Posted on: November 3, 2011 8:35 am
Temple lost a key game in the race for the MAC East crown Wednesday night to the Ohio, but even in the defeat the nationally televised contest gave fans (and scouts) a rare opportunity to see Owls' junior running back Bernard Pierce.
Pierce, listed at 6-1, 218 pounds, entered the contest ranked 11th in the country in rushing yards per game (118.8) and tied for first with 18 rushing touchdowns (with Wisconsin's Montee Ball).
Slowing Pierce was clearly the focus of the Ohio Bobcats' game plan Wednesday night and they were largely successful, limiting Pierce to "just" 84 yards on 22 carries. Pierce did breakaway for a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter that tied the game at 21-21, but the Bobcats eventually pulled away, taking the lead for good with 1:41 remaining in the game on a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Tettleton to Donte Foster.
Pierce was actually overshadowed for much of the contest by a strong performance from Ohio's running back, senior Donte Harden, who rushed for 184 yards and caught two passes for another 75 yards in the game.
Harden, a senior, entered the game with only two touchdowns on the season and barely a blip on scouts' radar, but showed burst through the hole and enough speed to break away from the Temple defense. He broke free on a 33-yard run on Ohio's first drive and followed that up with a 25 yard touchdown reception down the left sideline on a perfectly executed wheel-route after play-action. His most impressive play came in the third quarter when he raced up the middle, deftly slipping past defenders and pulled away for an 81-yard touchdown that gave Ohio a 21-14 lead.
Scouts on hand and watching the telecast, however, had mostly tuned in to see Pierce. Despite likely being limited with a hamstring injury that has nagged him this season (and unfortunately, the past, as well), Pierce demonstrated the combination of power, elusiveness and speed to warrant all of the attention.
A standout since first stepping foot onto the field for the Owls, Pierce broke several freshman records in 2009 rushing for 1,361 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards six times. Hamstring and ankle injuries limited Pierce's 2010 season to just five starts (in ten games) but he still finished with 728 yards and led the team with 11 touchdowns (10 rushing, one receiving).
Against an Ohio defense that hasn't allowed a rusher to eclipse the century mark all season, Pierce showed good quickness to the hole and nice lateral agility to elude in tight quarters for a big back. Pierce runs a bit high, but keeps his legs churning on contact to break free from arm tackles. Perhaps his greatest assets appeared to be his vision and burst. Pierce had to work for his yards Wednesday night as Ohio defenders consistently met him at the point of attack, but the junior back showed the ability to bounce plays outside and beat the defense to the edge. Pierce has not been a featured target in Temple's limited passing game, so there are questions about his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He did step up in pass protection, however, showing the willingness and form to take on blitzing linebackers.
I'd personally rank Alabama's Trent Richardson, Washington's Chris Polk and Virginia Tech's David Wilson ahead of him as potential 2012 running back prospects. Miami redshirt sophomore Lamar Miller, should he elect to leave with two seasons of eligibility remaining, would also rank ahead of Pierce on my board. Pierce, however, due to his blend of size, speed and production throughout his career, would certainly compete with any other back in the country (including all of the seniors) as a potential second round pick.
Pierce is currently ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the 10th best running back potentially available for the 2012 draft.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 11:55 am
The Bowl season is always one of my favorite times of the year for scouting. The biggest reason is simply time management. With only a few games a day or week to scout, I have time to catch up on some of the film that I'd glossed over earlier.
The same applies to NFL scouts. With many home for the holidays, they're easier to get on the phone and exchange notes.
It is during this time that I'm usually able to pinpoint a few prospects across the country that are viewed as legitimate 2nd or 3rd round prospects by scouts but are perhaps not getting the media attention you'd expect for players with such high grades.
Here are five players that are earning these high grades but aren't yet generating a buzz in the mainstream media.
Learn these seniors' and juniors' names now. You'll be hearing them a lot more often soon.
WR Tandon Doss, Indiana: I listed the five prospects alphabetically, but it is appropriate that Doss leads off the list. With the likes of A.J. Green, Justin Blackmon, Julio Jones and so many other top underclassmen receivers generating all of the attention there are a host of talented wideouts not getting enough hype. At the top of that list in my opinion is the Hoosiers' Doss, a 6-3, 200 pound junior who quietly led the Big Ten with 175.8 all-purpose yards per game. How disrespected is Doss? The Big Ten media only recognized him as a Second Team all-conference player. The league's coaches, on the other hand, made him a First Team choice.
