Tag:California (PA)
Posted on: October 18, 2010 11:37 am

Diamond in the Rough

This week's Diamond in the Rough is provided by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter. Any comments should be sent to creuter@nfldraftscout.com

Brandon Fusco, C, Slippery Rock  6-4 / 300 / 5.24

Most people may think that a scout watching Saturday's Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division match-up between Slippery Rock and California (PA) would be focused on Cal's quarterback, Josh Portis. The former Florida and Maryland passer had some up and downs during the contest (10-13, 150 yards, 3 TD, but took 5 sacks) in the team's 28-3 win -- but when Portis was on the sideline, my eyes joined those of many scouts in checking out the Rock's four-year starting center, Brandon Fusco.

From the start it's clear that the redshirt senior (who has grown from 240 pounds coming out of high school) has the size and athleticism to be a late-round draft pick, as well as that bit of attitude that offensive line coaches love.  He blocks not only the man across from him, but anyone else coming into his path while the play is going. He also extends his arms through the block, pushing the defender out of the play rather than just moving his body into position.

Division II defensive tackles do not stay upright if the durable Fusco blocks down on them; he's also strong enough up top to move their torso left or right per his desire. They also find it difficult to bull rush him, as he can extend his arms and anchor within a step or two. Fusco generally adjusts well when the defender tries to unlatch, keeping his balance and maintaining control over the situation. In drive-blocking situations, Fusco will get under the pads of lighter tackles and keep his legs driving to push them back or out of the hole.

Though the Division II All-American won't win many foot races against SEC linemen, he has good enough feet to reach linebackers or safeties, even after ripping under the shoulder of the nose tackle to wall him off. Once in space, he uses the correct block to negate defenders downfield. Linebackers find it very difficult to unhitch from the Rock's star center once he latches on.

Fusco has promise, but also some work to do before becoming a starting or top reserve NFL center.  While certainly athletic for the D2 level, he will be out-quicked by spin moves and fast hands of veteran NFL tackles until he gets coached up on technique because he lacks elite flexibility and hand speed. He also needs to keep his feet moving after initial contact to prevent a secondary rush. Because of his relative height, tackles with a low center of gravity can get under his pads to push him back into the pocket a couple of steps. He isn't quite strong enough to hold back a slanting tackle, either, though he gives great effort to prevent the defender from getting to the ballcarrier.

Still, in a year where potential starting centers with size will be tough to find in the later rounds, some teams should take a chance on Fusco.

Posted on: September 20, 2010 6:43 pm

Diamond in the Rough -- Cal (PA) QB Josh Portis

As I mentioned in my last post, we thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement than they received in the past as part of our Draft Slant coverage. Thus, each Monday I'll highlight the award recipients here on the blog.

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 .

I considered several prospects for Diamond in the Rough this week, but with so many of the prolific senior quarterback prospects struggling, I couldn't look past the opportunity to review California (PA) signal-caller Josh Portis, who only a few years ago was expected to be the heir apparent to one Tim Tebow at the University of Florida.

Diamond in the Rough -- September 18, 2010
QB Josh Portis, California (PA) 6-4 / 208 / 4.67
-- opponent East Stroudsburg State
Portis, the cousin of Washington Redskins' running back Clinton Portis, was a prep star at William Howard Taft high school in California who was recruited by many of the biggest schools in the country as a quarterback and multi-purpose athlete. He signed with Florida, but only lasted with Urban Meyers team one year. He saw action immediately, however, playing in six of 11 games and completing six of 11 passes during that time for 81 yards and no touchdowns (one interception). Portis elected to transfer to the University of Maryland following his first season and was forced to sit out the 2006 season per NCAA regulations. He was allowed to practice with his Terp teammates, however, and was credited with the Scout Offensive Player of the Year honors following the season. Portis was expected to compete for the starting role a year later, but was suspended for academics (reportedly for cheating on a quiz). He struggled to get playing time with the Terps and ultimately elected to transfer again, this time to California (PA). It didn't take him long to establish himself as a man among boys at this level. Portis broke school records on his way to completing 224 of 407 passes for 3,421 yards and 36 touchdowns. Perhaps not surprisingly, it didn't take Portis long to impress against East Stroudsburg State Saturday, either. The lanky senior quarterback completed a 43-yard bomb down the left sideline on his first pass -- correctly recognizing that he had single coverage on that side. The ball, thrown with good trajectory and accuracy, was completed despite tight coverage. Only a few players later, Portis, dropping back from center, looked off the safety and drilled a crossing route over the middle for his first touchdown of the day. There has been a knock on Portis throughout his career that he's relied on his athleticism, rather than focusing on the little things that quaterbacks need to be successful in the NFL -- especially considering the jump he'll be making from the D-II level. Throughout this contest at least, Portis showed enough natural throwing ability to strongly consider for senior all-star games. He has worked under some heavy hitters in Urban Meyer, Ralph Friedgen and even former Pitt and Stanford head coach Walt Harris, who now serves as California's offensive coordinator. Any kind of endorsement from these coaches and NFL scouts will certainly be taking a peek at this talented passer. If given an opportunity in a senior all-star game or the Combine, Portis could rise into one of the more intriguing developmental passers in the 2011 draft.
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