Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:43 pm
The Pittsburgh Panthers suffered quite a loss Saturday with redshirt senior left guard Chris Jacobson, one of the most respected members of the team and a legitimate NFL prospect, suffering a season-ending injury to his left knee.
Jacobson has been overshadowed throughout much of his career, as the Panthers boast one of the top guard prospects in the entire country in Lucas Nix. The team sent left tackle Jason Pinkston to the NFL last April (Cleveland Browns' fifth round pick).
Despite the relative lack of national name recognition, the Pittsburgh coaching staff was mourning the loss of their co-captain.
Jerry DiPaolo of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was on hand to record Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham's comments:
"Chris Jacobson is one of the most respected people in our program,” Graham said, “and I know every player and coach feels disappointment for him that he’ll miss the rest of the year. Fortunately, we feel optimistic about his chances to receive sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.” It’s a bad break for a good guy, but Jacobson would be the first to tell you, “That’s football.”
Jacobson is expected to undergo surgery on the knee soon, perhaps as early as this week. This is the second catastrophic knee injury. Jacobson missed the entire 2007 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during fall camp. According to DiPaulo, Graham is hopeful the NCAA will grant Jacobson a rare sixth year of eligibility.
Jacobson currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 14 guard for the 2011 draft. Nix ranks fourth.
Posted on: January 8, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: January 8, 2011 12:39 pm
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 11, 2010 3:55 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2010 3:58 pm
As most football fans know, the slate of Thursday games on NFL Network begins later today with a potential Super Bowl preview between the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons. Each club is riding high at 6-2 and in first place in their respective divisions.
Those fans that don't have NFL Network, however, needn't be wanting for good football on this Veteran's Day holiday. ESPN is offering an key Big East conference matchup between first place Pittsburgh and Connecticut.
Pitt's underclassmen talent at wide receiver (Jon Baldwin ) and running back (Ray Graham, Dion Lewis ) will get much of the media attention, but for scouts the real focus in this game will lie along the Panthers' defensive line.
There is a possibility that reigning Co-Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus will make his way back onto the field for the first time since the season opener. The 6-5, 268 pound Romeus entered the season among the nation's top-rated defensive ends and a likely first round prospect, but a back injury and resulting surgery to correct a lower disk problem has kept him sidelined.
In his absence, Pitt has received stellar play from their "other" defensive ends. Scouts knew all about senior Jabaal Sheard , who had played well opposite Romeus in the past and has elevated his play since Romeus went down. Sheard, in fact, has emerged as one of the nation's best pass rushers. He leads the Big East with nine sacks and as Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt noted recently, his tenacity is one of the characteristics that is boosting Sheard's stock with scouts.
"Jabaal Sheard is having a phenomenal year. You have to really appreciate what he is going through to get to the passer. He just keeps coming and coming. He's rushing the passer as good as any defensive end in the country. "
As I mentioned in a previous post detailing the news of Romeus' impending return , the Panthers don't have to force their star back onto the field early. Junior Brandon Lindsey has done a great job of replacing Romeus (eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss so far).
Pitt's talented defensive line is arguably the biggest reason why the Panthers sit atop the Big East.
Baldwin and, most notably, Lewis, haven't been as dominant this season as perhaps some had expected, but with turnover along the offensive line and at quarterback from last year, it simply has taken them a little while to get rolling. Lewis, who entered the year as the favorite to be the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, has actually been overtaken by the sophomore Graham, himself a future NFL prospect. The Pitt offense has been playing well recently, however.
One bright spot along the Pitt offensive line is left tackle Jason Pinkston , a potential top 75 prospect for the 2011 draft, whose pro future may lie inside at guard.
Connecticut entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Big East and offers some interesting Day Three talent at linebacker and running back. Outside linebacker Lawrence Wilson is the headlining prospect on a senior-laden group in the middle. Junior running back Jordan Todman has emerged as the next big play runner from Randy Edsall's offense. Todman is helped with the blocking by fullback Anthony Sherman , who quietly rates as one of the better all-around senior prospects at the position in the entire country.
