ten.

Extra Notes: The Monday morning weigh-in put the spotlight on a couple of under-the-radar prospects scouts will no doubt be keeping an eye on this week. Quick looked every bit the part of a standout NFL receiver with his impressive measurables, as did Utah State inside linebacker Bobby Wagner (6'0, 241), Boise State running back Doug Martin (5'09, 219) and Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin (6'1, 307). Though the Martins are not related, one wouldn't know it by their compact, heavily muscled builds... Clemson defensive end Andre Branch was among those who may have been caught in the bad weather that kept several from getting into Mobile as planned. NFL officials informed scouts that Branch would be participating this week but that he was not in Mobile for Monday morning's weigh-in... Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead got an opportunity to field punts late in Monday's practice, showing the concentration to catch the ball in traffic as well as the burst, elusiveness and vision you'd expect from the all-conference running back. Pead was rarely used in this capacity while with the Bearcats but turned some heads with his few opportunities Monday... Boise State's Shea McClellin (6-3, 248) lined up at defensive end for the Broncos but practiced at outside linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings' staff Monday. He showed good footwork in the bag drills early...

 

Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:57 pm
 

Five who could crash 2nd round

My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter just listed a detailed breakdown of NFLDraftScout.com's top prospects still on the board.

I've been speaking to representatives from teams this morning to try and identify a few under-the-radar players who could "crash" the second round and wind up surprise top 64 picks.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

Hawaii WR Greg Salas -- Physical receiver who is a reliable route-runner and hands-catcher. Surprisingly dropped some balls at the Senior Bowl, as he was clearly pressing. Excellent tape, however. Versatile. Can line up outside and in the slot.

Miami CB Demarcus Van Dyke -- He's 6-1 and was timed (hand-held) at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He isn't the most physical corner in the world, but the talent is there.

Wisconsin OG John Moffitt -- USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith was the only OL to get drafted among first 14 picks. The next 18 picks saw seven offensive linemen get picked. Tough, physical, reliable linemen don't slip on draft day; they rise. 

Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones -- There are plenty of questions about Jones' durability, ball security and level of competition, but the junior is the most electric open-field runner in the draft. Someone will reach to get lightning in a bottle.

California FS Chris Conte -- Overshadowed in the Pac-10 by UCLA's Rahim Moore, but some teams view Conte as the better prospect. Former cornerback who proved to be a reliable open field tackler. Viewed as an ascending talent.
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:58 pm
 

All-stars with everything on the line - DE Jordan

California defensive end Cameron Jordan is the latest prospect I'd like to feature as I continue my theme of the week on players I believe could significantly alter their stock with a strong performance in the upcoming all-star games.

Unlike North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin (who is coming off a year-long suspension) or The Citadel cornerback Cortez Allen (who is making a huge jump in competition), Jordan is, by comparison, one of the safer prospects in the draft. He's a four-year starter who played in 50 of 51 games in his career. He's improved each year, culminating this season by making the First Team All Pac-10 squad with eye-popping numbers (61 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) despite playing defensive end in the 3-4 alignment -- a scheme that does not typically translate into big numbers for their defensive ends.

Jordan is also different from Austin and Allen in another way. He'll be playing in the Senior Bowl rather than the East-West Shrine game.

I've spoken to half a dozen teams about Jordan. All believe he's a first round prospect.

And yet, I'd still argue that despite Jordan's production, he ranks among the draft's most under-appreciated prospects.

I expect to see this change next week in Mobile.

The beauty of all-star games is that is allows scouts to compare apples to apples. Jordan will be lining up next to some of the other, more highly touted senior defensive linemen in the country. I'm a fan of Adrian Clayborn's technique, Cameron Heyward's power, and of Ryan Kerrigan's effort.

I'm a bigger fan of Jordan's versatility and feel that he ranks second behind the three senior defensive linemen I just listed in each of the catergories mentioned.

While at Cal, I've seen Jordan line up at both end positions and even on the nose in their 3-4 alignment. I've seen Cal switch to a four man front and watched Jordan moved inside to the three-technique defensive tackle position. I don't believe he can make a living playing on the nose, but I do envision success in the NFL at any other position. There isn't another defensive lineman in this draft who can boast that type of versatility.

In the days before last year's draft I posted a note on the blog highlighting five "mock-busters." These were players I thought could surprise and be first round picks. Amng them was two former Cal Golden Bears in Tyson Alualu and Jahvid Best, who, of course, did make the first round.

