Tag:Nebraska Cornhuskers
Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 5:39 pm

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough. I also try to tweet comments on prospects throughout Saturday's action. You can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

RB Tauren Poole, Tennessee: There are some huge games this weekend, but few have the longstanding rivalry that Tennessee-Florida boasts. Poole is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 rated running back, but he boasts a combination of size, speed, elusiveness and power that could translate into a starter at the next level. When you take into account all of the talented underclassmen, Poole is our 16th rated RB and that seems waaay too low based on the tape I've seen. With a strong game against an athletic Gator defense playing in front of their home crowd, he could get my vote to move up significantly in our rankings. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

DT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington: For all of the attention that Jake Locker and running back Chris Polk gained for their roles in Washington's surprising Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska in January, the emergence of this 6-3, 337 run-stuffer was a critical piece tot he puzzle. Ta'Amu and the Huskies will be facing a more motivated Huskers offense this time around, so it will be fascinating to see how these two teams perform in the rubber match. A strong performance in this game could lead to the underdog Huskies giving Nebraska a tough game and also push Ta'Amu into legitimate first round consideration. He could follow Phil Taylor and BJ Raji as recent run-stuffers whose strong senior seasons catapulted them into the top 32. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State: One could argue that for Michigan State to beat Notre Dame, the pressure is most on senior quarterback Kirk Cousins.However, considering the way the Irish defense has played, Cousins could have a field day. The greater pressure (and thus, why I, scouts will be paying close attention) will be on the Spartans' defense to bottle up the Irish offense. Worthy shows flashes of the penetrating quickness and power that can result in a first round pick, but needs to be more consistent. This game could go a long way in determing whether Worthy (a junior) should consider making the early leap to the NFL. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by NBC.

OLB Sean Spence, Miami: It wasn't that long ago when Miami-Ohio State would have ranked as the top game of the weekend. Now, for many it has become an after-thought. Not to me, however, and certainly not to scouts. Spence is one of the better chase linebackers in the country, but is undersized. He struggled handling Terrelle Pryor last year in this contest. While Pryor is obviously now an Oakland Raider, it will be interesting to see if Spence remembers his atypical performance a year ago and improves his open field tackling this time around. I expect that he will. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma: In case you haven't seen my Top 32 "Bigger Board," let me just say right now that I'm lower on Jones than most. While he undeniably has an NFL combination of size and arm strength, I question whether he has the accuracy and poise to be an elite pro quarterback. The fact that he's coming out of a spread offense that significantly inflates his production and typically protects him from pressure doesn't help his cause at all. However, to beat a fast, aggressive Seminoles' defense in Tallahassee, Jones will have to show improved accuracy and calm in the pocket -- which could lead me to re-evaluate him quickly. There is legitimate NFL talent on both sides of the ball for both of these programs. No one has more riding on their performance, however, than Jones, a junior passer who some compare to Sam Bradford and view as a potential top five pick in the 2012 draft. This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.

Posted on: September 12, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 3:53 pm

Nebraska CB Dennard still out with muscle pull

Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was rated by some scouts as the elite senior prospect in the country heading into the 2011 season.

He won't be able to maintain that lofty grade if he doesn't recover soon from the pulled leg muscle that has kept him out of the first two games.

Dennard pulled the muscle in mid August and despite head coach Bo Pelini characterizing his star cornerback as "getting a lot closer" last week, Dennard did not play in Nebraska's victory Saturday over Fresno State.

Dennard, according to a report from Husker Extra, will not practice Monday. His status for Nebraska's first real test this weekend against the University of Washington is once again in doubt.

Asked if Dennard would be able to suit up against a Washington team that upset Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, Pelini was noncommittal, offering only a "We'll see."

Steve Sipple, the author of the article for Husker Extra predicted that Dennard would sit Saturday.

Dennard, a shade under 5-10 at 205 pounds, boasts a terrific combination of agility, speed, instincts and physicality when healthy. He earned All Big-12 accolades last season with 30 tackles, seven passes broken up and four interceptions -- including one against Washington in their first meeting last year.

Dennard is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior cornerback and currently ranks No. 8 on my Big Board.

