A day after the biggest Civil War since Robert E. Lee and the NFL draft world is still buzzing about the performances of several of the Oregon-Oregon State prospects. The ironic thing is that three of the four earning the most attention post-game from scouts came from the Beavers, who, in case you missed it, were on the losing end of the 37-33 classic for the right to represent the Pac-10 against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
Quarterback Sean Canfield was as advertised. While the Ducks' pass rush and the frenzied home crowd proved too much for his offensive line in the 4th quarter, Canfield was poised in the pocket and accurate to all levels of the field. He threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. He was particularly impressive in the closing seconds of the first half in leading OSU to a go-ahead touchdown and in the first drive of the 3rd quarter to extend the lead. His deep-out on Oregon State's 4th and 15 that ended the Beavers' last offensive possession was slightly underthrown, but a catchable ball correctly placed down and out and away from the defender.
Junior wideout James Rodgers (who was unable to come up with Canfield's 4th down pass) stole the show from his more hyped brother, super-sophomore running back Jacquizz, for much of the night. Though certainly shorter than scouts would like at an estimated 5-7, Rodgers, like his younger brother, plays with impressive strength and toughness. His vision, instincts and leaping ability helped him accumulate an eye-popping 10 catches for 139 yards and the go-ahead score seconds before halftime.
Though skill position players often generate the most attention, kudos to the ESPN broadcast crew for highlighting the dominant play inside by Beavers junior defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Paea (pronounced Pie-uh) posted an impressive statline (4.5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles), but was even more impressive than his stats would indicate. His quickness, low center of gravity and explosive upper body strength made him a consistent threat inside. He's a likely first round pick, barring injury, should he enter the draft after this season or return to Corvalis for 2010.
Tight end Ed Dickson and safety TJ Ward will be drafted higher, but running back LaGarrette Blount was the Duck who helped his stock the most last night. Earning his first playing time since being reinstated following the infamous sucker-punch against Boise State, Blount showed the relatively quick feet, straight-line speed and bullish power scouts had seen flashes of last year when he led the Pac-10 in rushing touchdowns (17) despite not starting a single game (behind senior Jeremiah Johnson). Blount will have to convince scouts that he can maintain his composure to have any chance at the NFL, but Oregon head coach Chip Kelly showed his faith in Blount by inserting him into the lineup in the 3rd quarter. Blount's entry into the game seemed to rejuventate the Ducks, who outscored the Beavers 17-3 from then on.