Unlike his former Cal teammates, Jordan wouldn't be a surprise to go in the first round. His versatility, consistency and bloodlines (father was a six-time Pro Bowl tight end with the Vikings) stand out too much in a draft blessed with talented defensive linemen -- but many of them being essentially one-year wonders.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 1:58 pm
 

LeShoure added to big class of underclassmen RBs

The University of Illinois' Mikel LeShoure announced today that he'll be joining Alabama's Mark Ingram, Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, among many others as underclassmen running backs heading early to the NFL.

LeShoure is the 11th underclassmen running back to declare early so far. He'll compete with former Hokies' star Williams to be the second running back drafted after Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.

So far, the running backs who have declared early include: Wisconsin's John Clay, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, Ingram, Clemson's Jamie Harper, Pitt fullbakc Henry Hynoski, LeShoure, Pitt's Dion Lewis, Rodgers, Connecticut's Jordan Todman, Cal's Shane Vereen and Williams.

The early defections are hardly a surprise. While scouts generally encourage prospects to return for their senior seasons, there is an understanding that for running backs the same rules don't apply due to the fact that they absorb so much punishment.

Scouts also aren't surprised by the early defections because this year's senior class of running backs is one of the weakest positional groups in the country. In speaking to scouts over the past few weeks, only a trio of Big 12 runners -- Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas and Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter were characterized as "possible" Top 64 picks. None were viewed as "locks" for the first two rounds.

LeShoure is coming off a spectacular junior season in which he rushed for a school record 1,687 rushing yards and 17 TDs. He was at his best in Illinois' Texas Bowl victory over Baylor, rushing for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards and three touchdowns, earning MVP accolades. 

As always for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 3:36 pm
 

Unfair to expect much from Locker tonight

Jake Locker and his Washington teammates face Nebraska tonight in the Holiday Bowl in what is clearly the most intriguing re-match of the bowl season.

Locker and the Huskies were blown out 56-21 at home by the Cornhuskers on September 18. Locker only completed 4 of 20 passes in the game for 71 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions in what was the worst performance of his career.

Locker has been better since, engineering upset victories over USC, Oregon State and Cal since and leading Washington to to three consecutive wins to assure the Huskies of their first bowl berth since 2002.

He hasn't been so good, however, to expect the type of performance against Nebraska tonight that should significantly impact his draft stock.

The reality is Washington simply lacks the bulk and talent up front to protect Locker from Nebraska's formidable defensive line, led by junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and senior defensive end Pierre Allen. Making matters even more complicated for Locker, the Huskers boast arguably the best cornerback duo in the country in Prince Amukamara, NFLDraftScout.com's top rated senior prospect at any position, and junior Alfonzo Dennard, a Second Team All-Big 12 pick, who has already announced his intentions to return to Nebraska for his senior season despite the fact that he'd best - at worst - a second round pick in the 2011 draft.

Locker is blessed with a solid receiving corps, including a legitimate NFL talent in junior Jermaine Kearse, but Nebraska has the secondary to force him to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Huskies are as reliant on their wide receivers as any team in the country when it comes to the downfield passing game.   Locker has only completed six passes to his tight ends all season long and saw starting tight end Chris Izbicki leave the team following the regular season. His backup, freshman Marlion Barnett, has four catches for 31 yards for his career.

If the Huskies have a chance in this game it will be due to the running of redshirt sophomore running back Chris Polk and Locker. Locker could be very decisive and accurate with the football tonight and still post ugly numbers that will undoubtedly draw criticism from media.

Having spoken to various scouts recently about Locker's stock and the expectations for him vs. Nebraska, their feeling is that Locker's stock isn't likely to go down after this game - even if he struggles just as badly against Nebraska tonight as he did in September. Of course, should Locker surprise Nebraska (and scouts) and performs very well despite the Huskies being overmatched physically at nearly every position, his stock has a chance to rise significantly.

The most likely scenario, however, has Locker and the Huskies again struggling against Nebraska. If Locker is going to re-emerge as a first round guarantee, it will almost surely happen in the next bowl -- the Senior Bowl -- approximately a month from now.

For the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is NFLDraftScout.com
Posted on: December 16, 2010 7:10 pm
 

Ole Miss' Bolden among young RBs checking stock

The annual migration of junior and redshirt sophomore running backs to the NFL may begin with Mississippi's Brandon Bolden, who according to this report from Kyle Veazey of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, has requested a grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

Bolden flashed on tape last year as a complimentary option behind Dexter McCluster. This season Bolden emerged as the Rebels'best running back, rushing for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns for an offense that struggled with consistency. Despite his production, some will be surprised that Bolden is looking into his pro grade. He certainly hasn't generated the hype of a Mark Ingram or LaMichael James.