RB Jamie Harper, Clemson: With NFL teams increasingly moving towards a committee of running backs, big backs are finding more opportunities to run and catch rather than just be relegated to blocking duties. Running and catching is precisely what the 5-11, 235 pound junior does well. Scouts on hand for Harper's 197 all-purpose yards in the win over Florida State left gushing about his power, quick feet and soft hands...
CB Curtis Marsh, Utah State: Marsh might just be the hottest senior defensive prospect in the country right now. Switching from running back to cornerback only two years ago, Marsh has shown rare agility and straight-line speed for a man of his size (6-1, 200). The Senior Bowl has noticed, reportedly inviting Marsh to the game.
CB Johnny Patrick, Louisville: Patrick wasn't on my original list (BYU OT Matt Reynolds was), but his standout performance last night in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl matchup against Southern Miss only confirmed what I'd seen on tape earlier in the year . Patrick was beaten for a TD early, but I love the competitiveness he showed throughout the rest of the game, forcing a fumble, blocking a kick, providing lockdown coverage and coming up aggressively in run support. The four-letter network that covered the game last night rank Patrick 35th among cornerbacks. NFLDraftScout.com ranks him 6th (among seniors).
DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple: Wilkerson has received some attention this year, but not nearly enough. The past two seasons Wilkerson, a junior, has averaged 65 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. If Wilkerson had enjoyed this production in the SEC or Big 12 rather than the MAC, he'd not only be considered a first round pick, he'd be in the top 20. As more scouts break down his tape, don't be surprised if he ends up there.
Remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 12:04 am
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: March 4, 2010 2:28 pm
The scouts may have came for running back James Starks or wideout Naaman Roosevelt, but they left the Buffalo Bulls Pro Day yesterday talking about safety Mike Newton.
Newton, despite being a four-year starter and two-time second team All-MAC selection, was not invited to the Combine.
Newton posted numbers that rivaled the best Indianapolis had to offer -- running twice in the mid 4.4s, posting a 41" vertical jump, a 10' broad jump, 6.94 three-cone drill and a 4.17 second showing in the short shuttle.
Recognized for his reliable open field tackling and willingness to lower his shoulder into receivers running across the middle, Newton was previously characterized as good football player, but not likely to impress in workouts -- one of the reasons scouts gave as to why he wasn't among those invited to the Combine. Newton, in fact, along with Utah's Robert Johnson, were identified as two senior safeties scouts thought typically would have been invited to Indianapolis, but were left out due to the high number of juniors invited, instead.
Roosevelt, also not invited to the Combine, was solid in positional drills, but was unable to completely alleviate concerns about his deep speed, clocking in at 4.60. This time, however, was considerably better than the 4.8s scouts had timed him last spring. Roosevelt, a two-time first team MAC choice with a litany of single season and career records for the Bulls, had previously been measured at the East-West Shrine Game (6-0, 1/4, 190 pounds). He showed more explosiveness than expected, reaching 37" in the vertical jump.
Running back James Starks elected not to do any of the positional drills after an impressive all-around showing at the Combine. He did participate in running back drills, proving smooth and athletic, according to those in attendance.
Posted on: March 27, 2009 8:49 pm
Northern Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker didn't necessarily have to workout for scouts Friday. The two-time MAC defensive player of the year was impressive off the edge at the Senior Bowl and flashed athleticism in Combine workouts, as well.
However, considering that many teams wanted to see him shed some time off his 40-yard dash, the move was a good one. English's fastest time at the Combine was 4.82 seconds, but he was clocked in the high 4.6s to low 4.7s according to scouts in attendance Friday, and was better in both defensive line and linebacker drills, as well.
The knock on English is that while he has good burst off the snap and reasonable straight-line speed, he doesn't necessarily change directions as fluidly as some teams operating the 3-4 defense would prefer out of their linebackers. In a 4-3 scheme, English, 6-2, 255 pounds, is probably best suited as an undersized defensive end, which is why many of the teams who had scouts on campus were from clubs operating out of the 3-4.
English has the tools to warrant consideration late in the first round, but this year's unique collection of outside linebackers and hybrid defensive ends likely to make the transition to the OLB position could push him into the mid second range. He is among a group of about a baker's dozen hybrid pass rushers (Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Brian Cushing, Aaron Maybin, Robert Ayers, Connor Barwin, Clay Matthews Jr, Clint Sintim, Paul Kruger, Michael Johnson, Lawrence Sidbury, Jr, Cody Brown, Zach Follett, etc.) scouts feel warrant first day consideration.