Tag:North Carolina State
Posted on: November 26, 2011 11:15 am
 

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. 

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 Dan "Boon" Herron, Ohio State: Herron appeared poised to enter this season as one of the Big Ten's few superstars at the skill positions. After all, he'd shown an NFL-caliber combination of size, power and speed and had already rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 29 touchdowns on the ground. Suspended for the first five games of the season due to Tattoo-Gate, however, this has been a lost year for the senior, who enters the annual showdown with Michigan having only rushed for 556 yards and two touchdowns this season. Michigan has a solid run defense and know the Buckeyes are going to try to control the clock to keep Denard Robinson off the field. Other than a senior all-star game, this may be Herron's best chance this season to impress scouts. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ABC.

ILB Audie Cole, North Carolina State:  For all of the talk this season about underclassmen inside linebackers Manti Te'o, Luke Kuechly and Vontaze Burfict (among others), Cole is quietly earning top 75 grades from some scouts. Big (6-4, 239) and athletic enough to move back to outside linebacker, Cole is viewed as one of the more versatile linebackers in a relatively weak senior class. He's getting plenty of Senior Bowl buzz and should perform well in his final home game against a Maryland team that features the run. This game begins at 12:30 pm ET and will be broadcast by ESPN3.

ILB Donta Hightower, Alabama: As you can tell from my Top 32 "Big Board," of the so-called elite Alabama defenders, I'm lowest on Hightower. In terms of their ability to play in the NFL I rank the top draft-eligible Crimson Tide defenders as Dre' Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron over Hightower, a 6-4, 260 pound redshirt junior. Hightower is clearly more explosive this year than last as he further heals from the torn ACL that ended his 2009 season prematurely, but still doesn't have the lateral agility and straight-line speed most teams operating out of 4-3 are going to be looking for at linebacker. A move to defensive end is possible. Teams operating out of the 3-4 will certainly like Hightower's bulk and explosive hitting in their scheme, however. I'm curious to see Hightower have to defend in the open field, something I expect an Auburn team currently averaging 183.5 yards on the ground to force him to do. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS. 

TE Coby Fleener, Stanford: All of the hype in this contest is going to revolve around Andrew Luck and the possibility that this is his last game in Palo Alto -- as it should. We all know Luck is a terrific prospect, so I'm going to focus my attention elsewhere, including with Luck's senior tight end, Fleener, who despite being rated by most scouts as the top senior tight end in the country virtually all season long, he's received very little national attention. One can certainly understand why the scouts love him. While not a legitimate in-line blocker at the next level, the 6-6, 245 pound Fleener has rare speed and soft hands and is averaging a guady 19.7 yards per catch. Fleener will be matched up much of this game against another legitimate NFL prospect in Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, so this should be a battle worth keeping an eye on. This game begins at 8:00 pm ET and will be televised by ABC. 

DE Devin Taylor, South Carolina: In reality, I could have listed several of the Gamecocks' and Tigers' defensive linemen in this game as this is definitely the area scouts will be closely watching in this game. Without a doubt, in terms of pure talent, this game features the best collection of defensive line talent of the day. At 6-6, 260 pounds the redshirt junior Taylor has as much physical upside as any of them, though he's not the same consistent difference-maker as his senior teammate Melvin Ingram. I'll be spending a lot of time watching the Clemson defensive line, as well, as end Andre Branch and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (both seniors) are each capable of taking this game over, themselves.  This game begins at 7:45 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.


Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:43 am
 

Mano-a-mano, Week Ten

In addition to the prospects Senior Analyst Rob Rang wrote about in his "five players to watch" blog post, take a look at these memorable ten one-on-one match-ups (plus a slew of honorable mention selections) while perusing this weekend's slate of college football games.

Because players move around based on different formations and what coaches see as favorable match-ups, these prospects won't go against each other on every snap. Scouts will pay attention when they do, however, because they rely on a player's film against top competition to determine their readiness for the NFL.

All times Eastern.
"*" Denotes an underclassman.