Just because Bolden requested his grade does not mean, of course, that he'll elect to leave school early. While the 5-11, 225 pound Bolden has a combination of agility, speed and power to translate well at the NFL level and has proven successful against top SEC competition, pro teams are going to be as hesitant as ever to invest high round picks in running backs when two undrafted free agents -- the Bucs' LeGarrette Blount and the Saints' Chris Ivory -- have been more impressive this season than any of the other rookie runners, including first rounders C.J. Spiller (Bills), Ryan Mathews (Chargers) and Jahvid Best (Lions).

This fact may cause NFL teams to push running backs down the board, but don't expect it to slow down the exodus of underclassmen runners. In fact, with a relatively weak class of seniors, some league insiders believe we could see several young running backs enter the 2011 draft.

Rumors are swirling around Ingram, Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, Cal's Shane Vereen, Oregon State's JacQuizz Rodgers, UCONN's Jordan Todman, and Clemson's Jamie Harper as junior backs who may make the jump. Even some lesser known junior runners like Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones are looking into their options.

Redshirt sophomore like James, Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams and Washington's Chris Polk are also expected to request grades.

The reason behind their moves is simple. Running backs absorb so much punishment that they're wise to begin earning money for their production as soon as possible.

As is always the case, any underclassmen considering making the jump to the pros should only do so after first consulting with the NFL Advisory Committee.

As always, remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.

Posted on: October 22, 2010 6:24 pm
 

Five seniors to focus on this weekend

Each weekend I list the five senior prospects I'll be focusing on. These are players who appear to have challenging matchups that will help determine how well they'll be able to make the transition to the pro game.

A noteworthy performance (either positive or negative) can result in the player being profiled in our upcoming edition of Draft Slant, NFLDraftScout.com's weekly PDF file for premium subscribers.

One of the players prominently featured in last week's "Who to Watch..." was Nebraska wideout Niles Paul . Last week in the loss to Texas, Paul demonstrated the athleticism and size combination that has led scouts to get excited about his game, but also the terribly inconsistent hands that has plagued him throughout his career. Twice, in fact, Paul dropped potential touchdowns against the Longhorns.

Scouting isn't just about touting players who play well on the big stage. It is about acknowledging those players who struggled under the bright lights. Perhaps Paul (and others) will improve once they get another opportunity. Perhaps not. Either way, how they perform in this critical situations goes a long way in determining their final grade.

Here are this week's Five to Watch:

QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa: I mentioned in a previous blog post that NFL teams looking for help at quarterback might be forced to turn towards underclassmen as many of the senior passers have struggled so far this season. Stanzi is one of the few exceptions. The 6-4, 230 pound Stanzi has struggled with consistency in years past, but has thrown 13 touchdowns against only two interceptions while operating out of a pro style offense. He's always shown the tools to intrigue NFL scouts and could be on the verge of a monster jump up boards if he's able to continue what so far has been a magical senior campaign. That said, in unbeaten Wisconsin, Stanzi has one of the tougher, more technically sound defenses he'll see all year long. This game could prove critical in how Stanzi is viewed by scouts the rest of the year. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE Cameron Jordan, Cal: A nationally underrated prospect, Jordan has been as impressive this year as any senior defensive lineman I've scouted. His numbers aren't necessarily eye-popping. Through six games this season, he's posted 24 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, but remember that Cal operates out of a 3-4 alignment, which doesn't put the defensive ends in position very often to make plays. Many were surprised last year when former Cal defensive end Tyson Alualu was the 10th overall pick of the draft. Jordan doesn't have that kind of upside, but he is sneaking up on scouts a bit. If he were playing in the SEC or Big 12, most college football fans would know his name by now. It will be interesting to see how Jordan performs in this game, considering the versatility and young talent on this ASU offense. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by Fox regional coverage. 

RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State:
The fifth leading rusher in the FBS, Hunter has rushed for an eye-popping 830 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground over the first six weeks of the season. He'll be facing a much stouter run defense Saturday against the Cornhuskers, however. Like many smallish backs the 5-8, 197 pound Hunter is often characterized as a speedy, change of pace prospect only. If he is to have a chance at shedding that label, he could use a strong performance at home against Nebraska. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

ILB Kelvin Sheppard, LSU: I've characterized LSU junior cornerback Patrick Peterson as the best defensive player in the country on multiple occasions and acknowledged defensive tackle Drake Nevis as a former Prospect of the Week. Somehow, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard rarely seems to get the credit he deserves. He leads the top-rated SEC defense against Auburn's dynamic offense Saturday in what is the biggest game of the weekend. Sheppard has the speed to beat the Auburn backs (and quarterback Cam Newton) to the sideline. How he handles coverage and pass rush responsibilities could prove critical in this one. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

DL Allen Bailey, Miami: Bailey entered the season as highly touted as any defensive lineman in the country. One look at him and it is easy to see why, as the 6-4, 285 pounder owns more of the more imposing physiques you'll ever seen on a defensive lineman. That said, through the first six games of the year Bailey has only accumulated 21 tackles and five tackles for loss. Last week, against Duke, Bailey only registered two tackles, including just his second sack of the year. Voted a team captain, Bailey may have to turn it up a notch Saturday against North Carolina to get his teammates on track. The 'Canes, after all, have lost three straight to the Tar Heels. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN2.


Posted on: September 20, 2010 1:26 pm
 

Player of the Week -- Clemson S DeAndre McDaniel

One might just assume I'm a rabid Auburn Tigers fan, as for the second week in a row I'm picking a senior prospect whose team the Tigers beat as my Player of the Week.

Last week I highlighted the play of Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod. This week the honor goes to Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel .

Some will argue that "Player of the Week" is a misnomer. I don't pretend that I've already scouted every prospect throughout the country and that my choice (McDaniel, in this case) was unquestionably the best. It isn't that McDaniel was so dominant that he deserves attention over, say, Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas (who rushed for another 181 yards in the undefeated Wildcats thrilling win over Iowa State) or Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick (who finished with 329 all-purpose yards and five TDs in an impressive win over Cal). However, part of the coverage that we, at NFLDraftScout.com, have provided to our readers as part of our Draft Slant feature, is a Player of the Week. In picking one out each week, I tend to focus on Top 50 senior prospects for this honor and adhere to certain guidelines in terms of the level of competition the player faced.

In a game with plenty deserving acknowledgement, McDaniel was the most consistently impressive. McDaniel, who lined up deep in coverage as well as coming up in a hybrid linebacker role, finished with six tackles, and two passes defensed, including a textbook high-point interception in the second quarter that led to Clemson's second touchdown of the game and a seemingly unsurmountable 17-0 lead. Though the Tigers eventually came back to win this contest, McDaniel's play stood out. It wasn't just McDaniels' numbers that caught my eye, but the versatility and timing with which he recorded them.

Player of the Week, along with The Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect), used to be features of Draft Slant . This PDF file can be purchased as an individual issue or one can purchase the entire year (16 issues). Or, if you just want to see an example, you can download this free sample of Week One here .

We thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement, however, and thus, every Monday, I'll post my picks for each award.

Player of the Week - September 18, 2010
S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson 6-0 / 215 / 4.54 -- opponent: Auburn

Versatile defender capable of impacting the game in various ways. Good range and vision to play in the deep middle. Reads the quarterback's eyes and gets a jump on the ball. Showed terrific ball skills, timing and leaping ability to high-point his interception in the second quarter. The interception was McDaniel's first of 2010 - but he led the ACC with eight pick-offs last year. McDaniel's aggression does mean that he'll occasionally take a false step towards the line of scrimmage and can be victimized by good play-action. He was not beaten in this game, however. A bit shorter than scouts would prefer for the position, McDaniel has a well-built frame and looked comfortable near the line of scrimmage. He scrapes well, showing the lateral agility, balance and vision to avoid blockers. His instincts and comfort inside were on display in the 4th quarter when he sniffed out a receiver end-around and dropped wideout Terrell Zachary for a 7-yard loss. The play came at a perfect time for Clemson, as the team, after surrendering 24 consecutive points, had just scored to tie the game. McDaniel demonstrated reliable open field tackling skills throughout the game. He breaks down well in space to handle smaller, quicker athletes and can provide a much more explosive pop than he's generally given credit for. His lack of top power was exposed a bit with a strong effort from Auburn 5-10, 240 pound back to get a 4th quarter first down. McDaniel took on Smith too high and was surprised by Smith's power. Though he certainly wasn't bowled over, McDaniel did struggle to make the stop. In the NFL McDaniel will have to learn to tackle with greater balance and leverage for this mistake not to be repeated. Considering the consistency with which he played Saturday night, however, the one play (Auburn punted moments later) certainly wasn't a drawback. McDaniel's versatility and consistency, in fact, secured his place as the top all-around senior safety in the country -- at least in my eyes.

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