The Nebraska defense has been a stifling one throughout much of Pelini's tenure, but the unit struggled, at times, last week against a typically feisty Fresno State team. The Bulldogs, known for their head coach Pat Hill's mantra of playing "Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere" led at the half 17-14 and was down only 28-26 early in the fourth quarter before Nebraska pulled away with a big kick return and run to extend their lead and make the game appear lopsided. Fresno entered the contest a four touchdown underdog.

Washington, on the other hand, has demonstrated a surprisingly efficient offense given the graduation of Jake Locker to the NFL. True sophomore quarterback Keith Price has actually been a statistical upgrade over Locker thus far, completing 70% of his passes with seven touchdowns against only one interception. Of course, these numbers were posted at home against Eastern Washington and Hawaii.

Posted on: February 11, 2011 2:37 pm

Amukamara surprised his speed is in question

I spoke to Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara yesterday in preparation for an upcoming feature for NFLDraftScout.com . He was very open and honest as to why he elected not to play in the Senior Bowl, how difficult it was to remain at Nebraska when they asked him to switch from running back to cornerback and what happened on the 80-yard touchdown reception he gave up to Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon.

Perhaps his most interesting comments, however, came when I asked him he wasn't focusing a great deal of his pre-Combine training on the all-important 40-yard dash.

"I realize the importance of the 40," Amukamara told me, "I just don't anticipate any problems in that area. My speed has never been an issue before and I don't expect that it will be now either."

It is that kind of confidence one might expect from the All-American, who cited his record-breaking track career at Apollo High in Arizona as one of the reasons why he might be a little better prepared than some athletes for the Combine.

Amukamara won the Class 4A state titles in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in 2007. His times in the 100 (10.78) and 200 (21.91) were both the fastest of any high school track athlete in Arizona.

Amukamara is working out at Athletes Performance in Tempe, Arizona in preparation for the upcoming Combine. He is planning to participate in every drill there.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 3:36 pm

Unfair to expect much from Locker tonight

Jake Locker and his Washington teammates face Nebraska tonight in the Holiday Bowl in what is clearly the most intriguing re-match of the bowl season.

Locker and the Huskies were blown out 56-21 at home by the Cornhuskers on September 18. Locker only completed 4 of 20 passes in the game for 71 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions in what was the worst performance of his career.

Locker has been better since, engineering upset victories over USC, Oregon State and Cal since and leading Washington to to three consecutive wins to assure the Huskies of their first bowl berth since 2002.

He hasn't been so good, however, to expect the type of performance against Nebraska tonight that should significantly impact his draft stock.

The reality is Washington simply lacks the bulk and talent up front to protect Locker from Nebraska's formidable defensive line, led by junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and senior defensive end Pierre Allen. Making matters even more complicated for Locker, the Huskers boast arguably the best cornerback duo in the country in Prince Amukamara, NFLDraftScout.com's top rated senior prospect at any position, and junior Alfonzo Dennard, a Second Team All-Big 12 pick, who has already announced his intentions to return to Nebraska for his senior season despite the fact that he'd best - at worst - a second round pick in the 2011 draft.

Locker is blessed with a solid receiving corps, including a legitimate NFL talent in junior Jermaine Kearse, but Nebraska has the secondary to force him to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Huskies are as reliant on their wide receivers as any team in the country when it comes to the downfield passing game.   Locker has only completed six passes to his tight ends all season long and saw starting tight end Chris Izbicki leave the team following the regular season. His backup, freshman Marlion Barnett, has four catches for 31 yards for his career.

If the Huskies have a chance in this game it will be due to the running of redshirt sophomore running back Chris Polk and Locker. Locker could be very decisive and accurate with the football tonight and still post ugly numbers that will undoubtedly draw criticism from media.

Having spoken to various scouts recently about Locker's stock and the expectations for him vs. Nebraska, their feeling is that Locker's stock isn't likely to go down after this game - even if he struggles just as badly against Nebraska tonight as he did in September. Of course, should Locker surprise Nebraska (and scouts) and performs very well despite the Huskies being overmatched physically at nearly every position, his stock has a chance to rise significantly.