1. LSU Back Seven at Alabama RB *Trent Richardson (#3/5-11/224/4.52)
8:00 pm, CBS

If the talented Alabama offensive line and LSU defensive line negate each other in the run game on Saturday night, this year's "Game of the Millenium" could be determined by whether Heisman hopeful Richardson can defeat Tigers' linebackers at the second level. Thick weak side 'backer Ryan Baker (#22/6-0/236/4.77), fast Sam LB Stefoin Francois (#23/6-1/223/4.58), and inside guys former strong safety Karnell Hatcher (#37/6-1/223/4.64) and solid sophomore Kevin Minter, must keep their feet and wrap securely if they want to bring down Richardson before he turns a three-yard plow into a 10 or 20-yard gain. But let's face it -- few college defenders can chop down Richardson on first contact because of his thick frame, natural aggression and constantly-churning legs. That means the Tigers must swarm to the ball, with strong safety Brandon Taylor (#18/5-11/195/4.57), sophomores nickel corner Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu and leading tackler free safety Eric Reid helping out the linebackers to stop the Alabama run game.

2. North Carolina Defensive Ends Quinton Coples (#90/6-6/285/4.76)/*Donte Paige-Moss (#98/6-4/260/4.67) at North Carolina State OT *R.J. Mattes (#79/6-6/305/5.19)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

North Carolina's defensive line is among the deepest -- and hyped -- in the country. Coples has the size/length to start on three or four-man fronts in the NFL, while Paige-Moss has the size and athleticism that made former Tar Heels DE Robert Quinn a top 15 pick last April. They've combined for just 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in nine games (7.5, 4.5 for Coples), however, after putting up 29 and 17 (15.5, 10 for Coples) last season. Facing an All-ACC candidate in Mattes is not an easy way to increase that production; the redshirt junior left tackle is looking to prove his overall athleticism to scouts after showing strength and tenacity while starting at right guard and right tackle in his first two seasons on the field (though a torn ACL cost him the last four games of 2009).

3. Texas A&M CBs Coryell Judie (#5/5-11/190/4.48)/Terrence Frederick (#7/5-10/187/4.52) at Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles (#85/5-10/188/4.52)Texas A&M WRs Jeff Fuller (#8/6-3/220/4.52)/*Uzoma Nwachukwu (#7/6-0/195/4.42) at Oklahoma CBs Jamell Fleming (#32/5-11/192/4.54)/*Demontre Hurst (#6/5-9/182/4.46)
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

This week's version of "Luck vs. Barkley" is A&M's athletic and strong-armed QB Ryan Tannehill (#17/6-4/222/4.65) against Oklahoma's junior pocket passer QB Landry Jones (#12/6-4/230/4.74). Scouts for teams needing a quarterback could use this game as a tie-breaker of sorts for the second or third spot in their rankings.

But NFL teams with a young passer already on the roster will be checking out this game, as well,since both Big 12 squads have legitimate NFL prospects at cornerback and receiver. Judie's hamstring has been a problem this year, and he'll need to be healthy to handle Broyles' crisp routes and elusiveness after the catch. The NCAA's all-time leader in receptions will also face stiff competition from Frederick, an ascending talent who gives no quarter to receivers of any size. When Tannehill is leading A&M's offense, he'll look for Fuller to use his size advantage and Nwachukwu his speed against Sooners corners Fleming and Hurst -- both of whom can take advantage of sideline and comeback throws Tannehill leaves too far inside.

4. South Carolina CB *Stephon Gilmore (#5/6-1/193/4.52) at Arkansas Receivers
7:15 pm, ESPN

Gilmore will be able to show NFL teams all of his skills no matter which of the Razorbacks' gaggle of receivers he may be facing Saturday night. He has the size and attitude to handle big receivers junior Cobi Hamilton (#11/6-3/209/4.57) and Greg Childs (#85/6-3/217/4.56) -- who has struggled coming back from last season's knee injury -- at the line of scrimmage or down the sideline. But scouts will be more interested to see if Gilmore can also handle the straight-line speed and quickness Jarius Wright (#4/5-10/180/4.34) and Joe Adams (#3/5-11/190/4.38) if in trail coverage or trying to chase them down after the catch in zone.

