Tag:Diamond in the Rough
Posted on: March 1, 2011 7:11 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 7:19 pm

Peterson/Prince impress; others helped stock more

Count me among those that is not at all surprised by the fact that LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara silenced a few critics today with their blazing times in the 40-yard dash and strong performances in other defensive back drills.

I certainly wasn't alone in believing these players would perform well. I spoke to various members of NFL scouting departments, agents, prospects and media in the weeks preceding the Combine that expected these two players to do well.

By only confirming the athleticism many of us recognized on tape, Peterson and Amukamara won't be boosting their stock much. Each was already viewed by many as potential top ten prospects.

Here are a few other defensive backs who boosted their stock even more with strong Combine workouts Tuesday.

  • Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State: A severely dislocated wrist suffered in the Buckeyes' Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas kept Chekwa from performing all of the drills in Indianapolis, but he starred in most important one -- recording a 4.40 second showing in the 40-yard dash and reinforcing the belief that he's one of the nation's most underrated cornerbacks and a potential second round pick.
  • Robert Sands, S, West Virginia: Most are pegging UCLA's Rahim Moore as this year's top safety, but it was the size/speed freak Sands who enjoyed the more impressive Combine showing, Tuesday. The 6-4, 217 pound Sands surprised some with a solid time in the 40-yard dash (4.57) and standout performances, as well, in the leaps and shuttles. Don't be surprised if this Mountaineer winds up a top 75 pick.
  • Mark Legree, S, Appalachian State: Despite the fact that he was a three-time consensus All-American at Appalachian State with an eye-popping 22 career interceptions, Legree was only a late addition to the Combine. I've long been a fan of his instincts and ball-skills and love that he proved his athleticism against the so-called elite competition. I'm not going to say I expected him to turn in the second fastest time in the 40-yard dash of any safety at the Combine, but I have been very much of a fan of his for a while now... And can prove it. 
Surprised I didn't list Demarcus Van Dyke as a Riser following his Combine-best 4.28 time in the 40-yard dash? Don't be. Scouts certainly weren't, as "DVD" was a well-known speedster who demonstrated his speed recently when asked to play at the Senior Bowl.

Besides, aren't DVDs meant to burn?

Posted on: January 19, 2011 12:35 pm

Szczur picks MLB's guaranteed $ over NFL chances

Matt Szczur's football career is apparently over.

The Villanova star, who had agreed to play in next week's Senior Bowl in the hopes of impressing NFL scouts, instead decided the guaranteed dollars of Major League Baseball was too much to pass up , according to an article by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Szczur (pronounced "See-zer") was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs and played in the Cubs' minor league system this summer.  Upon signing a contract with the team, Szczur was given $100,000 and promised an additional $500,000 if he committed to the Cubs and shunned the NFL prior to next month's Scouting Combine.

Szczur wanted to explore his NFL options, turning down the 500,000 bonus. When the Cubs tripled their offer Tuesday, however, Szczur took the 1.5 million dollars and turned his attention to back to baseball.

Szczur had been a standout football and baseball player for the Wildcats throughout his entire career. A 2009 consensus All-American and the Colonial Athletic Conference Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year, Szczur is perhaps the most widely accomplished "small school" prospect in the country. As such, it wasn't a huge surprise when the Senior Bowl made him (and teammate, offensive tackle Ben Ijalana) an early invites to the prestigious all-star game.

Szczur struggled with injuries early in the 2010 season, but was his typically spectacular self down the stretch, earning my Diamond in the Rough honors after a particularly impressive performance against Stephen F. Austin in the FCS playoffs.

An outfielder with great speed and live bat, he played at three levels in the Cubs organization last summer, batting .347 with a .414 on-base percentage and a .465 slugging percentage in 25 total games.

As part of the agreement, Szczur will not play in the Senior Bowl or participate in the Combine.

Posted on: November 24, 2010 1:13 pm

A true Diamond in the Rough - Humboldt St C Boggs

Each week in this space I try to provide readers with a breakdown of a small school prospect who I believe has a shot at the NFL. In a perfect world the game breakdown comes from a contest played this past weekend.

Some of these games come from direct television feeds. Some others come from coaches tape overnighted to me so I can review and write up the players by Tuesday. This week's prospect -- Humboldt State center Taylor Boggs -- came to my attention via an email sent by Duane "Duke" Manyweather, a strength and conditioning coach on the Lumberjacks' staff.

Division II players capable of making the jump to the NFL are rare. NFLDraftScout.com currently lists another D-II center, Slippery Rock's Brandon Fusco as a draftable prospect. After reviewing Boggs' tape against Western Oregon (game played 9/25), I believe he too has a chance at the pros.

Boggs (6024, 296 pounds) is an athletic and powerful prospect. Against the Wolves, he demonstrated the quick feet and balance to pull and lock up back seven defenders in space. In short yardage situations, he played with good leverage and showed that he can drive his opponent off the ball. Boggs was alert and active in pass protection, sliding well laterally and providing a nice pop to his target due to good upper body strength.

