Tag:John Clay
Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:17 am
 

Heisman finalist Montee Ball eyeing jump to NFL?

Many underclassmen considering the jump to the pros claim they will return to school unless the NFL Advisory Committee gives them a first round grade. 

Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist who leads the nation with 32 touchdowns and 1,759 rushing yards this season, isn't guaranteeing he'll hold the same standard.

 The AFCA All-American running back was asked by Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel what could he hoped to hear back from scouts.

"Obviously I'd love to hear first round," Ball said. "I'd love to hear even late second. But third or four I'd most likely stay."

That sounds like a back looking to parlay his monstrous junior season into NFL dollars.

The 5-11, 212 pound Ball is clearly helped by a Wisconsin offensive line that may be the best in college football. He's clearly a talented runner, but it is telling that Wisconsin's backup, true sophomore James White, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and rushed for 683 yards and six touchdowns, himself.

Ball is a gliding runner perfectly suited to Wisconsin's offense. He can be quick to the hole and can exploit any crease in the defense, but also demonstrates the patience and vision to take advantage of cutback lanes. He's an alert and capable receiver out of the backfield. What Ball isn't is a powerful back in the mold of former Wisconsin standouts Ron Dayne and John Clay, though he does finish his runs with good forward lean and by keeping his legs churning upon contact. While not a powerhouse, make no mistake, Ball is an NFL-caliber back with quick acceleration, very good lateral agility to elude and enough top-end speed to gain yardage in chunks. His speed or potential lack thereof is one of the concerns scouts have about Ball, however. He's been estimated as a mid 4.5 runner, which is the primary reason why NFLDraftScout.com currently grades him as a 3rd round value.

Should NFL scouts feel similarly, it sounds like Ball will be playing for an NFL team, rather than the Badgers, next season.   
Posted on: July 26, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Ten impactful UDFA signings thus far

Over the past 16 hours or so I've watched as veteran NFL reporters all over the country have taken to undrafted free agency with a feeding frenzy to try to capture the excitement that the scouts and fans all feel now that football is back.

As such, we're seeing undrafted free agents from Goofball State that have very limited chance at actually making an NFL roster being celebrated as if they were a team's first round pick. The reality is that many of the players being signed and celebrated today won't last long.

There are plenty of exceptions, however. These are the ten impactful free agent signings as I see them this morning.

NGs Ian Williams/Sealver Siliga -- 49ers: With incumbent starter Aubrayo Franklin likely to leave via free agency, the 49ers had a hole up front. Williams and Siliga were the two best interior run stuffers available in my opinion. In adding both of them, San Francisco helped themselves at this position as much as could be expected at this early point in the process.

WR Dane Sanzenbacher -- Bears: Sanzenbacher wasn't my highest rated WR available in undrafted free agency (Terrance Toliver was -- he reportedly signed with Houston), but he is a perfect fit for a Mike Martz offense due to his sharp route-running, toughness and reliable hands. Sanzenbacher can make this team and he'll do so by becoming one of Jay Cutler's favorite targets.

QB Adam Weber -- Broncos: Signing Weber almost surely means that the Broncos are going to attempt to move veteran Kyle Orton. I know that Weber was being looked at by a number of teams. He doesn't possess the ideal measureables as he's shorter and owns less of an arm than some talents available, but he's a gutty gunslinger who I could see sticking.

DE Brandon Bair -- Chiefs: I've been quite critical of several of the Chiefs' decisions with their 2011 draft class, but I love the signing of Bair as a developmental defensive end for their 3-4 scheme. Physically and mentally tough, he'll fit right in with this club.

TE Mike McNeill -- Colts: Colts fans saw how relatively easy it was for Indianapolis to continue to feature their athletic tight ends even after losing Dallas Clark to injury because Jacob Tamme is a receiver hybrid with good hands and athleticism. McNeill is cut from the same cloth.

RB Graig Cooper -- Eagles: It isn't that I think Cooper is going to wrestle away significant playing time from LeSean McCoy any time soon, but Cooper (when healthy) has shown starting caliber traits. Cooper is one of several nice signings by Philadelphia.

WRs Kerry Taylor/Tori Gurley -- Packers: The Packers are likely to get some competition for the rights to James Jones and love to push their incumbent receivers with young talent. Taylor and Gurley are each talented players who struggled with injury and inconsistency throuhgout their respective careers but could surprise.

LB Jeff Tarpinian -- Patriots: I spoke to several teams in the days preceding the draft that thought Tarpinian could go as high as the fifth round due to the relative lack of talent at linebacker in this class. Injuries pushed him to free agency. The Patriots could get rewarded for this gamble.

DE Pierre Allen -- Seahawks: Allen was viewed as a 4th-5th round pick by NFLDraftScout.com for much of the pre-draft process, but a nagging hamstring injury kept him from running prior to the draft. As such, he slipped into free agency. Seattle has a myriad of needs, but few loom larger than along the defensive line. Allen could be the crown jewel of what appears to be one of the better free agent classes in the league. 

RB John Clay -- Steelers: A perfect schematic fit, the bruising Clay would give the Steelers the interior power runner that they've often featured in Pittsburgh. If he's motivated (and he certainly should be), Clay could add a degree of size and physicality to this running game.