5. Missouri Defensive Tackle at Baylor C Philip Blake (#74/6-2/320/5.26)
7:00 pm, FSN

Danny Watkins took a circuitous route to NFL first round draft status, growing up in Canada, playing his first football in junior college before starting at left tackle for Baylor. Blake won't be selected that high and has played football for some time, but was also born in Canada and is advanced in age for a future rookie (Watkins turns 27 years old Sunday, Blake turns 26 later this month). He'll need to use his wide body and long arms to handle Missouri's trio of pro DT prospects: long and strong Dominique Hamilton (#90/6-5/305/5.24), athletic junior Sheldon Richardson (#34/6-3/290/4.86) and active DT Terrell Resonno (#93/6-3/295/5.08). The Bears have another big body up front, RG Robert T. Griffin (#79/6-6/330/5.38), who protects the team's athletic playmaking quarterback Robert Griffin III (who was actually born in Japan, where his father served for the U.S. Military). And no, that's not a typo -- the mammoth guard and unrelated 6-2, 220 pound quarterback have the same name.

6. Oregon Cornerbacks at Washington WR Jermaine Kearse (#15/6-1/208/4.50)
10:30 pm, FSN

The Huskies are one of college football's best stories that doesn't get talked about nearly enough. Washington fans can tell you that Kearse isn't the most consistent receiver in terms of his hands or physicality, but is a threat down the sideline to elude defenders after the catch when his game is on. Oregon's secondary has scoured by scouts for prospects over the years, but the 2011 group is a bit different. Three of the top four cornerbacks on the depth chart for this game are freshmen, and senior CB Anthony Gildon (#18/6-0/182/4.57) is erratic in his discipline outside. The wild card is junior CB Cliff Harris (#13/5-11/168/4.49), who packs a punch in press coverage that belies his wiry build, and also has the ball skills to knock away or intercept passes and had four punt returns for TDs in 2010. He may not play in this game, however, if unable to get out of head coach Chip Kelly's dog house because of an excessive speeding citation this summer and another traffic stop two weeks ago.

7. Michigan DEs *Craig Roh (#88/6-4/269/4.76)/Ryan Van Bergen (#53/6-6/288/4.84) at Iowa OTs *Riley Reiff (#77/6-6/300/4.94)/Markus Zusevics (#56/6-5/300/5.08)
12:00 pm, ESPN

Even though the Hawkeyes are coming off a brutal loss to Minnesota and the Maize-and-Blue is on top of the Legends Division of the Big Ten, Iowa still has games against the three teams tied atop the division in the Wolverines, Michigan State and Nebraska. To win any of those games, including Saturday's match-up, the team's two tackles must protect junior QB James Vanderberg. Reiff will face Roh (pronounced Row) on the weak side of the line on most plays; the more athletic pair should have good battles as Reiff tries to cut off Roh trying to use his length to turn the corner and anchors against the junior's relentless aggression. Van Bergen won't test the lateral movement of Zusevics (ZOOZ-uh-vicks) as much as the two-year starter's ability to hold his ground as the high-motor end attempts to push him into the pocket  a part of the somewhat lean right tackle's game in which he does not always excel. Both tackles will also have to seal their men inside or outside in order for bruising sophomore RB Marcus Coker (252 yards vs. Minnesota last week) to move the ball against an improved Michigan defense (ranks 35th in the FBS in total defense, ranked 110th after the 2010 season).

8. Purdue DT *Kawann Short (#93/6-3/310/5.22) at Wisconsin Interior Offensive Line
3:30 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Short was the Big 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Week against Illinois two weeks ago (3.5 TFL, 2 sacks), and played well in a loss to Michigan going up against senior center David Molk. This weekend, however, he really gets a chance to show NFL scouts he is a legitimate top 75 pick by taking on future pro starters junior C Peter Konz (#66/6-5/315/5.16), RG Kevin Zeitler (#70/6-4/318/5.26) and redshirt sophomore LG Travis Frederick (#72/6-4/330/5.27). Michigan State's Jerel Worthy found a bit of success against this group a couple of weeks ago, but was also redirected out of plays when unable to use his hands to disengage. Short will have to be more consistently quick off the snap to pressure QB Russell Wilson and agile/strong enough to maintain his gap discipline against the Wisconsin running game to be considered an elite prospect this year or next.

9. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (#3/6-3/224/4.54) at Wake Forest CB *Kenny Okoro (#6/6-0/190/4.49)
8:00 pm, ABC/ESPN2

Floyd's talents are well-known, as he's used his NFL size and strong hands to rank in the top 20 nationally in receptions and receiving yards per game. The Irish have not always fed him as often as they should, as Pittsburgh and USC kept him under 30 yards on four catches. Okoro's an under-the-radar talent at corner with good size, speed and aggressiveness for the position. A big game against Floyd could draw the notice of scouts looking forward to the 2013 draft.

10. Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight (#6/6-1/212/4.54) at Michigan State CB *Johnny Adams (#5/5-11/175/4.42)- Junior
12:00 pm, Big Ten Network

McKnight has been an underappreciated talent playing for a lowly Gophers squad, but last week's big win over Iowa gave him and junior QB MarQueis Gray (#5/6-4/240/4.56) a bit of a boost with scouts. Adams' competitive nature allows him to test McKnight's ability to get off press coverage and separate from/make plays against NFL-caliber corners downfield. In a deep senior receiver class, Minnesota's leading pass-catcher needs to have a big game against a good corner like Adams to get drafted come April.

Honorable Mention:

Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward (#19/5-11/188/4.53) at Florida WR Deonte Thompson (#6/5-11/200/4.44)
12:21 pm, SEC Network/ESPN3.com

Virginia WR Kris Burd (#18/6-0/200/4.53) at Maryland CB Cameron Chism (#22/5-10/190/4.52)
12:30 pm, ACC Network/ESPN3.com

Wyoming CB Tashuan Gipson (#4/6-0/203/4.57) at TCU WRs Antoine Hicks (#13/6-2/212/4.57)/*Josh Boyce (5-11/203/4.54)
2:00 pm, MTN

Northwestern LT Al Netter (#75/6-4/310/5.26) at Nebraska DE *Cameron Meredith (#34/6-4/260/4.79)- Junior
3:30 pm, Big Ten Network

Cincinnati WR WR D.J. Woods (#3/6-0/182/4.49) at Pittsburgh CB Antwuan Reed (#22/5-10/190/4.54)
Cincinnati LT Alex Hoffman (#59/6-6/298/5.28) at Pittsburgh DE Brandon Lindsey (#7/6-2/250/4.68)
7:00 pm, ESPNU

Houston OLB Sammy Brown (#8/6-2/240/4.67) at UAB LT Matt McCants (#71/6-6/295/5.26)
7:00 pm, CBS Sports Network

Arizona State DE Jamaar Jarrett (#92/6-5/262/4.90) at UCLA RT Mike Harris (#65/6-5/326/5.32)
Arizona State WRs Gerell Robinson (#8/6-3/222/4.58)/Mike Willie (#1/6-2/212/4.59) at UCLA CB *Aaron Hester (#21/6-1/206/4.49)
7:30 pm, Versus

Kansas State CB David Garrett (#27/5-8/175/4.58) at Oklahoma State WR *Justin Blackmon (#81/6-1/215/4.54)
8:00 pm, ABC/ESPN2

LSU CB *Morris Claiborne (#17/6-0/185/4.45) at Alabama WR Marquis Maze (#4/5-8/184/4.49)
LSU WR *Rueben Randle (#2/6-3/208/4.57) at Alabama CB *Dre Kirkpatrick (#21/6-2/192/4.49)
LSU RT *Alex Hurst (#72/6-6/340/5.22) at Alabama DE/OLB *Dont'a Hightower (#30/6-4/260/4.74)
8:00 pm, CBS

Louisiana Tech CB Terry Carter (#28/5-10/190/4.43) at Fresno State WR Devon Wylie (#7/5-10/185/4.38)
10:30 pm, ESPNU

--Contributed by Senior Analyst Chad Reuter   Follow him on Twitter @ChadReuter 

Posted on: June 28, 2011 11:19 am
 

QB Wilson may bring Badgers roses, but not scouts

The Wisconsin Badgers officially signed former North Carolina State standout quarterback Russell Wilson yesterday.