Offensive line coaches will like Boggs' tenacity and nastiness on the field. Boggs likes to set the tone with pancake blocks and does a good job of striking the defender, sensing when they're off-balance and driving them into the ground. At times, Boggs is too concerned with making the emphatic block, allowing his hands to slip outside the numbers.

Pro scouts visited Humboldt State last year with the specific goal of checking out Boggs. Despite the attention, Boggs, I've been told, was not among the prospects initially graded as "draftable" by National or BLESTO, the two scouting services most NFL teams rely on.  Considering this year's weaker than average class of senior centers and guards, however, Boggs may have enough game to warrant an invitation to a senior all-star game where obvious questions about his level of competition and ability to enjoy success outside of the Lumberjacks scheme could be answered.

Scouts certainly can't argue with his production on the field. Boggs was recognized by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference coaches as this year's GNAC Offensive Lineman of the Year. The recognition was hardly a surprise. In fact, Boggs has earned First-Team all-conference honors after each of the past three seasons.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 12:04 am

Toledo C Kowalski earns Diamond in the Rough

Typically when I list a Diamond in the Rough prospect I focus on D-II or D-III prospects. Toledo, currently in second place in the West Division of the MAC and already eligible for their first bowl game since 2005 is hardly "the rough."  That said, their talented senior center Kevin Kowalski isn't generating enough national attention in my opinion, considering that NFL scouts tell me he is a legitimate draft selection and, in fact, worthy of being listed among the top five senior pivots in the country. Kowalski currently is NFLDraftScout.com's third-rated senior center prospect for the 2011 draft.

I was impressed with Kowalski's play last week in a nationally televised MAC showdown with West-division leader Northern Illinois. While the NIU Huskies ultimately prevailed in this contest, Kowalski legitimized the chatter about him in scouting circles with his performance.

The 6-3, 299 pound Kowalski started at center for the Rockets, as he has for the past 21 games. Kowalski started the 12 games of his sophomore season at right guard and has now started 44 games for Toledo.

Kowalski's intelligence, strength and balance stand out on film. He has the agility and size to potentially slide back outside to guard at the next level, though as he demonstrated with his line calls, he has the smarts to remain inside. He did a nice job of combo blocks, taking on one defender and sliding off to hit another.

Though Toledo operates out of a spread offense, Kowalski was at his best as a drive blocker, demonstrating good upper body strength to latch onto the defender and eliminate him from the play. Northern Illinois ran various defensive formations at him, lining up a nose guard, three-technique and blitzing linebackers throughout the night.

Kowalski plays with good knee bend and his school-high 465 pound bench press is evident in the way he can absorb the bull rush. He has good lateral agility and balance to mirror in pass protection, though he has a tendency to resort to cut blocks a little more often that I'd like. One other concern is that Kowalski only showed moderate overall agility when asked to block on the move. While he can get to the second level, he struggles to break down and hit the moving target. He does provide good effort, however, and understands blocking angles, forcing defenders to run around him before getting to the ball-carrier. Still, scouts would like to see Kowalski improve his effectiveness in this area.

Scouts will question Kowalski's level of competition -- just as they did former Toledo standout offensive linemen Nick Kaczur (Patriots) and John Greco (Rams). Like each of these former Rockets, however, Kowalksi should emerge as an NFL contributor relatively early in his pro career, likely earning a mid round selection.

Posted on: November 8, 2010 9:15 pm

Diamond in the Rough -- Lehigh OL William Rackley

I listed Idaho safety Shiloh Keo as one of my five prospects to watch Saturday and I envisioned him as a potential Diamond in the Rough candidate. Keo played well enough to deserve the acknowledgement, but scouts had tipped me off about the impressive play of Lehigh offensive tackle William Rackley so far this season and with the Mountain Hawks' game picked up by Fox College Sports on Saturday morning, I focused my attention on this game.

A four year starter who earned First-Team All-Patriot League conference honors after each of the past two seasons, Rackley helped Lehigh double up Holy Cross Saturday with sound pass protection and strong run blocking from his left tackle position.

Rackley plays with good leverage, keeping his feet spread wide, his butt down and his surprisingly long arms out-stretched to control his opponent. Scouts will likely want Rackley moved inside to guard at the next level, as he doesn't have the elite foot speed or balance to handle pro pass-rushers and at a shade over 6-3, doesn't have the length preferred on the outside, either. As I mentioned, however, Rackley plays with good arm extension and his strong upper body helps him corral his opponent initially and he does a nice job of sliding laterally to remain square. With his good use of leverage, Rackley was able to handle the bull-rush of Holy Cross defenders, including defensive tackles stunting to him.

Offensive line coaches will like the tenacious style with which Rackley plays each snap. On quick draws, he provides a powerful right club to slap the defensive end upfield, but rather than release to block at the next level, Rackley makes sure first that his primary assignment (the defensive end) isn't able to make the play on the runner with good pursuit. He plays with some nastiness, appearing to enjoy the physical nature of the game and doing a nice job of not just starting his block, but finishing it.

Rackley is not an elite athlete. He lumbers a bit when asked to block downfield for screens and doesn't have the balance to re-direct and make the clean block on the moving target.