The most likely scenario, however, has Locker and the Huskies again struggling against Nebraska. If Locker is going to re-emerge as a first round guarantee, it will almost surely happen in the next bowl -- the Senior Bowl -- approximately a month from now.

For the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is NFLDraftScout.com
Posted on: October 26, 2010 1:48 pm

Okla St RB Kendall Hunter is Prospect of the Week

The Oklahoma State Cowboys may have lost the game against Nebraska on Saturday, but their senior running back certainly answered some questions about his ability to play well against a physical and aggressive defense. In doing so, he earned my Prospect of the Week.

Kendall Hunter ran for 201 yards on 26 attempts against a proud Cornhusker defense, shredding them for a 7.7 yard average gain and scoring two touchdowns.

Scouts have often argued that grading running backs out of the spread offense is difficult and has led to some of Hunter's success. Some have even claimed that Oklahoma State's backups could post similar numbers if given the opportunity. That certainly was not the case against the Cornhuskers. OSU backups had eight rushing attempts against the Cornhuskers and produced a total of 26 yards (3.25 average) and a score (from two yards out).

Though shorter than scouts would prefer at 5-08, Hunter sports a well-proportioned 200 pounds. He is every bit as quick and elusive as one might anticipate a back of this size being, but the qualities that make him such an intriguing NFL prospect are his vision, explosive burst and surprising strength.

On many of Hunter's best runs against the Cornhuskers, he'd burst through the initial hole, read the hard-charging linebackers and defensive backs and cut against the grain. The explosiveness he showed in the second cut helped him break into the open field on many occasions. The power and determination with which he ran surprised the Cornhuskers on many occasions.

Perhaps his most impressive run came in the second quarter for an eight-yard touchdown.

Hunter, lined to the right of Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden (who was in shotgun) took the handoff and jetted to the left, showing very good speed to beat the linebackers to the edge. 

Nebraska's secondary read the play, however, and flowed left to contain him. Showing the vision and cutback ability that makes him such a productive runner, Hunter recognized the cutback opportunity inside and broke through the middle when he was met at the 3-yard line by 6-2, 210 pound free safety P.J. Smith. Rather than dance around him, Hunter drove through Smith, bulldozing him into the endzone.

There is no denying that Oklahoma State's spread attack forces the defense wide, opening up some rushing lanes for Hunter. One could also make the argument, however, that the Cowboys' focus on the passing game has limited Hunter's opportunities. Either way, his production in this game (201 rushing yards), this season (3rd in nation with 1,031 rushing yards) and over his career (3,664) speak for themselves.

By the way, Hunter's 146 rushing yards in the first half against Nebraska put him moved him up to 4th on OSU's record for most career rushing yards.

Who did he pass? Some guy named Barry Sanders. 

Posted on: October 7, 2010 3:20 pm

1st round preview tonight with Neb-Kansas State

The 2010 season has featured several big conference matchups thus far on Thursday nights, but none bigger than tonight's showdown between two Big 12 unbeatens in Nebraska and Kansas State.

By virtue of their 27-20 victory over conference rival Iowa State a few weeks ago, Kansas State hosts this game in first place over Nebraska in the Big 12 North division. This, despite the fact that the Cornhuskers are currently ranked No. 7 in the country (AP) and boast a sparkling 4-0 record, including an impressive dismantling of Washington in Seattle.

While the Cornhuskers and Wildcats have matching records, there is a significant disparity in talent on the two rosters, which is likely to give Nebraska the win in this contest.

Nebraska's stellar defense features as many NFL prospects as any unit in all of college football. Senior cornerback Prince Amukamara was rated the No. 1 senior prospect in the country regardless of position by NFL scouts heading into the season. The corner playing opposite him, junior Alfonzo Dennard, is playing like a future first round pick, himself. Senior safety Eric Hagg, who at 6-2, 210 pounds has seen snaps at cornerback, both safety positions and even linebacker, is among the more versatile defenders in the Big 12.

On the defensive line, junior defensive tackle Jared Crick is a proven playmaker and senior defensive end Pierre Allen is a rising name in scouting circles this year.