The two-time All-ACC pick was released from his committment to the Wolfpack after he elected to focus on his baseball career. Apparently Wilson, the Colorado Rockies' fourth round pick last summer, hasn't been happy with his development with the Class A Asheville Tourists, where he's played second base and hit a disappointing .228. Because of the fact that he graduated during his four years at NC State, Wilson has one more year of football eligibility remaining and will take graduate classes at Wisconsin. The Badgers and reigning BCS champs Auburn were considered the two favorites to land Wilson, who led the ACC with 3,563 passing yards last season.

At 5-11 and 190 pounds, Wilson's best chance at a pro future might be with baseball. Despite his lack of preferred size for the NFL, however, Wilson is a terrific college quarterback. His statistics and wins against rival North Carolina (3-0 in his career) are impressive, but don't due him justice. Elusive, intelligent and possessing a strong enough arm to take advantage of Wisconsin's aerial targets -- including Nick Toon -- NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 rated senior wideout for the 2012 draft, Wilson could be a coup for Bret Bielema and his staff. In three seasons as the Wolfpacks' starting quarterback, Wilson threw for 8,545 yards and a nearly 3-1 TD to INT ratio (76 touchdowns with 26 interceptions). In 13 games last season, Wilson completed 58.4% of his passes for 3,563 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also rushed for 435 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Wilson's lack of size won't bring NFL scouts crawling out of the woodwork this fall as much as his success on the field might lead one to believe. For the Badgers, however, who were struggling in the spring to find a replacement for Scott Tolzien, Wilson could be the perfect addition. In fact, his addition to the team could make Wisconsin the favorite to repeat as the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl.

At this point, Wilson is graded as an undrafted free agent prospect and is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 23 rated senior quarterback in the 2012 draft. 
Posted on: December 31, 2010 10:02 pm
 

My Favorite Draft Stories of 2010

The 2010 season has been overrun with stories of scandal, sanctions and distractions from the competition and passion that makes college football great.

So, with so much of the year focused on negative stories that occurred off the field, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the positive off-field stories, as well.
The following are links to my 10 favorite draft stories of 2010.
 
Did I miss some? I hope so. Feel free to chime in with some of yours too.


These last four stories are obviously not as heart-wrenching or important as the first six. They do, however, serve as reminders as to what is right about college football in a year when so many devoted so much time to what is wrong with it.

On behalf of everyone at NFLDraftScout.com, have a happy and safe New Year!
Posted on: December 28, 2010 3:23 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2010 3:26 pm
 

Final games for juniors Gabbert, Smith, Sands?

With all due respect to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Troy beat Ohio) and the Advo Care V100 Independence Bowl (Air Force beat Georgia Tech), tonight begins the real bowl season -- at least when it comes to scouting future NFL prospects.

My fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter did a fine job of pointing out which prospects you should be watching in tonight's games . I wanted to make special mention of the underclassmen who might be playing in their final collegiate games tonight, however.

In the "early" game pitting North Carolina State against West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl, the "battle" between Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson and Mountaineer free safety Robert Sands should be intriguing. Russell, 5-11 and 202 pounds, lacks the size scouts are looking for, but is a savvy and surprisingly accurate passer. Sands has spectacular size (6-4, 221), is a hard-hitter whose athleticism pops off the tape. He's allowed to freelance a great deal in WVU's 3-3-5 scheme, which could result in big plays one way or the other in this game. I listed this "one on one" matchup as one of the five I'm most looking forward to scouting in the entire bowl season.

Though statistics say that he won't be a huge component of the Wolfpack's offense, junior tight end George Bryan is another underclassman to key in on in this contest. The 6-5, 265 pounder has "only" caught 32 passes for 344 yards and three scores on the year, but NFL scouts are already paying very close attention to him due to the fact that he's considering leaving early for the NFL. It isn't just because his size and ability to compete as a receiver and blocker intrigue scouts, Bryan recognizes that in this year's weak senior class of tight ends, his stock may never be higher than it is right now.