Posted on: January 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Poor decisions mar underclassmen deadline day

For NFL teams looking at a less than impressive senior class, January 15 has developed into a holiday of sorts. As the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, teams are hopeful that a few more presents will pop up to enhance the crop they've already seen.

It has been a bountiful catch already. Each player selected in the top five will be underclassmen, with Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller rating as the only seniors likely to have a chance at the top ten.

But for every Da'Quan Bowers or A.J. Green physically ready to make the leap to the NFL, there are other underclassmen who should have remained in school.

As of this morning I've been told of 55 players making the leap. Some of them, quite frankly, are leaping off the cliff of undrafted free agency.

Some of the most troubling decisions were made by running backs and safeties. 

Consider that so far this year there have been 12 underclassmen running backs who have declared for the 2011 NFL Draft.

There were only 12 running backs drafted last year.

For players like Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, and Wisconsin's John Clay, the decision could turn out disastrous.

You can't get three backs more different than the 5-11, 190 pound speedster Jones, the 6-0, 220 pound Evans and the 6-1, 248 pound bruiser Clay. Yet all three have struggled with durability and will be entering the NFL without the offenses taylored around their game that helped each standout at the collegiate level.

Jones, who has struggled the most with injuries but is the most physically gifted of the three may be one taking the biggest gamble, especially considering that scouts are going to naturally question his FCS competition. Even if he'd returned for his senior season and helped Eastern and again struggled with durability, he'd have potentially had the opportunity to play in a senior all-star game.

The weak senior running back class (scouts aren't sure there will be a single senior drafted in the top two rounds) convinced many of these underclassmen to come out. The same is true at safety. At of this morning, "only" five safeties had declared early for the draft -- UCLA's Rahim Moore, West Virginia's Robert Sands, Iowa's Tyler Sash, Georgia Tech's Jerrard Terrant and Florida's Will Hill -- but two of them could be making significant mistakes.

Moore and Hill have made some eye-popping plays over their respective careers, but each is coming off a disappointing junior season and surprised scouts with their decisions to leave early. Perhaps surprised isn't the correct word. Scouts had known that each was strongly considering the jump for the last month or so, but it doesn't change the fact that each was more highly thought of at the end of last season -- had much to gain with a strong senior year -- than they did by coming out now.

Moore, in particular, has been labeled by many as a first round caliber prospect, but after doing my film review of him this past week, I see an unreliable open field tackler who is inconsistent in coverage. His FBS-leading 10 interceptions in 2009 may have been a by-product of the play of his former teammates, now NFL players (Bucs' DT Brian Price and Titans' CB Alterraun Verner). Without them, Moore intercepted one pass in 2010.  I gave him a 3rd-4th round grade.
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: November 15, 2010 9:07 am
 

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi Prospect of the Week

When a team puts forth a 83-20 shellacking of a conference foe there is plenty of credit to go around. Wisconsin, without potential All-American running back John Clay, received a dominant performance from their offensive line and simply pounded Indiana into submission on Saturday. It was an offensive display that Wisconsin hadn't matched in nearly a century.

After reviewing dozens of prospects across the country over the weekend, the indelible impression made by the Badgers' offensive line in this game was simply too much for me to ignore.

Though he was held out of the second half of this game with a minor leg injury, left tackle Gabe Carimi was the driving force behind Wisconsin's most impressive quarter -- the second -- against the Hoosiers. It was in this quarter that the Badgers pulled away from Indiana. While the final scoreboard is certainly proof to the contrary, the Hoosiers were competitive early in this contest, tying the score at 10 points each in the early minutes of the second quarter.

However, an injury to Indiana's starting quarterback Ben Chappell and with the Badgers often operating on a short field, the rout was on.

Wisconsin offensive lineman are often typecast as simply drive-blockers. In this contest there were certainly examples of Carimi doing just that. He played with good leverage and leg drive when doing so. It was the mobility and balance with which he blocked downfield and protected the edge in pass protection, however that is why he'll be a first round draft pick this April. 

Wisconsin rarely asks their All-Big Ten left tackle to pull, but an example of Carimi doing exactly that came with 5:05 in second quarter. Carimi, showing very good initial quickness, balance and surprising agility, latched on to Indiana weakside linebacker Leon Beckum and cleared the way for James White's 30-yard touchdown that extended Wisconsin's second quarter lead to 24-10 over a Hoosier team that had battled the Badgers step for step early.

Carimi was just as impressive in the passing game.

Carimi eases back into his pass set, demonstrating quick feet and balance. Despite his height, he plays with good knee bend, giving him the leverage to handle the bull rush. This had been an area he'd received low grades from scouts earlier in the year. The four year starter who took over for 2008 No. 3 overall pick Joe Thomas, plays with similar awareness as the Cleveland Browns' star. Carimi is a patient blocker who allows the defender to come to him whereas inexperienced pass blockers often lunge at defenders and find themselves unbalanced.

His awareness was demonstrated in Wisconsin's 4-yard touchdown pass with only 21 seconds left in the second quarter. Carimi made an initial block of a Hoosier defensive lineman, stoning him with a strong initial pop, before switching over to a blitzing linebacker to give Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien plenty of time to fire the touchdown to Nick Toon. 

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