As always, those who would like to scout "alongside" me can follow my thoughts on this game (as well as the Ravens-Falcons contest) on Twitter. Follow me there @RobRang.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 6:30 pm
As two of the more talented teams in the country, there are plenty of reasons for NFL scouts to take special interest in tonight's showdown between ACC and Big East powers Miami and Pittsburgh, respectively.
The game lost a bit of its luster with the injury and subsequent back surgery for All-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus. It would have made for highly entertaining scouting had the defensive end matched up tonight against Miami left tackle, Orlando Franklin -- especially considering that Romeus would have had the benefit of the home crowd noise behind him.
Still, there is plenty of talent to focus on in this game.
DE Allen Bailey: Bailey is among the more versatile defensive linemen in the country. He's played every one of the four down positions for the Hurricanes over his career, though most view him as a left defensive end or traditional 4-3 defensive tackle. Bailey has not demonstrated the burst off the snap for scouts to consider moving him to the right side. He has enough power to play the five technique (3-4 DE), as well. With injuries along their front, Bailey may be asked to play inside a bit tonight. So far this year he has seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He is still looking for his first sack of the season.
OT Orlando Franklin: Though I do not believe he has the quickness or balance to remain on at left tackle in the NFL, Franklin has played well in his first year at the position this season. Franklin plays with the nastiness and physicality that you'd expect from a former guard. At 6-7, 318 pounds I feel he's one of the better right tackle prospects in the country.
ILB Colin McCarthy: Wearing the No. 44 that Dan Morgan made famous, this is the type of game in which McCarthy should excel. Athletic enough to contribute against the pass, McCarthy's instincts and physicality should help him rack up tackles against a Pitt offense still trying to get 2010 Big East Conference Rookie of the Year Dion Lewis on track. McCarthy currently leads the 'Canes with 16 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
WR Leonard Hankerson: A highly touted prep prospect who struggled with drops early in career, Hankerson has finally developed into the playmaker his raw skills always made seem possible. The 6-3, 215 pound Hankerson with legitimate downfield speed has emerged as Jacory Harris' obvious favorite this season. In fact, not only does Hankerson have twice as many catches (13) as the next Miami receiver (LaRon Howard with six), he has nearly four times as many receiving yards (205) to any one else on the 'Canes roster (Travis Benjamin's 62 yards).
The 'Canes feature several underclassmen to keep an eye on, as well. Chief among them is junior cornerback Brandon Harris.
These are the Pittsburgh Panthers I'll be focusing on:
OT Jason Pinkston: Like Miami's Franklin, I don't believe that Pinkston has the agility and balance to remain at left tackle in the NFL, but he is nonetheless a talented prospect. How he performs against Miami's athletic front seven will go a long way in determining his ranking with the scouts I spoke to prior to this game.
DE Jabaal Sheard: Though Romeus gets most of the attention, Sheard has been Pittsburgh's most consistent pass rusher throughout their respective careers. Sheard, 6-3 and 265 pounds, doesn't possess elite size or speed, but has enough of a burst to gain the initial advantage and closes quickly. Lining up at left defensive end, Sheard has eight tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack, thus far. He leads the team with five QB hurries. Sheard could use a strong performance in this game to distance himself from his last newsworthy event -- an ugly incident in August in which Sheard was arrested after a fight in which he threw a man through a glass door.
SS/OLB Dom DeCicco: DeCicco is the Panthers' starting strong safety, but at 6-3, 225 pounds I question if he has the straight-line speed and agility necessary to remain at this position in the NFL. He's a physical and instinctive defender, however, who enjoyed great production last year (88 tackles, three interceptions, forced fumble). He's struggled with injuries this season and may not be 100% for this game.
Pitt, like Miami, features several underclassmen worth watching. The obvious top player to watch is junior wideout Jonathan Baldwin, considered by some to be the top wide receiver prospect in the country. The 6-5, 225 pound Baldwin will give Miami's talented, but young secondary quite a matchup problem. It will be interesting to see how well Baldwin does when matched up against Harris one on one.
The game begins at 7:30 EST and will be televised on ESPN.
Posted on: September 8, 2010 1:06 pm
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