The more intriguing young talent won't be on the field until the second game tonight, however. Considering the talent Iowa boasts among its seniors -- including first round cinch Adrian Clayborn (as well as Senior Bowl invites Ricky Stanzi and Christian Ballard) it might surprise you that scouts are actually more interested in the talent that will be playing this game with the Missouri "M" on their helmets during tonight's Insight Bowl.

The focus will, of course, be on quarterback Blaine Gabbert . Possessing an ideal combination of size (6-5, 235) and arm strength, Gabbert certainly looks the part of a first round pick and has the quick release and downfield accuracy scouts are looking for, as well. Among Gabbert's weapons is junior tight end Michael Egnew , himself a potential early entry candidate, who at 6-6, 235 pounds certainly has the size potential scouts are looking for and, unlike Bryan from the Wolfpack, does have the production. In fact, Egnew led all FBS tight ends with 83 receptions for 698 yards and four scores this year. 

Considering that Gabbert takes virtually all of his snaps out of the shotgun, he'll be better protected than most in dealing with Iowa's fearsome defensive line, but should they create pressure on him, it will be interesting to see how well Gabbert is able to move in and out of the pocket. At times, when his feet haven't been set, Gabbert's trademark accuracy has suffered. A strong game against Iowa, however, could springboard Gabbert into the draft.

I'm ever more curious to see how Missouri's pass rushing star Aldon Smith , only a redshirt sophomore, is able to get after Iowa's quarterback. Smith, who earned First Team All-Big 12 honors despite missing the first three games with a broken leg, is a dynamic playmaker (44 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) who rates as one of the more intriguing rushers potentially available in 2011.

Under the tutelage of Kirk Ferentz, Iowa is as well coached along the offensive line as any team in the country. Like his teammate Gabbert, if Smith puts together an eye-popping performance, it may force him to strongly consider leaving school early.

If you'd like to scout "alongside me" during these and the other bowl games throughout the rest of the college football season, you can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.

Or, if you just want to follow the preeminent draft coverage available, simply click here for NFLDraftScout.com.

Posted on: October 7, 2010 3:52 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2010 3:59 pm
 

Herzlich has broken hand

Boston College outside linebacker Mark Herzlich broke a bone in his left hand during Tuesday's practice, but is expected to play in Saturday's game against North Carolina State, according to multiple reports.

The Boston Herald reports that Herzlich practiced today (Thursday) but with his hand heavily wrapped.

The blog posting at the Herald focuses on the sprained left ankle of freshman quarterback Chase Rettig that may make him unavailable against the Wolfpack, but in the eyes of NFL scouts, Herzlich's injury is very much more newsworthy.

A broken hand may not seem like a big story, but NFL teams will be wary that Herzlich's recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer) may leave him vulnerable to further injuries.

This concern could be magnified with Herzlich's new injury, especially considering that Herzlich broke his right foot during routine drills prior to the start of the season.

For obvious reasons, Herzlich is likely to be the most heavily scrutinized player during the medical testing at this year's Scouting Combine.

Posted on: September 27, 2010 6:00 pm
 

NC State ILB Nate Irving Prospect of the Week

Stop me if you've heard this before -- an award winning ACC linebacker, having overcome life-threatening ailments, makes a triumphant return to the field.

Much has been written about Boston College's Mark Herzlich, who, of course, is back to starring at strongside linebacker after Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, robbed him of the 2009 season.

Much less has been written about NC State inside linebacker Nate Irving, who missed the entire 2009 season after suffering through a horrific car accident that left him with a collapsed lung and broken leg, among other injuries.

Irving looked back to his former self with a dominating performance at Georgia Tech, Saturday. Irving was acknowledged today with the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for his 16 tackle, 4.5 tackle for loss, two sack performance in the team's 48-25 victory.

Some will argue that "Player of the Week" is a misnomer. I don't pretend that I've already scouted every prospect throughout the country and that my choice (Irving, in this case) was unquestionably the best.

However, part of the coverage that we, at NFLDraftScout.com, have provided to our readers as part of our Draft Slant feature, is a Player of the Week. In picking one out each week, I tend to focus on Top 50 senior prospects for this honor and adhere to certain guidelines in terms of the level of competition the player faced.