There are obvious questions about his level of competition and as to whether he can handle remaining outside at the next level. If invited to a higher level all-star game, however, I believe Rackley could impress enough to earn a mid to late round draft selection. His pro future likely be inside at guard, though his experience and competitiveness might make him capable of sliding back outside in a pinch.     

Posted on: October 11, 2010 7:55 pm

Hawaii WR Greg Salas earns Diamond in the Rough

Anyone fortunate enough to have enjoyed the sandy beaches of Hawaii knows that characterizing any part of these beautiful islands as the "rough" is just silly.

It is also just silly to ignore a talented prospect simply because their time zone doesn't jive with most of American's football viewing public.

Therefore, while I always look to true "small" schools for my weekly Diamond in the Rough piece, I wasn't going to ignore the dominant performance put forth by Hawaii wideout Greg Salas against WAC rival Fresno State Saturday night. Salas, who is the current active NCAA leader with 216 receptions , was expected to be challenged by a Bulldog defense that entered the game ranked second in the country in pass defense.

Not anymore. Salas caught nine passes for 148 yards and three scores against Fresno State, earning this week's Diamond in the Rough award.

The following profile is similar to the ones our premium readers get of six more prospects each week as part of Draft Slant.  

WR Greg Salas  -  Hawaii  6-2 / 210 / 4.57

NFL scouts had been telling me to keep an eye on Hawaii receiver Greg Salas and against Fresno State - which entered the WAC showdown ranked No. 2 in the country in pass defense - it was easy to see why. Salas' combination of ideal size and underrated maneuverability destroyed the Bulldog secondary to the tune of nine catches for 148 yards and three scores. Lined up inside and out to present matchup problems, Salas was consistently able to get free over the middle, catching two touchdowns in the first half. His third TD was actually a fumble recovery in the EZ. On his first, a easy drag route over the middle, Salas showed good flexibility to catch a low pass from quarterback Bryant Moniz, then slithered through the Fresno defense for the final few yards. The play began similarly for Salas' second touchdown - another quick pass over the middle - but this time he was blanketed by Bulldog defenders. A quick, strong throw by Montiz was high, but a Salas adjusted well, leaping into the air to snatch the pass, while turning his body to shield against the oncoming hit. This type of reception is exactly what NFL scouts are looking for, as today's pro safeties are simply getting bigger, stronger and more aggressive in hitting "defenseless" receivers over the middle. Salas' body control and good size make him a quietly intriguing third day prospect for teams in need of a possession WR.

Posted on: October 11, 2010 7:44 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2010 7:49 pm
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Posted on: October 4, 2010 6:29 pm

Hampton's massive Ellis wins Diamond in the Rough

Each Monday I provide a breakdown of my senior college Player/Prospect of the Week and my Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect of the week).

Last week's Diamond in the Rough , Troy wideout/returner Jerrel Jernigan was among the first players to earn a Senior Bowl invitation .

This week's recipient -- Hampton defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis -- could be among the next players who get a pass from the organizers of the Mobile, Alabama all-star game... especially if they pop in the film of Ellis against Howard (September 11) or Delaware State this past Thursday evening.

Ellis wasn't quite as dominant against the Hornets last week as he was against the Bison. Ellis was recognized as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week for his September 11 efforts. In that contest, Ellis, who measures in at 6-5 340 pounds, was credited with an eye-popping 16 tackles (seven solos), 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Against the Hornets Thursday night, Ellis "only" registered eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

Ellis is surprisingly athletic and well proportioned considering his massive frame. Against the pass, Ellis shows a quick burst off the snap and can rock the guard back onto his heels from his defensive tackle position. He relies mostly on his natural tools, but does possess some pass rush technique, showing a good rip and dip to get under the arm and past his opponent, as well as a quick swim move (which wasn't as effective). As one might expect, Ellis doesn't have the closing speed to be a consistent rush threat, but he was often able to get past the right guard when single blocked Thursday and was an intimidator who often forced hurried throws. Ellis locates the football quickly and pursues laterally and downfield with passion.

With his size, Ellis has obvious potential as a run-stuffer. At times, his quickness and strength was too much for his opponent. Early in the second quarter (12:35), for example, Ellis exploded off the snap, locked out the guard, discarded him easily and made the play at the line of scrimmage. On other occasions, Ellis struggled with leverage, allowing smaller and weaker linemen to get into his pads and push him back onto his heels. Despite his bulk and strength, Ellis' inability to keep his pad level low raises concerns about how well he'd fit inside as a nose guard -- at least until he plays with better technique.

What was obivous, however, is that Ellis was a man among boys Thursday night.

Hampton's strong play isn't unexpected. He impressed early on as a member of Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks, but off-field troubles led to suspensions and ultimately a transfer. Scouts had hoped that he'd matured, but he was again suspended for the first game of this season, which means his first game of the year was his DPOY performance against Howard.

Scouts know Ellis can play. He's proven that. There is some concern that his best efforts have come in the first game back from his suspension and the game that earned ESPN coverage. Scouts would like to Ellis play with more consistency and make better choices off the field.

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