Nebraska's spread option offense helps them put up points quickly. The play of redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinzez is a huge reason why. Michigan's Mr. Versatility Denard Robinson gets so much attention (and deservedly so), but Martinez (with 1,028 all-purpose yards and 10 scores) has been spectacular through the first four games. If wideout/returner Niles Paul played for an offense that featured him, he might be viewed as the top senior receiving prospect in the country. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he boasts an ideal frame and athleticism for the pro game. The Cornhuskers feature some intriguing second-tier NFL prospects on the offensive side of the ball, as well, including running back Roy Helu, tight end/receiver Mike McNeill.

As I mentioned earlier, Kansas State does not boast the talent that Nebraska does. That said, in senior running back Daniel Thomas, they have arguably the top senior running back in the country.

Thomas, 6-2 and 228 pounds, is a former JUCO All-American quarterback, made a splash last year in his first season in the Big 12, earning Offensive Newcomer of the Year with 1,265 rushing yards. Though his height concerns some scouts, there is no denying that Thomas is a natural runner with good vision and balance -- true rarities for backs of his size.

Nebraska's defense is so stout I don't expect Thomas to be particularly effective in this contest. If he is, however, it will unquestionably move his stock that much higher in the eyes of NFL scouts.

Be sure to tune in tonight (ESPN, 7:30 pm EST). I assure you, NFL scouts will be.

Posted on: September 22, 2010 6:59 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2010 7:02 pm

Excellent audio analysis of Locker vs. Nebraska

Jake Locker's 4 of 20 passing for 71 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown against Nebraska last Saturday continues to be the headlining topic of every interview I've done this week, including the video I did as part of CBSSports.com's NFL coverage earlier today.

As you've probably heard or read me explain before, Locker possesses a mind-boggling combination of size, athleticism and arm strength, but he has not yet been able to master the intricacies of the quarterback position. He remains very much a work in progress in terms of reading defenses and throwing a consistently accurate ball despite the fact that he's a fifth year senior. He made such gains in his first year under Steve Sarkisian that many, including myself, anticipated that he'd make similar gains in his second season in Sarkisian's pro-style offense.

That, however, hasn't (yet) happened as I noted following Locker's first game against BYU, second against Syracuse and, of course, following the historically poor performance against the Cornhuskers.

While I trust my own analysis, I do appreciate the views of others. And in this case, I think you will too.

Ian Furness, host of the afternoon show (1-3 pm PCT) show on KJR AM Seattle and his guest, former University of Washington and eight-year NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, broke down Locker's performance against Nebraska pass by pass with Millen assigning grades for every throw and decision.

Ian brings up excellent points of his own and Millen, quite frankly, is as good at scouting and articulating what he's seen with quarterbacks as any NFL general manager or scouting director I've ever spoken with. 

Millen is quick to note that Locker's performance was "poor" but he also explains that the Huskies' receivers struggled to gain any separation against Nebraska's talented secondary (which I predicted here), meaning that Washington's loss should certainly not be pinned on Locker.

Rather than take my word for it, I suggest you take a listen. I warn you, however, Furness and Millen do a great job of breaking this down. Their segment is appropriately called "Hardcore Football." Whether you listen to only a few minutes of it or the full 30 minutes, I assure you that you'll be impressed with the depth of the analysis. The final eight minutes, however, Ian and Hugh shift their analysis to Matt Hasselbeck's performance in the Seahawks' loss to the Broncos.

The first 22 minutes, however, are all Locker. Millen's real breakdown pass by pass begins at approximately the 4:20 mark.

Again, this audio isn't for light-hearted football fans.

Click here to listen.

p.s. Thanks to Ian and producer, Josh Sabrowsky, for the link.

Posted on: October 9, 2009 12:50 am

Heisman voters take note -- Suh deserves a look

College football fans know that in the great history of the Heisman Trophy there has only been one defensive player to have won the award -- Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.

Perhaps in this, the 75th year of the award, the time has come to recognize another defender.

With the past two winners Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow going down to early injuries and a first month and half of the season not providing any one dominant player to headline the hype for the award, voters should be thinking outside of the box and considering Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman is supposed to honor the best player in country. If that player is not Suh, I have not yet seen him.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com