Player of the Week, along with The Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect), used to be features of Draft Slant . This PDF file can be purchased as an individual issue or one can purchase the entire year (16 issues). Or, if you just want to see an example, you can download this free sample of Week One here .

We thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement, however, and thus, every Monday, I'll post my picks for each award.

Player of the Week - September 25, 2010
ILB Nate Irving, NC State 6-1 / 235 / 4.68 -- opponent: Georgia Tech

Irving's instincts, agility and physicality were all on display in the impressive defensive showing against the Yellow Jackets' triple option offense. Irving stoned B-back Anthony Allen on Georgia Tech's second offensive play from scrimmage and it was a scene that would be replayed over and over throughout the contest. On the play, Irving dipped his shoulder to avoid the oncoming block from the center to take on the 6-0, 232 pound Allen in the hole. For being an undersized linebacker, Irving plays with terrific explosiveness reminiscent of former Florida State standout (and current Philadelphia Eagle) Ernie Sims. Like Sims, Irving has good speed to beat the back to the edge and to catch ball-carriers in pursuit. He is clearly comfortable playing in the middle, locating the football quickly despite his lack of preferred size for the position. Irving's explosive burst is also evident when Irving is allowed to rush the passer. Irving was simply too quick for Georgia Tech's offensive line on multiple occasions, Saturday. This despite the fact that the Yellow Jackets feature smaller and generally more athletic offensive linemen than most teams. The concern with Irving is that he is very aggressive and will attack the line of scrimmage, presenting big play opportunities for the offense when he reads incorrectly. Irving flashes an physical pop when forced to take on blockers, but prefers to elude them, showing good flexibility and agility in doing so. Unlike many athetic linebackers, Irving doesn't rely on just his athleticism. He shows good hand technique, including a swim move to avoid blockers, which he used on several occasions when rushing the passer. Irving rarely blitzed, but burst upfield when he saw that 'Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt was beginning to get happy feet after scanning the field for a receiver. An explosive hitter, scouts would nonetheless like to see Irving wrap up ball-carriers more securely. At times, the athletic linebacker likes to lead with his shoulder. This resulted in some big pops Saturday, but NFL runners will be able to shrug off some of his hits.
Posted on: September 16, 2010 5:59 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 9:12 pm
 

NC State ILB Nate Irving one to watch tonight

There are several noteworthy senior prospects who will be on the field tonight when Cincinnati travels to North Carolina State.

Senior Bearcats' pass catchers Armon Binns and Ben Guidugli will certainly get a great deal of the attention, but it will be a player on the other side of the line of scrimmage that I -- and many NFL scouts -- will be keying in on.

North Carolina State inside linebacker Nate Irving appeared to be on the fast track to stardom in 2008. Despite missing a handful of games due to a nagging leg injury, Irving earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors with 84 tackles and a school-record (for linebackers) four interceptions. 

A horrific car accident, however, robbed Irving of his 2009 season and he's struggled so far this year in his quest to regain his all-star status. 

Through the first two games, in fact, Irving has only three tackles. Those stops came last week against Central Florida, as Irving was surprisingly held without a tackle in the season opener against Western Carolina. 

When healthy, Irving, 6-1, 235 pounds, has demonstrated a legitimate NFL combination of speed, explosive hitting ability and range in coverage. 

The defending Big East champion Bearcats are not the explosive offense this year they were last -- considering the loss of quarterback Tony Pike and wideout Mardy Gilyard -- but they still spread the field well, as evidenced by the 40 points they put up last week against Indiana State. 

It will be interesting to see how Irving does in this contest. Scouts and those close to the NC State program are certainly pulling for him. The injuries he suffered in the accident (collapsed lung, compound fracture in his leg, broken rib, separated shoulder) were enough to end the career for most players. Irving not only has come back, he's doing it while explaining his progress in a weekly journal for NC State's Technician Online.

If he is to re-emerge as a legitimate pro prospect, however, Irving will need strong performances in high profile games just like the one tonight.  

Count me among those rooting for him...

The game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.


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